At Someday Melissa we are dedicated to raising awareness of eating disorders and having
open and honest discussions about ED and all that encompasses. Something we focus on a
lot is recovery. Recovery is possible! Although I’ve been in recovery for nearly 5 years now,
sometimes I wonder exactly what recovery is supposed to look like. Maybe you do too?
Lately I’ve found myself slipping a bit in my eating behaviors. I’ll admit to being a little
stressed lately because I work several jobs, am a writer and am in a play. There’s a lot going on
and it’s easy to feel a little out of control with it all. It started with simply being too busy and
forgetting to eat. I’d remedy that as soon as I realized I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. But in the
back of my mind was the little voice of ED asking, “Doesn’t it feel nice though that you didn’t
eat?” I hate that persistent voice.
I have a no weighing policy. Maybe you do too? I don’t own a scale and the only time I am
weighed is when I go to the doctor. For me, not knowing is best. I go by how I feel and how
my body is doing and I know when I feel great and I notice when things feel out of whack.
It’s a great way to really get in tune with yourself. My roommate brought home a scale a few
weeks ago. I took one look at the scale and heard ED again, “Lovely, isn’t it? Don’t you want to
know?” I asked her if she could hide the scale and never tell me where she put it and luckily for
me, I have a good roomie because she did. Extreme? Maybe to some, but not to me.
These are the things I have to do in order to remain healthy. Recovery is an ongoing process and
for me (this doesn’t apply to everybody out there at all), it will always be. So I do my best to
counteract ED. I eat when I don’t necessarily want to and nothing looks good. I keep with my
regular walking schedule and don’t try to increase it. I look for inspirational quotes. I browse
the Someday Melissa pages because you guys inspire me. Maybe you do too?
Recovery is different for all of us, but the one thing I always do my best to remember is how
much happier and healthier I am now. I won’t let ED take that away again.
I stared at my computer screen. I froze in disbelief as I began scrolling through the emails in my inbox. In between offers for flat screen TVs and other great holiday deals on things I didn’t need, sat an email with the following subject line:
Acceptance Into the 2012 California Independent Film Festival
I slowly clicked on the email, not really believing what I was reading. It was real.
Dear Ms Judy Avrin,
Your documentary film, Someday Melissa:the story of an eating disorder, loss and hope, has received early acceptance into the 2012 California Independent Film Festival (CAIFF).
I began shaking uncontrollably. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. I kept repeating it out loud. I couldn’t believe it. I knew the first two people I had to call were Danna Markson and Jeff Cobelli who made the film a reality. I GOT BOTH OF THEIR VOICEMAILS!!! I tried texting and kept calling. Danna finally called about 15 minutes later, Jeff shortly after, and I shared the amazing news. To say we were excited is the understatement of the year.
We knew how positive the feedback was, but to receive acknowledgement on this level was amazing. Better still, the festival is February 10 – 16, 2012, just a few weeks before NEDAwareness Week and the NEDA sponsored NYC premier of Someday Melissa on February 28th. Having Someday Melissa as a selection in the festival will provide a forum for sharing information and awareness about eating disorders to the festival community – messages that they will take back to their own communities.
The following day, I had a long planned visit with a friend of Melissa’s at a nearby park. Although they had met in treatment out of state, she lived nearby and the girls had stayed connected. It was a warm autumn day, and as we walked around the lake, we shared memories of Melissa. She said how incredibly funny and inspiring she was. How they could talk to each other honestly and openly about their body image issues and the savageness of ED. She told me how they shared their dreams about the future, beating ED and how they would make a movie together one day.
Several months before Melissa died they were extras in a movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker that was filming in NY. I remember dropping Melissa off at 5:00 AM so they could catch the bus into the city. When she came home that night she was exhausted but so excited about having been a part of it. The film was released the same week as what should have been Melissa’s 20th birthday. I’ve never seen the movie but her friend told me the entire scene was cut.
As I reflected on the weekend’s events, I kept thinking about the film festival and the one person I wanted to share the news with. Melissa.
Recently I attended a baby shower for a friend that I had not seen in many months; as soon as I caught a glimpse of her, I was amazed at how happy she looked. It wasn’t just the “pregnancy glow,” but genuine joy that was evident in her smile and demeanor. We hugged; I told her congratulations and that I was thrilled for her. The first words out of her mouth were “you look great! I feel so fat and huge compared to you.”
I tried to hide any sadness in my face, but the truth was that my heart sank. At a time when my friend was eight months pregnant and about to embark on an exciting new chapter in her life, she couldn’t help but compare her body to mine. Although I had a great time at the baby shower, those words haunted me for the rest of the day.
Lo and behold, a few days later a link appeared in my Facebook feed for Fat Talk Free Week (October 16-22, 2011) and I immediately clicked onto the website for details:
“Fat Talk describes all of the statements made in everyday conversation that reinforce the thin-ideal standard of female beauty and contribute to women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies. Examples of fat talk may include: ‘I’m so fat,’ ‘Do I look fat in this?’ ‘I need to lose 10 pounds’ and ‘She’s too fat to be wearing that swimsuit’ Statements that are considered fat talk don’t necessarily have to be negative; they can seem positive yet also reinforce the need to be thin – ‘You look great! Have you lost weight?’” (Source: endfattalk.org)
Whether we realize it or not, fat talk is part of many of our everyday conversations. Although I try to maintain a positive attitude about my own body, I too have these critical thoughts towards myself and others. After learning about Fat Talk Free Week, I am making a concerted effort to shift the focus away from body dissatisfaction or reinforcements of thin ideals. While the Week is a great way to spread the message to others and create awareness, you don’t have to wait until October 16th to begin the stop of fat talk nor does it need to end on the 22nd.
The next time that I see my friend, her baby will have been born. When I see her, I will hug her and tell her that she is beautiful, inside and out.
For more information, visit http://www.endfattalk.org or on Facebook at Fat Talk Free Week.
Sunday, October 2nd was the first time I participated in a fundraising walk and this one held special meaning for me. It was the National Eating Disorders Association’s 3rd annual NYC Walk to raise awareness of eating disorders.
The day started early, at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan, with Diana Williams of WABC News hosting the event and special guest, NEDA Ambassador, Emme, greeting the crowd. Between the live music, expo and other events, the most special thing for me was listening to the speakers. People from many different generations stood up in front of the huge crowd and shared their stories of recovery, hope and healthy living. Each story was unique and each was inspirational.
One of the best parts of the day, personally, was listening to The Falk Sisters perform their song, “Deadly Beauty”. The lyrics really spoke to me and reminded me of my past, of trying so hard to be perfect until it nearly did me in. Most of you can probably relate. More important was the song’s message, that we’re all already beautiful. Sometimes we can’t see it, but we are and you should all remember that each and every day.
After all these uplifting and inspiring messages, the actual walk itself across the Brooklyn Bridge began. The sun was shining on the hundreds of people walking to raise awareness of eating disorders. Many people walked to support a friend or family member battling ED, others in recognition of their own recovery and continued determination to speak out. Still others walked in honor of someone lost to ED. Everyone’s shirt said something different but it was all the same message: Let’s Talk About. You’re beautiful. The Someday Melissa team, with her mother Judy in the lead, walked in Melissa’s honor wearing Someday Melissa t-shirts.
Then to top off an already amazing day was the huge amount of interest in the Someday Melissa documentary. Scores of people came up to our table to tell us they’d heard about Melissa’s story and couldn’t wait to see the film. They asked about screenings and release dates. There was a lot of interest from other organizations who were there. They were excited to hear the DVD was finally available and they couldn’t wait to go home and order it. Melissa’s story is spreading fast, far and wide, which I love because it means that finally people are ready to take notice and take a stand against ED.
So when you’re having a rough day, just think about the walk (whether you were there or not) and remember how many people are thinking about you, yes YOU, and showing their support.
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