By Thomas (Tommy) Kelly, Scotland
Doctors often don’t understand eating disorders and turn males away due to stigma of this illness being a female complaint. They also tend to base treatment on BMI (body mass index) and this is wrong as you can be very ill at any weight in grips of an eating disorder.
My Eating disorder started in late 1997 with the loss of my mum and grandfather. At that time I was a semi pro footballer with Scotland U-16s, and my weight began to plummet over next year due to grief.
I over exercised with long runs daily, weight training, and my football, which culminated in me collapsing at low weight after I went to holiday to Australia.
I lost my football career due to sciatic nerve damage to left leg due to weight loss and was admitted to hospital when I returned to Glasgow. I was an inpatient for nine months with feeding via peg tube and gradual re-feeding diet until I reached a target weight and was released.
I spent the next few years struggling but managed to increase and maintain weight with help of medications. I was able to resume working in a wine warehouse as assistant storeman, and met my wife Laura at a night out in Kilmarnock. We married in 2006. Unfortunately, Laura suffered multiple miscarriages which were initially misdiagnosed. Eventually she was found to have ovarian cancer, requiring invasive operation and lengthy chemotherapy treatment.
During this worrying time, I relapsed, had a dangerous fall in the bathroom at home, and a major heart attack. I was admitted to intensive care for four months, followed by another four months in general ward. After this, I managed to maintain my weight for several years, until my father had a stroke in 2012 and became wheelchair bound. Laura and I cared for him daily, alongside private carers, until further complications led to his death in late 2014. The years of worry over my dad’s condition and the grief of losing him, for he had been my world, along with mum, caused me to have another relapse.
This time my liver and kidneys had began to shut down, and I was put on refeeding diet as my body had gone into shock due to refeeding syndrome. I was released in February 2015 upon reaching a target weight and am now in firm recovery. I am gaining weight weekly and fighting for memory of my parents to make them proud, and for my wife and MYSELF, which is what everyone wants most importantly — to fulfill the life I should have.
I have great team of eating disorder specialists. My nurse has been there for me at the darkest times and is a diamond of a lady. I owe my life to her and my psychiatrist. At times I was unable to acknowledge the damage being done to my body through the laxative abuse, purging, and over exercise that I felt driven to do, to cope with the grief. I was not able to understand, at the time, that I was being hospitalized to save my life.
I thank my treatment team from the bottom of my heart. I’m here today, improving, and will always have dark days but now I am aware of the triggers and know how to cope and be my life’s pilot rather than the passenger. I know how to keep that wee voice locked at back of my head.
I am sharing my story to show others that there is hope and light at end of the tunnel. I want to help others find recovery and never give in. You may think you are in control but as long as you are slave to your disorder you will never have the life you deserve,
So, to people who are suffering right now, I encourage you to start today in working towards your recovery and learning to love yourself.
Here are my three wishes for World Eating Disorders Action Day:
For more famous people to speak out and share their story, to encourage people and help end the stigma surrounding eating disorders as a illness of choice.
More eating disorder specialist units (in UK there is virtually none and bed availability is extremely limited).
Promote and post on social media stories of hope and recovery to help others find courage to speak out and get the help they need, and save lives.
Today Tommy stands as a volunteer for MBEEDS (Men And Boys Eating and Exercise disorder Service) http://www.mbeedsscotland.org. He is a volunteer with media at beat https://www.b-eat.co.uk and See Me Scotland (Mental Health Charity) https://www.seemescotland.org
Tommy has spoken at EDAW16 (Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2016) at Scottish Parliament. He shares his story to help others.
Join Tommy in supporting World Eating Disorders Action Day. Be sure to follow along on Twitter @WorldEDDay and hashtag #WeDoAct, #WorldEDActionDay, @WorldEatingDisordersAction on Instagram and World Eating Disorders Action Day on Facebook.