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Paul’s story 2

My eating disorder sort of crept up on me, and if I have to be honest, I didn’t realise I had one until it had really taken hold. In 2003  I was living a “normal” life, job, mortgage and recently married.  I worked as a train driver, driving commuters in and out of London. It was not the most exciting job in the world, but paid well and made life outside of work extremely good. This all ended after an accident at work, which had overhead power cables crashing through my cab window and earthed 25000 volts through the train, causing myself injury.

Over the coming years I suffered with PTSD, depression and anxiety disorder.  Due to lack of motivation I didn’t leave the house, I did not cook any more, clean the house or even shower. Then a new trend happened, I stopped eating when I was alone. I waited for my wife to come home from work after her 12 hour day at the office with travel, then I would eat.  When I was at home alone I would suffer hunger pains, feel very tired and became even more lethargic. It was during these lonely hours at home, I felt I was not worthy of food. I felt as if my illness was letting everyone down. I would punish myself by starving myself. The pain in my stomach and the headaches would be my punishment for being such a worthless piece of space. I was putting my wife and family through hell, why could I not just kick myself up the backside and do something.

With the starvation came the flip side of this disorder. By the time my wife returned home from work, I was so hungry all I wanted to do was gorge on food. However, I could not expect my wife to cook after her long days at work. I would always order junk food.  It’s so easy now just to pick up the phone and order cheap fatty food to be delivered to your door. Kebabs, pizza, curries you name it you can get cooked and brought to your door. Due to my hunger, I would order far too much food. I would gorge on the greasy food, scoffing it down as if it was going out of fashion. This would cause another pain as my stomach was stretched from this over eating.  I had found another way to punish this worthless being. Over eat and starvation.

For ages I inflicted this pain on myself, and my weight ballooned. It took me a long time to realise I was using food to self harm. Nearly every day I would punish myself  for not being a man, not having a job, not being able to do simple tasks around the house. I saw therapist after therapist and not once did they mention food. I was also too embarrassed to discuss this with anyone. When i realised i had an eating disorder, i really did not know what to do. The only eating disorder I knew of was anorexia and as far as all the information out there was saying, only women get this.

I knew something had to give and as it turned out it was my heart and my ankles. The constant self harming with junk food had took its toll. I was so heavy I could barely walk without my ankles giving way and also my blood pressure went through the roof. The thing I had to do was to eat three healthy meals a day, which seems so easy when you say it that way. I knew I had to retrain my body and mind. I had to do something to make myself feel positive about myself. I had to also wean myself off junk food and reverse the trend. No more self harming, no more self hating and reverse my unhealthy lifestyle. It was not going to be easy. I had become totally addicted to greasy fast food, but more specifically cheap fatty fried meat. Especially kebab meat. Those great big fatty elephant legs you see turning around on a spit, dripping with grease and the worse type of off cuts you can imagine. I had to cut all that rubbish out of my diet. How was I going to do it?

I knew the only way to stop this was to make a very drastic decision. I am an all or nothing person, as proved by my self harming eating habits. So cutting back was not going to be  realistic. I had to become vegetarian, this would cut out all that takeaway food out of my diet. Yes I know chips are vegetarian, but it was not them I was addicted to. I was not using chips to harm myself, it was meat. Becoming vegetarian was one the hardest and best decisions I ever made. It literally saved my life. I am not going to bang on about animal cruelty, though important it maybe, that was not on my mind at the time.

It took a while to get the habits just right. Eating breakfast was a nightmare, at first I would just have fruit or cereal but I would gag. Sometimes I could not get that first meal of the day down before noon. As time went on it became earlier and earlier, giving me more energy, which enabled to do more chores around the house. As I became more active, I was hungry at lunch time and would eat and then again have dinner that I would cook when my wife got home from work.

Several years on and I still have the same cravings as I did then when I have stressful times, but generally I am eating healthily. I also exercise regular which also helped loose all the weight I put on during this time. I think the biggest change from then to now, is the way men are slowly opening up to their own problems with mental health issues.  I knew it was so much easier just to sweep it under the carpet and never discuss, no one would ever understand. Or so I thought, thankfully things are changing with help through the internet. Open discussions and more information out there means we can dip our toe in and find others to talk to in our own time, and at last be understood.

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

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