Lack of representation results in a lack of understanding. Without realising the different ways eating disorders can manifest, we tie our hands from reaching out for help, as well as reaching out to those who are directly affected.
My friends and family knew that 'something' was going on, but couldn't figure out what. I don't blame them; I didn't know either. I believe a lack of information on how eating disorders affect men, as well as sports people, is a big reason why we only stop at suspecting 'something'. But this needs to change. We need more voices speaking up. I was moved when I learned that Freddie Flintoff will be discussing his long battle with bulimia in a documentary tonight.
Seeing such a high-profile man speak out on such a public stage is something I needed, to know that I wasn't alone. Being isolated in my struggles persuaded me to keep it to myself. I believed I could get through my issues whilst keeping it all to myself. I got myself into this 'mess'— I would get myself out of it. In fact, it was reaching out to others that truly helped me recover. I didn't realise how complicated, difficult and deep-rooted some of my issues were around my eating disorder. Without having others on my side, I don't think I would have really got to where I am today.
My recovery was fairly quick, as I had a good support system that looked out for me, but if I'd realised earlier that my experience wasn't mine alone, I might have been more confident asking for help. Although I would count myself as recovered, there is still work to do which I'm not sure will really ever go away. When I get particularly stressed, some of my first thoughts are to start reducing how much I eat, to try and look better in a mirror. I become more self-critical of my body, my fitness, I start to believe I need to start exercising a lot more. However, when I am struggling, I know to be honest and tell people.
I used to always hide when I went to therapy, telling people I was going to a 'meeting' to hide my shame. I don't feel that shame anymore. If I need help, I know to reach out. I can feel bad for doing so from time to time. However, I'd rather have that discomfort - which is purely a result of the conditioning that men must be stoic and never suffering - compared to the pain I felt through my disorder. If you are suffering with food, weight, exercise, anything, reach out. You are not alone in this; I am with you along with many others.