How does a 15-year-old boy tell his GP he is making himself sick? What does a worried mother say to her son who she thinks has not been eating much at all for weeks? How can a best friend tell his mate that he looks ill, gaunt, that he has he gone too far?
I have interviewed young men about their experiences of having an eating disorder. Many of these men are very open about their experiences – because they choose to – but it has not always been that way. Jack, who is 23, has been suffering with bulimia since secondary school. He had never felt he quite “fitted in” with his peer group and then secondary school changed everything. Suddenly, not fitting in came with a high price; there was A way to look, to be, to think. He felt that being himself was not enough anymore. Jack had been restricting his food intake for a while but now it became systematic. A habit. Not to lose weight, but to cope. Then he discovered being sick. The emotions of guilt, shame and relief fluctuated in cycles of weeks, months, years. Jack has suffered with bulimia for 10 years and he has only told one person about it. He thinks his mother suspects something but she has not asked him about it. He hopes she would. Jack wants to stop but he doesn’t know how to ask for help. All he has ever heard about is girls with anorexia – but is this something similar? Is it different? What about being sick? What about being a man who makes himself sick? Is it just me, or is a “thing”? “A thing” with help? Feeling unable to talk about what goes on in his life daily or weekly and the fear of not sharing the same language if he does decide to confide in a GP, support group or a parent has prevented him from seeking help.
We want to bring out the words of men (and women!) about disordered eating and make these words heard, and used. Used to understand, to share and to help. I am working on a research project at the University of Oxford exploring young people’s (14-25) experiences of what it is like to live with and to recover from an eating disorder. The final outcome will be a website entirely based on the voices of young people with a range of different eating disorders on www.youthhealthtalk.org featuring hundreds of video, audio and written clips around different topics.
Ulla Raisanen is heading up research into young people and eating disorders and MGEDT’s Nick Watts and Sam Thomas sit on the research advisory panel.
Youth Health Talk is looking for YOUR experiences, would you like to share your story on video or anonymously to start the conversation on Men and eating disorders?
Please contact Ulla on 01865 289328 or email firstname.lastname@example.org