Sunday, 9 June 2013

Friends- the genuine articles

Ever had that moment where you're walking along, thinking of nothing in particular when suddenly you think; 'better check I've got my phone'. There is no reason for your phone to have gone anywhere. You don't even intend to check your messages. You just have an urge to make sure it is there. You open your bag as you're walking, have a peek in. You cant see it so you scrabble about a bit. Still cant find it. You begin to panic, scrabble, scrabble, why is there so much crap in here?? You stop, even if you're in the middle of a walk way, you just stop right there because you finding your phone is more important than other people who need to navigate around you. Rummage, rummage like a crazy woman. You're convinced it has gone. Vanished. Shit! Someone's nicked it. I've left it in the loo (why on earth would I have got it out there anyway?) Evil fairies have been in my stuff and snaffled it.

Suddenly your frantic fingers trip over the smooth plastic, close and grasp the cool comforting oblong. Panic over. You smile in relief, realise you're in peoples way, recompose yourself and carry on as normal.

There is a point to this ramble. I've recently found this occurrence is an excellent metaphor for the way I react to a lot of things in life. What I'm thinking of in particular is friends. One day I'm not even considering my friends in any greater depth than that they are my friends. Simple. The next day I'm suddenly in a growing panic that I have no friends at all. I'm not exaggerating. The rapid escalation and power of the paranoia that comes in the storm of emotions is alarming. Of course you only realise yourself that it IS paranoia when the incident is resolved and passed, and even then there is always a deep down gnawing doubt that refuses to completely leave you. My biggest fear (save losing my family) is losing my friends, so this makes paranoia on this subject excruciatingly painful. It will drive me into a manic frenzy whereupon I pace about, badger people with texts, and if they don't reply within a minute I will phone them incessantly until they pick up.

My friends are so much to me. They are my proudest achievement, my happiest memories, my pride, my drive and inspiration.

Compared to some people I don't have a great lot of friends, but I love and cherish the ones I have.

I made a few big decisions when I accepted I had anorexia. I would get as thin as possible. I would be invincible. And I WOULD NOT LOSE FRIENDS. I was acutely aware that nearly every description and prognosis of EDs will state somewhere '...becomes isolated...' '...loses confidence and social skills...' etc etc. I was going to defy them. More importantly I have always thought if life can feel this shit when you are suffering then what the hell would it be like if I had no friends??

To lose my friends would be to cut any remaining ties with the sane world. I would be alone and floundering in the lonely world of my anorexia. Friends were my reprieve from the prison of my eating disorder.

I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say I would probably be dead if I had lost my friends.

I used to think there was nothing more powerful than anorexia. I thought anorexia would over rule everything. I thought it would always taint my decisions and creep into my choices at every turn. It seemed it would stunt the growth of life with its tendrils of control.

Then one person changed that. I feel the need to say I AM NOT A LESBIAN! This may sound romantic otherwise haha. Anyway yes, one person changed it. I met her in hospital, the first admission I had.

I hated her. Yes, I was certain we were NOT going to get along. I mean she was so thin. This just wouldn't do. She was competition making me feel simultaneously transparent and elephantine. Then for some reason I had to speak to her. God how annoying. Stunted, jealous conversation, all the while measuring her thighs, arms, bones.

How then did we come to be snuggled by the fire together on bean bags the next day? You know I honestly cannot remember! But we did. We were chatting like old friends. I still looked at her bones but I also looked at her. From then on my fondness for her grew. She shared my dry humour, my interests and opinions. I went from resenting her totally to actually thanking god she was there with me.

We were a very close bunch in that Unit. Everyone kept making comments about how we would definitely keep in touch, go to Alton Towers, go out for fancy meals, meet up often, never forget one another. Did we all know deep down this wasn't true? I don't know, I remember being cynical for all my apparent enthusiasm. However I just had a feeling that me and X would stay in touch. I could just sense it.

