When given an opportunity to make an important statement, I typically fail.
This is just another example.
So here it is – For the past 20 years, I’ve struggled off and on with an eating disorder. Specifically, I am anorexic.
There are bad times that are very bad and there are times that are very good. Lately, they’ve been more good than bad.
It was at its worst many, many moons ago. As a young gay in his first professional job, life around New Orleans was hard. Gay people aren’t exactly accepting of each other, and I quickly discovered I was accepted by more people the skinnier I became. Luckily, a co-worker intervened and threatened to take me to the hospital. By this time I was down to 127 pounds. I’m 6’3. I couldn’t stop shivering. While the hair on my head fell out in clumps, my arms were covered in wispy downy hair. I learned how to hide my not eating – how to shift food around on a plate, cut my food into tiny pieces so it looks like I’ve eaten a lot, drop food on a napkin, make it look like I was okay.
It was a wake-up call. I was dying.
I could tell stories of why I have an unhealthy relationship with food. I could tell stories of how as a kid I was constantly told by family members to eat more because I was too skinny… and then a month later mocked by the same family member because I was too fat. I could tell stories of how the gay community encourages unhealthy appearances and behaviors.
But, I’ll spare you those. Instead, I’ll drop this.
I’m a guy who has struggled anorexia nervosa for a long time. I’m not alone. Men aren’t allowed to talk about it.
I hear people call what I have “Manorexia” as if my eating disorder should be mocked… as if my eating disorder makes me less manly.
I hear people make light of men suffering from eating disorders, as if their illness isn’t worthy of being in the same breath of other illnesses or addictions.
I’m not afraid to talk about where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I just haven’t really publicly announced it until now. I’m not perfect. I’m not cured. I never will be cured. I have to live every day with this.
If I was a drug addict, I could just avoid drugs. I can’t avoid food. Food keeps you alive. You need it to live. For me, its a contentious relationship to be sure, but one I have to maintain and foster.
I’d tell you I was better, but its a daily struggle. I still get frustrated and skip meals, but I’m lucky to have a support system that is sympathetic. What matters is I’m ready to talk about it. I’m thankful I stumbled across an article by Jamie Kilstein. I’m thankful it sparked something in me to talk and finally share this story. Because today, I’m ready to talk about it. And today, that’s all that matters.