This is a fictional story written by Anthony Stevens. The story is called ‘Exhile.’
She turned the music to which she was exercising to up.
Her Mom and Dad were arguing again. Instinctively Sarah knew that she would find out about what later on, when she would have to put up with her mother droning on and on, slurring her words as she forced Sarah into being her unwilling confident yet again. But that was later. For now Sarah could focus with laser precision on the task at hand.
The half an apple Sarah had eaten an hour ago was filling her with a blind and insurmountable panic. Sarah was convinced she could feel herself filling out.
Must work harder, must work harder” was the mantra that repeated itself over and over again in her head, adding fuel to the fear induced adrenalin that coursed its way through her trembling body. The bones that Sarah had spent so much time meticulously revealing and peeling back the layers from were beginning to groan under the vile fatness that threatened to overwhelm her. In an hour when the two post eating hours of exercise were over Sarah knew that she would be safe again and back in control and on target.
That evening as expected her mother sat on the end of Sarah’s bed giving a blow by blow account of who had said what during that days slanging match. The room reverberated with the wrongs of a man who was not there to defend himself and Sarah could feel a familiar and dangerous rage filling her. Her eyes focused on her favourite poster of Kate and she drank in every detail, the curve of her shoulder bones as they protruded and supported the straps of the dress she wore, the way the silky material clung to the void of her chest. Iconic and triumphant, Kate was everything Sarah wished to be. Her body spoke of cool reasoning and ice cold detachment, a shelter from the world.
He just doesn’t understand me love, he never has”
I gave the best of myself to him and it just wasn’t enough”
I’ve cooked and cleaned, put up with his friends and family, and what for?
Nothing but being a slave in this bloody house”
I can’t bear it Sarah love, I just can’t bare it”
This place feels like a tomb”
The wine laced words reached into Sarah hooking her from the safety of her silent reverie, pulling her into reaches of a woman who Sarah could barely recognise anymore.
The face that Sarah had adored as a child now looked weathered by hate and self-loathing. Her Mothers eyes showed the alternating emotions of despair and the fear of drowning in its dead pool. Sarah’s instinct was to reach out and hold the woman in front of her and lie that all would be well. However the two of them had both started on journeys that had long taken them on separate roads, maybe never to meet again.
Her mother was right. The house was a tomb. As a child the house had been a vibrant place. Most weekday mornings before school the two of them would sit together chatting about things that seemed so important as a child, small details from each other’s lives that somehow held their attention. Sarah couldn’t quite pinpoint when things had got really bad, but they had certainly changed when her dad was made redundant. He never bothered to get another job, ‘to old’ he said. Instead he spent his day watching the TV and playing cards with other men who were ‘too old’, this was the catalyst for the death of their home. The house spoke visibly of the families decline. Paintwork was mottled with dirt and age. What used to be ‘good carpet’ was no longer good enough to vacuum twice a day; instead it lay as thin and threadbare as Sarah herself
A familiar and unwanted ache was starting to make itself known. She needed to act quickly.
Mom, you’re exhausted”.
Perhaps you should go to bed and have a rest”
You would feel so much better for it if you did”
Sarah’s mom looked at her closely as if studying the reason behind her concern.
You’re right love, what would I do without you eh”?
At least you don’t let me down”
Mommy’s little helper”
I’ll see you in the morning”
Do you want me to tuck you in?”
You’re alright Love, I can find me own way”
The door slammed shut as the mother left the room leaving a tangible void that still poured sadness and defeat out into the room.
Sarah shook violently. She could feel the tears forcing their way out.
No, no, no”
She refused to feel this; all her hard work couldn’t go to waste. Sarah could feel an ignored and huge space making itself known to her. She knew what she would have to do to stop herself from feeling this way.
She pulled the case from underneath the bed, observing it with some trepidation. This had to be done properly. No mistakes could be made. Sarah checked the time. It was 7.32, she had an hour and no more to start and finish the job at hand.
Sarah clicked open the case and viewed the vast array of forbidden colour that greeted her. With a shaking hand she reached in and carefully chose a mars bar, eyeing it suspiciously before tearing at the wrapper. In a few mouthfuls the chocolate was devoured. Exhilaration and defeat clambered for victory in Sarah’s mind as she felt the chocolate lie heavily in the shrunken sack of her stomach. Sarah clawed into the case not caring what she grabbed. Tears flowed as she rammed food into her mouth. She only stopped briefly to punch herself and pull her hair. She couldn’t stand herself for being so weak, so pathetic. It was her mother’s fault that she was doing this, look what she had made her do. By now the pain in Sarah’s stomach was becoming almost unbearable. It was time.