I think it is a common illusion among patients in these smaller units that you genuinely have things in common, you are just as close and your forced physical proximity implies. But at the end of the day you realise all you really have in common is the disease that landed you in there. It just seems like you are all so alike because an ED leaves you feeling as though you ARE the ED. If you are all going around thinking you are anorexia then you are bound to feel pretty similar.

Then one day X self discharged. I was devastated. She left a big void, her chair woefully empty. However to my semi-relief she came back as day patient so I didn't lose her for good. Then in March I left, she staying as day patient. We exchanged numbers. The big test would start- would we have anything in common outside Anorexia?

The answer is yes! A resounding yes. Over a year on and we see each other often and message all the time.

She is one of my most treasured possessions. When I struggle with ED and depression she is the first I turn to and generally the only one who genuinely understands. Just hearing my experiences echoed by her is enough to calm me down. I aspire to her. She exudes a calm and tranquillity that belies what I know must be beneath which makes her presentation all the more amazing. She is hilariously clean and tidy, I know however hard I try I'll never be this but she makes me want to keep forcing myself to at least try! She has never abandoned me. She is the one person I can meet up with without a 'face'. I know that if I come as I am, even if I feel the pits, she will still be there for me, she will never give me up as a bad job. She sent me beautiful birthday and christmas presents when I was in the second hospital. I was so sad not to be there with her at christmas.

She is so fantastic, if I could give her a gift I would give her a mirror that showed her what is within, what I see. I want to fix her problems as thanks for helping me with mine. I want to ease her suffering as she eases mine.

She is a little angel.


  1. Wow!
    Such a lovely post
    Full of hope and proof that love conquers all
    I wish I could say that I was like you and hung on to my friends
    Over the years I slowly but surely retreated in to my illness and away from people
    Having said that I am still in touch with one girl who also has anorexia
    She is successfully in recovery and continually contacts me even when I don't answer
    I guess she knows the place I am in

    I still keep in touch with a couple of people from treatment
    Like you we all swore that we would keep in touch
    But the people I'm in contact with were not from the ED unit
    They were in for other things
    I think because they were more my age
    The girls in the ED unit were a bit younger than me

    Reading this made me miss my friends
    I think I'm going to text one right now
    Thanks Katie x

  2. Katie.. this is beautiful. Next to my children I cherish the few friends that I have. I've lost contact with so many over the years (mainly due to my ex, who cut me off) than through me because I isolated myself ... because of the massive amount of pain I was dealing with... I miss some of those close relationships I had.

    Friends are wonderful and worth the effort, especially the ones who stayed when I tried to push them away...

  3. Ruby, it is sad to hear you lost friends but you are the sort of person that will attract people with your fierce and fighting nature!

    There is a lot of Stigma about having ED friends, but I think we can judge for ourselves those who are true friends. I find it invaluable to have someone who 'gets' me so completely and when they share you deepest thoughts they nod and smile rather than other people who raise an eyebrow and back off.

    I hope you did text that friend!.

    Launna, thank you :). It is indeed very hard to make the effort with other people when you are suffering, your pain becomes a vacuum that ultimately is very self destructive.


  4. This is such a wonderful post. It makes me so happy to hear you were able to keep a social network, as I know many of us don't. There is a stigma with having ED-friends, but I think it can be a very positive thing.

    My social life fell apart soon after I developed my ED, but I'd already been struggling due to other mental illnesses for a while. I can count how many times I've been social (not family or doctors) in the past year: twice. I had drinks with one friend about 6 months ago, and coffee with another friend 10 months ago. A lot of my agoraphobia & social issues are caused by other issues, but anorexia certainly hasn't helped it.

    Stay strong beautiful <3

  5. I think sometimes ED are our way of hiding from social contact because we are afraid of it. I certainly feel very worried that I am 'not good' at being social. If you can find the strength to just do it anyway, despite your fears I think it can be extremely rewarding.

    Just as it 'fell apart' it can be put back together, whenever you feel strong enough.