I was 17 years old I suffered an injury playing rugby. This lead to an operation and meant that I could no longer play the game I loved.
By being forced to stop the sport I soon found myself drifting away from the social side of the hobby, falling away from close friends who I’d grown up and gone to school with and played the game with. Coupled with this, I found my self-confidence shrinking by the minute.
Until this point, I had been a happy, popular and ‘successful’ lad at school. But this one incident lead to a cascade of events which made me feel like I was ‘losing control’.
In a desperate attempt to regain control, of any nature I could, I began to limit the amount of food I ate. Over the next year or so, I began to take pleasure from the sensation of hunger. The more I denied my body the food it needed, the deeper my hunger became, and the greater the sense of control I felt being restored.
One day, the hunger became too much. And I began to purge. This quickly developed into a dangerous cycle of binge eating and vomiting. I ate whatever I could find.
The people closest to me saw that something was the matter, but I kept my illness a secret. I kept things behind the backs of those I loved the most. I lied. I became a very deceiving person, somebody I thankfully don’t recognise today.
Then, one day, I stopped making myself sick. The reason may surprise you. For years now, I’ve loved dance music. During my illness, the only social events I managed to attend were big club nights where I would go with a small group of friends to see the DJs we loved. On Boxing Day 2006, I knew that if I made myself sick I wouldn’t be able to stay up all night and see the DJs I so wanted to see that evening. I knew this because making myself sick made me, quite understandably, exhausted. Being a medical student, I now know the biological reason for this effect. So I chose not to make myself sick. I had the best night of my life.
I haven’t made myself sick since.
On that day, I found something that I wanted to do more than be ill. I know it was this that saved my life.
Over the next few months I gradually put weight back on, regained my strength, and physically recovered. I started university. I attended a B-eat self-help group session at university, and for the first time talked openly to other people about what I’d been through. I cried openly like a baby in front of complete strangers. And they empathised with me. They helped me, over many sessions, to consider, accept and understand what had happened to me. This helped me to recover mentally.
I now work closely with B-eat, because I am grateful for their help. I am about to qualify as a doctor, and intend to have a specialist interest in eating disorders as I develop my career.
And, as strange as it sounds, I’m grateful to dance music. It’s my passion.
I know that my past eating disorder made me what I am today. It shaped me to be what I see when I stare into the mirror. I want people to hear my story because, although it may not appear obvious on the surface, I have been in that dark place. I know what it’s like. An eating disorder robbed me of a potentially brilliant part of my life. But I’m lucky enough to be able to enjoy my life now. I know some people are not so lucky. It is those people who I wish to help. In whatever way I can.