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Putting my story to words … finally!

At this point in my recovery, many who know me are acquainted with the man I am today: healthy, energetic, perhaps a bit quirky at times, but overall just another guy enjoying the same human experience as the rest of you folk. That is because, on the surface, recovery can sometimes seem unremarkable, failing to belie the true nature of one’s struggles. While my story may have been seen by many through the filter of the media, only a few of those close to me understand the depth of desperation and fear that consumed my life for nearly a decade. Many are horrified at the images of my wasted body and struggle to understand that the person in the picture and the man they know now are the same. Therein lies a story I have sought to understand and, ultimately, to share. How could the course of my life have strayed so far from the path I had envisioned so many years ago? Over the last few years, I have made an effort to put my story to words. However, after several aborted attempts, I came to realize two things. First, I was confronted with the realization that life on life’s terms is not the vision of serenity I had imagined it would be. After so many years of being shackled by my disease, I was learning to live again and that was a challenge in itself. Furthermore, I realized that the words I needed to find still harbored the overwhelming memory of pain and suffering – feelings that I think, on some level, I was afraid to revisit. It was my past and I wished it to remain just that.

Yet, this is a story that needs to be told. Not just for my own healing, but also to dispel the ignorance and stigma that surrounds eating disorders. After enduring an excruciating, slow-motion descent towards my own death for nearly two decades, it’s painful to acknowledge that few truly understand the power and devastation associated with this disease. In fact, there are many who don’t even comprehend that it is a disease, not a lifestyle and most certainly not a choice. Like many other people who have suffered from an eating disorder, I never chose the path that brought me, both figuratively and quite literally, to my knees. On the contrary, before the onset of my disease, I achieved nearly everything I set my mind to. However, caught in the grips of anorexia, my life unraveled and I failed to escape its gravity on a daily basis. It was killing me and I was powerless to halt its deadly course.

By the greatest of miracles, I survived and am now in a place to tell my story. However, as I embark on this introspective journey, I will not be doing it alone. I am blessed to have a woman in my life who does not shy away from the darkness within me but, rather, seeks to embrace it with the love that we share. She understands me on a deeper level, for she too has battled her own demons in the guise of an eating disorder. Also, I invite those who have been touched by my story to become part of it, for there are so many to whom I owe my deepest gratitude. Some of you led me, some of you walked beside me and all of you have helped me along the path leading to the man I am today.

In short, I am finally writing that book so many … yes Mom, you too… have urged me to write!

anorexia - Brian Bixler #5


Four Years Ago …

Four years ago, on February 24, 2010, I walked across the stage of the Dr. Oz Show to share my story on national television. Little did I know that those steps would lead me on a journey of self-discovery and redemption from a disease that had nearly cost me everything. After a decade of battling a disease that had ravaged my body and my spirit, I was a shadow of my former self – spent and broken. Having known nothing but the cycle of failure, fear and pain for so many years, I had, aside from a nearly imperceptible heartbeat, made a true departure from what it meant to be alive.

Four years ago my life began again. Looking back, it is hard to fathom how much has actually changed. At times I feel as if it was all just a terrible nightmare, but the scars I bear have left me forever altered. Although I will never know the man I would have otherwise been, the man I am now has rediscovered what it truly means to be alive. I have spent the last four years soaking in, albeit painfully at times, the gamut of experiences I had previously been anesthetized to: love, beauty and the rich complexity of human relationships. I feel blessed to have had the support of a loving family, an amazing treatment team, peers who walked beside me in their own journeys, and countless strangers who witnessed my return to life. Today I give thanks, for I am also fortunate to be surrounded by true friends – people who have accepted me for who I am as well as where I have come from. Life, while at times challenging, is something that I will hold onto, fight for, cherish and embrace.

Four years ago I was not in the state of mind to realize that I began my journey of recovery at the start of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It seems appropriate that I should share my anniversary with a week dedicated to spreading awareness in the fight against eating disorders, a cause that has become my passion. It is my wish that my story of recovery will serve to break stereotypes and dispel ignorance about a disease that has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Further, I hope that in its telling, my story may serve to inspire others to put aside their fear and face their disease with the knowledge that recovery is possible. For everyone. Always. Even me.

bry1-2 head shot