Sunday, January 30, 2011

MALE ANOREXIA: BRYAN BIXLER IS THRIVING...AN AMAZING STORY OF RECOVERY [UPDATE: JULY 12, 2015]

anorexia-Bryan Bixler "Bryan Bixler is dying. He feels it in his bones a little more each day, as if passing the mirror in his apartment and glancing at himself isn’t evidence enough."
Some photos by Mark Boster

UPDATE!
[July 12, 2015]

BRYAN BIXLER IS THRIVING!
His amazing story of recovery...
 

2009:



2015: 



To say that Bryan Bixler's road to recovery from anorexia is remarkable is an understatement.  

When I first posted about Bryan back in 2009, he was deathly ill.  Between 2009 and 2011, I lost track of Bryan until I received an update in January of 2011 from a reader (see Update below).  I was thrilled to learn that Bryan was doing so much better.

Bryan has made four appearances on Dr. Oz, the last being in December of 2013.  You will find the links to the Dr. Oz videos on Bryan's website here:  http://bryanbixler.com/category/dr-oz-bryan-bixler/

Last week, I was contacted by Bryan's lovely partner, Kristen, who updated me on Bryan's progress, which is nothing short of miraculous.  The pictures below say it all:  Bryan is healthy and happy.    








Bryan is now a Program Director and Nutritional Advisor at Hotel California by the Sea, a rehabilitation treatment centre for men in Newport Beach, California , which provides addiction treatment for dependence on alcohol and other substances. 



Please check out Bryan's profile at this link:


For those of you who are suffering from anorexia, bulimia, and other EDs and see recovery as daunting or impossible, Bryan's journey is evidence that once you take that first step, you CAN recover.

 Below are two beautiful and inspirational quotes that Brian has posted on social media: 

"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."
~ Unknown



"Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity."
~ Pema Chödrön

Please take time to read my earlier posts below about Bryan's journey...

 
UPDATE!  
[January 30, 2011]

Many thanks to "C." for this update on Bryan sent to me on December 30th, 2010:

"I don't know if you're aware that Bryan Bixler was back on the Dr. Oz show on Nov. 27 - and he's made astounding progress. It brought tears to my eyes to see how much better he is doing.
Here are the links to watch the show:

Part 1
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/bryan-blixer-battling-anorexia-pt-1

 
Part 2
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/bryan-blixer-battling-anorexia-pt-2

