As part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Beat supporter Dan shares his experience of overcoming societal stigmas to reach recovery.
I sit here writing today this with a huge sense of gratitude for life. I find joy in the absolute mundane where even the sound of the boiled kettle clicking for a brew never fails to leave me with a raised smile. I also sit here today writing this as living proof that eating disorders do not discriminate against anyone: regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation.
I'm currently 34, a heterosexual male who loves football and boxing and I’m over 4 years into recovery from anorexia nervosa
I developed anorexia in my mid-late 20s. Sadly however, because of stereotypes placed on eating disorders throughout society my condition went undiagnosed or treated for much longer than it should have. I mean if I’m honest, the thought that I even had an eating disorder didn’t ever cross my mind… so why would I seek help? As far as I was concerned, “men don’t get eating disorders, especially straight men and especially not anorexia…”. Oh how wrong I was.
Not fitting into society's perception of an anorexia sufferer was perhaps the thing I struggled with the most to begin with.
For a start, I didn’t know anybody else with an eating disorder, let alone any males, so there wasn’t that reference point for me to believe or accept I needed help. Thankfully after some persistence from my family, I agreed to visit my GP for a chat. Looking back I must say this experience couldn’t have gone much better. I was listened to, not judged, not pressured and was then offered the chance of an appointment at a specialist outpatient eating disorder service which I reluctantly accepted.
Throughout the 3 years I spent within this service I had a therapist, a dietitian and a doctor who worked in tandem to provide me with the highest level of support I could have wished for. They made me believe I wasn’t alone in battling with anorexia both through their individual work as well as by showing me external sources of support such as the ‘mengetedtoo’ website (sadly no longer in use).
They genuinely celebrated my wins, picked me back up when I fell and even gave me that supportive kick up the backside when I needed it too. If that wasn’t enough, at the start of the pandemic my dietitian even bought me a house plant, which I really enjoyed watching grow as I started to grow this new life outside of anorexia.
Now, I’m not going to sugar coat things and pretend that recovery has been easy. In fact it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in life. There’s been plenty of denial, setbacks, frustrations and periods of ill motivation along the way, as well as a deep fear of letting go of my safety blanket.
Recovery has also helped me to develop new hobbies and interests... I now spend my days off from work wild camping on the side of mountains.
I now feel deeply aligned with a life I value and I’m completely present when I’m spending time with the people and things I care about, something which anorexia had sadly stolen from me for so long.
For anyone that’s struggling - please know that you’re not alone. There is help and support out there, and despite what that critical, negative voice might be telling you, you more than deserve this help.
Remember even on the harshest, coldest, wettest winter day there is always a blue sky behind the dark clouds.
-Contributed by Dan
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in Dan's story, or are concerned for yourself or a loved one, you can find support and guidance on the help pages of our website.
Any amount you can give, no matter how small, helps us bust toxic stereotypes and reach men like Dan.