Monday afternoon I stood on the playground of the preschool where I work. All around me was the chaos of children screaming, the music of their laughter, and the sound of their sweet little feet hitting the playground as they bounced joyfully from one end of grounds to the other. I stood and took it all in. I watched them be so carefree and enjoying every second of their day. That’s the amazing thing about kids. They don’t care who hurt them earlier in the day, they don’t care about the baby fat that still covers their sweet, precious bodies, and they don’t care about being someone who they aren’t just to impress someone. They are just present in the moment. And while all this was going on around me I talked to one of the moms of a little boy in my class. She told me something that really hit me at the deepest point of my heart, and I haven’t stopped thinking about her words since. She looked at me and said, “Alissa, you are so real. And that’s what I love about you.” Realness. Authenticity. Those things- those two courageous, scary, wonderful things- they are what I have been trying to become. To be fully me. To be perfectly imperfect. To take off my shell and bear my heart and my scars to this fake world. To hear those words- it was better than the feeling of hearing how great I looked, or I look like I lost weight, or hearing how smart someone thinks I am. “You are so real.” That was the best compliment I could have received. And to hear those words, must mean I’m doing something right.
Recently I was contacted by an old friend from high school who I haven’t talked to in quite some time. During those four awkward years we were pretty tight. We talked on the phone nearly every night, shared numerous inside jokes, took the same classes, shared secrets and family drama with each other, and always knew how to make the other laugh. After high school ended, we slowly started to drift apart as we went our separate paths. We began to talk less and less, and barely saw each other anymore. The connection was diminishing. This continued as I would see pictures on Facebook of her with another mutual friend always going out, and feeling hurt and heartbroken that I wasn’t even thought of. Because we weren’t the type of friends that ever had any drama, I felt I couldn’t express my feelings of hurt and how left out and alone I felt. I would see these pictures almost every week and just feel genuinely sad. The final straw for me was when I told this friend that I was entering IOP treatment and was met with virtually no support. That hurt me in a way that words cannot even express. Throughout my whole treatment, she never reached out, never asked how I was doing, never even invited me to hang out. I felt as though because I was broken, I was just this useless old childhood toy to her that could just be thrown into the garbage. I felt abandoned at a very fragile time in my life. A time when I needed friends the most.
Fast forward to the other day. Suddenly she finds some value in me. She suddenly wants to go and get our nails done together. She suddenly wants to talk to me. But I assure you there is something under that. There were messages about working out, eating, etc. And while this time it was a healthy mindset of messages, and a good part of that was because I steered the conversation that way, I know there will be another time where she finds it appropriate to talk to me about dieting, juice fasting, watching some stupid documentary that will scare me into eating certain foods again. I cannot have that toxicity in my life. I cannot put myself in a position to continue to have relapses. I cannot trust she has my best interest at heart, because it has become clear to me she does not. She hasn’t cared, she doesn’t care, she is probably just trying to use me for personal training tips, or even eating disorder tips, and I refuse to do that. The other day when we were talking, I could not say these things because my boundaries are still weak. I couldn’t tell her she triggers me, she abandoned me, she is not my friend. I couldn’t express all the love I have had from my REAL true friends over that last year. I could not explain to her how toxic she is for me. I could not say NO! But today, on the off chance she is reading this, I am telling her no now. NO I don’t want to hang out. NO I don’t ever want to try a fad diet with you. NO I don’t want to allow your toxicity back into my life. NO I do not want to set myself up to be hurt again because you don’t know what a real friend is. I may be shaky on this path right now, but I am learning my worth. And the one thing I have learned from my real friends over these struggles is that you are not worth my time, my life, my energy anymore.