PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mike Marjama’s family sensed it, but the holiday season confirmed it.
“My mom made a Thanksgiving dinner. I put like two carrots and three almonds on my plate. And my mom goes, 'Yeah, something’s wrong,' " Marjama said.
It was his sophomore year of high school, and even a trainer and counselor couldn’t help.
“In four days, I lost 14 pounds. So they brought in the ambulance, and put me on a stretcher right inside the office and led me over to the emergency room.”
For Marjama, it was rock bottom. He weighed just 130 pounds - the low point of battling a number of eating disorders, the result of body image issues rarely discussed among men, especially male athletes.
“I really thought that not eating anything and working out a ton, I wouldn’t get fat and I would get big and strong…. And uh, I was totally off.”
Marjama missed baseball season that year, instead undergoing in-patient treatment for six months.
“I kind of realized, I’m being associated with being that much of a risk to myself and, point blank period, you can die.”
Slowly, after a five or six year battle, he was on the road to recovery. Now 28 years old, and a healthy 210-pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, the Seattle Mariners backup catcher says he’s learned to manage his feelings, and is trying to spread light on an issue that’s often seen as taboo.
“I think it’s my job – not only my job, I think it’s my responsibility – to go out there and spread awareness to something not a lot of people really like to talk about," Marjama said. "Men often struggle with how they look and how they feel, and so my big thing with any of these mental disorders is I’m not expert at any of them, but the way I look at it is, it’s okay to have those feelings.”
This offseason, he worked with LeBron James’ media company, Uninterrupted, on a documentary about his struggles. He’s hoping telling his story will help anyone battling self-confidence issues – not just eating disorders, but depression or anxiety as well.
“I don’t want to be known as a baseball player who had an eating disorder," Marjama said. "You know, I’m just a normal dude that has battled some demons just like everybody else. And I happen to play baseball.”
Here are some resources offered by Seattle Children's and the National Eating Disorder Association: