“I went to Budapest because my aunt suggested it and I trusted her. She was special, and had always been there for me throughout my most difficult years. My problems flared up when I started high school. This new phase of my life was very demanding. I started to experience the problems of adolescence, some of my friends were going off track and I didn’t feel understood by my family. Maybe I tried to grow up too quickly. I got to know a boy who I felt was my only real friend. And even so, inside I seemed to be always on the brink of anguish. I became more and more isolated, except for the rare moments when someone would listen to my silences and, without posing many questions, simply share in something of what I was going through. By the time the school year ended, I had very few friends and was always arguing with my family. I was also losing weight. I had been trying to hide my eating disorder but it was taking hold of me more and more. It was making my life joyless, draining it of all colour, light and love. I had turned inwards and imposed a state of near total solitude on myself.
This was the moment when my aunt, who is a member of the Focolare Movement, invited me to go with her to Loppiano, the Focolare town in Tuscany. I thought to myself, “three days staying who knows where, without school or studying, far from the confines of my normal life; three days in which I can just concentrate on hiding food! Why not?” Actually, it proved to be a kind of caress which reached through my defences. Everywhere we went, I was included and welcomed with respect and delicacy. Someone, after listening to me for a long time, told me about Chiara Lubich. Afterwards I realised that I had somehow stopped thinking about myself and my problems, and – most amazingly – I’d stopped thinking about food! I felt free. As I travelled back home, I ardently wished I could always live like this, like being part of one big family. But the complexities of daily life soon threatened to bring me down again.
In fact, I hid behind my books while continuing to fill my head with calculations and ways to deceive those around me. I lost even more weight. My family didn’t know what to do with me. But I knew someone was praying for me. I began to go to Sunday Mass, with the excuse of taking a walk or just to get out of the house. I had always believed in God but for the first time I began to consider the possibility that Jesus could understand me and welcome me without condemning me. However, during the next two years at school, things continued to get worse. I became more and more intolerant of my family and other people. I did not respond well to the psychological therapy I was receiving. I continued to weave a web of lies and go my own way. The only time I felt any relief was during the summer holidays when I went far away from home with friends. But the summer was short and I couldn’t go on just feeling fine one month in the year. So at the end of the summer of 2012, my aunt made a new suggestion: to go to the Genfest in Budapest.
I agreed and set off with five other young people from my city, including a girl from my class. It was an emotional roller-coaster for me. All those thousands of young people expressing themselves as one. It really was a bridge, not only between countries and cultures, but also a bridge between me and a new life I could embrace. I saw this sea of faces – 12,000 of them – of people ready with me to share in the beginning of a new life. I was part of the “flashmob” on the bridge over the River Danube, each of us writing a personal message on a scarf to exchange with someone from another country. I took part in the peace march. I even took part in the lunch queues. I felt part of an experience of unity, I could go anywhere because anywhere I would be at home.
This time when I went back I was with my classmate and together we got in touch with the Focolare community in our home town. By now I knew that I wanted to walk the path of Jesus. It wasn’t going to be easy, my problem with food had very deep roots and the tensions within my family would not just disappear. But I felt I too was a bearer of a new light. Living the words of the Gospel one by one, I found I could begin to take control of my life. Giving of myself wholeheartedly to others, I began to discover how God loves me immensely and has a great plan on my life.”