This topic is very difficult for me being that I try to write from my own experience and avoid projecting too much on others. Not that I don’t have a ton of ideas and opinions about other people’s experiences but I’m guessing most, if not all of them, are inaccurate and sell others short. The experience I do have is through relationships with men and it’s strange to reflect and see that after all these years in rehab and day treatments and group recovery, I don’t know very men who have admitted an eating disorder. On top of that, I can only remember one man I knew when I was eighteen who admitted he was bulimic and I don’t recall ever having an anorexic male friend. I participated in a sport where I know the bulimia and anorexia among males is much more common than in other arenas, so I am absolutely certain that I just didn’t notice. It is sad to think that even from someone who watched and compared every little thing and every little habit of every girl, I didn’t see the men.
I remember the man I knew with bulimia. I remember we shared a lot of our pain and heartache with each other about the disease. He was a lifeguard at the pool that summer and a wrestler all throughout high school. He told me how his weight struggles has begun as a young kid but that his bulimia kicked in when he had to do weigh ins before wrestling matches. At eighteen, without a sport to pursue any longer, he couldn’t stop binge purging. He had lost the ability to control his intake and his absolute need to vomit afterwards. I totally understood his disease and related to his behavior, but I could not console him at all. I remember that the loneliness he talked about sounded slightly different than mine. He called himself a freak and told me he wasn’t much of a man and that he was weak. I believe these were feelings that came from being a man with a disease hidden from the world as an ‘acceptable ailment’. It was heart wrenching to listen to his stories but I’ve never forgotten. I have coached kids since that show all the signs, most were wrestlers at some point and divers with me. The approach I have taken is simple education, nothing personal. I might need to think about whether or not that’s even supportive. If they’re suffering, they may feel like lonely week ½ man freaks.
I admit I have been part of the forgetting crowd. Today, I strive to join the support reaching out to my forgotten brothers and to meet any hand asking for help in the future. You are not alone. We have the same illness and recovery is possible for all of us.