Community Stories

Andrea: Free from Silence

Andrea: Free from Silence | Libero Magazine
By breaking my silence, I finally understood how I was not “unique” by being the thinnest, nor was I special because of my suffering. I was just human.

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I stayed silent for too long. While those around me courageously voiced their stories, I cowered in the background, waiting for the perfect words to express the emotions, the perfect time to step into the open.

While those around me grew and opened their hearts to those still suffering, I kept quiet. My silence contributed to the illness.  By telling my story now, I hope to help others, those living in secret, to raise their voices.

Together, we can stop the disease – anorexia nervosa – from robbing us of any more moments or memories.

There is far too much to be said about eating disorders. We may live through them, but we do not truly understand how the disease controls our minds, bodies and souls. We can become selfish and absorbed in our struggles, never opening our eyes to realize the effect it has on those around us.

For years, I believed I was protecting others by not burdening them with my secret.

By shedding lonely tears at night, denying my brain nutrients, and finally refusing any form of food, I thought I could stay in control of the disorder without anyone else knowing. Ultimately, this led to a fight for my life, and burdened my family and friends more than I ever thought possible.

Anorexia told me great lies, saying I was unique in my struggles and my secret made me special.

I question these thoughts today, asking how it is possible to be special by being a puppet. In listening to the rituals and routines, I was just another pawn. But a naïve twelve-year-old has no idea what she is doing. I was a quiet bookworm with one wish: to have a friend outside of storybooks.

When I finally found her, my new “best friend”, I knew I would do anything to keep her.

I listened to her compare our grades, friends, boys, and weight; I even embarked on a diet with her. But through her constant comparisons, my confidence began to disappear along with the pounds. Although her comments triggered my actions, I had always been a perfectionist, a people-pleasing quiet individual trying to belong. Perhaps I would have developed anorexia without her.

As my story is long with many seasons, each with multiple episodes, I have often wondered if there would have been another triggering point along the way.

I do not wish to go into all the details about my first encounter with anorexia. The memories will always be raw and occupy a little corner of my mind. However, the summer after eighth grade, I knew I had a problem.  My parents knew I had a problem, but I did not want to admit it. Instead, I binge ate my way up to a normal weight and everyone believed I was fine.

Nobody suspected I had tipped the balance by stuffing my emotions instead of starving them.

Through my four years of high school, I lived in a mental cage, trapped by eating disorders and depression. I so wished I had spent those days filling my brain with physics and calculus, with outings and laughter with friends — nurturing myself and growing. But the past is the past, it is only the present we can create. Entering university, I thought things would be different and improve. It was a fresh start, a new atmosphere.

How wrong I was…

The first year was good. I finally belonged somewhere. I had a group of friends in my program. I was enjoying my studies and doing well in school.

Yet under the surface, I was still scared and sad inside.

Fear was dormant in my heart, I could not shake it away. Emptiness still clung to my mind as I slowly relapsed into over-exercise and orthorexia the summer I turned twenty.

September marked the beginning of the end. After returning from a trip to Europe, I entered school tinier and lonelier. My best friend was away on co-op, school was tough, and I was living on little food and too much coffee. Every small event compounded into a massive issue: a friend’s death, unruly peers, and loneliness let anorexia grasp my life once more and I let it.

As Christmas came, everyone around me knew something was wrong, but I was frozen. I literally couldn’t move away from it. Until one January night when I finally confided everything to my dad.

It became my first step towards letting go.

By breaking my silence, I finally understood how I was not “unique” by being the thinnest, nor was I special because of my suffering. I was just human. Thus began my darkest and lightest year, kicking and screaming at all those who loved me and wanted to help.

I spent endless months literally curled up under my desk, hiding from the world. My parents carried constant worry on their shoulders, my sister held her grief inside. Their patience was infinite. The worst pain I have ever felt was pain I caused others. In the end, their pain showed me it was necessary for my inner child to learn to walk on two feet instead of crawling on all fours.

Today, I am learning to listen to my own thoughts.

Although I keep stumbling, I continue to walk. There is so much to do in life, and life with an eating disorder is not a life to be living. Each day is filled with wonderfully serendipitous moments. I spent the last decade in this prison and I refuse to spend another minute there.

Hand in hand, we walk together on the same line. We walk towards the light called Recovery.

We fight the battle against what brought us, and those around us, grief, pain, and suffering. We walk for our lives, for our freedom. We walk so we may be able to hear our own thoughts and act consciously.

We have options, we have a choice – I chose to break the silence and chase life.

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