I had a breakthrough the other day. I’ve had many “aha” moments in my career as a therapist and an Eating Disorder survivor. But this one was different… it profoundly affected the way that I think about myself and the world .
Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to attend the I Can Do It! conference in New York City. It was held at the Javits Center, so I was among 3000 other attendees listening with rapt attention to the bevy of speakers. The topic for the weekend was how to change your negative thoughts and therefore change your feelings, your behaviors, your outcomes and your life.
Now, I’ve been a student of success philosophy my entire life. My father is a motivational speaker and has instilled these messages in me from the day I was born. I wasn’t listening to him for my first 21 or so years because I spent those years with a negative self-image, negative thoughts in my head, hopelessness for the future, and an Eating Disorder.
In my early twenties, I threw myself into recovery – first of my destructive thoughts – and then ED recovery naturally followed. I’ve spent many hours of my life challenging and re-programming the negative thoughts in my head that affect every aspect of my external experience.
So here I was sitting at this conference last weekend, sifting through all the words of inspiration and hoping to find a nugget or two I could use to make the next shift in my life – a “gem” I like to call it. And then there it was! Wayne Dyer, one of the most respected professionals in the field of success philosophy calmly said “I throw everything in my trash can that isn’t in alignment with what I want”.
I’ve been telling my clients for years – “Take your emotional garbage to the curb every night” which works beautifully to lighten your emotional load and emerge clearer the next day. But it occurred to me that I wasn’t throwing enough garbage in my emotional can. That very moment changed my life.
So now, when people are throwing “stuff” at me that isn’t in alignment with what I want from the universe – inner peace, harmony, calm, happiness and love – I throw it directly into my garbage can.
Gotta go to the store…. Need a bigger can.
Danna Markson, LCSW
One of the most important aspects with the subject of eating disorders is the concept of voice. Finding the courage to tell someone that you need help for ED. Speaking your concerns to someone that you suspect may be suffering. Expressing why this issue is important when others are afraid to speak out because of fears and stigmas. There are times when you use your voice and the impact is immediately known. A smile, applause or even tears of joy from others. Other times, the effect may not be prompt but it is evident over time.
One of the goals of “Someday Melissa” is to be a voice for those whose lives have been impacted by ED and a voice of education. When I first viewed the documentary, I was particularly moved by a scene where Judy is speaking at the 1st NYC NEDA Walk (National Eating Disorders Association) in 2009 about Melissa and the then-upcoming documentary. As the camera pans around while Judy addresses the crowd, it is clear that her voice is resonating with the walkers. Nods of agreement, tears of remembrance, a connection being made.
As we approach the 3rd annual NYC NEDA Walk, the impact of Judy’s voice at that walk is still making a difference in people’s lives. Last week a woman contacted us about the film after viewing clips on YouTube of interviews with Judy about the film; as it turns out, she was a student in NYC and participated in that same NEDA walk. She is now living in Mexico and is excited to share the completed film with others in her recovery group and community. Every voice that speaks out about ED matters, and you don’t even have to talk in order to speak. Being a participant in events to educate and create awareness about ED means that you are a contributing voice.
This year, the Someday Melissa team will be participating in the NYC NEDA Walk on October 2nd to be a voice of support and encouragement to anyone whose lives have been affected by ED. If you’d like to join us, we welcome you to join the Someday Melissa team or make a donation to our team’s fundraising efforts. For more information, please visit the NYC NEDA Walk website or the Someday Melissa team page.
When Someday Melissa was just a glimmer of an idea – unformed, certainly unnamed – I remember saying maybe we could make a short film for parents or doctors about parental denial and the importance of recognizing the early signs of eating disorders. Never in my wildest dreams could I have pictured where I would be standing two years later.
Two days ago I stood at a lectern at the front of an auditorium filled with almost 100 doctors, medical students, nurses and other healthcare providers at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) in Newark, NJ. Under the guidance of Dr. Diane Kaufman, an extraordinary program has been developed, Creative Arts Healthcare, with the idea that within each patient is a person. I learned from Dr. Kaufman that “when artistic expression is used to share and communicate, there can be a profound ‘heart to heart’ connection made which is a most needed addition to didactic learning alone.”
