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‘4000 miles on a bike to raise awareness of boy anorexia’ by Jake Gollings (Part 1)

In hindsight I have always been an obsessional person. I can remember one specific holiday – I must have been around 7 – when I started dabbling in a bit of obsessional hand cleaning. The ladder up to the top bunk bed was a particular annoyance of mine – “the amount of feet that must have touched it”, I remember thinking – so I’d try and walk up using no hands. If I happened to touch the ladder, I’d have to return once again to the bathroom sink. Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just decide to sleep in the bottom bunk.

The next obsession of mine was The Simpsons; nothing too unhealthy can come from that. Unless I decided I wanted to actually become, and date a Simpson character. However, the obsession which followed was football, and with it came my eventual obsessions with fitness and as a result – food.

The emotional strain of my parents splitting up, and the massive change in my life it caused, has to have been the catalyst which shifted my obsession from the benign to the malignant. Although there may have always been this possibility, due to underlying issues within me, it just took something big like this to unlock it.

This all happened, if I remember rightly, at the end of year 6. Looking back, one of the first big changes in me was what I began to wear – due to the change in my interests. I went from sporting baggy jeans, chunky skater shoes and hoodies; to nothing but shorts, t-shirts and trainers/football boots.

(These are the two images I want to use for the first blog post. I am on the far right of the first image – and this is me before I got anorexia. Sporting my baggy jeans, and Metallica T-shirt, I was much more into music and skateboarding at this point. I feel the image of me with the guitar should be first and also that they should be next to each other so people can see the change in me. I wasn’t that skinny in the picture on the right, as it was the summer of 2005, but you can see the change in my interests. There are not any images really of me when I was ill – unless my mum got rid of them all!)

My obsessions with fitness, football and food got progressively worse, up until the point my life became a continuous string of obsessions and rituals – this happened during Year 8 of schooling.

joe 1

Up until the point when I was too ill to go to school, here are a few things I remember a usual day consisting of:

  • Wake up at 7am
  • Run down stairs; do pull ups on the landing stairs.
  • Look through the key hole with each eye for 10 seconds (I thought that it helped wake me up….)
  • Eat half a Weetabix with minimal milk.
  • Complete a series of exercises: press-ups, sit-ups, and various stair related exercises too.
  • I’d get to the bus stop half an hour before it came. There was this man-hole I’d have to dribble a stone around 50 times one way, then 50 times the other. And then I’d have to complete an assortment of other stone related activities too.
  • During the 20 minute bus ride there were multiple other obsessions/rituals I’d have to complete. Including never putting my feet on the floor, and flicking with my feet constantly, counting 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10…There are too many others to mention.
  • When at schools my rituals/obsessions were not as bad. They were always worse when on my own. It was as if I purposely tried to hide them.
  • When I got home again, even if no-one else was around, I’d go and play football for countless hours. Before I could go home there were certain rituals I had to perform, such as hitting each post with the ball, and scoring in each corner of the goal.
  • When it got dark I would then proceed to play football with a tennis ball in my garage. I remember having to chip it into each gap of a ladder – I’ve only got bad memories when it comes to ladders.
  • When it came to dinner, at my worst, I would often make other people food, but not eat it myself. It was often high fat foods such as pancakes and ice-cream too.
  • Before I went to bed, I would also perform another set of exercises. Plus more rituals with a small football I had in my room.

My condition deteriorated massively throughout the 05/06 Christmas holiday, and during one of the first PE lessons back at school – it may even have be the first – I collapsed. I remember just being slumped over my desk. My mum came and picked me up, and I didn’t return to school for around 5 months.

joe 2

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

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