This is going to be a hard one.
Few things matter to me in life, like most people, my friends and family are one of them. They are who I love, who I live for. Summer 2016 was the day my best friend was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and went away to begin recovery. That was the day the things that mattered to me most, and everything I had taken for granted hung in the balance. I felt like I had failed to catch her before she fell. I think everyone felt that way. And everyone knew it was impossible, but unlike clairvoyancy, trying to predict something like that really is impossible, like trying to describe the taste of salt to someone’s who’s never tasted it before.
Although it was no shock, and a long time coming, it didn’t stop it from hitting me like a train, full speed.
The day she left is up there with one of the worst of my life. I had the biggest lump in my throat the whole time watching her pack her suitcase. I didn’t want her to see me cry but it threatened to choke me as the room grew smaller and I began to drown. I was so scared to break her when I hugged her goodbye.
I remember feeling constantly nervous and on edge. Hearing about heart problems, osteoporosis and infertility which are just the basic problems this disease ensues. It broke my heart over and over again as I thought of the future, and the uncertainty that thought brought with it.
My eyes would swell with tears anytime the few who knew would ask. I’d fight to keep my voice steady, then everything would blur and swim before my eyes and I’d be right back in that room holding her hand, being there. I felt lonely a lot of the time, from missing my best friend and emotionally drained from the wondering and worrying I did most of the time. I didn’t know what to expect anytime I heard my phone ring or a text message whenever she was allowed to use the 20th century phone she had been provided with.
For weeks then months, calories and kilos were all we obsessed over. Every car ride was spent wondering how that day had gone, and wondering about what kind of mood it had left. I spent that time prepping myself mentally and warning myself not to cry when I was needed to be strong. As much as the bad days felt like the worst, the good ones really were the best and it felt like the responsibility to worry had been lifted off my shoulders for just one night.
My visits consisted of talking, and gossiping and making her laugh. I listened to her as I sat on the second inflatable mattress that was specially designed for brittle bones as it emptied and filled with air. I hated how keeping her from the things she wanted to do was for the best. I hated saying goodbye. I felt like each hug had to count for all the days I wouldn’t see her, and when they were needed for when my voice over the phone wouldn’t suffice.
It was three long months before my best friend returned home from recovery. Although she’s home, it’s not over, and it never will be, I know that. It will forever be a constant battle where the good days are better and the bad days are worse. Though everyday shows improvement, the daily challenges that were once mountains are slowly weathering into hills. I realise how hard it is, I really do, but I will be here every step of the way.
And as long as you continue to fight, so will I.
Unlike how it is increasingly romanticised on various forms of social media today, mental illness is a very real, and very serious illness. I hope this post helps anyone who is going through something similar, experiencing mental illness themselves, or knows someone who is, and feel they can relate to this in any way.