Dr. Elmer David, Director of Pediatric Continuing Medical Education, began the program by introducing Dr. Kaufman who is a child psychiatrist and board certified pediatrician. The mission of Creative Arts Healthcare, Dr. Kaufman informed the audience, is to “inspire and empower individuals to acknowledge, respect and transform the healing process through creativity, and its vision to transform on a day to day basis the medical culture by recognizing and valuing creative self-expression as essential to health, healing and humanistic care.”
I walked to the lectern and spoke about Melissa, her transition from a happy and healthy childhood and how body image issues ultimately led to the bulimia that took her life. That it was my greatest hope that hearing Melissa’s story and seeing Someday Melissa would help them gain a better understanding of eating disorders, their impact on families, and the importance of identifying early signs.
After a screening of Someday Melissa, Danna Markson, LCSW and co-executive producer of the film, addressed the rapt audience. She shared not only her knowledge gained from 18 years as a specialist in treating eating disorders, but also the history of her own severe eating disorder and that this year marked 20 years of recovery.
I then took the podium, and while understanding that it is often difficult for audiences when I return to speak after the film, there was more I needed to say. I spoke about how Melissa’s creativity provided an outlet for her emotions when she was unable to verbalize them. I described how the process of making the film gave me an extraordinary way to channel my grief and that it continues. I shared that one of the most difficult aspects of Melissa’s illness was how long it took before a diagnosis was made and that although my initial reaction when finally receiving the diagnosis was denial, we lost critical time in getting her into treatment, allowing the bulimia to become firmly entrenched. I needed to help them learn as much as possible about what it is like for someone battling a severe eating disorder and the impact on families.
The program was supposed to end at 10:30 sharp. It didn’t. The questions started, one after another until finally it had to conclude. One of the physicians said that in all his years of attending programs and lectures he’s never seen a more gripped and attentive audience. People came up afterwards to ask us more questions.
I won’t pretend any of this is easy for me. It’s not, and I’m incapable of staying in the room when the film is being shown. It’s unbearable for me. But I’m determined to continue to speak out, to raise awareness, to share Melissa’s words and her dreams to help bring eating disorders out of the darkness. Being able to speak to a room full of healthcare providers, many of them pediatricians and students, was a gift. Thank you Dr. Kaufman, Dr. David and UMDNJ for making this happen. ~ Judy
I sit huddled in the corner chair trying to make myself as small as possible. I really don’t want anyone to notice me. Names being called out in a circle-“Hi, my name is….”-names and rules of the circle too. So many girls and everywhere I look they’re just like me. Different sizes, different shapes, different ages-talking perfectionism, loss of control, the depression that comes with giving up your addiction. I nod my head as does the girl next to me. Yes, yes, we know, we understand, we’ve been there too. A circle is formed in more than one way. There’s a bond whether I talk or not. Same journey, different paths and one of two outcomes. And now’s the time when I have to decide what my outcome will be.
October 25, 2007 Journal Entry of Misty Layne
2007 was the year of my relapse. 2007 was the year I had to finally decide whether I wanted to live or die. 2007 was the year of circles, so many different groups, so many different people and me.
Hi, I’m Misty and I’ve been in recovery since I made my decision in 2007. I’m 30 now and I’ve been eating disordered since the age of 11, so me and ED go way, way back. You know how it is with ED. It starts off slow, just a simple little game here or there and then it escalates until you can’t remember a time when you and ED were apart. Those definitely weren’t the days.
Mostly they were filled with anxiety and fear. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you know someone who has. Either way you’re here for a reason and whatever that reason is, I’m here to help.
I was angry for a long time. Why me? What triggered this in me and why did I go through hell? It was only recently, in the past couple of years that I finally came to the conclusion that the reason I went there is so you won’t. Maybe I’m here now to change a few lives, much like Melissa is doing. I’m here because I want to TALK about it. And by being part of the Someday Melissa team, I CAN make a difference, small or large. I can make an impact and most importantly, I can finally talk to people.
Because that’s a point of contention with me, the lack of talking. People want to hide behind their disorders and other people want to hide behind their lack of knowledge on the subject. I want that to change. I want a world where people talk to each other and are honest about what’s going on. I want a world where we don’t define ourselves by others’ standards. I want YOU to talk to ME. Talk to others, just talk. Everything comes full circle and I think it’s time ED got his due. Don’t you?