Sunday, February 22, 2015

USA: #IHadNoIdea so many people had no idea males get eating disorders too!

Eating Disorders are brain-based, biological illnesses with a strong genetic component and a psychosocial influence. They are not disorders of choice, vanity or family dysfunction. As with autism and schizophrenia, we don't know everything, but we do know we were wrong about a lot for a very long time. Help us challenge stigma and fight for resource parity for these deadly disorders!

Sally and Nate's Story

When my son, Nate, was 16 years old (fall of 2006), he started showing signs of an eating disorder. January of 2007, when he texted me from a high school trip to NYC and asked me how many calories black coffee had, that was my biggest wake-up call. He actually asked if I could get him an appointment with a dietitian because he knew something was wrong and he wanted to eat healthy. It took about a month to get into the dietitian and by the time he did, the dietitian told both my son and me that he had a serious eating disorder and needed help right away, probably residential treatment. That scared him, not only because he was physically dying, but because he was so ashamed and embarrassed. He thought eating disorders were just a female thing . . . and he is a straight male! 

He didn't want anyone to know, but, by the looks of him, EVERYONE knew he was very sick. After his nutritionist gave us a diagnosis, I immediately called his pediatrician who referred us to Laureate Eating Disorder Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma (where we live). He began outpatient treatment because Laureate only has an all-female residential program. 

He had an outpatient team of a psychiatrist, psychologist, and a dietitian, but after a few months Laureate advised us that he needed more intensive residential treatment. (He was hospitalized once for dehydration & another time for over-hydration, which gave him water toxicity which led to the start of some of his internal organs to shut down).

I was a mess inside of my head at this point, scared out of my mind! Laureate and I went searching for an all-male residential eating disorder program. The only one in the country in 2007 was Rogers Memorial Hospital's Ed Residential Program in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin (between Milwaukee and Madison). I called and they had a waiting list; when a bed finally opened, I flew him to Wisconsin. He was sooooo sick by then that he was ready to get this kind of intensive treatment. 

Leaving him there, so sick, and me living 763 miles away (11 - 12 hour drive), was not easy, but it was the only thing the doctors and I felt could be done to save his life. He ended up in Oconomowac, Wisconsin at Rogers Memorial residential ED program for males. And, thankfully, it was the right choice! Rogers ED center helped him tremendously and I will forever be grateful to them. 

To back up a little . . . before he went, he looked like a walking skeleton. He had been freezing all the time (even when it was hot indoors or outdoors)because he'd lost all his fat and some muscle. He was using laxatives, & later I found out that he was not only restricting & over-exercising, he was also purging. It all came clear when I noticed his strange eating & exercise habits. He'd go to the grocery store and be there for hours because he was reading the nutrition & fat labels on everything he considered buying! 

Anyway, the residential program told us it was mandatory that he stay at least one month and then they would re-evaluate. Well, he ended up staying there for ten weeks. Some of my family members and I went to every "Family & Friends" weekends that the program had. When my son finally returned to Tulsa, he move in with me and went to an IOP(Intensive Oupatient Program) at Laureate for eight months and he became fully weight restored. 

He still struggled mentally, but Rogers' ED program gave him the tools to stay healthy--one important one was that he must stay on a meal plan, which did. However, ED was always in his head. He begged to go away to college, which scared me and, honestly, it scared his treatment team in Tulsa, too. But he really wanted to do it (he'd gotten a academic scholarship), so he went to Oklahoma State University, which was only about 1 hour, 20 minutes away from Tulsa. That way, I could get to him easily and he could get to me if necessary. 

Anyway, he struggled with ED, but remained healthy, joined a fraternity, became Vice President of his fraternity and graduated with a 3.8 in Chemical Engineering. He is now living in Houston, working for Chevron-Phillips Chemical. He lives in a town-home with some other engineers and is doing very well. While in college, he started a Project Heal chapter, supported by NEDA & his college. It was a support group for students with ED or students who wanted more information on ED. He organized several NEDA walks in Stillwater, Oklahoma. 

He will be 25 years old in April 2015. Yes, ED still bugs him, but my son keeps fighting and WINNING!

I flew to Houston in 2014 to walk in the Houston NEDA walk that my son was involved in. He was asked by one of the organizers of the event to deliver his ED story in a speech to the other walkers before the walk. I am so thrilled because my son is my son again and instead of being in denial about Ed or trying to keep it a secret, he is now an advocate for helping people with ED. 

We both went to the annual NEDA conference in San Antonio in 2014 and plan to go to the NEDA conference in San Diego Oct 1 - 3, 2015. He is so busy at work, but he is still involved in a program in Houston called "Mentor Connect" & last I heard, he was mentoring (by email) a male in Australia who has ED. Both he and I want to be advocates that help others with ED. I know that ED is never really going to stop bothering my son, so there is always a chance for relapse, but I also know that my son knows that, as well so it helps him to stay healthy by helping others to get and stay healthy! I'm very proud of him!

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