She lives in Detroit. I live in Baltimore.
She is a physician. I am home with my kids.
She has two girls. I have two boys.
Her kids are mild-mannered. Mine are not so much.
She is Catholic. I am Jewish.
She is calm and laid back. I am hyper and impulsive.
The saying holds true… Opposites do attract.
There has not been a time I have come to Detroit to visit my family that I have not seen her. She has made the trip to Baltimore to spend time with us, and to see my new life there. She was a matron of honor in my wedding. She lived with me all four years of college (which I am the first to admit, was no easy task). She is what I call a, “best friend.”
The more I get up in front of crowds and groups to speak, the more I hear the same question asked: “How was your best friend a “friend” to you during your eating disorder?”
To be friends with someone struggling with an eating disorder can be very frustrating, discouraging, and misunderstood. I realize now, as I reflect back, that many were afraid to be around me, not knowing what to say to me, or how to act. Part of me can understand because I was not myself; I was not fun company; and, I was focused so much on starving myself at that time. But, I couldn’t help it. It was a disorder that had taken over my being and existence.
My roommate, who was, also, my college soccer teammate at the time, exemplified what it should be like to be a friend to someone suffering with a psychological and physical disorder, such as anorexia. At the time, I was unable to appreciate or see acts of kindness she displayed, but, now, it is clear that she was the epitome of a lifesaver; and, I will forever be indebted to her for all she did to stand by me, support me, and help me through the most challenging time of my life.
She drove me to my psychiatry appointments. I was so angry I was being forced to go, that she offered to drop me off and pick me up, so I didn’t have to do it alone.
She continued asking me to go out to see movies in the theater, even though I insisted on popping my own fat-free popcorn before we left.
She played tennis with me, to do an activity outside of soccer and running, which I enjoyed, though didn’t have much energy to exert.
We went to the indoor pool to swim laps together, again, to do an activity that was different, and disassociated with our sport.
She continued to be my partner in every activity during practice, which could not have been easy.
She never brought up my eating, therapy, or treatment, unless I initiated the conversation, which I never did.
She never made negative comments about my body, appearance, or behaviors.
She talked to me as if I was healthy, happy, and not experiencing a hardship.
But, most importantly, she recognized I had a problem, and had the courage to tell someone who she knew would get me the help I needed.
Though she may not have completely understood the complexity of my eating disorder, she continued to treat me with respect, and include me in all activities she partook. Her support, love, and encouragement enabled me to have the strength to fight my illness, because no matter what, I knew she was there with me, so I was never physically alone. I needed her. I needed that. And, as I read this article today, “Approaching A Friend With An Eating Disorder,” I still believe her picture should be at the top of the page.
The article reads, “I lost so many friends because of my anorexia,” says Catharine, an 18-year-old college student whose disorder began when she was in grade 11. “When I saw my friends, I had nothing to say, or I didn’t have the energy.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I felt the exact same way. That is why I am forever grateful to my best friend… who exemplified empathy, patience, and maturity in an extremely difficult situation. For a college student, who had her own responsibilities, obligations, and issues, she never abandoned me–and has stood next to me since.
I love you, Nina.