I met Nick on Twitter, yes another one of those wonderful people who has come into my world through 140 characters. I was walking Daisie at the time and Nick just stood out in my timeline, he was another of those real people you find on Twitter, I felt he was brave and he had an important message and opinion to share.
So I’ve invited Nick onto my blog, he’s a fab blogger by the way and no Q&A this month for A Spotlight on…Just Nick in his words… his amazing life to date, his accomplishments and more proof, if you needed it, that we can live successfully beyond eating disorders and the difficulties of life.
Over to you Nick…
So where to start, this has been a hard one to write, maybe I just don’t like writing about myself or maybe I don’t always like re-visiting the past. That said, if it wasn’t for my past, I probably wouldn’t do what I do now.
So to stick to the relevant parts I am going to skip to my teenage years, most people who know me now wouldn’t believe it, but I was really quite quiet, withdrawn and I thought at the time “different”. I was happier locked in my room listening to rock music seeing my one or two close friends and escaping from everyone else that I felt I really had nothing in common with.
‘the weird kid…’
I realise now that this singled me out from everyone else, I was bullied for it, the ‘weird’ kid, the ‘quiet’ kid and my first day at secondary school I remember one thing about it, having my fingers slammed in a door, I took that from people for years.
As this happened, I got further and further into my little shell, my escape from the world. I felt pressured to be like everyone else, yet resenting them for being so cruel to me. But it must have been my fault, I must have bought it on myself, right?
Looking back, I dealt with everything in the unhealthiest way possible, I needed control, I needed a way out. I was conscious about the way I looked, I was a little bit obsessive with things, counting things, things having to be in a certain order. Then chaos would ensure and I would self harm, in a weird way physical pain I thought was solving the emotional pain, it helped but I started doing it more often to get that same effect. I remember taking my first ever overdose at 14, hid it from everyone and I can’t describe how disappointed I was when I woke up the next day.
But something else was going on during this, which I didn’t really think was a problem at first, just a loss of appetite I would tell myself, but it wasn’t. I would go for days without eating anything and I liked it, the control I had over myself and in a weird way, over everyone else too. My little bit of a problem with obsession really made it easy, counting, splitting, restricting, putting ‘order’ back into my life.
‘before long it was controlling me…’
As you can imagine this got progressively worse, hospital admissions, more self harm, more overdoses, getting slowly more and more withdrawn from everyone around me. So this got worse and worse and before long it was controlling me, I was no longer the one in control, the feelings of desperation got worse, I needed a way out, yet again an overdose seemed like the way out.
I remember this one well, as it was the last one I ever took and it was a big one. It was my mental health medication I took that gave me a funny heart rate and I collapsed in my house. Somehow an ambulance ended up at my home, still don’t quite know how, may have been my housemates. But that isn’t what is memorable about it.
So I went to hospital had plenty of treatment and after the medical thing the doctor started talking to me about the possibility of having to stay in hospital. It was then my best friend arrived at the hospital. Now Martyn, he is a police officer, one of the best friends you could ever have and I remember distinctly the first thing he said to me when he walked in, which must have been the 4th time he had ended up in hospital with me in the middle of the night. He walked in and just said “You’ve been a silly dick ain’t ya” and you know what, it was what I needed to hear. None of this tiptoeing around me, no careful words just how it was. I was being silly, but I had been blind to it for so many years.
‘Martyn never gave up on me…’
I was at my lowest, I hated myself, hated everything about me, couldn’t look in a mirror and just wished I could disappear. I kept thinking, the less I eat, the more I hurt myself, the more I will fall through the cracks the more I would be forgotten about, but Martyn never gave up on me, saw something in me that I just couldn’t see myself. So he spoke to the doctor, I got away with not going to the hospital and instead I went and spent some time staying with Martyn, who looked after me, made sure I took my medication and made sure I ate properly. This was really helpful and the point I look at the start of my recovery from all my issues there, my eating disorder, the self harm, the suicide attempts, this is where I decided it would stop.
I won’t lie and say from that point it was all fine, there were bumps in the road, there were hospital admissions, there was a good few more “incidents” but they were lessening, I was learning better ways to deal with how I felt and I had my best friend beside me the whole time, someone who without sounding corny, I totally owe my life too.
So I started to get back to normal life and I would say at 21 I was “recovered” (or at least well on my way) that was now 5 years ago and ever since I have been adamant that it won’t be a bad experience totally, but I can use some of it for good, why does it need to be negative?
I think there is something important to point out, a lot of people say there is no such thing as a full recovery from an eating disorder and that you will always have the thoughts but you learn to deal with them. I wouldn’t say this is true at all, I still think about it, but in a really positive way, the “yes it was a crappy time, but would I do what I do now if it didn’t happen” attitude, well probably not.
So what do I do now? Well….. I am one of the people behind the UK charity Men Get Eating Disorders Too or MGEDT. We are the only charity dedicated to the support and advocacy of men who suffer from eating disorders, an issue which is far too often only seen as a female issue. I joined when we were a website with dreams to be bigger. We now offer training to professionals, have online support chats and forums and we are frequently in the media raising awareness of the deadly disorders that are just not seen to affect men. I also advise other mental health charities on working with men and work with an Oxford University research project into young people and eating disorders trying to ensure that men are equally represented.
My real passion lies in body image and the role it plays maintaining eating disorders, especially the male body image debate and how although it differs from the female debate, the pressures on men are greater than ever.
I am getting into being a counsellor and just finishing my supervisory period in CBT, working with young people in my area who are having difficult periods in their lives, be it school, family and problems with drugs and alcohol. I do this alongside general youth work, both with groups and individuals. However, I really love to write and I do so for a few mental health publications, youth health websites and of course my blog.
‘I have quite a reputation for digital fundraising’
Finally I have always had a passion for the charity sector and as a result of my experience in charities I now freelance as a charity development consultant and professional fundraiser, as well as working part time with a not for profit digital marketing agency called Voice. I have quite a reputation for digital fundraising and CSR partnerships, working with marginalised groups and using digital technologies to work with groups that would otherwise be forgotten about.
I like doing lots of different things, I like having variety and working in lots of different sectors is pretty amazing, giving me the chance to meet lots of people and learn lots of new things and of course passing on what I know to all the different things I do.
So yes, I am a very busy person now, and I love it! I also have an amazing group of friends, a nice home in a little market town called Witney in Oxfordshire, right on the edge of the Cotswolds. A little obsessed with music, constantly found headbanging while doing the washing up, dying my hair all sorts of colours and generally getting out and exploring!
“I am really, really happy…’
But the most important thing, I am really, really happy! Something I thought growing up I never thought I would achieve. I am happy with myself, happy with the way I look, comfortable in my own skin. I can’t see me ever slipping to where I used to be, I found where I belong, all this confidence I never thought I would have. I tried some time as a special for the police, just because it was something I had always wanted to try. You realise after all that, life is just too precious to be unhappy.
I owe it to my friends, my fantastic mum and all the people who always believed I could do it, I owe it all to Martyn, who is simply just that amazing I can’t describe. But I owe it to me too, I realised it was a massive hill I climbed and I did it, I’m here and stronger than ever, so really, you could say my ‘difficulties’ did me good. That’s not to say I wish they happened, I would rather it didn’t, but they made me who I am.
So this is where I finish, as I am really going on and I want to pass on one more thing…… Not everything is always perfect and that doesn’t matter, just make the most of what you have.
Can’t wait to meet you next year Nick, you are a star and I am loving what you do! I’d be delighted if you’ll come back and blog for me in 2012. We can both champion life after Anorexia, we both know there is so much beyond it!