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David

Age at interview: 22
Age at diagnosis: 19
Brief Outline: David has experienced bulimia for the past eight years. He has learnt to manage his eating and bingeing and purging is no longer a habit. He feels seeking help for men with eating disorders should be made easier; with more specific information available for them.
Background: David is 22 and works as personnel coordinator. He is single and lives with his parents.

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When David was growing up, big family meals were an important part of family life. David says he always had a good appetite but being sporty and active, he “used to get away with” eating a lot. During teenage years, he got less interested in doing sport and started eating more unhealthy foods. After a while, he became conscious of having become “chubby” and decided to go on a diet. The positive comments he was getting about his weight loss and appearance spurred him on to lose more weight.
 
After a one-off incident of making himself sick, David stopped dieting and instead, made himself sick, “gorging and purging” then became a daily habit. David found it easy to hide it from his family and in the workplace. Gradually bulimia became a part of his routine; he would eat similar foods at similar times every day. He was racked with guilt but being able to eat his favourite foods without putting on weight kept the habit going. After a couple of years, David started thinking the behavior was not right and went to see his GP. The GP was great, giving him information and offering to refer him but David decided not to pursue it further.
 
David says he doesn’t want to feel like “a burden” on others which has made it difficult for him to seek help over the years. He also says that there is so little information and awareness about eating disorders in men that it is hard to bring up the topic. He says most of the information is geared at women and girls and it is not similarly socially acceptable to talk about eating disorders in men.
 
David has suffered from physical and emotional effects of bulimia. He has come to realise how damaging bingeing and purging can be on the body and he is now at a point where he wants to stop the cycle. When people close to him started saying that he had “gone too far” and was looking ill, it made him stop and take a step back. He realised that it was not a life he wanted. David his good days and bad but purging is not a habit anymore. David says it is essential to be open about your experiences and trust that people close to you really do care.
 
 

David’s bulimia nervosa started as a “one off”, making himself sick after eating a takeaway....

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I remember just eating a massive Chinese on my own, purely on my own. And I’d had, you know, I just, I’d got to the point where I sort of was rewarding myself I guess for having lost lots of weight, so I went, “Okay I’m gonna have a Chinese,” and I didn’t just have a Chinese, I had about a three person portion of Chinese. And then felt so horrendously guilty for doing it and I remember doing it, I still remember that, that evening. Just what, “I wonder if I made myself sick if it’s gonna make a difference?”
 
So I did, and it was a purely a one off. I then went back into the, just eating, I say healthily, dieting, carrying on. And I didn’t do it again for, for a long time. And then I wasn’t getting the comments again I guess, or I wasn’t losing weight as much as I wanted to and so it happened again. And, and somehow, I don’t, I can’t even pinpoint when it became a habit that was happening at all the time, on a daily basis. I can’t remember when that started. It, I just remember suddenly realising one day, this is happening everyday now, it’s, this is a little out of control. It’s not just a, I’ve eaten lots and it’s a one-off. This is, I’ve eaten hardly anything all day and yet I still want to do it, which is obviously an unhealthy aspect of it.
 
And soon before I guess I knew it became a habit. A habit that my parents worked quite a lot and aren’t often home, so it wasn’t anything hard for me to hide. Again at work, I worked for a very lenient company where if I disappeared off to a toilet, you know, so on for a little period of time it wasn’t really noticed. So that it just became an essential part of my life and at the age of 19 it, it was just part of my life. I would eat a lot of food and then I would make myself sick. To the point where I stopped the dieting. It was having the effect I wanted it to so I was eating as I pleased, gorging on food if I wanted to and then obviously purging myself in the evenings or at lunchtimes at work.
 
And it did after I’d say about a year, you know I was still 19, probably coming onto 20, that’s when I first realised it had become a part of my life and I remember it scaring me. And thinking actually this isn’t normal. This isn’t actually what other people do. And then kind of wanting to, to talk about it, but not wanting anyone close to me, friends or family, knowing what I was doing or what was happening, you know, they, they were congratulating me for weight loss which as far as they were concerned was down to me dieting and exercising, not down to the real reason. 
 
