“I was one of the fortunate few who survived.”
That was my reply to my friends who came to see me in my latest performance, before the country was plunged into a national lockdown. They could not believe I was the same person.
When I was sixteen years old, I was diagnosed with anorexia. To me, it was not a surprise in the slightest as I knew something was happening to me. I found my appetite was diminishing, my temper was shortened and my lust for life was non-existent.
I had always been a shy and quiet, what you may consider geeky child, who loved online gaming. However, the stress of GCSEs, and underachieving, along with the bereavement and loss of friends at school began to pile up, and the weight on my shoulders kept increasing as time went on and I began to negatively compare myself to others.
I developed habits such as constantly weighing myself and tracking my BMI – a technique that I learned, and wish was banned in schools. However, with the help of loving patience of my parents alongside the help of a compassionate doctor I ended up attending CAMHS.
I was daunted at first, scared even, of the stigma. ‘Freak’ was a mainstay in the armoury of vocabulary the kids at my school used, and I did not want their sights set upon me. But through weekly support with my dietician and therapist, by the time I was 17, I was a healthy weight and all the nasty habits I had accumulated had been replaced with great dreams and prospects.
Still, in the present day, it was not long after the aforementioned performance that I found myself cooped up in my bedroom, trying to avoid the funhouse mirrors in my bathroom and across the hall. I had to reminded myself that anorexia is about control. It was not my body that I hated, nor was it myself. It was the situation I found myself in. One that nothing or no-one could change. So, I sought out my salvation from the my initial encounter with anorexia. I sought help.
Help is out there, and you need not go far to find it. There are brilliant charities, such as Beat, who work tirelessly to help end the suffering and stigma surrounding those with eating disorders. They were particularly helpful towards me in helping me overcome the notion that being a young man with an eating disorder made me less of a man.
While writing this article, I contacted Caroline Price – Director of Services at Beat, who said: “Eating disorders thrive in Isolation, and it is more important than ever that those with eating disorders feel supported as they cope with changes in routines, living situations and care plans – all of which have the potential to be incredibly triggering. It is not surprising that we have seen such a large increase in contact to our services, but we are prepared to support anyone unwell and in need of help at this time.”
I now find myself in a much better place. I’m surrounded by support and engaging in online learning, working towards my degree.
There is a myth that eating disorders are incurable, but this is not the case. It may take many attempts, but you can make a full recovery. It is important during these unpredictable times that we remember struggling is nothing to be ashamed of, and that help is always just a message away.
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