Facebook Message from Kate Ryan Singer to Judy Avrin
July 27, 2013
I have followed Someday Melissa for years now- probably since its earliest pieces became public, but it was at the first screening in NYC that I became consciously aware of what it really meant to me. As the film ended and audience members began introducing themselves, I started to notice that each person identified him/herself by a connection to the Eating Disorder Community.
At the time, I was in very early recovery, perhaps on the edge of another relapse. I realized in that moment that I wanted to be able to stand among the recovering. I wanted my life to be driven by the unique gift I had worked so hard for- a life after my struggle. It has taken a lot of time and a tremendous amount of hard work…. My struggles with anorexia and addiction cycled out of control for a very long time. Many times, I would sit down and contemplate or write about my own “Someday”.
However as I am writing to you right now I would like to share something different. I would like to share with you my TODAY.
TODAY, I am grateful to be alive. I live in that gratitude by sharing my story and reaching out to those who still struggle with the clear message that recovery IS possible.
TODAY, I have a job. It isn’t my dream job and it isn’t always fun- yet I show up to my job to the best of my ability with honesty and integrity.
TODAY, I have true friends who I love- and who love me- unconditionally. We talk, laugh, cry and live together. Some are near and some are far- all are very much alive in my heart.
TODAY, I am an equal partner in a loving relationship. It takes nurturing and work and it means I have to love myself on a daily basis so that I can be the kind of person my boyfriend deserves- and he does the same.
TODAY, I enjoy laying on the beach on my days off and even go out for ice cream afterwards! I am no longer too consumed with what I look like to enjoy playing in the waves and soaking up the sunshine.
TODAY, I embrace my struggles and the intermittent interruptions by that voice of my disease that tells me I am not enough because it allows me to exercise my strength and love by SHOWING that I am.
TODAY, I am over nine months clean and sober and free from the chains of my eating disorder. I am living proof that treatment, therapy, supportive friends and family and a program of recovery work. Although it will take time for me to repair my finances enough to return to working on my masters degree…. that challenge pales in comparison to what I have already overcome. I will continue to nurture my recovery by advocating for those who still struggle and SOMEDAY I will be a Social Worker, working hands on to give back all that was given to me.
Judy please know that, although there may not be many people who have been blessed enough to see this other side, I am eternally grateful for the people like you who continue to fight by my side every single day, changing lives without even knowing it. I hold you and Melissa close to my heart as a daily reminder of why I am fighting and of how much more there is to fight for.
Sending love and light, Ryan
Reprinted with permission and gratitude.
For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to write a blog about National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDAwareness) Week. While procrastination is often my problem, it wasn’t the issue this time. I wrote opening paragraphs over and over, then deleted them. I couldn’t figure out why I was having so much difficulty, particularly since the week was so successful for Someday Melissa as an organization.
Through our Host a Screening program, 26 screenings of Someday Melissa, the story of an eating disorder, loss and hope were held in 18 states and Canada. They took place in colleges, treatment centers and in community groups. The feedback we received about panel discussions following the screenings was powerful and positive. We began receiving pictures of written “somedays” that audiences wrote and posted on boards. Melissa’s story – her dreams for the future – the hope she hung on to – was inspiring others.
Somedays” from William Paterson University, Greenwich, CT and the University of Lethbridge
I had the opportunity to speak at several screenings — at a Psychiatry program at North Shore LIJ Hospital on Long Island where I was able to meet with staff from many departments; at a community screening in Greenwich, CT where I had the thrill of speaking with several young women who had been in treatment with Melissa and are now moving forward with their lives. I flew out to Chicago to participate in a screening and program run by the Illinois School Social Workers Supervisor Council (ILLSSWC), where social workers from across the state participated in a workshop using Guided Discussions for Recovery, our new resource tool for treatment professionals which uses Melissa’s writings to facilitate discussions with patients and families. It was also particularly exciting for me to speak to an overflow crowd at Rutgers University, my alma mater.
ILLSSWC workshop Judy Avrin at Rutgers University
My amazing team at Someday Melissa worked tirelessly from January through mid-March, responding to calls and emails, arranging screenings, updating both our own events page as well as the NEDAwaress page and posting to social media. And I finally realized why I was having trouble writing. I needed time to breathe. To reflect. To step back from the whirlwind of the months of work involved in NEDAwareness “Week”.
People remark at times that I’m so strong and that it must be difficult to share Melissa’s story over and over again. It is hard and often when I’m speaking there will be a catch in my voice and my eyes will fill with tears. But then I take a breath and swallow my tears. I’ve learned that everyone has inner strength they never knew existed until called upon to use it. And I continue speaking because I know that Melissa’s movie is changing lives.
I live in New Jersey but I was lucky. Although I lost power and electricity for a week after hurricane Sandy, I was spared the devastation that many coastal communities suffered and will be dealing with for a long time to come.
A few days after the storm hit, still without heat and electricity, I decided to drive south to stay with my brother and his family in Charlottesville, VA. Before backing out of my driveway, I emailed NEDA Board Member Robbie Munn, who also lives in Charlottesville, to tell her I would be in town. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her over the past few years and I had just seen her several weeks earlier at the annual NEDA Conference in St. Petersburg, FL. She said o let her know the next time I came down to VA. Before I was even off my street my cell phone rang. It was Robbie calling to tell me that the Charlottesville NEDA Walk was going to be two days later. Would I consider coming? She didn’t have to ask twice.
