“I fought a war to walk a gang plank
Into a life I left behind
Windows leading to the past
Think it’s time I broke some glass
Get this history off my mind”
– Caves, Jack’s Mannequin
A few days ago a friend of mine that I met during my last hospital stay uploaded a picture of himself onto Facebook. This would have been no big deal had there not been a tube in his nose. I actually didn’t even notice it at first, but from the picture’s caption I gathered that he was in treatment again. I was immediately glad that he seemed to be getting help, but also distraught over the picture. He’d never needed a tube before — was he refusing to eat? How sick had he become?
I hadn’t seen this friend in months but I could tell from FB pictures that he was looking worse and worse. I’d reached out to him on several occasions but we never really got it together. I couldn’t be bothered to go further out of my way for someone who simply could not appreciate my friendship. I wanted to help him — hell, I bought him an entire goodie basket of protein drinks and bars over Christmas — but he wasn’t in the state of mind to really accept my support. Whenever we did get together, our conversations would revolve entirely around eating disorders. Instead of feeling happy about seeing him, I would leave distressed over the fact that all we had talked about was our respective disorders. That wasn’t healthy for him or for me.
I went through a shock of emotions after seeing my friend’s picture. At first, I was hopeful. I worked furiously on gathering up gifts to send to the center where he’s receiving treatment. I remembered when my friend from high school, Molly, sent me a care package chock full of amazing gifts during my last hospital stay. I’d actually been discharged by the time her box arrived at the hospital, but when I opened it at home I was ecstatic and so grateful to have her as a friend. Her gift made me feel loved, and I wanted my friend to feel the same way.
Next, I was angry. Angry at my friend, angry at myself. I was angry at him for posting such a triggering photo onto Facebook. Perhaps he didn’t think it would triggering, but I found it to be very much so. I immediately compared myself to him. I decided that I’d never been that “sick” and privately insulted the severity of my own eating disorder. It’s a strange thing that to someone with an eating disorder, being very sick can be a good thing. Being super sick is almost something to aspire to — when I was in a bad way, I wanted to see my bones, all of them. Any that I did see were never good enough. My sickness what slight and unworthy in comparison to his.
Upon seeing his picture, I was envious of my friend. Envious that he got to remain in the clutches. Jealous that he’s still so skinny. Ridiculously enough, I was envious of his treatment center! I looked it up and the photos show exquisite bedrooms and living rooms, all nicer than my own house. Although treatment centers often seem like hell on earth to a person with an eating disorder, I was so relieved the last time I stepped foot into the hospital. I knew I would finally be given a break from the hell that was my eating disorder; I would be able to start functioning again. Some of my best friends are those I made while we were mutually in treatment together. There’s something about sharing something so personal with each other and living in close proximity that makes it easy to develop extremely close friendships. I was jealous of my friend for having such a great opportunity.
Finally, I was sad. Sad and still angry with myself that I could feel all of these evil, awful things. That I could possibly, in the depths of my mind, want to go back to treatment. That I could want to be sick again. I don’t want to go back to treatment. I don’t want to be sick again. I have fought so hard to be where I am today. It wouldn’t be fair to myself or my recovery to turn back now. And I won’t. I know that where I am is infinitely better that the place where my friend is. Sure, he has support 24/7. But I have a life. I am living. I wouldn’t say I’m thriving yet, but the possibility’s there. Never before have I had such potential. I wouldn’t give that up for the world, much less an illness.
I love my friend and I want to be there for him when he returns home. I want him to feel comfortable reaching out to me. I want him to actually reach out to me, because he never has before. I don’t want my own emotions to get in the way of my ability to be a positive influence on him. I know that I am bigger than the thoughts that sometimes plague me.
Also, I want him to try. To put up a decent effort. He owes that to his parents, to the treatment centers he’s stayed at, and to me. But also, most importantly, he owes it to himself.