Elizabeth Day on the power of friendship


The author and broadcaster shares the many joys of working alongside her best pal (and therapist) Emma Reed Turrell.

I didn’t meet my best friend Emma until I was 19. Throughout my school years, I’d thought I would be one of those people who had lots of good friends but didn’t really believe in the idea of a ‘kindred spirit’ as Anne Shirley put it in L. M. Montgomery’s childhood classic, Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure the kindred spirit existed beyond the pages of fiction.

Then, in my first week at university, I walked into the college bar and there she was: blonde, gorgeous, surrounded by admirers. My first thought was that we were absolutely not going to get on. Emma seemed to be everything I wasn’t, namely confident and very blonde. But when we started chatting, it was like it all clicked into place. She got my humour, understood where I was coming from and shared a talent for quoting extensively from the Austin Powers movies. Plus the blonde hair, it turned out, was dyed.


"She got my humour, understood where I was coming from and shared a talent for quoting extensively from the Austin Powers movies."


Over the years, our friendship has evolved in a profound and beautiful way. As we have aged, so our relationship has matured through many life stages. Emma has walked with me through disaster and triumph. She’s held my hand through divorce, infertility and heartbreak. She’s celebrated my birthdays and book publications. When I remarried, she was our celebrant. Her children are my godchildren. She is (joint equal with my husband) the most important person in the world to me.

After a corporate career and experience in the charity sector, Emma retrained as a therapist in her 20s. This means I now have a best friend who knows me better than I know myself, with the added professional expertise to help me through life’s challenges (and call me out on my bullshit). It’s an enviable combination. For a long time, I wished I could bottle up a bit of Emma and hand it out to anyone I met who was struggling. She always had incredible advice and stores of wisdom and was never, ever judgemental when she dispensed it.

The idea to work together and launch our podcast, Best Friend Therapy, came about through this desire. We wanted listeners to feel included in our friendship, but also to have access to a little hit of free therapy every week. We decided we’d talk about mental health issues, but also about whatever might be coming up for us in our own lives. They were the kinds of conversations we have all the time anyway, but this time, we’d record them.


"We wanted listeners to feel included in our friendship, but also to have access to a little hit of free therapy every week."


For me, the success of the podcast is largely down to Emma’s brilliance, but also to the strength of the dynamic between us. The best friendships have, at their core, a generosity of spirit that means we think the most of each other, no matter what the circumstances. I admire Emma so much for her integrity, thoughtfulness, courage and her humour (so dark it sometimes makes me draw breath before falling into uncontrollable fits of laughter). I feel wholly safe with her, so I know she would never do anything to hurt me.

This is the necessary foundation for my closest friendships. Whatever happens, I know we have each other’s interests at heart. Their happiness is as precious to me as my own. And together we can achieve so much more than we can apart. Female solidarity is a powerful tool. Without my friends, I’d be nothing. Without Emma, I wouldn’t make sense.

I would say she’s the other half of me, but she’s far better than that.




Favourite fictional friends?

Anne Shirley and Diana Barry in Anne of Green Gables.


What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken with a friend?

When Emma and I booked an Airbnb and went away for four days together on a writing retreat. She was writing her first book, Please Yourself, and I was writing Failosophy. We worked during the day, cooked dinner together, watched Love is Blind in the evening and laughed so much. Bliss.


Best advice for keeping a friendship alive?

Love. When in doubt, throw love at a problem. It doesn’t have to be about keeping in touch all the time, or arranging to meet up every week. It’s about loving from afar, if necessary, and always thinking the best of someone and knowing they will be in touch when and if they need because you have held space for them in your heart. My closest friends all do this for me. It’s an invaluable gift, it really is.


Best piece of advice a friend has given you?

Oh my goodness, so many amazing pieces of advice I can’t narrow it down to one. Emma once told me that I might be using sadness as a masking emotion when I was actually feeling anger that felt too dangerous to express. Mindblowingly helpful. Another friend recently told me it was impossible ‘to bully yourself into positivity’ and I keep quoting it to myself.

Elizabeth’s latest book, Friendaholic: Confessions of a Friendship Addict is out on 30th March. You can pre-order here.