 

David didn't seek help because he didn’t want to be "a burden" to other people.

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I did speak to my doctor about it and they just referred, they just gave me a number I can’t even remember the company off by heart, the line, just to call and talk to if I felt I had any issues there. I don’t think I ever really have actually taken them up on that because I’m, I’m just one of them people that I don’t I mean I hate bothering other people with my problems and issues. I’m happy to sit there and listen to other people’s issues all the time, and help people wherever I can but I hate feeling like I’m a burden on anyone else. And that was always a massive factor to me when seeking help, even when I initially went out to seek help, about the eating disorder or what I was doing to myself, I didn’t really classify it as that. I then didn’t want to become a burden, I didn’t wanna be referred. I didn’t want that to happen. I don’t like that and I think that’s very much me as a person. I don’t like to be, feel like I’m burdening anyone or causing an issue. So the moods, you know, that’s the same thing. I never went further because I didn’t wanna feel like that. But there definitely are mood swings and it’s just linked to how good I feel about myself. Which is then in turn linked to my weight.

 

David felt peer support groups were not for him. He felt his problems were personal and he didn’t...

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I’m not sure it’s entirely for me. I, you know it, I understand for some people you need, you need that. I think that for me, you know it’s just being comfortable with myself and being happy with myself is a very personal thing. It’s me. It’s for me to be comfortable with myself. So it’s being comfortable in my head. And I have many issues with partners and friends where they have always thought I’m crazy for how I feel about myself, or if I feel big. So having someone tell me I look good, I already know that actually has no effect, or, not telling me I look good but having telling me, having someone sit there and telling me that I, that I look skinny or when I think I don’t doesn’t actually have any effect on me. I know that from experience and I’ve probably driven a lot of people crazy with arguments to that effect. So yeah, I just don’t think for me it’s, it’s something that I need to sort out in my head, you know, myself. 
 
I’m, and again it’s that hating to be a burden on someone, I don’t want to take up someone’s time sorting me out, while you’re like, I just feel that’s not who I am as a person. I think I prefer to do; I like to help people out and listen to them and support them when I can, and I hate taking it back off people I think. And that’s again that’s an issue that I just need to address for myself I think.
 
 

David used to make himself sick in the toilets at home and in the office without others knowing.

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Just like it was then, if it happens now it will be the same thing. I will come in, it will happen, go upstairs, and it’s, and the facts, it sounds really stupid obviously I do live at home, so my parents are around sometimes, not all the time, but the fact that the bath’s running means that there’s, there’s, you can hide it as such. Or if not I would have music blaring or something like that, because you don’t want anyone to know what’s going on, or you don’t want anyone to know what’s happening. And, and obviously like I said at its peak it was, it was at work,  where the office that I work in, I work in the upstairs section so it’s probably about sixty of us, vast majority are women, so there’s not actually many, ever many people around in the men’s toilets. So it’s very easy to get away with it happening at work without anyone realising what was going on, and it just became a real part of my life.

 

David’s mood swings were driven by his weight. If he lost weight he was “buzzing” but on bad days...

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When I wasn’t feeling good about myself it was a real big issue. I was very; I could be very argumentative, very aggressive. Then there are days sort of that come where I just, it’s not anger it’s, I just feel very well without saying depression, ‘cos I’ve not got a history of depression, just very depressed and very introverted and in general I’m a very outgoing, easy going guy, and there just became days where you know even my Mum would question why I was so quiet or why I was locked away in my room. And they were just at times when I guess I was very unhappy with myself. 
 
But at the same time when I lost the weight or felt very good about myself I was at a complete high. And I was you know buzzing about it, and I felt great and I loved it and all of that. And so the mood just kind of, it just went with that. But there were days when, and there still are days I guess where I’m not happy with myself and I just like to lock myself away, and I don’t want much company. That’s when I feel bad about myself. But if I’m feeling good, it’s oh well, I’m in a perfectly good mood and fine.
 
