The deathly expressions that adorned my parents’ faces still appear in my nightmares. Their bagged eyes, pale cheeks, and crinkled foreheads depicted a lachrymose fear that haunted their drowning minds. I, their son, was flirting with a termination of my existence, as a grotesque voice hijacked my deteriorating brain. Mom, Dad, and the rest of my family were spectators amidst a spectacle of my self-destruction. I was anorexic.
The darkness into which my thoughts hibernated transformed me into an unrecognizable skeleton. I cannot pinpoint the precise onset of my anorexia nervosa, for it was the culmination of a disappointing childhood. I was never comfortable around my peers. With people my own age, I perpetually felt as if I were an afterthought whose disappearance would not provoke any reactions. I viewed myself as an awkward, socially incompetent blob. I thus surmised that I could not control anything. Though hindsight dictates that this snapshot of myself was inaccurate, it nonetheless defined my youth.
In the spring of 2010, I became a vegetarian and removed unhealthy aspects of my diet. As such, I naturally reduced my body fat and, for the first time, grew satisfied with myself. However, when my weight reached a plateau, I sought to maintain this exhilarating corporeal control, so I slowly cut my daily food intake to points at which I fasted for days.
I was addicted to not eating. The anorexia, I posited, was a substitute for my perceived powerlessness. In reality, it plunged me into an abyss of depression and regret. I spent copious days alone in my dark apartment. My emaciated body ached with every subtle movement. I coughed up blood daily. For just over a year, I continually inflicted bodily and mental damage on myself.
The Road to Recovery
Still, my friends, I recovered. Two important factors were present. First, after I finally recognized my family’s pain, I began to reconsider my dangerous lifestyle. Second, I was so feeble that I could not extricate myself from my bed.
Recovery is like ridding yourself of a fanatical religious conviction. You perform precise rituals and dedicate all of your emotional, physical, and cerebral energy to something that you believe promises you a better life. But, when you realize that your faith was based on falsehoods and that all of the personal capital that you devoted to that lifestyle was pointless, you are left petrified of an uncertain future and purpose. Nonetheless, healing taught me that each day would present unique challenges and that I ought to keep my mind in the present. And, at last, I saw the ceaseless beauty of life.
If you share the perceptions of the masses, then you probably do not see a teenage male when you think of eating disorders. Yet, we exist. Most pertinent journals indicate that ten percent of anorexia patients are male. While this figure reflects a minority, it lacks important contextual considerations. Its foremost omission is a culture of ignorance that surrounds male eating disorders. Indeed, many boys and men are either unaware that such a condition could consume them or they are ashamed to even mention anything about mental illnesses. Parents if your child suffers from an eating disorder you should ensure that your child knows that he or she is not alone.
* * * * *
Are you surprised to learn that 10% of anorexia patients are male? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.