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5 Things My Best Friend Who Recovered From Anorexia Teaches Me

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I met my best friend while we were both receiving treatment for anorexia in a partial hospitalization program. The program had a strict “no outside contact” rule, however, she and I bonded and connected so quickly that it was impossible to continue adhering to that rule. She and I used our art therapy sessions to make each other paintings. We wrote each other little encouraging notes, made each other cards that we would slip to each other when the staff wasn’t looking and we emailed each other during the partial program school hours.

Eventually, our mom’s connected and both families decided to exchange numbers. She became my best friend slowly, yet all at once. She was the type of person I could never get angry with, and although she was very ill at the time I met her, I was not mad at her, but rather her anorexia. We talked every night, we texted constantly, sent each other emails and came up with ridiculous inside jokes. When she was admitted into the hospital for a low heart rate, I cried. I did not see her in program the next day. I called her later that night and I told her, “You’ve got to get better.” She did the same for me.

When I was transferred to an inpatient program, she called me every day, emailed me inspirational reminders after every meal and snack, and reminded me that I would be OK. Her voice became a soothing, comforting reminder that I was safe. The day she came to visit me she wrote me the most beautiful note and gave me a rose quartz necklace for healing. I refused to take it off the entire time I was in treatment. One email that she sent me while I was in inpatient stands out to me the most. It read: “Today I ate pizza, and it was delicious.” From that day on, her journey only went upwards. My best friend is my personal inspiration.

These are just some of the lessons that my, now recovered, best friend teaches me:

1. Being stubborn can be a good thing if it’s used in the right way.

My best friend always tells me that my stubbornness is a virtue and a gift. She tells me that if I use it in the right way (to fight the eating disorder rather than myself), I will accomplish so much. My best friend is one of the most stubborn people I have ever met, in the way that she has so much willpower for living and not just existing. I am so happy to see her radiant once more.

2. There is no such thing as a “good” or a “bad” food.

Some people with eating disorders might struggle with judging foods and placing them into categories of “good” and “bad,” but the truth is, there is no “good” and “bad” foods. Foods just are. Watching my best friend become comfortable with food again was one of my biggest motivations. She looks most beautiful when she is enjoying herself and happy. Hearing her be able to talk about food and normalizing the idea of eating food is so inspirational to me.

3. Your struggles will help those who are struggling.

I am still in the throes of my eating disorder. Seeing my best friend go to work every day, fight off her depression, bad body image days, anxiety and so much more, but continue to stay recovered from anorexia, is one of my biggest inspirations. She is an example that eating does not equal failure, but rather a strength beyond measure. My best friend is eventually going to study nursing, and this struggle will help her in her career. I know that her gentle soul with help those who are struggling with similar issues she struggled with.

4. Having someone who you care about can keep you fighting.

My best friend is 19. Someday, she will graduate college. Someday, she will have children. Someday, she will get married. Someday, I will be a godmother. One day I was particularly struggling, she sent me a message that will always stay with me. “I need you to be there,” she said. “I can’t lose you, but I’m afraid I will if you keep on like this.” Those words kept me going through the worst parts of my recovery. I cannot let this eating disorder kill me because I have too much love for her. I may be afraid of my own future with my eating disorder, but I have to be around for my loved one’s futures too.

5. It’s OK to still struggle.

My best friend considers herself recovered from anorexia, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have bad days where she has to wake up and scream louder than the eating disorder, or the depression, or the anxiety. This is OK. This is a normal part of the recovery process, and for some, what it looks like to be “recovered.”

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, you may not see hope for the future. Look for someone who can hold the hope for you. You are worth recovery. Recovery is possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Unsplash photo via Evelyn Mostrom

Originally published: October 5, 2017
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