And those who know me would say that words are always leaving my mouth too (even if no one is listening).
I’ve never had issues with speaking.
In fact, my first grade teacher wrote on my report card something to the effect that I talked too much.
However, it was not long before I remember noticing signals from various corners of my world saying that my words weren’t always well received by others. I can recall moments in which peers and authorities alike mocked or brushed off my sincere curiosity and expressions of theory, pulverizing my deep nature with every jeer and harsh judgement.
These responses all told me one thing: Be quiet. It’s not acceptable to be as you are, to be so loud. You are too much, your voice is too big.
The older I got the more I listened to those signals and, in some ways, I became much quieter.
I silenced the voice I knew was mine and I did my best to fit into several other, more acceptable molds.
Eventually, I found myself in the epicenter of the utter chaos that comes with eating disorders and the nasty aftermath that ensues for years—even a lifetime—to follow. (And yes, I promise this is relevant.)
I’ve been reading a book by Dr. Anita Johnston called Eating in the Light of the Moon: a compilation of myths, metaphors and stories to illustrate the feminine struggle with eating disorders. (Yes, men can suffer from them as well, but this book focuses on the relationship between women and food.)
While it’s been years since the worst of my illness, it wasn’t until now that I confronted what was going on for me. If there’s one thing Dr. Johnston emphasizes in her writing, it’s that an eating disorder is never about the food.
The more I read, the more I find myself coming to realizations, drifting into a peaceful understanding and acceptance of myself.
One explanation in particular caught my attention:
At some early point in her life… [a woman struggling with disordered eating] could see things as they really were and was not taken in by others’ descriptions of reality. She would pick up on discrepancies between what people said and what they did. She could sense when something was wrong even when everyone around her said everything was okay. But… when this young girl spoke the truth or brought to light that things were not as they seemed, her truth was not well received… She got the message (usually nonverbal) that her ability to perceive the truth, her particular sensitivity to that which was outside the awareness of others, was dangerous, that it could bring about ridicule and rejection… In order to survive, she had to find a way to conceal who she really was, to diminish this ability to see the invisible, to quiet that voice inside of her that spoke the truth.
And that was all it took for me to understand. That was the nudge I needed to let out a long-overdue exhale and put one piece of the story in place.
Because I felt the need to diminish the bigness of my voice, I ultimately resorted to self-destruction as a means of survival, experimenting with different ways to shrink, to empty myself and everything about me that could be rejected or disdained.
My struggle with eating disorders was my attempt at silencing this voice once and for all—and for a while, it seemed to work.
It worked so well that even after I had recovered physically, the emotional healing process was overruled and prolonged by this silence.
That is, until now.
Because now my voice is alive and well. I’ve let her reignite as she feels ready, and the process has been slow but worth every torturous breakthrough. It’s taken a few years and the invaluable pains of deep self-work to piece these things together, but I’m grateful to be in a position to say that my attempt at silence, though it lasted for a time, inevitably failed.
I began to watch it fail about six months ago when I first opened the floodgates for my heart to spill words onto a page, and I watched it fail a little more when I recounted some details from that dark time in this manner. I watched it fail even further when I received the news that I was accepted into a master’s program where I will build my career in this field, helping those who are suffering from the monster that once controlled me.
And I watched it fail completely just the other day, when I shared my words not on a page, but with my audible voice.
These words—the ones I’ve just recently come to accept, the ones I’ve barely allowed to slither into my writing—they have, for the first time, been spoken.
They have been released through a medium other than my fingertips. Parts of the story have been told through my lips, my eyes, my body language, and received by a group of students and professors eager to learn more about what I’ve lived. I spoke to them for what felt like forever, describing as best I could some of the most horrific moments of my past; they asked tough questions, I gave honest answers. And while I knowingly agreed to share these words with them, it was much more difficult than I thought it would be, complete with shaky hands and a drained heart by the end.
But that’s alright, because these words have been heard—the silence, completely broken.
I have cracked open a little more and grown a little stronger in my weakest spots. I have told pieces of me that I’ve only recently learned not to despise.
My voice has come full circle, from being strong to weak and now strengthened again, and I’m still working on letting her grow into everything I know she can be. She knows now that these words inside her aren’t things to fear, and that she has no reason to feel guilty or ashamed of the story they outline.
She can accept the story and tell it—tell it for others, for the young girls who run the risk of being discouraged from developing their own beautiful and powerful voices.
She has remembered her own power, the one that rekindled the strength she thought she’d lost.
Once crippled, she has learned to crawl and walk again, and soon she will leap and fly. She has emerged from the quiet to which she fell prey all those years ago. She has hope.
And now, she is louder and stronger, more so each day, settling into the truth she says and lives. She continues to write the story as it unfolds—and finally, she speaks.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Pablo via Flickr