“I found hope for recovery by envisioning a future which slowly rescinded the control my eating disorder had over my life, and little by little gave me back power over my choices and actions.”
That sentence jumped off the page when I read it in the following blog post, written by a young wife and mother now living all her “Somedays…”. I often write about the difficulty of believing in a future when you’re in the battle against an eating disorder. Laura’s words will inspire you to believe in that future and to fight for all your “Somedays…”. ~ Judy
Reprinted with permission:
“….I’ll eat breakfast, I’ll keep a job for more than 3 weeks, I’ll have a boyfriend for more than 10 days, I’ll love someone, I’ll travel wherever I want, I’ll make my family proud…
I’ll make a movie that will change lives.”
-from the journal of Melissa Avrin
Melissa did not live to see all of those somedays happen. In 2009, at the age of 19, she died of complications from bulimia.
Melissa’s mother Judy, on the other hand, is making the last statement of that journal entry a reality, by sharing Melissa’s story with the world via the documentary . I finally had a chance to see the film last weekend (thanks to EDN of MD) and it has taken me the last few days to really process the experience.
I saw so much of my own family’s struggle in the stories Melissa’s parents and brother told about the beginnings of her eating disorder- the fear and lack of understanding that accompanies any new condition in any family, exacerbated by co-morbid depression, anger and hopelessness on the part of the person struggling. I’m still not sure I can imagine the pain a parent must feel watching their child overtaken by the beast of eating disordered thinking and the frustration an entire family faces in trying to tiptoe around the minefield of taboo and triggering conversations, comments and gestures. Watching this documentary gave me an incredible sense of empathy for my parents and sister, as I know the pain Judy Avrin felt watching Melissa fight her battle with bulimia was the same pain my parents must have felt.
I was struck by Melissa’s desire for a different life, and heartbroken that she never got to experience the world and adulthood free of bulimia.
Once upon a time, I made those same lists in my journal….
Who I want to be in 6 months: (written at age 22)
Someone who doesn’t lie
Able to eat a meal in a restaurant with out freaking out
Actually following a meal plan
Not weighing myself (at ALL)
Someone who has friends without eating disorders
I also created a list for who I wanted to be in a year (age 23):
Living in a city
Host a dinner party
Have an actual circle of friends again
Travel… somewhere?!? Anywhere!
Work with teenage girls in some capacity
But wait… here’s the kicker, on that same day, I also made a list of who I wanted to be in 10 years… (age 32, I’m 33 now)
Be in a committed relationship/married
Be fully recovered
Eat for eating’s sake, no focus on calories or good/bad foods
Not be in debt
Ready to make a decision about having kids
Be a therapist specializing in eating disorders, maybe open my own treatment center
Have creative outlets- writing/art
As it turns out, the majority of the items on the last list have happened in my life. I don’t work with people with eating disorders and I won’t be opening my own treatment center any time soon, but I do volunteer in the field and feel my career has moved in a healthier direction by working in a school setting. When I wrote this journal, on October 20th, 2000, I was supposed to be finishing my last semester of college, but instead was teetering on the edge of what would have been my third withdrawal from school due to weight loss and really out of control eating disorder symptoms. My therapist asked me to keep a list of who I wanted to become, because I was having such a hard time feeling any sense of hope about the future.
I have looked at the above lists from time to time over the years, and they’ve always struck me deeply. My transformation from sick to well did not happen overnight, but I truly believe writing this journal entry was the beginning. I found hope for recovery by envisioning a future which slowly rescinded the control my eating disorder had over my life, and little by little gave me back power over my choices and actions. Having goals expanded hope. Having hope helped me do the work of refeeding and restoring weight. Having my weight restored helped me see my life and my issues more clearly. Having clarity helped me move on.
I wrote those lists when I was deeply entrenched in eating disorder thinking and behaviors, never fully believing the items could become a reality. Most of them have. I do not know how or why my body withstood some of the torture I put it through, but I wake up each day with a deep gratitude for my body and my health… And a promise that in my health, I will help others find hope.
If you are interested in seeing or buying the documentary, Someday Melissa, click here. Kudos to Judy Avrin, Danna Markson and Jeffrey Cobelli for a beautiful film about eating disorders, loss and hope.
You can read more about my recovery here.
For all of us at Someday Melissa, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of non-stop activity. This was our first year participating in National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAwareness Week) and we are proud to say that it was a tremendous success for our organization.
Our Events page was filled with screenings that were held in high schools, colleges, health care centers and local movie theaters around the country. Screenings and discussions took place in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Virginia. Several were scheduled in the weeks before NEDAwareness Week and still more are coming up in the months ahead.
On February 28th, NEDA hosted a screening in New York City at Pace University, the same day that the Empire State Building was lit in NEDA’s colors of blue and green. Although the size and makeup of audiences varied at each screening, there was a common thread that highlighted the importance of the week. This was illustrated when Diana Williams, WABC-TV news anchor and panel moderator at the NEDA screening, posed the following question: “The theme of this year’s NEDAwareness Week is ‘Everybody Knows Somebody.’ I’d like to see a show of hands – how many of you know someone who has been impacted by an eating disorder?” Some hands immediately shot up, while others tentatively followed suit. Soon the auditorium was filled with raised hands. It was a powerful moment that emphasized why NEDAwareness Week is so important. Eating disorders do not only impact those suffering, but also friends, family and loved ones. It is a disease that is ignored all too often due to stigma, shame and silence. Each hand that was raised helped to break the silence and shout “I know somebody!”
I told students at a college screening last week that when I was their age, no one ever talked publicly about alcoholism or breast cancer and that my mission is to help break through that same wall surrounding eating disorders. A short time later, a young woman hesitantly raised her hand and said that she’s been in recovery from bulimia for 3 years and that my words gave her the courage to say it out loud.
We would like to thank everyone who attended a screening and let us share Melissa’s story with them, as well as the film facilitators and sponsors. Even if you could not attend a screening, every post on Facebook with words of encouragement, every reply on Twitter, every DVD ordered helps us with our mission: to educate about eating disorders through Melissa’s words and images. We could not do this without your support.
Although the week has come to a close, our work at Someday Melissa is far from over. NEDAwareness Week has started the conversation about eating disorders, but we need to keep the dialogue flowing every week and every day. Year-round, let’s raise our hands and make the statement that “everybody knows somebody.”
Thank you my sweet Melissa for changing lives.
On behalf of my Someday Team, Love, Judy