When someone says the word “eating disorder” what vision immediately appears in your mind? Be honest and think about it for a moment. For me—and, I would imagine for many—a shockingly skinny white young girl pops up. And many think, for this reason, young white girls are the only people EDs affect. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. While I know this, I don’t always see evidence of it (although I wish I did), but a recent review I received from a reader of What Goes Down brought this realization back home:
EDs do not discriminate.
It doesn’t matter if you’re white or black or Chinese or Peruvian, big and tall, or fat and small, a girl or a boy, or even transgender, an ED cannot see any of that and cares nothing about it. Once it sees you as prey, you are only that: genderless, nondescript prey. And any of us can fall prey.
While I felt like I knew that, when I first started to recover and write my story, I will have to admit it was just a feeling because I didn’t actually know another person, a real person in my life, who had suffered from an ED who was not a young white woman. But, once I started to learn about the disease, through deep self-reflecting and healing, I found that it does not always stem from a pure desire to lose weight or be skinny. It does not dwell only in those who are skinny (as I was at my heaviest many times while battling my ED), and it does not continue and pervade for years upon years in those with otherwise successful lives simply because of a desire to become or stay skinny.
Once it sees you as prey, you are only that: genderless, nondescript prey. And any of us can fall prey.
I learned while healing that it can be a terrible, self-caused, mind-numbingly strong addiction, an impossible-to-kick habit. That is all. And I knew bad habits didn’t discriminate. So, I was confident EDs didn’t either. But, as I mentioned this was only a belief …
I received a private comment on Instagram recently from a guy who had read my book. He shared that he (like me) had lived alone for 8-10 years primarily because he was bulimic and that living alone made it easier to hide, although he was terribly lonely and wanted to welcome someone into his home and his life. He told me 95% of what I wrote in my book he could relate to, and he thanked me for my honest and raw account.
I was floored.
At first, I couldn’t figure out why this review, a review from a guy, had such a different impact on me, as I had received plenty of reviews from women; because, as I mentioned, I believed in my heart EDs affected men, too, although I did not have living proof. So, if I believe it, why should I be so surprised when it is proven true to me? This was the question I asked myself. And, after some serious soul-searching, I believe I found the answer.
I was surprised (honored and elated actually) to not only learn my theory had been true—that men suffer from EDs, too—but that my words, my story, written by a woman, could reach men, too. That’s what gripped me and made me feel once again, my book has been a success.
I was surprised (honored and elated actually) to not only learn my theory had been true—that men suffer from EDs, too—but that my words, my story, written by a woman, could reach men, too.
I always told myself, when writing it, publishing it, and promoting it, that if it reached only one person all the work and expense would be worth it. But I think I have to amend that statement to say, it makes it even more worth it, when it reaches different types of people. Because that tells me my book does not discriminate. It does not speak only to young white women, even though that’s what I am and was while I was suffering and when I wrote it.
No. My book can speak to men. I now have proof! And, I hope it can speak to whites, blacks, Chinese, Peruvians, the big and talls, and the fat and smalls. I believe What Goes Down can reach and heal people of all types. That wonderful man’s review was a reminder that my book is not exclusive. I think that’s what made me the most proud.
So, without revealing any identity, I just want to extend a huge, heartfelt thank-you from the bottom of my healing heart to the guy who wrote me recently and sent in a review for my book. You will never know what it means to me.