This is probably going to be one of the toughest posts I write and I am not entirely sure where it’s going to go, so bear with me.
Its time to delve into my complicated history with food, health and my eating disorder.
This is not something I feel comfortable speaking about openly. I have no problem with being vulnerable and for the most part I am an open book, but my struggles with food and body dysmorphia are one topic I tend to grapple with. This may be because I struggle with the dialogue internally, so how can I engage in it externally?
I feel a lot of shame around this, a deep shame that something as seemingly simple and trivial as food and my body is able to totally fog up my headspace and wreck my self esteem.
It took me four years to admit to myself that I had an eating disorder. It started with an obsession with health that became an obsession with control.
For a very long time I was being told “wow you are looking great”. I felt like I was achieving something. It gave me an identity.
It was great until I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without losing my breath. And when I was diagnosed with anaemia by chronic disease due to malnourishment. Or when my protruding hip bones made even sleeping painful. But still, I had eaten and lived this way for so long that not even that was enough to get me to change.
A big reason I never acknowledged this as an issue is because I’m a man. I say this with caution but generally speaking eating disorders are mainly seen as being conditions experienced by women. It’s not a manly thing to be dealing with, let alone a manly thing to admit.
Things are improving and conversations are starting addressing this toxic belief, but I think we need to speed this up a bit. It is so vital that we release this stigma so that men can open up freely about this stuff without the fear of being outcasted, and seek help for themselves.
I believe my eating disorder formed as a coping mechanism and the result of very bad habits. A physical symptom directly linked to my anxiety and the chaos unfolding in my life. Everything in my life was spiralling at a rapid pace and as a self-proclaimed control freak, this was my way of dealing with it.
It became my identity and messed with my values, my social life and my entire outlook on life. I hardly recognise the person I had become. This eating disorder had totally absorbed me and robbed me of the person I was, the person my friends and family loved, the person I loved..
I went from being someone with a passion for life and an undying confidence, to being sick, fearful and controlled by this disease.
Where am I today? Physically, I am better. Mentally? I have a lot of work to do. The voice is still screaming, telling me unwanted untruths about myself.
It’s one thing losing your identity, but when you become estranged from yourself, trying to rebuild that relationship – with yourself – is another thing entirely. And a very difficult thing at that.
One thing I can be sure of is that if I didn’t open up and allow myself to be vulnerable, I don’t know where I would be and I dare imagine.
There is a lot of help out there. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to seek it. It can come in many forms from close friends and family, support groups, to therapy and organisations such as BEAT. Guys, you don’t need to tackle this by yourself. The resources are there.