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Not just a girl's disease...

Friday, 25 February 2011 Mark Gould

Mark blogs about his experience with anorexia.

Last week I received a call from Mind asking if I would write this blog for Eating Disorders Awareness Week and to help promote their new report on men and mental health. At the age of 27 I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.

It still took four visits to my GP before they finally acknowledged the severity of my state and started to look for a diagnosis. I ended up receiving treatment in hospital and spent four months off work and many more In therapy.

Anorexia dominated my life for months. I barely ate or slept and would avoid family and friends so that they couldn't question me about my weight. Looking back I wonder how I managed. I used to put on a show at work, and while people were concerned they rarely said anything to me. At home I became increasingly short tempered and my fiancee went through hell with me — I really tested the strength of our relationship. The few pictures we have from this time are put to one side as they are very upsetting for us to view.

I struggled to talk to any of my male friends about what I was going through, because its not really what blokes do! Even after my diagnosis one friend in particular still has very little concept of what I am talking about and others find it difficult to broach the subject. I've heard numerous people tell me that they thought Anorexia was just a girls disease.

I think it's important to acknowledge that men face mental health difficulties which differ to those of women and that mental health guidelines and strategies should reflect this.

I was lucky that after my diagnosis someone pointed me in the direction of the Mind infoline. I was at rock bottom when I called them, struggling to open up and talk about the things I was doing to myself. The person I spoke to on the helpline was exactly the voice I needed to hear and they were able to give me and my fiancée information on the help available to me and where I could go to access it. My family also used the information that Mind provide to gain an understanding of what I was going through and how they could help.

I am not ‘cured’ of my condition – the thoughts and feelings are often still there – but thanks to the help and support I have received I have developed coping mechanisms to deal with my feelings and continue my life. I now feel like a stronger person and that I have my life back.

As a way of thanking Mind for their support and raising awareness about the stigma surrounding male mental health problems, last year I completed the London to Paris cycle challenge. Finishing line in Paris was a truly memorable moment and one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

I am now in training for this year's Virgin London Marathon. The training is going well now that the winter snow and rain have eased and I’m hoping to raise £2,000 to help other people who, like me, have experienced mental distress.

Eating disorders can feel like they're taking over your life, but there is support available. Visit your GP or contact your local Mind.

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