I am noticing that I probably have a long manual about a close friend of mine! I really worry about her. I want to challenge my own thinking of this, if I can, and see how I can actually be a good friend to her and support her, without being as judgmental and worried as I find myself being.
Here’s the story. This woman, who is in her early 50s, is one of my closest friends. She went through long covid & suffered for a very long time (more than a year), including from heart problems and digestive problems. At some point – when she had covid – she was very very unwell & went through a traumatic experience, thinking she might even die. She is now thank goodness better & has regained her strength.
However, it seems to me that this experience has fundamentally affected the way she sees herself & the world – which perhaps is not surprising in itself. Covid has affected us all in different ways.
What I worry about is that she’s gone a bit mad, as I see it. She has turned to alternative / fringe theories, has become fanatical in her way of eating & thinking of her body, observing its every little change, and even though she’s very very thin already, she has started doing extreme fasting. She is now doing 3 day fasts & her goal is to move to weekly fasts. She espouses the theory of ‘autophagy’ which from what I’ve researched has no proper scientific basis.
I would like to add she has a history of quite disordered eating & a degree of anorexic behaviour over the years.
I saw her for lunch yesterday & got very worried. Here were my thoughts on which I did some models already.
Friend pays intense attention to her body’s workings
Friend has become obsessed with her eating
Friend’s ideas about autophagy & extreme fasting (up to a week) – when she’s already that thin – are dangerous
As a friend I have an obligation to talk to her
I believe this may be an eating disorder
Friend is not safe all on her own at her flat with no one there not eating
– she spends lots of time alone without her husband in this second house they have
Friend is obsessed with alternative medicine & fringe theories
Friend should turn her attention outwards and make a contribution to the world
As you can imagine, these thoughts have left me feeling worried, critical, judgmental, anxious. I even spent a sleepless night over this. Another feeling I have is being ‘driven to help her’ (which I absolutely know won’t work!!) When I saw her, I gently questioned some of her behaviours & beliefs & she immediately became defensive & said she knows exactly what she’s doing & is taking good care of herself.
What to do?
How can I be a good friend to her and yet not be driven by my own manual for her?
How can I support her and build an intentional model that will actually be useful to her? And that will calm my worries down?