A Terrible Mistake

I have made a terrible mistake.

I chose an eating disorder, over my friends.

It hurts like hell and I didn’t realise what I was doing until I woke up, one day, and understood what I had thrown away –

Schoolmates and best friends. The people that you share your fashion disasters and first loves with; who know you as well as you know yourself and who you must talk to the moment you’ve said goodbye. The friends that you spend your formative years with, day in and day out, and who you should be able to laugh over schoolgirl antics with, fifteen years down the line, when you’re all grown up.

Childhood friendships. The ready built networks that introduce you to the friends you suffer after school clubs with, or those who are as music or sport obsessed as you are. The people that you meet along the way, when you’re finding out what you like – and what your parent’s like – and striking up a conversation’s not as complicated as it later becomes.

University peers. The people you share the transition from home – to life – with. The new friends and extended social groups and people that expand your mind and share your thinking. The groups you rent your first home with, and celebrate your graduation with, and grab a drink with after work, years later, when you’re wondering what the student loan was for.

The people you meet when you’re on a beach in a swimsuit – or a pub on a Friday night – or at a random house party of the brother of someone you once met –

The friends of friends, who you get on with for the simple fact that you care about the same person.

The people that make you feel like you’ve come home.

An eating disorder does not do sharing and it’s not hot on friends.

It does not like people who ask questions or might cotton onto what’s going. It does not want comments about changing body shapes or reminders of ‘then’.

It’s not good with expectations (that might jeopardise its supremacy) and obligations (that might break the food rules) and emotions (that might make you think twice); is scared of guilt (from the hurt you could cause) and concern (because you might decide to change) and the possibility that you might reciprocate the friendship –

and then where would it go?

It steals – with little consideration for the consequences – the opportunities and occasions that take you into the world; prefers hospital beds to classrooms, and therapeutic care to friendships. It would rather you chose a safe and secure half life and remained away from the one that the rest of the world is enjoying –

And, because it hits you at the crucial time when it’s all going on, it very very nearly succeeds.

I have missed 21st Birthdays, and weddings, and seeing the people that I knew in shell suits and pyjama parties becomes lawyers and mothers, because I was oblivious to what was going on –

Have walked away when I might have been needed, and opted out, rather than joined in -

And now, I am salvaging the remains

because I have made a terrible terrible mistake.

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4 Responses to “A Terrible Mistake”

  1. Anon says:

    This really resonates with me as I feel I am confronting a similar situation. Since my eating disorder, I have found it very difficult to make – and keep – friends.

    I pushed most of them away when the eating disorder set in (intentionally and not). I tried not to make friends when the opportunity to do so arose because I was afraid (I didn’t know what of at the time, but your article summises it perfectly) and it made it so much harder to make steps towards recovery because of it.

    I also found out who really weren’t my friends in the process, which probably makes it even harder now I want to reach out and build myself a life that includes other people. I’m not even sure *how* you make friends as an adult; you don’t have the opportunities to meet people like you do when you are younger and I don’t have the same confidence in striking up conversations. I have recently joined a club doing something I enjoy, so hopefully, in time I will get to know the people there.

    However I have learnt to really value, and make an effort, with the few people who have stuck by me. I know what a friend is; making new ones is the next step, I guess.

  2. melissa says:

    I’m sorry that you’ve experienced this too as I know how painful it is. There’s a lot about ages and stages of life that you also notice and I think you’re right about the next step being getting out there.

    I have started this process and it takes a lot of self-motivation and pushing comfort boundaries (watch this space!); but, I think, for me, I also need to move beyond the immense sadness I’m currently feeling and the urge to regress – rather than progress.

    I can’t mend the broken friendships, much to my horror, but I can take the learning into the new ones.

    I wish you all the best in your journey and please comment back any suggestions for the next step that help you.

  3. Anon says:

    I guess it’s understandable that we feel sad (and guilty, sometimes, too) when friendships die – it’s a bereavement, of sorts, for something lost (or what potentially has been lost). So part of me thinks it’s okay to be sad, though I’m not sure where this ends, and the moving on begins.

    Sometimes it feels easier to be alone than to be with other people. But I’m told that this lessens over time. I’ve made some steps to do things with others when I didn’t want to, and sometimes it has worked out for the best and other times I have wished I was in my little bubble again. Luckily for me, my bubble has at least expanded to include my boyfriend, but then I feel the loneliness a lot stronger when I do have to go home and be on my own.

    What I’m finding really helpful is putting myself out there to do something I’ve always wished I could do (rather than focus on the people bit, which is the scariest part). For me, it’s dance. I had to quit as a child before anything got started for family reasons, and never got back to it, so I’m doing it now rather than put it off or regret it. And it’s proving a way to meet other people who are just as keen as I am, as well as helping me to look at bodies, shapes and size in a different way. I’m looking because someone is good at the dance, or is super-strong, and I’m amazed for those reasons rather than for how big or small they are.

  4. melissa says:

    That is a great idea – and straight on my line of thinking about the importance of getting out there. What’s more, it’s a really important reminder that our bodies’ are way more than just our appearance.