 
Part 3
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/bryan-blixer-battling-anorexia-pt-3
~~~~~

"Bryan Bixler suffers from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that causes him to deprive himself of enough food. He wants to get well, but the treatment Medi-Cal will cover falls short.
By Dana Parsons
6:29 PM PDT, April 2, 2009
"Bryan Bixler is dying.

anorexia-Bryan Bixler Bryan Bixler feels he can't escape the truth in the mirror. At 39 years old, 5 foot 9 and 82 pounds, he is growing weaker by the day

He feels it in his bones a little more each day, as if passing the mirror in his Laguna Beach apartment and glancing at himself isn't evidence enough. Here's what greets him: sunken eyes, paper-thin arms and legs that hang like a puppet's, the slow-motion gait that he fears will define his movements for the rest of his days. What happened, he wonders, to that young man who once ran half-marathons?

anorexia-Bryan Bixler

It's all so crazy. That's what he tells himself. Dying a bit more every day and knowing how to fix it but being unable to do it. Knowing that if he would just start eating like a normal person, he'd give himself a fighting chance.


But he's not a normal person, not anymore. Not at 5 feet 9 and 82 pounds. Not when he's got a master's degree and knows how the body works and yet can't make himself fix spaghetti or drink a chocolate malt.

Bixler is 39 and anorexic, suffering from an eating disorder traditionally associated with young women but which generally has been thought to include a 5% to 10% male component. In recent years, however, some researchers suggest that figure may be approaching 15%.

He doesn't remember a day or week or month that he turned the corner and inexorably headed down the path to anorexia nervosa, but he and family members think it was a slow-moving journey that started in his teens. He remembers those years as a time when his parents went through a difficult divorce and he was simultaneously caught up in the fitness craze and bent on avoiding junk food.

"I was Mr. Healthy," he says. "I was a vegetarian, I wanted to be a runner. Before I knew it, I lost weight without realizing it."

anorexia-Bryan Bixler
Bixler holds a photo of himself and his sister, Kimberly Leeds, from high school days


As he moved through his 20s, the disorder plunged him into what he calls "the vortex," a swirling downward spiral of weight loss and a deepening inability to reverse course.

But if there was a time back then when Bixler either denied he was anorexic or thought people were overreacting to his looks, those days are gone. "I see when I look in a mirror a walking caricature of a human being," he says. "A skeleton."

anorexia-Bryan Bixler

But what's different now than, say, even a year or so ago is a new resoluteness. The most primal cause of all.

"I want to live," he says.

To do that, he believes, he needs intensive coordinated treatment at an eating disorder center. Bixler's Medi-Cal insurance would pay for medical help and psychiatric or psychological treatment -- through care providers Kaiser Permanente and the Orange County Health Care Agency -- but not for long-term coordinated treatment at an eating disorder clinic.

The gap between what he needs and what his insurance will cover has been played out around the country. Many insurance companies increasingly have questioned the need for long-term residential treatment programs and balked at paying the high costs for them.

Seven years ago, with his parents footing the bill, Bixler spent several months at a treatment center in Wisconsin. Even though his weight climbed from 92 pounds to 120, he considered it a prison. When his parents' money ran out, he left and immediately relapsed.


anorexia-Bryan Bixler

Last fall, Bixler returned to the Wisconsin center but stayed only six days. Assigned to a psychiatric unit, he refused treatment, and his parents told him they could no longer afford the bill.

Since then, Bixler insists, he's seen the light and would stay in a long-term treatment program as long as it took. The only other option, he says, is death. "Obviously, my way is not working."

Neither is the limited psychological or psychiatric care he can get through Medi-Cal, says Terry Schwartz, medical director at an eating disorders program at UC San Diego. She supervised a recent psychiatric exam of Bixler, which he requested in the hope that it would bolster a claim he's made with the state for increased Medi-Cal coverage. The claim is pending.

Bixler isn't at an acute stage, Schwartz says, but his laboratory results and weight put him at "high risk" of dying from anorexia. American Psychiatric Assn. guidelines alone, she says, put him in the category of someone who needs either inpatient or residential care.

What he needs is a coordinated program that would run the gamut of medical, psychological, psychiatric, nutritional and dietary treatment. Bixler would be most vulnerable, she says, to sudden cardiac death or an inability to fight off an infection because of his depleted white blood cell count.

While convinced it's nowhere near what he needs, Bixler still avails himself of the counseling services offered through the county and Medi-Cal. If nothing else, he reasons, it'll perhaps send a signal that he's trying to play ball.

On his more charitable days, Bixler tries to avoid recriminations.


