I can’t exactly remember how I became close with Mia*. We’d been going to school together since kindergarten and yet never really became close until halfway through high school. Before Mia came along, I’d faced a lot of difficulty holding onto my friends. I always tried to fit myself into certain friend groups, yet always ended up disappointed that I could never find people that I connected with. I tried to fit in, but Mia allowed me the chance to be myself.
She’s the kind of girl who really marches to the beat of her own drum. She had a tattoo done by her brother in the 11th grade, a deathly hallows symbol etched into her hip. She collected vintage furniture; old type writers, record players, and tapestries. She chopped off all of her hair when it seemed like every other girl was growing their hair long, because Mia never cared about being like everyone else. Mia was a true friend from the beginning, someone that I could count on for an honest heart-to-heart or a laugh after a long day at school. We spent every weekend together, inventing new ways to have fun from miniature golf in my backyard, exploring the eclectic streets of Burlington, and baking a very unsuccessful rainbow cake. She was my best friend and we fit together even though on the outside we may have looked like polar opposites. But then Mia met Ana.
Mia had another side to her that she kept under wraps, a dark voice within her head that brought forth all the ugly thoughts. Mia and I both had dealt with depression in the past and I didn’t realize until much later how miserable she really was under the smile she put on for the world. I knew the Mia who loved to have fun and had pulled me out of my darkness.
I can’t say for certain when Mia’s anorexia really began, all I can tell is that it got bad during the winter of our senior year of high school. Mia had transferred to a more progressive hippie school halfway through junior year, so I really only got to see her on the weekends. At the time I was very busy, with four AP classes, varsity dance team, a job, college applications, and the school musical under my belt I had less time to spend with my best friend. And she seemed to be busy with stuff at her new school as well.
She told me that she had seasonal depression and that the winters made her not want to be social. Yet no other winter had stopped us from being friends before. When the snow began to melt I tried harder and harder to connect with Mia, to reach out and start spending more time with her now that my schedule allowed for it. But she always came up with the same excuses as to why she couldn’t see me. I would see pictures of her on Facebook and she looked different, hollowed out and tired from just being alive. I went away with my family during spring break and when I returned I immediately called her up. That’s when she hit me with the news.
Mia told me that she’d been in rehab for the past month, for anorexia. I was in total shock, not wanting to believe that my best friend was as sick as she was. All of those months that we’d been spending more and more time apart, she’d been wasting away because of her depression. I felt like the worst friend in the world for not realizing sooner what she’d been going through, for not being able to reach out and say what I’d been thinking. When she came back there was stiffness between us. The truth had made me realize that my friend, who’d once hiked the long trail, was a skeleton in leggings that shouldn’t have been baggy.
We tried to spend more time together after rehab, but it was hard. She was put on a strict schedule of medications and meal times, a clockwork orange mechanized living. The summer before college it seemed like Mia was preparing me for something. Cutting me off slowly so that I would learn to go without. She eventually stopped answering my calls, my texts, or messages. She would say that it wasn’t me but that she had to get out of her own head and start over. And I knew that our friendship was just a reminder of her sickness. That me being a vegan and someone who goes to the gym as often as I do was something that she couldn’t be around, because it triggered her. And I knew that I had to accept that she wanted to move on and that our friendship was the consequence of her fresh start, but I didn’t want to be without her. I loved her as much as a friend can love a friend and it killed me that Ana had stolen her from me. By September of my freshman year I got my last letter, a hurried apology and broken promises of an eventual reunion.
But that never came. Mia cut me out of her life, and it has been almost a year and a half since I’ve heard from her. I’ve seen pictures and heard stories from others about how she’s adjusting to her new life, after six months WOOFing in California she ended up at a school down south studying agriculture. She still looks thin in the photos and I’ve heard that she is still struggling with her eating. I’ve tried to fill the hole in my heart that she left raw and empty, with friends and boys but nothing ever leaves the same impression.
Some people provide a quick fix but I never get that true alignment of two souls that Mia and I had. I’ve accepted that she has a new life now and I have done a lot in my recent years as well. I feel like a new person since college, and I just wish that I could share it with the one person that gave me the happiness and the confidence in myself to be able to go for what I want in life. Maybe one day she will be strong enough to let me back into her world and on that day I will accept her back with open arms and hours of memories to share with her. But I know that Ana isn’t a temporary mindset, it’s a disease that takes away the spirits of the best people. And I just hope that Mia is out there, happy and healthy in her head, heart, and body.
*Names have been changed