As I wrote my book Man Up to Eating Disorders, I knew the purpose of the book was to share my story and normalize the experience for other men and boys struggling with body image, self-esteem, fat shaming and eating disorders. But I also did it just for me. I needed to lay out all my thoughts and feelings and cleanse my body and soul of the demons I carried around with me since my earliest memories. It wasn’t comfortable to do. In fact it was like ripping apart my soul at times. And it hurt.
But the thing about it is, I felt better having done it. Why? Honestly, I have no definitive answer. Perhaps it’s because of the empathy and attention I received. Maybe because it helped people who read the book; they related to the stories and felt normalized from it which in turn normalized it for me. It helped me feel connected to others to hear their feedback, like a member of a larger tribe of men (and women) who have struggled with these very same issues. That connection is part of what I missed growing up, rarely feeling like I belonged to anyone or anything. But now I did, and that filled an awfully big void in me.
In chapter 28 of the book, I asked other male authors of memoirs about the power and purpose of sharing their stories. Here are some excerpts:
[It] started out as expressive writing therapy in a continuing journey through my recovery. The deeper I got into it the more I realized that it is important to share that recovery with others and let them know it is possible and they are not alone. – Brian Cuban, author of Shattered Image
I hope that people suffering from eating disorders can relate to my story, feel understood, know that they are not alone and, ultimately, seek recovery to give themselves the amazing life they deserve. As someone who received so much support during my recovery, I now want to help others through a story of hope, compassion and overcoming adversity. – Adam Lamparello, author of Ten Mile Morning
I wanted, through the telling of my story, to stand up for all those out there who suffered like I did: in silence. I wanted them to know that they were not alone and that a better life was indeed possible. – Ron Saxen, author of The Good Eater
So I ask of you one thing: speak up and speak out. You’ll not only be helping yourself, but you’ll be helping others along the way.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C - Founder, Executive Director, Psychotherapist at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 443-602-6515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.