[TW: anorexia, eating disorders]
Over the past few years, I have watched my friend go from a happy, fun-loving and energetic girl, to a self-conscious, depressed one. The girl I used to know would always come over and sneak in some of the freshly made cookies my mother made. When at the movies, she’d order popcorn and a candy bar (sometimes even two), without a doubt. Over time, however, she refused to eat anything, and was constantly concerned about her weight.
My friend (let’s call her Carol) decided she’d be happier by losing a few extra pounds, so she started going to the gym and eating a lot healthier. This meant less ice cream dates and fewer late-night Sonic runs together. Everything was fine at first, but it was when Carol started passing up all of my offers to go out to eat that I became concerned. I noticed that she started wearing belts to keep her leggings on, and her skinny jeans no longer showed off her figure, but rather hung loosely from her body. The girl I used to know was now hardly recognizable at first glance.
You may be wondering, “If you thought she had an eating disorder, then why didn’t you try to help her?” Well, the truth is, I couldn’t. Nobody could. No matter how many times I asked Carol if she was okay or if she needed help, she would insist that she was fine. She wasn’t though, and everybody knew it. Carol was fading away right in front of me, and it wasn’t until she was told by the doctor that her resting heart rate was severely low, that Carol realized she needed help.
When Carol called me, I was sitting in my room working on homework late at night. She frantically told me that her parents and doctor decided it would be best for her to go to an eating recovery center. Carol told me that she was admitted, she wouldn’t be back until she was better again, whether that be a few weeks, months or even years. Carol and her parents drove all night to reach the ERC, which happened to be out of state. I never even got to say goodbye.
After almost four months in the ERC, Carol finally came home. She’s been out now for about seven months, and is still recovering from anorexia. Although some days are better than others, Carol is doing a lot better than she was before. Little did we know that our friendship would grow stronger because of all of this; we have learned that just because there is distance between us, it doesn’t mean we are no longer friends.
I still can’t help but think that maybe if I had done something sooner, all of this could have been avoided. However, I have accepted the fact that things happen for a reason, and that in the grand scheme of things, there is a deeper meaning to this. My one piece of advice that I want to share to others who may be experiencing this with their friend, is to simply be there. Your presence matters more than you will ever know, and just by talking and listening to your friend, you show them that they are not alone. And if you yourself are suffering with an eating disorder, know that there are people who care and resources for you to turn to. UMKC Counseling services can be reached here for help.