I’ve felt more isolated and withdrawn from the rest of the world recently. I can’t talk to my other half as it’s still a topic that’s ignored and I don’t want to bug my best friend about. Instead, I have millions of thoughts inside my head with nowhere to go. As much as I’d love to talk confidently about this to someone and keep feeling the need to say more to people about me, a bad experience in the past makes me think twice. Whilst I was on the waiting list for a place at the eating disorder unit, I was completely alone. I had recently come out of a relationship, moved out and was not in contact with my family. I had a few friends but none that were close enough to talk to. Instead, I was using Beat‘s message board to connect with others that were going through the same thing. In a way, it felt easier to speak to a stranger about it. It was less exposing. Feeling ashamed to be going through an eating disorder, it was a way to talk about it in a way that could be removed from my normal life. A bit like how I can open up in this blog, whilst in reality I struggle to admit that I’m female inside a male body.
Eating disorders in males aren’t a rarity, you just don’t really hear about them. 1 in 10 sufferers are males but because eating disorders have always been seen as a “female illness”, most male are too ashamed to come forward and seek help. I was one of those people. Admitting to the problem saved my life, which is why I then went on to help raise awareness of eating disorders in males, whether it was through TV/radio interviews or campaigning. At the time though, it was very isolating and very scary to be opened up to a world where you have to face your problems on your own.
On the message board, I met a guy who was also suffering from an eating disorder. It was comforting to know I wasn’t the only one. He gave advice and support during difficult times, and (I hope) in return I was able to do the same for him. He was like me: he had no family to rely on and no people around him to offer support. He was stuck at home, inside his own head. He had somebody who would look in on him from time to time. Not a carer or anybody from a medical background, just a woman who was like a foster mom to him. She would take him food and make sure he was doing ok. He often had no money and there were times when I’d pay his phone bill so he could stay connected to people and not feel alone. I saw him as a brother, and we stayed in touch. A few years on, when he came to visit with his girlfriend, I even paid for a hotel so they could stay and have some time out from everyday life. It was good to see him doing well and overcoming his struggles. He even moved closer to where I was. Then, suddenly, things changed.
One day he’d had an argument with his girlfriend and I became involved. Naturally, I was going to support him, as I didn’t really know his girlfriend. I’d known him for a while and had no reason to doubt him. They broke up and I thought that was the end of that. But it wasn’t. He’d become a different person. I was starting to see a manipulative and scheming side to him, which only made me suspicious. That’s when I learned he wasn’t who he said he was. His name was correct but as for him being alone, having no money or suffering from an eating disorder…well, it soon became clear he had made things up in order to use or manipulate people. When I confronted him about it, he started making threats. By this point he’d spent years making himself at home in my life, and knew what strings to pull to make sure I was scared of him. His ex got in touch with me soon after, and that’s when I found out the extent of his lies. All the discrepancies suddenly made sense. She revealed that whilst she was going through a difficult time, he manipulated her into leaving her boyfriend to be with him. I felt sick, not mention stupid for trusting him, inviting him into my life and letting him be a part of it for so many years. His ex found that he’d done the same with many others too – including the daughter of the woman who used to look in on him. I had people I’d never met before contacting me to ask if it was true and telling me what they’d been through. It was surreal. Like somebody else had lived those moments of your life and was telling you about it. He preyed on people who were struggling or vulnerable for his own gain. He was reported to the Police and to Beat so they were aware he was using their message boards to exploit others. The Police said I’d willingly given him money or paid for things, so there was nothing they could do. It was a really shit thing to have to go through. Even more shit to know that he wasn’t charged with any offence against anybody. He’s probably still out there doing it to other people. As if I didn’t already have trouble trusting people.
To this day, I make a point of not letting people in. Even if I think I’ve got them figured out. It’s just not safe. As much as I’d love to just tell people about my gender dysphoria or find somebody to talk to, I’m too scared of the same thing happening again. These days, there are very few people who know everything about me. I’ve made sure of that. As much as it helps to keep me safe, it also means I’ve created a lonely place for myself.
Featured image: via Google