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EnDeavour: Anorexia

People assume that Anorexia is a strictly female phenomenon. Well, it isn’t. It isn’t selective. It doesn’t matter what gender you are or what colour your skin is. For the past year, I’ve been battling with Anorexia. It hasn’t been easy. I was admitted to a specialist Eating Disorder unit in Leicester last March and to tell the truth, it saved my life.

As a male populous, we are notoriously bad at admitting we need help. Historically, men are seen as the ‘breadwinners’ of the family and somehow it is a ‘weakness’ to admit you need help. Men should be big and strong and go to the gym. It is only women who suffer from mental health problems. Well, I can assure you that presumption is wrong and needs to change. Mental health problems like Anorexia affect men too.

At the beginning of 2017, anyone looking into my life could have said, “He has it all.” An upwardly mobile 22-year-old in a good, stable job. But scratch the surface and all was not as it seemed. My life was in turmoil. I was held within the scaly grip of Anorexia. No part of my life was left untouched. I felt lost, hopeless and afraid. The eating disorder became my saviour, offering me a helping hand. The hand grew quickly, though. Winding its way through my life like a snake. Not one part did the snake leave untouched. I became saddled with fear and dejection. It also took its toll on physical health too. I was always cold, shivering under blankets, endlessly tired and worn down. I was physically exhausted. But the eating disorder made me feel invincible.

Then, on Thursday 9th February last year, I finally broke down and admitted I needed help. Words cannot describe what it is like to have a mental breakdown. Your entire world comes caving in from all directions. All you are left with is a shell of who you used to be, a ghost in another person’s body. I just simply couldn’t comprehend what was happening. All I could do was cry. I cried down the phone to my dad and I said those all-important words: “I need help.” Three simple words. Just three. These three words allowed me to access the support and services that I needed to save my life.

On that fateful day in February I opened up to one of my closest friends. Yep, I cried. I cried a lot that day. I haven’t looked back since. Opening up and admitting you have a problem is the best thing you can do. I mean it. It is the best thing I could have done. Who are you kidding not telling anyone? Yourself. Being open and honest allowed me to get the treatment I needed. That treatment saved my life.

I spent six months in hospital, where I confronted some nasty thoughts and feelings. I was discharged in August and have been having weekly CBT sessions. I now feel like I have the tools and abilities to stop this happening again. I have also learnt that it is okay to speak out about your thoughts and feelings. As humans we are programmed to be social. To share our innermost feelings with each other.

I have named this article EnDeavour because way back in 1770, a ship captained by James Cook discovered Australia. It happens that one of NASA’s space shuttles was also called Endeavour. Both pushed the boundaries of mankind's exploration of their place in a complex universe. My journey since last March has led me to discover things I never knew about myself. Brilliant, wonderful things. I could not have done this without speaking out and admitting I needed help. That is the biggest step and it is scary. But I encourage anyone to do it. Please don’t suffer in silence.

Contributed by Nick