anorexia-Bryan Bixler


"I'm not blaming anybody," he says, "not Kaiser, not the county. I try not to blame myself, because of course I feel like I caused it. For me, it's the anger, the sadness that a life doesn't mean anything unless you have money."

In his 20s, before he fully grasped what was happening to him, Bixler saw a future for himself. With degrees from UC San Diego and the University of Georgia, Bixler wanted to work in the education department of zoos or aquariums. Instead, the eating disorder overtook him, and after short stints at two zoos and teaching while a graduate student, he went on full-time disability nine years ago.

He subsists on Social Security and lives in a studio apartment with a view of the Pacific Ocean, the beneficiary of cheap rent because his parents own the building.

He typically sleeps until late morning and stays up late. His sister, Kimberly Leeds, thinks that's so he can avoid normal social contacts and justify living his life mostly in the night.



anorexia-Bryan Bixler
Bixler has always been close to his sister, Kimberly
She's the one who pulled his shirt over his head about 15 years ago and made him look at his rib cage. "Look at yourself," she said. "How can you think you're OK?"

anorexia-Bryan Bixler Bixler is growing weaker by the day

Even though she understands the disorder, her brother's eating habits both cause her to marvel and madden her.

"He will not eat any dairy, but he eats frozen yogurt all the time," she says. "He won't eat certain lettuce because it gets caught in his teeth, but he will eat iceberg lettuce. He'll eat popcorn all night long but won't eat roast beef because it sticks in his teeth."
anorexia-Bryan Bixler Bixler, his nephews, his sister and her husband, Clay, say grace

If they go out to eat, she says, "He can't order something off the menu. There are about five or six statements that have to go along with it." Forget rice or beans, if that comes with the entree. He has to have shredded lettuce and cilantro on the side. He will eat vegetables and protein foods, but carbohydrates are a non-starter, she says.

Leeds may be frustrated, but she hasn't given up on her brother. To the contrary, she's joined him in his fight to get more extensive care.

Their parents, she says, have been dealing with the situation for half of Bryan's life and it is wearying.

"Mother feels like she's done everything. She's mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted," Leeds says. "Her life has been dedicated to him for the last 20 years."

All of which Bixler knows and which makes him sigh.

His father tells him he's not trying hard enough. What's so hard about fixing a bowl of oatmeal and eating it? They have shelled out the money before and might again, but the failing economy has hurt their finances.

"They blame me, their blame reinforces my own self-blame," he says. "I'm my own worst critic. I look in the mirror at night, saying I'm insane. What's wrong with me?"

He knows the answer, of course: a disorder with numerous dark corners that enveloped and then overwhelmed him.


anorexia-Bryan Bixler
Bixler reads to his nephews, Jeremy and Elliott Leeds, at his sister's home

"I can't understand why I can't do what a 6-year-old can do -- feed myself." "



Link:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-anorexia-dying3-2009apr03,0,7712747,full.story

Audio slideshow:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-anorexia-ss,0,848624.htmlstory

Follow on Buzz

17 comments:

Josie said...

I find it terribly sad that this blog focuses predominantly on the most emaciated anorexics. The concept feeds into eating disorders themselves - if you're thinner you're more interesting, you (can) become a celebrity, everyone wants to know about you. If you're a higher weight anorexic, or a bulimic, or an overeater....forget it, you're just not interesting, you're not worth bothering about, you don't deserve treatment. Everyone on every end of the spectrum of eating disorders is under-treated, but it's just the ones who LOOK bad who get the attention, even if they may be further from death than others.

Medusa said...

Josie, there's no doubt my posts do focus on the most severe cases of eating disorders.

They are "cautionary tales." Keep bingeing, purging and starving, and this is where you will find yourself...on death's door.

If you (or anyone who is suffering from an eating disorder, depression, self-harm/injury, etc.) would like to share your story, I would be only too pleased to publish it.

Josie said...

Hi Medusa,

interestingly, those who have eating disorders do/would not respond to such stories in quite the same way. Those with EDs tend to be perfectionist - they have to be the best at everything they do - and since their ED takes up a huge part of their life they must be the best at that too - the best anorexic, the sickest, the thinnest, the most f**ked-up, etc. While a 'normal' person would respond in horror to stories like this one, in a weird way for those with eating disorders they'll use it as competition - can i get sicker than that?? The thinner and sicker you are, the more you're taken seriously, the more attention you get.

