For that matter, he is equally inspiring for recovered persons as well.
Since his own recovery from an eating disorder, Troy has maintained a ceaseless effort to support and encourage recovering persons, and to continually advocate for better treatment and care for all who struggle.
Troy currently serves as the inaugural United States Male Junior Board Representative for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), Advisory Board Member and M.O.R.E. (Males Owning Recovery From Eating Disorders) Program Director with MentorCONNECT, and is active in promoting legislative changes in his home state of North Dakota to promote education and treatment of eating disorders.
Troy is a busy guy!
He is the epitome of what it means to “pay it forward,” and it is my pleasure to feature Troy’s words and work in “Mentoring and Recovery.” Troy, thanks so much for being with us!
Tell us a bit about your battle with an eating disorder and what motivated you to choose recovery.
“I cannot specifically remember a day or ‘ah-ha’ event that I really wanted to choose life. There are specific moments I do recall, however, that really had me analyzing the direction I was headed.
For one, physically I couldn’t function enough to perform daily tasks, let alone enjoy life. Aside from that and more importantly, I was emotionally, psychologically and spiritually drained; I was desperate and completely alone. It was, and still is sometimes, a daily task to choose healthy decisions verses unhealthy ones. I feel confident when I lay my head down each night knowing that I have done the best I can in my efforts to make myself healthier, happier and more in-tune with my feelings.”
How did you build your support team?
“My support team was in-place long before I realized it. Being male, hesitant to reach out and so secretive about my behaviors I assumed I had nowhere to go. Once I admitted my struggles and addictions to an unhealthy body image and coping skills; my family, friends and medical professionals were there from the very beginning.
It’s interesting how those in your life you feel will never understand what you are going through and it’s true they may not. But it is surprising the lengths they will go to help you through your every obstacle. Books were read, meetings were held and constant encouragement surrounded me in my recovery. I cannot and will not be able to thank the people in my life for ultimately helping me to save it.”
What was it like to be a male recovering from an eating disorder when most of the treatment options and facilities are still geared towards females?
“I was fortunate enough to be directed to the best or most well-known institution, in my opinion, in the United States. I was privileged to have access to the best of the best in terms of healthcare professionals that deal specifically with males and eating disorders. However, before I found this facility, I was misdiagnosed four times by both general practitioners and internal specialists. So, stigma not only surrounds males with eating disorders themselves, but the medical community is far-behind in looking for the specific signs and symptoms in the male population.”
Who were your greatest inspirations and mentors along your journey to recovery, and why?
“My greatest inspiration was faith in Jesus Christ. That aspect of my recovery was pivotal in helping me get well and stand where I am, today. Aside from Him, I would mention my mother, aunt, uncle and friends really allowed me to experience recovery in different ways; thus making it possible for me to view recovery and its processes in different conducts. Not only did I have the perspective of my closest relatives, but I had the outside view and interpretation of why I was in my disorder from those around me.”
Following your recovery, you jumped right in to help others – this is so wonderful! What has it been like for you to take on a leadership role for other males who need help and support and why is it important for your own recovery as well?
“This is an interesting question. I was actually advised by my treatment team not to engage in so much advocacy work right out of the gate. Recovery is obviously a slippery slope and they were cautious in how I may or may not react to the triggers, stresses and potential downfalls of “putting myself out there.” Am I glad that I did it? Absolutely! Were they correct in being cautious? You bet.
I have found that in reaching out that recovery doesn’t have a set-number for anyone. I have my ups and downs like everyone else and I am so blessed to be able to recover along with any person I may come into contact with. Reaching out allows me to be (very important) accountable and honest when things aren’t going well; and comforted and supported when things are going great. I never want anyone to have to go through what I and millions of other men have gone through. It isn’t about me, my story or how far I’ve come. It simply is about making that journey for someone else, if they have to endure it, a little easier.”
Can you tell us more about what you are involved in and different ways you are serving to support others who struggle?
“I started out by speaking to local schools, universities and communities in North Dakota as a means to reach students and their parents to advise them of the very real danger exercise addiction and eating disorders pose. Since that time, I’ve come to know that eating disorders don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter your gender, age, race or faith affiliation. Anyone is at-risk for developing an eating disorder.
It almost seems that every opportunity or option to serve has really just “fallen into place.” I blog for PBS & the Huffington Post, participate in national radio and webinar panels, serve as the Inaugural US Male Representative for NEDA and serve as a male mentor for the advisory board with MentorConnect. Philanthropy and motivational speaking are my favorite avenues to raise awareness. Quotes, grassroots efforts and personal stories are very powerful. I try to utilize those components when I am able to contribute to an effort.”
What is the best thing about being in recovery?
“Obviously I would have to say that I am able to wake-up each day knowing that I can choose healthier choices for myself and enjoy what life has to offer. Adding to that, reaching out is completely fulfilling. I have found that through my struggles and sharing in others’ struggles that I have a greater sense of purpose in my life. I believe that each of us is given an opportunity, a function or intention in living. After all that I have been through, I can honestly say that I can now see purpose in it.”
What advice would you have to others who want to heal but feel isolated and alone (especially males – but females too)?
“Don’t be afraid to reach out; even if there are hesitations about that someone you can potentially reach out to. Using your voice is the best way to start your journey back. Find someone or something (journal, music, meditation) to express your feelings to. Males often feel that these sources of venting are “too feminine” or aren’t avenues which they wish to utilize. That’s fine, but take time to focus on what ways you can allow yourself to really feel your emotions. We know that exercise, body image, food struggles, or purging are really surface-level issues. It is what is underneath all of those behaviors that is what needs to be addressed.”
You are currently serving as an Advisory Board member and a mentor for males with eating disorders on MentorCONNECT. What advice would you give to males who want to join a supportive community but are hesitant because they know they will be in the gender minority?
“Again, don’t be afraid to use your voice. I don’t believe that you have to provide every detail of the logistics of who you are to receive the benefits that MentorConnect may have to offer. If there is potential to find someone like you, who has gone through what you have, has had similar thoughts and struggles that you have experienced; why hold onto the isolation when a positive outcome can potentially come from taking that first step? It is scary, it is daunting and it is overwhelming. However, the benefits of letting go of control and allowing ourselves the opportunity for healing overshadow our initial fears. Keep fighting and tell that voice in the back of your mind to take a back seat to your healthy decisions.”
What advice would you give to other males who want to step up into a leadership role of mentoring, advocacy, and support to those who are still struggling in silence and secrecy?
“We’ve all heard it said before, “Strength lies in numbers.” If you are in a healthy spot and feel drawn to reaching those who were in a similar struggle such as yourself, the benefits are phenomenal. Contact local healthcare professionals; be willing to share your story or even make a phone call to someone in need. It doesn’t have to be a monumental obligation to be an advocate. If you can help, support or make a positive impact in someone’s recovery; that is all that matters.”
Where can folks find you and find out more about your work in eating disorders advocacy?
“Please refer to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website, as well as the MentorConnect Organization. They are wonderful organizations that can provide hope, healing and direction for anyone suffering.
Also, I do have blogs on PBS’s “This Emotional Life” and the Huffington Post. There’s my personal website http://yourjourneyback.webs.com that has information specific to North Dakota and the United States regarding eating disorders. As always, my contact information via those websites, as well.”
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Last reviewed: 16 Oct 2013