Monday, May 07, 2012

HfC day 7: everyone's an individual

Today's challenge is about men with EDs. It's definitely true that there are stereotypes that exist about EDs. One in particular is that anorexia affects mostly middle class white girls who are academic overachieving perfectionists. And some people with anorexia may fit that stereotype (apparently: I couldn't possibly comment!); however, just as I've met girls and women from a diverse range of socio-economic, educational and cultural backgrounds who have anorexia, bulimia, BED or EDNOS, I've also met men and boys with anorexia. None of them can be neatly fit into any stereotype.

I knew a teenage boy who was still studying for his A Levels and overcome with the pressure. I hope that he is doing well now.

I got to know a lovely man who was transferred to the ED unit from the older adult ward after they realised that the nature of his eating problems meant that they could not meet his needs. He'd been a sailor and called a spade a bloody shovel. In community meeting, he asked if the kitchen could send up egg on toast for breakfast because he'd never been a cereal eater and wasn't about to start then. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for the rest of us who were quaking with fear at the thought of eggs at breakfast), the kitchen wasn't equipped to deal with making poached eggs on a mass catering scale. I hope that John has recovered and been able to enjoy his later years without the shadow of his eating disorder.

A man in his 40s has been a service user at the same ED unit as me for the past decade. I genuinely wish for his home situation to change to give him a better chance of recovery.

I'm still friends with a man I met back in the late 1990s at the old REED unit. He's now in his 50s and happily lives in a nearby town with his partner and gorgeous cats. He's a funny man with a great sense of humour and passionate beliefs about politics and animal welfare. This man always has time to support friends, writing letters and sending text messages, even when he's struggling a lot with his own health. I want for him to be well and for his future to emerge as one without anorexia. He has so much to give the world and anorexia tries so hard to take it away.

In truth, I wish similar things for all the people I've met through my own anorexia, even those who are difficult to like and even harder to share a hospital ward with. Today's focus is men, because they are often overlooked .... but the point I'd like everyone to take away is that eating disorders affect individuals, i.e. none of us can be tucked away into statistics or diagnostic criteria. We're all people, we're all different. And we all, including this blogger, need to discover that our identity, our self, our quiddity is enough and is not contingent on the existence of the eating disorder within us.

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