Publish date: 9 March 2023
We recently marked Eating Disorder Awareness Week, where the theme this year was 'men get eating disorders too'.
Following this, a male eating disorder patient has shared his story in a hope to help other men come forward and seek help.
Dillon Chuhan, aged 25, developed bulimia after the first lockdown and remembers seeking help from his GP after he experienced stomach pains and saw blood in his vomit.
He said: "The stomach pains didn't go, my throat and chest were sore, stinging, and felt like a raw wound.
"Ironically, one of my main 'fail-safes' of my eating disorder was that I was able to convince myself of almost anything to avoid the truth of the matter."
He said he was "surprised" when his GP told him he was experiencing symptoms of bulimia.
He describes how it felt to hear those words from a professional: "I was in shock and disbelief. I have always known what an eating disorder is, and in a way, I assumed that if I'm aware of what eating disorders are, then I couldn't ever possibly have one."
He said at the time he was overweight too, and thought you had to be emaciated to have bulimia.
He said it was his need for answers and the pain he was experiencing which prompted him to ask for help.
When he started his recovery journey, he noticed there were very few men in the treatment groups.
He said: "Was this rare in men? Are men just not being diagnosed?
"I knew what eating disorders were, but I was misinformed. My previous association was that anorexia meant teenage girls obsessed with thinness gone to an extreme, that bulimia was something people did as a way to keep thin, and that binge eating was at the extreme end of the spectrum, a bed bound person due to the excessive weight and size of their body."
He said to this day he doesn't understand how these common socially accepted ideas started because it could prevent others from seeking help.
Dillon explained what he has learned through therapy. He said: "I learned to let go of the illusion of control and understand the nuances in between what is perceived to be objectively true and that which is seen as a subjective experience.
"We all live in moments by tangent or between hard-coded rules and factual understandings of our own emotions, feelings, and experiences."
He explained he loves to paint and is naturally creative, but trained as an accountant. He added: "there isn't a true status quo of who to be or how to be. The truth is, to just simply be."
He continued: "My treatment also gave me a strong foundational basis of skills to craft and work on. This (as with most therapy treatments) is not intended to be a miracle cure, life can be esoteric and spontaneous.
"If you expect to remedy life's many conundrums through a quick fix, you'll always find yourself searching for the next dose.
"The main and biggest benefit of treatment is being able to learn how to sustainably give back to myself through patience, persistence and love."
Dillon, through drawing on his own experiences, has some advice for others considering therapy.
He said it starts with being "open-minded": "Before my treatment began, I experienced a lot of anxiety and fear around how I may possibly lose myself, or if something would come up that I wasn't ready to deal with."
But he said he had to start by being open-minded and submit/commit to the process.
He added: "Another thing that helped me when I was considering therapy was to journal. At the time, my eating disorder was this intimate and dark secret in my life. I would have rather choked on my own tongue than to even let my closest loved ones know. So I would say find an outlet to communicate, even if it's just for yourself."
Finally, he is encouraging others to challenge themselves. He explained: "Give yourself the challenge to simply try without perfecting, to be present when you don't want to be, all with the intention to better yourself."
He added: "My motto used to be 'if someone tells me I can't, I will go out of my way to prove to them I can'... It's the same now, only less spiteful. 'I will go out of my way to prove to myself that I can, because I am worthy and I am loved."
You can find out more about the Trust's community eating disorder service here.
If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder please contact your GP.