I don’t know if I am going to be able to put down in words what I feel in my heart about the friendships and relationships that have been victims to this eating disorder.
Because, an eating disorder does not just affect the life of those of us who are ill… it impacts massively on our relationships with others and so affects those friends and loved ones who mean the world to us, causing them confusion and hurt too.
And over the years, as we behave in ways because of this illness that we can barely understand ourselves, let alone explain to anyone else and as we isolate ourselves more and more… well, it is only natural and really quite understandable that many friends scatter and relationships are destroyed.
During the eating disorder, the illness numbs us of so much – emotion and feelings are blunted and this causes us to act even more in ways that are against the values we otherwise hold close to our hearts.
In my recovery, as emotions are coming back, sometimes with a force that is almost too intense to cope with, I am feeling more intense pain and regret for all those friends who I love so much, that I have hurt over the years.
Friends who were with me through such key parts of my life, people I once happily spent time with, laughed with, ate with and celebrated life with who I have neglected and as I isolated myself more in this illness, I naively hoped to hold onto a friendship or relationship with, through sporadic text message or email alone….
During this illness, I have not been there for my friends…
I have not been a good friend. I have neglected to be the friend they needed when their children came into this world, when they celebrated new relationships, when they were bereaved and needed comfort or when they wanted to join together for birthdays or other life events.
Instead, I was too busy with the illness. Too busy being caught up in my food rules and rituals, too busy with exercise and movement compulsions and too terrified of doing anything outside the bubble existence of the eating disorder to be the friend I wanted to be to them…
And even though I knew I was being a bad friend, I knew I was confusing them when I cancelled a meeting, I knew I was potentially hurting them when I could not commit to our relationship in the way a true friend would… and though that pained me, I could not do anything about it. I felt paralysed and powerless to change.
So, it is only natural that over the decade and more of this illness, many incredible friends who I still love and care for deeply have now scattered.
Many of them tried to stay true to me for so long… they kept calling or messaging despite getting little response, they kept trying to arrange a get together, despite my frequent non attendance or cancelling on them.
But eventually, for even the strongest and most understanding, there is a limit.. And I understand that.
However, as I say, now that my emotions are waking up from the depths of my soul, it hurts with a fierce intensity that these friends are also victims to this illness.
And I do not know now that these relationships with the people I once loved in my past can ever be rebuilt.
How can you ever explain to someone why you acted as you did….?
It is impossible to understand an eating disorder when you have one yourself, so to expect someone outside the eating disorder world to understand why the illness made me push them away, why I was neglectful of my friendship with them for so many years, is a big ask… and maybe I think, too big an ask.
This is something I need to reflect more on as I push further forward in my recovery…. Can I ever even begin to expect these people I once loved to forgive and rebuild our friendships?
I don’t know but I do know that in the meantime, I will keep feeling this emotion and I will grieve the loss of these people from my life and I will use this grief to keep focused on recovery….
Because I don’t want to be that person who is a bad friend anymore: that is not me, those are values I do not hold in my heart.
I want a future full of friendships and loved ones, new or old… not an eating disorder.