Sarah stared down into the blue tinged water, supporting herself with one hand whilst the other one made its way around to her mouth. She opened her mouth and let her fingers explore inside until they found the right spot, she could feel her knuckles grazing against he front teeth as she made a desperate stabbing motion in her throat. A familiar and comforting movement started in her stomach and within seconds Sarah started to retch before vomiting out all the tension and hate alongside the contents of her stomach. The motion was repeated over and over again till there was nothing left to bring up. Sarah grabbed the glass she had brought with her and filled it with water before guzzling it down. She had to be sure it was all gone, that it was all out. Again Sarah went through the process of her own private exorcism, all the while carefully scrutinising what was coming up. Finally satisfied with what she saw she flushed the contents of the bowl away, before collapsing in an exhausted heap on the toilet floor.
After cleaning up and brushing her teeth, Sarah stared at the reflection in the mirror. She knew that she had absorbed some of what she had eaten, but how much, how many calories and how long would it take to burn them all off? Sarah striped off all her clothes and stood on the scales, they read 5st 9lLbs, the same as yesterday, however Sarah knew they wouldn’t register any change below a pound, just like she knew that she had gained. Focus was what she needed, focus and discipline. Sarah returned to her room to plan her new eating and exercise strategy. Her, escape strategy.
“As you can see, the main character in the previous piece of writing was called Sarah. Obviously Sarah is a female name, so what has this got to do with a website aimed at eating disordered men?
Well this piece was written by me’ Anthony Stevens. I am a thirty-year-old gay, Nichiren Buddhist male and Exile was a fictionalised account of the daily life that I led for over a decade. Of course the intensity of this varied as for the most I have managed to lead on the surface by societies standards at least a fairly functional and productive life.
So why did I choose to fictionalise and use a female character?
Well I guess I did this for the same reasons that this website has come into being. That is the lack of understanding and publicity in men’s mental health in general and specifically in eating disorders. You see Exile was used as an exam piece and as an entry to a new writers competition. I think I knew instinctively that perhaps it wouldn’t of made the grade or won the award which it did if it had been written from a male perspective. It would of to my mind of been to foreign a subject matter for people to accept. In some respect this is why I have submitted it to this website with this after word, I want to readdress the balance and show people that the actual experience of an eating disorder is probably no different whether it be a male or female sufferer. Of course every experience is as individual as the person who experiences it but there does appear to be a lack of sensitivity and regard in how society and the public health services it provides treat eating disordered males in comparison to females.
I have to say that I think I was relatively lucky with the treatment that I received. A good, understanding and pro-active community psychiatric nurse was assigned to me in my early twenties and together we explored various treatment options such as CBT. This didn’t cure me of my eating disorder, although I’m sure that it contributed to it greatly. Things really started to change for me when I took responsibility for my situation and made concrete efforts to change it. For me, this meant leaving my job, which ironically was working in mental health, and yes, sometimes with eating disorders, and relocating to a residential college in Scotland where I completed a university access course. Making the choice to live with forty or so other adults in close proximity limited my options somewhat in regards to being able to carry on with the bulimic cycle. In addition to this I ditched the drink and drug habit that was so closely embroiled with my eating disorder. This was a hugely terrifying experience, and having to face life with out the crutch of bulimia was indeed daunting. However bit-by-bit I did it, gaining self worth and a sense of my value as a human being along the way.
Two and half years on from this my life although not easy, is a good one. I have become a Nichiren Buddhist, which is a wonderful philosophy that helps me to understand the immense value of ALL life. That includes me, and you. Yes, I still struggle on certain days, and life can seem really daunting and hard. However I look at what I have achieved already, take a deep breathe, chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and get back in the driving seat of my life. Years ago I could never of imagined doing some of the things I have done in my recovery time. I have danced, albeit in a bit of a self-conscious manner in front of five hundred people, I have formed and maintained a functional and loving relationship, (the statistics for this a rather dire) but most of all I can look at myself as a human being and with some effort see my own potential, value and feel a sense of self love and warmth that has for most of my life been quite an alien experience. This is of course my perspective. However, I am a human being just as you are and human beings can achieve anything, after all, we as a race do this every day.
You are capable of recovery, and what’s more, leading a life of great value and joy. Keep going. It is worth it.
I would also before I finish this like to thank this websites creator Sam Thomas and all those who have contributed towards it for their bravery at coming forward and their humanistic concern for those in suffering.”