This is the story of two girls. They met in fourth grade, when one of them was loud, always looking for a laugh, but the other was quiet and shy, not speaking much, unless she was comfortable. The loud one was confident, at times too confident, but the quiet one possessed her own strength, though it didn’t appear until much later.
When the loud one, who was gradually quieting down, moved away after ninth grade, the two girls began drifting apart. They were still trying to figure out who they were as people, and being over 1,000 miles apart didn’t make communication easy. The next summer, the girl came back to visit, but the other was on vacation. It was actually a relief to the girl who had moved – there were so many people to see, and not having to schedule one more simplified matters.
When the two saw each other over Christmas break, the anorexia was still in control. The girl wasn’t herself anymore. She was shrunken, her head disproportionate to the size of her neck and limbs. She still didn’t see a problem with what she was doing, but the other girl did. The distance between them, though beginning to waste away, returned with the shock of seeing the girl as she was. What was the girl to say to her? How could she communicate to the other girl that she was hurting herself?
After many months and pounds lost, the other girl had to spend several weeks at her summer at a rehabilitation center. Her family came and visited, and she was made to attend therapy sessions, some involving art. She and the girl wrote letters to each other, the girl trying to be encouraging, suggesting books for the other to read while in treatment. It was a struggle for both girls. One had to face down her eating disorder, and the other had to support her through it, trying to understand the best way to make that happen.
The other girl, after completing treatment, was allowed to go back home. She acquired a nutritionist, a doctor, and an eating plan to help her gain back the weight she had made herself lose. This system grated against her; she and her parents fought about not gaining enough weight and about running. She was only allowed to run cross-country if she maintained her weight-gain goals. She did. She ran to a district champion title with her team, and while she didn’t place individually, her team’s win allowed her to run at the regional meet.
She is now a healthy weight, runs when she wants, simply because she loves it, and is a sophomore at a four-year university, an idea that her parents were wary about at first. Yes, the eating disorder reared its head again, but the girl recognized it this time. She saw that healthy didn’t mean obsessive. Healthy didn’t fight for control over every bite she took or mile she ran. Healthy meant that she was receptive to her parents’ concerns about her not eating enough. Healthy was enjoying an entire piece of cheesecake, knowing that the calories wouldn’t really matter in the long run. Healthy was strong and capable, but healthy was also vulnerable, allowing others to see her struggle and asking them to share her load.
I was not the girl with the eating disorder. I was the girl who had to watch someone waste away, not just physically, but also in relationships. After many months, though, with the help of professionals and those around her who love her, she was able to conquer the beast. That experience solidified our friendship – we have been to the dark places together. She is the strong one. Her story is one that is meant to be told. It can be conquered. But it must first be recognized. She even says herself that her story does no good if not shared.
Please, if you know anyone who might be struggling with the same issues, talk to them. Tell them this story and other stories in hopes that they will identify with them.