One ordinary summer afternoon I cried my heart out. I was twenty-three. My mother dropped me off at a house I had never been to before. She waved goodbye, blew me a kiss and wiped tears from her eyes. Then she drove away. I held my breath and crossed my arms over my chest. I knocked on the door and went inside.
The room was filled with females of all ages who sat on chairs in a circle. I knew no one. I sat on an empty chair and hugged my knees to my chest. The group facilitator asked each girl to say her name and to tell us why she was there. Then came my turn. I covered my eyes to hide the pain. But the tears poured like heavy rain.
I knew I belonged. I had lived for nine years in silence, in secret, in shame, in a strange world, a manifestation of my own imagining, a physical shell, a psychic hell. I had lived lost, in the darkest corner, inside my mind while the world around me had been alive with people eating, drinking, laughing, talking, cooking, loving, feeling.
It was almost a decade ago now, at that first support group for women with eating disorders that I realized I was not the only person in the world to feel that way. There was a name for my suffering. A label. And after so many years of starving myself and losing myself and hating myself, I realized for the very first time that I was not alone. There were other people just like me who had been through the same as me. And although our stories were different, our pain was the same.
That sunny afternoon was the beginning of my recovery. That laid the foundation for my belief that only by reaching out do we know that others are there. Only by surrendering do we find strength. Only by being vulnerable do we feel human. Only by looking into someone else’s eyes do we open our hearts. And, sometimes, only by listening to someone else’s pain do we find compassion for ourselves.
I believe everyone has the right to know that they are not alone in their suffering. This belief led me to write about my experience, which seven years later has become a book, my memoir of anorexia. My story that I kept secret for years, hidden even from myself is now 80,000 words long. My aim is to publish it in the hope that whoever reads it will know that whoever they are, whatever they have been through, there is someone out there who understands. I want them to know that there is a way out of the suffering. And to remember that they are never, ever alone.