St. Petersburg was the third NEDA conference that I’ve attended since Melissa died and each year feels different. In 2010 it was in Brooklyn, close enough to where I live in New Jersey that I could attend each day but return to the cocoon of my house each night. It was overwhelming at times, but I felt the support of NEDA members as well as that of other families and professionals I had started to meet while filming Someday Melissa. I was honored to be asked to participate in the first roundtable discussion for families who have lost someone to ED and over the ensuing months we worked together to create the Loss Support Network.
In the year that followed I poured my grief into finishing the film as well as forming a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Someday Melissa, Inc., to fulfill the mission of raising awareness of eating disorders and the importance of early treatment. It was what I needed to do to help give some meaning to losing Melissa. I was proud when Someday Melissa became a member of the NEDA Network, a collaboration between NEDA and like minded organizations across the country.
Last October, with the film completed, I flew to Los Angeles for the 2011 NEDA Conference. It was a powerful experience, meeting families, researchers and clinicians. I just re-read the blog post I wrote last year and it still fills me with wonder that Melissa’s story is having such an impact.
In the following months I began speaking at screenings of Someday Melissa: at colleges and high schools, community screenings and treatment centers. We created a Host a Screening program and during NEDAwareness Week alone there were dozens of screenings across the country. With each date we added to the calendar, I felt Melissa’s impact.
At last month’s conference in Florida we were an exhibitor for the second year and there were more familiar faces but so many new ones. I spoke with clinicians in private practice and from treatment centers. I spoke to researchers and educators. I spoke to families and people still struggling. They all thanked me for sharing Melissa’s story, that it was making a difference. That it was helping to raise awareness and provide hope.
Two weeks later I found myself at the NEDA Walk on the beautiful campus of the University of Virginia. I was honored when Robbie asked me to say a few words. I told the crowd that I had blown in on the winds of Sandy and that they had actually blown me home. You see, I grew up in Charlottesville. My father was a professor at the university and some of my earliest memories are of the beautiful campus that Thomas Jefferson created. I remember being a young girl dreaming of my own future. I remember being a pre-teen and feeling anything was possible.
The winds of Sandy blew me to Charlottesville in time for the NEDA Walk. Coincidence? I’m not so sure.
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) walk in New York City has a great deal of significance for Someday Melissa. Judy first shared Melissa’s story in 2009 and since then we have continued to promote and educate others about our film and mission at the walk. This year’s walk was my second as a member of the Someday Melissa team and it is so gratifying to see how we are growing and increasing the reach of our awareness each year.
Although the sky was overcast and a chill was in the air, the bright blue NEDA walk shirts cheered up the atmosphere in Foley Square. Balloons, signs and songs floated around as the crowds began filling the area of Lower Manhattan with excitement. Soon the walkers were gathered to the stage in the middle of the square and the mood was rising. Model Emme spoke on her challenges working in an industry that is not usually welcoming to diversity in representations of bodies and shapes. Soon, a voice rang through the air and the walkers began their journey across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Of all the special moments of the walk, the ones that held the greatest significance for me were the ones that happened at our booth. People who had seen our film at a local screening and were thrilled to purchase a copy to share with others. Parents relieved to have a chance to speak with Judy and share their frustrations and fears regarding their child’s disorder. Therapists who were excited about our new Guided Discussions for Recovery so they can incorporate the film into their practice.
Most of all, hearing stories of loss, recovery and hope throughout the walk will stay with me forever. Faces on buttons, names of loved ones on shirts, messages of recovery and hope on signs. Some were walking for loved ones still in treatment, some were in recovery and walking to inspire others. Others were walking in memory of those whose lives were cut short by the disease of eating disorders. Every story that was shared contributed to the goal of breaking the silence about eating disorders and educating others. We may not be able to defeat eating disorders in one day, but on Sunday we were winning the fight.
“Prevention Works. Treatment is Effective. People Recover.“– National Recovery Month, SAMHSA
In honor of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) declaration of September as National Recovery Month, we are devoting this blog to a discussion of recovery and eating disorders. It is not enough to educate about the warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders as a means of prevention- it is equally important to emphasize treatment and recovery as part of the healing process.
When we began the journey of creating the film “Someday Melissa, the story of an eating disorder, loss and hope,” we thought that it could be a powerful educational tool but had no idea about its potential as a component of treatment and recovery for eating disorders. Since the release of the film, we have been overwhelmed with support and praise from clinicians who have used Melissa’s story in treating patients struggling with eating disorders, as well as those who are in recovery.
Although Melissa’s life was cut short, her writings have become an inspiration for those who identify with her struggles in fighting an eating disorder and who are hoping for a brighter future. Many now in recovery have been encouraged by the film to reflect on what their own “somedays” were while still in ED’s grip, and how so many of those “somedays” have now come true.
Today we are thrilled to announce that we will be offering supplemental material for eating disorder professionals and clinicians who are using the film with their patients on the road to recovery. A new publication, titled “Guided Discussions for Recovery,” has been designed for professionals for use in conjunction with the film as an opportunity to utilize Melissa’s journal for helping them discuss eating disorders and the issues for those struggling. Using poetry and art as tools, this publication will allow patients to explore their thoughts and experiences about eating disorders using Melissa’s story. This is just one more way that Melissa, even in her absence, is making a difference in the prevention, treatment and recovery of eating disorders.
The “Guided Discussions for Recovery” publication will be presented at the upcoming screening and discussion at Linden Oaks at Edwards in Naperville, IL on September 28th; further details and registration information are available on our website. Judy Avrin will also be speaking on the role of the film in education, treatment and recovery from eating disorders.
Additional information on how to order the film with the “Guided Discussions for Recovery” will be posted to our website once it is available. If you have any questions please contact Beth-Ellen Keyes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (646) 246-1081