Our supporter shares his story, from struggling to find support, to finally getting the treatment he deserves – and why more needs to be done to guarantee equal care for all.
My journey with anorexia has been a complicated one. I have multiple other life experiences that exist at the same time; I’m a transgender, autistic, physically disabled man with other mental illnesses as well as anorexia. Anorexia came into my life in 2020 after a severe bought of illness that caused me to feel out of control and triggered my eating disorder thoughts and behaviours.
The roots of my anorexia were planted a lot earlier, with my dislike of my body due to my gender dysphoria and becoming disabled at 16.
I hated my body, I despised it for not being the way I wanted it to be or working the way it should work. To add to that, I have anxiety and depression as well as what I now know is Borderline Personality Disorder, which I have suffered with from my early teen years. I was severely bullied throughout my education and stopped going when I was 12. My autism affects my ability to understand the world and how social situations work it also made me an extremely fussy eater which we later realised was ARFID.
When anorexia took control, it truly took a strong hold on me – so strong that I rapidly declined, and was admitted to a specialist eating disorder unit where I spent 3 and a half months. I was discharged, but relapsed quickly afterwards – and this time a male bed wasn’t available, meaning I waited months, in which time I became extremely unwell mentally and physically. To put it bluntly, I was on death's door: I genuinely could have died. When a bed finally became free, I was admitted to the specialist eating disorder unit.
I am now much further forward in my recovery; I’m now in the position where I want to recover.
Nevertheless, I’m outraged by the lack of male eating disorder specialist beds in the country. Where I am, currently there is only one around male bed out of ten - and I am determined to change this. The stigma males face with eating disorders in wider society is bad enough, but to feel it from the medical profession – the people who are supposed to help you in your time of greatest need – seems to me, despicable.
There needs to be the same support available for males as there is for females.
The access to specialised eating disorder beds should be based on greatest need, not determined by your gender. Historically it has been thought that only young white females develop eating disorders, but now we know eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races and sexualities.
I will leave you with this thought: we should all be treated equally, males and females alike, and when we are severely unwell we should have the same access to care that we deserve and need.
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this 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, will help us bust toxic stereotypes to #HelpMenGetHelp