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Ryan's Story

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

This is my story in brief because my whole story would require a book.

When I was younger I was always the biggest kid compared to everyone else my age.

I loved food and to me, it was the bigger the better when it came to eating.

I was not a fussy eater, the problem I had was portion control and I found comfort in food. Growing up my Mum and Dad tried to guide me correctly but I always found a way of getting more food.

I had an emotional connection with food and I would eat when I was happy and when I was sad. This caused me to gain weight and as I got older I started to notice how I was different from everyone else. I always felt like everyone was looking at me because of my size. This made me feel anxious and self-conscious but I never spoke to anyone about it. Instead, I bottled up my feelings and put on a front that I was happy. I would pretend to be happy and make people laugh. In my head, by doing this I was taking peoples attention away from looking at my body. I continued to put on this front growing up and I can only describe it as I was hiding behind a brick wall with my emotions and feelings.

I was a closed book and everyone assumed I was happy and ok.

As I got older I continued to gain weight and I was unhappy about my size. I hated my body and did not feel comfortable in it. I used to be involved in lots of activities but I gave them all up because of my weight. I no longer enjoyed doing them because I could not keep up with everyone else. I was embarrassed, self conscious and just wished I could be like my friends.

I would tell myself I wanted to change but get upset when I couldn't. I would then find comfort in food and it was like I was stuck in a vicious circle.

I had countless nights where I would lay in bed and cry. I just wanted to wake up normal as I would call it.

Eventually, I got to fifteen stone at aged 13. The photo below is me before I decided to lose weight.

Shortly after this photo was taken I decided that I wanted to change. I had enough of the way is was feeling. All of my friends and family were supportive of this and encouraged me to get healthy. So I started to eat a balanced diet and began training. I wanted to change for both my physical health and my mental health too.

Over time as I lost weight, I started to feel more positive about myself and I felt happier.

People were complimenting me on my weight loss and I got a positive kick out of receiving these compliments. It got to a point where I become obsessed with receiving them. I was telling myself I had to lose more weight to make everyone proud of me.

Although I lost weight and was feeling happier, whenever I looked in the mirror I still saw the old me. I was still feeling self-conscious and telling myself I was fat. I was getting frustrated and angry with myself and I was constantly telling myself I had to go further and lose more weight.

I thought once I lost more weight I would be ok, but before I knew it I was obsessed with my diet and training. I was cutting foods out from my diet and training whenever I could. If anyone tried to stop me I would become confrontational towards them. I had become controlling because I wanted to ensure I could diet and train all the time.

I had to have everything planned out and my days set to a strict routine for everything from waking up, training, eating and going to bed.

My obsession became worse and I began talking to a voice in my head. At first, I did not think anything of it. I thought I was just talking to myself, but after a couple of emotional blows with losing my grandad and my Dad leaving to work away in America, the voice in my head got stronger and stronger. I started to degrade myself mentally and the voice was taking over me. If I didn’t listen to my head I felt guilty and as if I had betrayed it.

I was scared and I wanted to talk to someone about what was happening. The issue was I had always bottled up my feelings so I did not know how to. I told myself that no one would understand what I was experiencing and everyone would think I was a freak. I mean how was I supposed to explain to my family and friends I was hearing voices in my head? I convinced myself that no one would understand.

I became a shadow of my former self and I lost social interaction with my family and friends. I was locking myself away whenever I could. The voice in my head got stronger and the degrading thoughts became worse. I was telling myself that no one cared about me and I would never be loved or accepted. My head would tell me I was fat, ugly and not allowed to be happy.

It did not take long and I spiralled out of control. I can only describe it as having a demon in your head. The real you is inside but you cannot beat this other side to you in your mind. No matter how hard I tried it always got the better of me. It was like pulling on a locked door that would not open. I was living like a puppet on a string and everything became autopilot.

After a couple of doctors visits, I was seen by a psychiatrist and I was diagnosed with anorexia, anxiety and depression. When I was diagnosed I refused to believe it and I felt like I had been labelled. I was rebellious and would not listen to anyone who tried to help me. I become angry and volatile towards everything and took things out on those closest to me. If anyone tried to help me I would threaten them and throw it back in their face.

A number of things were tried to help me but nothing worked. I eventually ended up weighing seven and a half stone and not wanting to live anymore. I was having suicidal thoughts and just wanted to end my life. I could not see any other way out and never thought I would get better.

Everything came to a halt when my Dad came home from America and I was forced into hospital. At the time I hated my Dad for doing this, but looking back now it was the tough love that I needed. If I had carried going the way I was I would have killed myself.

It was in the hospital that I started my road to recovery and at the time I was fourteen years old.

The below photo is me a couple of days after I was admitted into hospital. I wanted to share this image because for me it illustrates the importance of speaking about your mental health.

What I endured next was a long battle with anorexia, anxiety and depression. I was placed on a special routine in hospital and had weekly psychiatrist visits. I spent a month in hospital where I rebuilt my strength and got to a healthy condition physically. Once I was healthy enough I was allowed to go home.

When I was discharged from hospital I had to learn to battle the voices in my head. At the time it was terrifying. I can only describe it as standing up to your worse fear every hour of every day. I had weekly psychiatrist visits and I had to learn to gain control of my own mind again. My road to recovery was long and full of ups and downs. Some days I just wanted to give up, but I kept reminding myself that my recovery was a marathon and not a sprint.

Thanks to my psychiatrist and having love and support from my friends and family I got my life back together. It was like a puzzle and each time I found a piece it was onto finding the next one.

Overall what I call my full recovery took eight years, but I am not ashamed of what happened to me. I do not think my mental health problems will ever leave me completely, but I am now in control of my head. I have learnt how to control my head rather than my head control me.

I still have the odd day here and there but everybody does.

My recovery was a journey that taught me so much about myself and my mental health. Now I am older, I understand so much more about my mental health struggles. I want to take the most negative time in my life and turn it into a positive. That is why I created BreakthestigmaUK (BTSUK).

Nobody should ever have to go through what I went through and no family should have to see someone they love suffer from mental health. I want to encourage men to speak about their mental health. The problem is because of the stigma surrounding men's mental health, men feel that they should just 'man up' rather than ask for help. This is costing men their lives and that is something I want to change!

I am not saying I can change the world, but by creating BreakthestigmaUK and trying to make a difference, at least my battle with mental health was worth something.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story


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