7 Oct 2010

How to cope when a friend has an ED too.

So, my dilemma is this - I'm recovering from my eating disorder and I think my recover is going so-so so far (which is no small achievement!) but I have a friend with an ED too, and she's struggling. She's not someone I met through a support group or anything. I knew her before either of us had any issues with food and eating. We were at school together from the age of 11, in the same friendhship group and always got on well.

Unfortunately, however, our decent into the dark world of ED coincided. We did an internship at the same place the summer we were both turned 17. My friend (let's call her Jane) had just started the Atkins diet, even though she was slim, healthy and beautiful. I was already starting to worry about my weight and calorie count. I think, on some level, her extreme dieting motivated me to go to take my restrictive eating to another level. By the end of the summer we were both looking noticably unwell. Our weights had plummetted and neither of us could function well in school because we were on such low-calorie diets. However, whereas I managed to drag myself back to weight that was non-anorexic (although still unhealthily low for my height) over the course of the next year or so, Jane just got worse. She ended up in and out of different eating disorders treatment hospitals for the next two years, until something snapped and she found the strength to gain weight, enough weight to convince doctors to discharge her, let her move on with her life and go to university etc.

But, like so many people (including myself) her issues with food and weight were far from over. Three years have now passed since she was finally discharged from hospital, and she still uses her eating as a way to cope with stress, just as I sometimes do. But, whereas I feel I'm making some progress, I think she's going backwards, and I don't think she's committed to complete body-mind recovery in the way I am. The problem is, when I see her, it sometimes destabilises me. I look at her - she is still very beautiful and glamorous - and I wonder whether I might not look better in jeans if my legs were as thin as hers. Its a dangerous path to go down. But what do I do? Do I cut her out of my life completely, after over 10 years of friendship? It seems a shame and, to be honest, I'm not even sure it's an option because we have so many friends in common. I would love to have the strength to continue to be a good friend to her, without letting her issues effect the way I feel about myself, and perhaps I do have the strength to do that....but I'm not sure, and maybe hanging out with her is therefore too much of a risk. I'm really at a loss as to what to do in this situation. If anyone has experienced anything similar, I'd love to hear your stories and if anyone has any wise words, I'd appreciate it.