We were friends forever, but I couldn’t be friends with her illness.
It’s said that if a friendship reaches the seven-year mark, it’s one that will last a lifetime. I don’t know if there is any hard scientific evidence for that, but I’d like to believe it’s true.
I’ve been lucky enough (blessed, really) to have the same three best friends since birth — over two decades, to be exact. We’ve hit the “seven-year mark” three times over.
We grew up on the same street, played on the same softball teams and shared clothes so often we don’t really even know what belongs to who anymore. In our little bubble, arguments don’t last more than a few minutes and we have so many inside jokes that to the outside world, we probably make zero sense at all times. They’re my trifecta.
Sure, there have been side-chicks here and there, other girlfriends who have come and gone. We’ve all gone to different schools and lived in different cities and sometimes countries).
Nothing has proven strong enough to break our bond… until now. Until bulimia nervosa took over.
Now there is a dark cloud that hangs over our every move.
Now an unwelcome guest rips at the seams of this security blanket we’ve held on to for so long. It eats away at everything we’ve built, everything we’ve come to depend on.
Now, an illness threatens the life of the best friend I care so deeply about — an eating disorder that couldn’t care less about a person’s family or friends; a monster that aims to destroy as many lives as possible, one binge and purge at a time.
And I can’t do anything about it.
Her addiction started innocent enough. Her dedication to the gym was something we were all envious of (because who actually wants to go to the gym everyday, and actually does?). When she began to watch her food intake, I understood. Why do all that work in the gym if you’re just going to eat like crap?
Within a few months, her body looked awesome. And though she could never really hang out because she had to workout, who was I to deny those results? But then the purging started.
Going out to eat became nearly impossible. It’s agonizing to sit in a restaurant alone while your best friend throws up in the bathroom. Or worse, to sit with others who know what’s happening, but not how to talk about it.
Inviting her over for the weekend? Useless — she couldn’t skip the gym or hide her purging. Eventually, inviting her out became pointless because her sickness always tagged along.
At first, no one really knew how to handle it. She’d laugh off any and all disapproving comments and avoid the issue.
For me, the final straw came one night when she got embarrassingly drunk after a minimal — and I mean minimal — amount of alcohol. I drove her home with our two other friends. We put her to bed and then sat down with her parents, who were completely unaware of the issue.
They cried. We cried. They promised to get her help.
She saw a therapist soon after and a couple of times we talked about her sessions. She didn’t think the therapist was very helpful. “She just doesn’t understand,” I heard way too many times to count.
Despite the trillion efforts to get through to her, nothing stuck. The illness was more persuasive than I could ever hope to be — and far more tenacious. It was unbelievably frustrating.
Our conversations somehow always came back around to her bulimia nervosa, and we both grew tired of it.
Texting all day, every day became checking in once a week.
Checking in once a week became random thoughts we’d share from time to time.
Random thoughts became the obligatory “Happy Birthday!” or “Merry Christmas!”
And it’s painful because I know we’ve passed the seven-year mark three times over. But at this point, we don’t talk much.
I can’t even honestly tell you the last time I saw her, though I think about her every day. Sometimes, I’ll ask the others about her — they see her more often.
Last I heard, things weren’t great. I often feel guilty about giving up on her and knowing when to end a friendship, but realistically I know there is nothing more I can do. If the day comes that she reaches out to me for help, I will absolutely be there for her.
We were friends forever but I couldn’t be friends with her illness — and that’s who she became.
In the US, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders. If they each have just one best friend, that’s 60 million people who are either in danger of losing someone they love, or who already have. And it breaks my heart.
If you or anyone you know suffers from an eating disorder, seek help.
Image via weheartit.com.
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