I've been starving, binging, purging, etc for years. Fortunately (i guess) it's massively unlikely i'll ever be in the position of those with these severe eating disorders - more likely is that i'll just continue as i am, somewhat unwell but not life-threateningly so, looking fine from the outside. Realistically - for every person who ends up one of these severe cases, a hundred will just continue as they are, appearing fine.

I'm very happy to share my story. Eating disorders, self-injury, suicide attempts, severe depression, psychosis, anxiety disorders... trouble is it's so complex i wouldn't know where to start!!!

Maia said...

Josie: unfortunately, there are many people unfamiliar with EDs who wouldn't pay attention to anything but the extreme cases... sometimes this is what it takes for people to understand the severity & gravity of the situation. Obviously it would be ideal to have everyone understand that a person's life is in danger regardless of weight or appearance, but in the desperate fight to gain understanding there is only so much that can be explained at once. I certainly agree that people with EDs might find this incentive to engage deeper into the destructive behaviours, but there are warnings that this site can be triggering and unfortunately there is a level of personal responsibility involved when reading this blog. I would, however, love to see more emphasis placed on stories of people who aren't visibly starving, because I've always felt conflicted and guilty about the fact that my physical appearance got me bumped ahead of others waiting in line for my treatment program. There are so many people screaming to be heard and helped, but too often people only pay attention to what is visible or tangible. Keep up the good work, Medusa :)

Medusa said...

(((Josie))) & (((Maia))),

Thank you both so much for your thought-provoking comments.

Josie, I have been a reader of your journal on LJ for a long, long time, and understand the battles you face daily. You are an excellent writer, with the wonderful ability to objectively analyze your thoughts, feelings and actions and put them into words. If and when you do have time, I would be honoured to publish your "story."

Both you and Maia are right...I will endeavour to focus more on those who are suffering from EDs whose physical appearance belies the fact that they are suffering from an ED.

Again, thank you both so much for your wonderful comments.

Medusa
xoxo

Anonymous said...

I visit the website regularly and do so precisely because it shows the terrible price to be paid if you're playing around with eating disorders thinking it's perfectly safe to do so.But I also completely understand Josie's point of view and would very much like to follow her lj blog,as we seem to share similar mental health issues.
I think every time a person shares their experiences with the rest of us,it IS of interest,regardless of how skinny or obese or physically ill they are.At least,I personally would welcome all reallife stories.To feel I'm not alone and maybe learn something about myself, from other people's experiences.
Thank you,Medusa, for a very educational web site, and all the work you put into it.// Yours, Ida.

Sudeep said...

May god .... i am compeletly new to the topic of Male Anorexia .. but this post made me aware of such issues .
Thanks for that
Regards
Sudeep

freestone said...

an Amazing site.

Following.

I have read a few comments and the
"negativity" that I feel from some of them appalls me!
Another reiteration of the "life's a bitch then you die", in some of these comments!

in a strange sense, I feel some of the blame for this attitude I place upon the "liberal left intellectuals"! These are the people who would try to tell us all that all values are only relative and that anyone who follows a value system is caught in
dogmatic prisons!
But some of these dogmas, like of some of the fundamentalists christians, are just what might be good things to not have!!
[caught in the middle!]

a downward spiral. your belief becomes your reality and then that reality confirms your belief and then you project that reality again outwards and then see it out there to confirm yet again your belief: the python coils tighten around your soul! thus one might have to be now "broken", gone insane and shatter, before freeing this Loop of core identity belief which of course *includes* anorexia, and the Slope *is* downwards, like mof a negative acceleration as the LOSS of weight is the Good Thing, whether one weighs 150 lbs or 20 lbs! Thus "moving" to weight loss is the Way, the results soon enough have it where the body cannot anymore function! thus to gain an once is to "fail utterly"!!

Got to have your compass of life point to a real Pole Star, outside of yourself, or else this compass of yours will only point to your iron belt buckle, and you will wander in the Loop!
Sai Baba? Jesus? greek/Roman Ideals?! True lover soulmate?
These are Outside of your self.[hear the snide sarcasisms *now*!!]

someday, on that road of life, of yours, the Dimly seen Object will appear on your road. it is a Tombstone. Yours!
the Question that will count for all, is...Is this stone a door or a dead end?!
the shamans say that the only way to live is to "die", to accept death, then you can live.

freestone wilson

Anonymous said...

Realistically, with health care so expensive and not yet available to all, funding years of expensive treatment for someone like this is just not something we can afford, where the treatment consists of paying a lot of high-priced people to just talk to the guy (and not be listened to).

