Beat supporter Andy shares his journey towards understanding his eating disorder, overcoming unhelpful input from others, and the road to finding support.
Eating disorders do not discriminate: there’s certainly no prejudice as far as they’re concerned. As long as you’re vulnerable, emotionally fragile, struggling to navigate through life, in desperate need of something to help you cope, then that’s when they pounce. They prey on you, watching, listening, ready to take over your life… your body… and your mind… and once they do, it’s a war – not only with you, but for everyone else in your life.
Mine began 25 years ago and never truly left. I have a Psychology degree and counselling qualifications. I understand mental health: how to help others, the difference between logical thinking and behaviour, and negative unhelpful ways to think, behave and ‘cope’. In other words, I should know better…
My eating disorder does not discriminate... it doesn’t care for intellect, qualifications or logic.
I do know better, but the eating disorder does not discriminate... it’s stubborn, it doesn’t care for intellect, qualifications or logic. It stayed with me. Through a marriage, career progressions, becoming a father, through a divorce, parenthood gain, an Autism diagnosis, more study, career changes, and many life events. Living rent free, yet peaking last year at a cost of my mental health, confidence, self-esteem, employment, friendships, and sanity. It found its voice, and was able to shout louder than mine, tell me what to do, limit my activity, and make me cower to its demands. I was in a domestic, toxic relationship with an invisible voice living within me.
As a mid 40’s male I felt looked down upon: a sad pathetic figure who couldn’t function and take care of himself. “Sort it out! Eat! Pull yourself together, what the hell’s wrong with you?” Apparently it was my own fault….was I drinking? Was I taking drugs? Was my flat a state? All ‘nos’ – I was clean as a whistle and my home was the tidiest and cleanest it’s ever been! “So what is it then?” It doesn’t matter, I’d think, I’m too tired to explain, and you wouldn’t get it….
Toward the end of last year I emailed Beat regarding a survey for male eating disorders, and researched their available support.
I was heard. I was understood. I felt accepted, and human, the shame left me and the edge was taken off this huge burden.
I since began logging into the online support groups, often nightly, even twice a night depending on the groups operating. The anonymous group messaging, all supervised by a Beat staff member, feels safe and liberating. I may not message much, but I take in the support and feel part of something unique – something for me, a space to go where empathy is in abundance and judgement is non-existent.
This isn’t a fairy-tale ending, but it’s a start. I’ve since picked up my guitar again having built up strength to play. I’m studying another mental health course, writing my own blog, I’m looking for work, I’m getting out and begun watching Everton Women play… even having confidence to meet the players!
I feel I have support, which is at the foundation to any type of recovery. Beat have changed so much for me, so it’s a no brainer that I wanted to contribute to Eating Disorders Awareness Week!
Eating Disorders do not discriminate, but neither do Beat… and I know which one I’d rather have in my corner.
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in Andy's story, or are concerned for yourself or a loved one, you can find support and guidance on the help pages of our website. And to find out more about how we're here to #HelpMenGetHelp, including our new Online Men's Support Group, visit our Eating Disorders Awareness Week site.
Any amount you can give, no matter how small, helps us bust toxic stereotypes and reach more men like Andy.