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.