Perhaps eating disorders of this sort are better thought of as fatal diseases where you make the victims as comfortable as possible as they go through the act of dying at home or in a hospice, and then you grieve and go on.

outofwonderlnd said...

That man has a handsome face. He has features a lot like my dad. It's very sad he's been struggling so much. It looks like he's caused his family .. especially his sister and mother, a whole lot of pain.

I hope he can afford the treatment somehow. I wish I could talk to him. I just want to give him a hug ..

sadlife said...

Hello Josie,
I have the same problem. I have had an eating disorder for 10 years. Everything combined; yet I do have a normal weight but suffer as much as these extreme cases.
I am eager to tell my story, because I believe it is unique in the sense that I have also had Diabetes Mellitus Type I. And I am sure, there are many diabetic men and women suffering from eating disorders.
Please feel free to contact me. I too feel like, "Oh maybe if I weighed 78 lbs like I once used to, my case would be relevant". Truth is, all cases are relevant!
Take care

jennifreckle said...

Well, I, personally, am very happy that Bryan is now getting help and is an inspiration to me and many others who have had the extreme pleasure of getting to know him! Suffering myself from ED for 30 years, I know first hand how difficult is to take the first step into the light. Yes, it sometimes takes an extreme story to get the attention of this deadly disease, and yes there are those out there who are not yet ready to get help and will feel the need to compete (my head went there too). But getting it out there and getting it noticed is of the upmost importance! This is serious people! I don't think "celebrity" has anything to do with it! Let's work together to fight this disease...it is a killer

Anonymous said...

Hi Medusa!

I just wanted to let you know that Bryan is no longer where he was at. I was at the same treatment center as he was, we still keep in touch and I am happy to say that he is doing very well!

Mr.Sandman said...

Sad thing is in the end, hes going to live longer than his whole family.... eating only proteing foods and vegetables is healthy, the body has an easier time fighting starvation that it has fighting obesity. And also if he dies, he isnt just going to die suddenly, hes going to die slow and painfully and when hes going to realize that hes dying hes going to start eating really fast. At least that's my opinion. TBH he looks preatty healthy to me, abit underweight jeah but he looks healthy. I'm just sayin...

laipai said...

sad to see how powerfull anorexia is..what it does to your mind,how it (ironicly enough)eat you up from the inside out...I've been bulimic for 16 years now,so I understand how hard it is for him to let go of his ED as well..
I understand how frustrated his family must been when they offer him so much help but it wont help..
Still I hope he will recover one day and be able to live a normal life.

Anonymous said...

I would hope Bryan himself sees this message....you were a beautiful person, and you still are. I have struggled through a "revolving door" of alleged mental disorders for many years,eating disorders being part of the many things I have gone through. Turns out in the end, I was just incredibly angry at myself and taking it out me because I didn't know what else to do. It also turns out, most of the stuff I was so angry and self-destructive about, was not even my fault - like everyone who experiences eating disorders, I am a perfectionist, I blame myself for everything that doesn't go perfect, and somehow glide over the fact that sh** ain't always my fault, plenty of times it is other people's issues and agendas. We tend to think we can control everything and everyone, and punish ourselves when we can't. Eating disordered people tend to be quite intelligent, talented, and ambitious or driven - full of potential, yet killing themselves despite it. Turn that bus around...please! I have recently made great strides, reading a little Hazelden book on "anger and forgiveness", and learning how to recognize when I screw myself with unrelenting and undeserved anger at myself, and how to cope with and heal it all. My eating disorder problems have almost completely disappeared, along with other self destructive behaviors. I am now much more robust, tough, and capable of taking care of myself and being a woman with integrity and knowing how to competently protect myself and my loved ones. It honestly is all just anger turned inward. If people in your life taught you that you had to be perfect, keep secrets, you wouldn't measure up no matter how good you were - you're in my boat. I'm beating the current in my boat. Hope this helps. You are all wonderful. Best of luck to all of you.
-Love, Miss Gator

Priscilla Jadallah said...

I am now working with Bryan he is an amazing inspiration and we have teamed up to create a web based series focused on eating disorder and telling the stories from those who have lived it and to create hope and increase awareness and education. He inspires me and I am blessed to be working with him to bring hope to so many

http://www.therapycable.com/behind-the-mask-eating-disorders-unveiled.html

http://www.therapycable.com/behind-the-mask-families-loved-ones.html