Editor’s note: Alex Blades is a senior English major from Clinton, Illinois. Blades will be focusing his blog on mental health issues.
It’s a never ending cycle, and no matter how many times I tell myself it won’t happen again, I know that it eventually will. Stress, the feeling of being overwhelmed, sadness, boredom, anything can set me off without a moment’s notice. You kind of feel like a robot at the end of it all because you’ve been on autopilot the entire duration.
If there was one thing that I was completely sure of growing up, it was that there was something a little ... off about me. I would just tell myself that I really loved food because it tasted really good. I was growing and a guy so I was allowed to eat a little bit more, right? Guys don’t have to deal with eating disorders. That was something only girls had to deal with.
My eating was never a huge issue until middle school when certain aspects of my personal life, such as my sexuality, came into question by my fellow classmates. Although I didn’t quite understand it at that point, I began using food as a way to deal with the feelings of confusion, anger and depression that I was experiencing all at once. For those few moments that I was stuffing my face, I didn’t feel quite so empty. I’d found something that I could rely on to help make me feel a little better, even if it was only temporary.
So many things during my 22 years in this world have changed. Some changes have been good, others have been not so good. Even to this day I’m dealing with the direct consequences to the choices I made as a pre-teen with no real idea about what was going on. Instead of learning to deal with the feelings, I am still a slave to the feelings that I befriended. For so many years, I was completely terrified to even bring up my difficult relationship with food because guys are supposed to be strong. They’re supposed to be instinctual creatures. Guys that are anything but masculine are just sissies, and we can’t have that.
Between the ages of 15 and 20, I think I was at my worst, mentality-wise at least. It isn’t enough that this is an awkward age gap to begin with, but add being clinically overweight with no sense of control on top of that, and you are living in your own worst nightmare. Everyone was experiencing new things while I was at home experiencing the impending doom of anxiety attacks. The time between 18 and 20 was an uncomfortable period of growth for me as an individual, and it was the time when I was learning more about myself and what it meant to be an adult. I was learning what I wanted in life, and, most importantly, that I didn’t have to conform to what my peers wanted me to be. I didn’t have to live by the rulebook of masculinity.
At 22 years old, I am more “me” than I have ever been in my entire life. I can comfortably admit that I have my own set of insecurities that I am learning to deal with. Yes, I have an eating disorder. Yes, I am a guy. I am a guy with an eating disorder. One of these things doesn’t cancel out the other. I’m allowed to be open about it and I am allowed to seek help.