Friends are better than ED

I'm not sure why this realization took so long for me, but it did. And it was all thanks to my good friend L. I have been back in DC, frantically packing up my apartment, and I've gotten together with L. twice- once on Monday, and once tonight (Wednesday). Both times were very enjoyable and we talked and laughed and even gossiped a bit. This was much more fun than spending time with ED.

The differences between ED and my friends are quite profound.

ED makes me feel better, but only short-term. And then it drives everyone else away and I lie and tell stories and stop recognizing myself.
L. makes me feel better both short- and long-term.

My parents hate ED.
My parents like L.

ED takes the sparkle out of my eyes.
L. says how great it is that the sparkle is coming back.

ED has tried to kill me (and nearly succeeded).
L. hasn't.

ED tells me not to eat.
L. gets out snacks when I come to visit.

ED is an abusive bastard.
L. gives great hugs.

ED says I'll feel better if I starve/purge/exercise.
L. just listens and I feel better almost automatically.

The irony is that when my eating disorder started, I started to take a positive spin on my overwhelming loneliness (I was working at an internship in a strange city where I didn't know anyone). If I didn't have any friends, then I wouldn't have to eat with them. I began to think of friends as a waste of time, something to keep me away from my laundry list of rituals and must-dos. Because I would feel so anxious when I couldn't do whatever it was, even the idea of going out with a friend made me nervous and upset.

The ongoing depression and ED symptoms made it hard for me to begin new friendships and nurture previous ones. But I am slowly getting better at this, at letting people in, at loosening my white-knuckled grip on my rituals and activities. I am finally learning how to sit back and just enjoy someone else's company and be there with them in the moment.

I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize that these friendships meant far more to me than the ED, but I'm glad I learned that lesson.

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Micco said...

That's really, really awesome. said...



I'd ad...

ED says he'll keep you thin.
FRiends - interacting with them does not put you at risk of getting fat. They have zero effect on your weight. So what's the fear?

ED says you'll feel good if you do these pretty boring, tedious things (think about calories too much, think about what you'll do for exercise to much).
FRIENDS make you feel good without boring you and making your world small :)


Amy said...

L., don't get upset when you read this, but I got a hilarious mental image of you with a butcher knife, going in for a good '80s movie kill. (=

Glad y'all are having some fun.

Sarah at Journeying With Him said...

Carrie, this was really fun to read. I'm glad you are having this realization. I'm guessing it might pop up time and time again as you continue to put yourself out there. I still struggle sometimes with choosing to be with friends because of my fears and anxieties around food in social settings, but every time I choose the friends I think, "dang, I'm glad i did! This is SO much better." I loved this post. Glad you're starting to get yourself back.

Libby said...

*big hugs* I'm so glad I got to see you this week!! Safe travels for you and your family. And... I promise I'll never try to kill you!

@Amy - you totally got me to spit breakfast all over the computer screen, laughing! I'm trying to picture myself all Fatal Attraction... not quite working. :)

Lisa and Jim said...

I'm so glad to read this. Regaining friendships is a wonderful and HELPFUL part of recovery.

CeCe said...

So true. I used to isolate myself so much. I was depressed and having to pretend to be happy was exhausting and not socializing usually meant saving calories (and money). Not healthy! Life is actually meant to be lived!!

Jessie said...

This is a great post--really inspiring. I can really relate because I pushed away people and friends for the longest time, largely because the anxiety of possibly having to eat when I went out with people was too overwhelming.

It's great that you have a great friend like L to support you!

Kim said...

I think it takes so long to realize that friends are better than the ED because the ED does everything in its power to get you NOT to realize that. It's like once we see that we can have a full, enjoyable life with people, anorexia is made obsolete.

Anonymous said...

It's true. Friends kick ED's ass every time :)

ambivalence said...

"I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize this . . . "

the important thing, at least in my eyes, is that you DID realize it. You still have a whole life of building and nurturing relationships ahead of you.

samsi77 said...

I wish that blogs had the thumbs up indicating that "I like this" post that Facebook has, in the meantime, I wanted to write a BIG THUMBS UP as I really like this post!

IrishUp said...

Truly lovely :)

So, I'm reading a week's worth of your posts together Carrie, and I have a meta-question for you (you're shocked, I know).

Juxtaposing the piece on the neurobiology of ED sufferers being more change-avoidant with this insight inspired the following train of thought:
- Interpersonal relationships, while generally the fine wine of life, are also messy and require a lot of adapting on the fly.
- On the one hand, complex social interactions are early in the primate phylogenetic tree, so humans as a species are good at them.
- OTOH, complex social interactions may be particularly challenging for those individuals who have elevated inherent anxiety levels.
- As many have expressed, keeping one's interactions with the world routine was soothing.
- Soooo, would it be fair to posit that social isolation can be as much a primary symptom of underlying anxiety issues as it is a byproduct of the ED symptoms?

arexisaurus said...

I love this post. I seem to come to this realization often, but have still not able to break the cycle. Congrats on your success!

Carrie Arnold said...


To answer your question "is social isolation can be as much a primary symptom of underlying anxiety issues as it is a byproduct of the ED symptoms?" I would have to say it's both.

I have always found friendships difficult. I always had at least a friend or two, but social interactions were never my strong point, even long before the AN ever showed up. I have social anxiety (not diagnosable, but enough that the prospects of small talk sound as much fun as a do-it-yourself root canal), and I also hyper-interpret what everyone must be saying/thinking. In the other sufferers I've talked to, this seems to be a common enough thread that I would place it in the "predispositions" category. Most people with AN like routine, they tend to be more introverted than the average person (not all, but introversion appears more common in AN sufferers than in the general population), and they tend to have the same hyper-alertness to others' feelings. All of these things makes meeting new people and developing friendships really freaking hard.

But ED also drains you of energy, and the Keys' study found that the starving men had much lower interests in socialization during the starvation phase than during the control phase. Most of the hormones that help facilitate interaction with the outside world are ultimately derived from fat and cholesterol. This is partly why sex drive tanks when you reduce your fat intake, and it also helps explain why social interaction in general takes a hit. Starving people tend not to get the same biochemical positive feedback with social interaction.

These meta-questions are good. One day, we're going to have to sit in an espresso bar and have such profound discussions.

Katie Goode said...

I love this! Friends ARE better than ED!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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