So the moods, you know, that’s the same thing. I never went further because I didn’t wanna feel like that. But there definitely are mood swings and it’s just linked to how good I feel about myself. Which is then in turn linked to my weight. 
 
So that’s just a very, as you can probably tell it just affects your whole life, because obviously if you’re, you know not going out or not wanting to go out because you’re not in that sort of mood, whereas the weeks you feel good, you’ll go out and you’ll be part of your friends, your group of friends and stuff. So it just has a real big impact on everything else.
 
 

David feels self-conscious of his body. He worries other people could find it a turn off when he...

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I don’t think highly of myself all the time. And so I find it, I think in my head find it hard to believe it when someone’s being compliment; you know paying me a compliment. And I think that can be, you know in a romantic sense, or in a meeting someone sense, that in itself can be a big turn off. You want to be able to compliment someone without them turning round and saying, “Don’t compliment me,” or “Don’t,” or you know, or disagreeing with you. Because I know what it’s like if I say it to someone and they don’t, they disagree back. Yeah if I think about it it’s exactly how I am every time someone tries to pay me a compliment.
 
So yeah in a physical aspect I’m not entirely comfortable with my body, and so I’m very conscious, perhaps it isn’t as bad if I’ve been drinking, but if I haven’t been drinking then I’m very conscious of my body and stuff. And that, that’s a big thing I think for some people. They want you to feel comfortable with them and my image of myself means that I’m not. 
 
 

David encourages people with any eating disorder to speak to someone about it.

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When you actually sit down and you talk to someone and you lay it out and you say it, then your head actually makes sense of what you’re saying. And just by admitting to someone, “I make myself sick,” or “I have bulimia,” or, “I gorge on food and then I do this,” just hearing it actually makes you realise in your head that’s really not the best approach. And it really outlines you know, it’s happening. It is a condition. It’s real and you need to overcome that and you’re not going to without talking to somebody, whether they’re a friend, a family member or if it is a, a support group, if that’s what works for you without talking about it you’re never gonna overcome that. And you know you may stop for a while, but if you haven’t talked about it thoroughly enough then you’ll fall back into it. You really just need to talk to someone and receive that support and then that’s gonna help you overcome it, or come through it at the end.

 
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David learnt to value his health and his body. 'Without health you have no life'.

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There’s nothing more important in life than your health, without your health you get you have no life, why do anything to harm your body. You know in the same way you shouldn’t drink too much, you shouldn’t smoke, doing that is harming your body as well, and you’re not gonna grow up and live a healthy fulfilled life if you’re from the very beginning, from the offset damaging your body in any way. And you just have to look to the future and realise that you know if that’s what you want, if you want a happy life and, you want to be healthy as such, then you can’t damage your body in any way, which is what you’re doing.

 

David said eating disorders can affect anyone. Information targeted only at women is “not helping...

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Whereas if a guy was to turn around and say that, “I do this, I don’t eat. I starve myself.” Or, “I make myself sick.” And there’s a very real stigma attached to that. So it’s all about, it’s also just about the awareness being there, that actually it’s a real struggle for a lot of people. I don’t think people understand, you know it’s not, it may start out as a choice, you’ve chosen to do it, or go down that route, but you’ve done it for so many reasons that people don’t quite comprehend. And once it becomes a habit I think people forget how much it can control your life. And that is the same for men as well as for women. And just because you’re a man and you’re meant to be strong and that it doesn’t mean that that doesn’t take over your life in the same way that alcohol addiction or gambling addiction, it doesn’t just affect, it doesn’t just affect women it affects men too, if you know if not more so.
 
Anyone can be affected by anything. I don’t think the awareness is there at all, let alone necessarily the information on what you do or how you go. The only thing that is there just seems to be aimed at the, you know at the teen or the female market. It’s not helping anyone in general.
 
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