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Ashley’s story

“Leaving school at 16 was a conscious decision I made in respect of a blossoming football career, which I had visions of escalating to professional levels and aspired to be the best I could in that field.

This meant taking on full time employment due to age and not being eligible for a fully fledged contract. Roof Tiling was a side project for me, and was always the way I was told to approach a football career. ‘Get yourself a trade son’, the famous words of my father, and right he was. As time passed and football progressed, I became obsessed with being the best in whatever I done. Being the fastest, running the furthest, jumping the highest, always seeking that extra 5% over the masses. This made me very aware of everything I was doing, and from time to time made me uncomfortable.

In June 2006, I badly injured my wrist and resulted in me being dropped from a list of potential professionally contracted players. Devastated, I vowed to turn it around. Always being the fittest meant me having to seek other modes of exercise to maintain this outstanding persona I had set myself.  I would cycle 20-30 miles as a feasible mode of exercise, followed by 6-7 mile runs, and over time, this meant a sacrifice to social activities, which at the time seemed the correct decision to make. As the months passed, I began playing at a fair local level and made positive progress, but ‘off the field’ things never righted themselves.

This began with cutting out vital components of a diet. Carbohydrates and Fats where first to go, and anything I found with ‘higher’ than normal calorific value, was binned. From this point, the illness went from strength to strength, and restricting became the norm. I would eat small meals and religiously NOT snack in between. This wasn’t good enough, I had to do more, so I cut out a meal, and lunch was the first to go. With this I found myself forever wanting to ‘better’ myself, and if it meant going 24 hours without food, that was the sacrifice that had to be made.

This obliterated both my home and social life, stress as you wouldn’t believe was being piled upon me from every angle. If it wasn’t my mum’s tears and concerns, it was my dad’s ‘snap out of it’ attitude. With such a close knit family, and such a tight bond with my older brother, it made for some fraught situations, which at points made me resent every inch of myself. This was echoed in my actions. Switching from job to job, hobby to hobby, interest to interest was simply my way of keeping myself occupied, and anything for a peaceful life. I just wanted to live without food. With brutal honesty, anorexia was weaving its own cancer upon me. The only thing I can imagine which is close to this disease, is drowning; the utter fear of being stuck with no way out, as if your destiny is completely out of your hands.

Food became a non-event. I stopped eating around people, I would wake at 2,3,4am just so that I could eat in peace, then go the entire day with nothing, and the same again the next day, living in a constant cycle. This rigidness I have since found, is a very common attribute of the disease. Never suffering from bulimia or binge eating, I found that the only way around not putting on weight simple… don’t eat at all.

To draw comparisons, in June 2006 I weighed a very healthy weight for a height of 5ft 10in, something, which through hours of research is quite ideal for a man, or boy of my stature. Come February 2008, I was still 5ft 10in, but slightly less in weight, something which was out of the realms of possibility just 2 years ago. Again, tough for relatives to take, they tried all they could to help, but I wouldn’t accept anything.

There came a point where I asked myself, what ARE you doing with your life? What do you want out of life? This was simple a year ago, I wanted to be skinny, and look good, now I wanted more than that, but to this day, I couldn’t tell you what it was that I wanted to achieve.

Having suffered from the loss of libido, lacking the female attention, the urge to know calorific and fat values of every inch I eat, the outstandingly low energy levels and the miniscule amount of ‘get up and go’, my late teen years have suffered terribly, and the fact I can never change that certainly leaves a striking blow on me. 18 years old, and what was I doing… I was pacing my room worrying about the amount of marmite I had spread on bread, or the amount of calories in a jelly.

Ultimately I have thought back to the root of the problem, and trawled the years of bullying in early senior school, but I have failed to lay a foundation for the actions of the last 3 years, but I finally believe I have drawn a line in the sand.

Far from out of the woods, I still feel that it is something I need to remain on top of, and I think when I say that there is always a temptation to slip into old habits, a lot of other sufferers would echo these words. How it happened? I don’t know. Why it happened? Again, I don’t know. What’s going to happen? I am going to learn from the experiences, and use the last 3 years as a pedestal for myself to grow and achieve what I have always wanted to achieve.

I really have learned that there is so much more to life.”

'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' is a registered charity in England and Wales no. 1139351.

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