Tag Archives: eating disorder awareness week

Review: Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues

against-me-transgener-dsphoria-blues-1389381288I’ve never reviewed any music on my blog before, but then again there haven’t been any records by bands I listen to that have mattered as much as this one. Punk has never quite lived up to its promise of being all-inclusive and all-accepting; sexism and homophobia have always been problems just as they are in other subcultures and societies. Maybe that’s why I find the candid honesty of Against Me!’s frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace, about her identity (and the concept album she’s written about it) so refreshing. It doesn’t feel like it was over year and a half ago when she came out as transgender and intent to start hormone replacement therapy, but here we are: it’s 2014 and the album is only now out.

Rough Surf on the Coast
Grace has always written about gender dysphoria in her music (see ‘Violence’ on Searching for a Former Clarity, ‘The Ocean’ of New Wave, and ‘Bamboo Bones’ on White Crosses to name a few), but never in such a personal, obvious, or unapologetic way. While other public figures with a pop culture status have had somewhat public transitions, Grace stands out since she spends more than half of a given year on tour, on stage, performing music and meeting fans. Short of putting her musical career on hold and withdrawing from the public eye to transition privately, there wasn’t really any other way to go about it but to be as up front as possible.

In terms of trans* visibility, it’s pretty significant. There are many strong voices who are very open about who they are, but Grace’s presence, visibility, and accessibility in the music scene over the past fifteen years makes her stand out more than others. Since Against Me! never became so huge that they stopped playing club shows, it’s typically been easy to talk to the band after a set and say hello – despite a brief major label stint that resulted in some more mainstream commercial success.

Both Grace herself and the record, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, matter in part for their degree of visibility. Continue reading

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It’s Already October??

Currently Listening: Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
Currently Reading: There is No God & He Is Always with You by Brad Warner

Busy, busy, busy! I feel like it’s still May, but apparently it’s already October? I haven’t had much time to do a post, so I thought I’d let everyone know what I’ve been up to and some of the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with lately.

In September I spent a long weekend in New York City, and in addition to providing a much needed change of scenery, it afforded me the opportunity to finally meet up with some wonderful friends I’ve been in touch with and/or collaborated with online.

NYC 9-2013

From left to right: Caroline Rothstein, Claire Mysko, my friend Kenny, me, Jenn Friedman, & Kendra Sebelius

If you don’t already know who they are, you should check out their work!

Caroline Rothstein and I had been meaning to try and meet up for awhile now. She’s one of the strongest and most unique voices in eating disorder advocacy I know, turning her own experience with recovery and body acceptance into some powerful work. From writing to blogging to slam poetry, Caroline is a force to be reckoned with. Check out her poem, “Fat” and see for yourself:

Claire Mysko and I were on a segment together on The Stream earlier this year. Claire has made quite a name for herself, getting international attention for her work on body image and body acceptance. An accomplished author, speaker, and consultant, she has served as the director of the American Anorexia Bulimia Association and has held senior positions at SmartGirl and Girls Incorporated. Check out http://clairemysko.com/ to learn more about her work, and definitely check out her recent (and excellent) editorial on The Frisky, The Wolf in the Cereal Bowl.

Jenn Friedman is a musician and eating disorder recovery advocate. She’s been busy working to combine those two passions in a project called “Eating Disorders On the Wire: Music and Metaphor as Pathways to Recovery,” which is supposed to come out really soon!

Kendra Sebelius runs Voice in Recovery, where she focuses on recovery not just from eating disorders, but from substance abuse and addiction as well. Kendra’s own efforts to get sober and recover inform her advocacy work with eating disorders, body image struggles, mental health issues, substance abuse and self harm. She’s also a fellow Junior Board member with the Eating Disorders Coalition.

By the way, we were at TeaNY, one of my favorite NYC spots. All their food is wonderful and the cheesecake is almost worth the trip alone.

Stay tuned for updates from Lobby Day last month, and the NEDA conference!

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In Loving Memory of Matt Ryd, Musician & Eating Disorder Activist

Last year at the end of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I stumbled on another guy named Matt, a musician from Chicago who also suffered from an eating disorder. He had made a really touching video for ED Awareness Week, and all proceeds from his music sales for the entire week were being donated to the National Eating Disorders Association.

MattRyd

I had a brief correspondence with him over email, mainly to tell him how much I loved the video he had made, and to ask him if he would ever consider coming to DC to do advocacy work with me and the Eating Disorders Coalition. I’m often one of the only guys there, but I know there are others. I’ve met them, we’ve networked online, and we’ve all seen the limited statistics that are available that still unequivocally demonstrate that an eating disorder is a serious, life-threatening illness, regardless of the sex or gender of the person suffering from it. We need more male representation on Capitol Hill to reflect the actual population affected, and I was excited to be in touch with such a passionate and caring guy like him.

Matt had told me he wasn’t sure he could afford traveling all the way to DC, but would like to in the future if possible. As I’ve been prepping for the Fall 2013 day in DC, he was on my short list of people to email and check in with. Instead, this evening I found that his family left the following comment on the post from last year:

Matt Ryd has passed away.

From his parents on his Facebook Page:

Message from Matt’s Parents to all Matt’s wonderful friends and supporters:

It is with very heavy hearts that we must tell you that Matt lost his battle with the anxiety, depression and eating disorder that had consumed him for so long and ended his physical life here on earth on Sunday, August 4th. While Matt fought vigorously for many years, his illnesses had grown more and more debilitating over the past 18 months or so, and though he tried hard not to show it, his daily suffering increased significantly and was ultimately more than he could bear. Our hearts are broken, but we take comfort in the knowledge that he has finally been “Healed” and will suffer no more.

Matt was an amazing young man with many talents, but most importantly he had a sensitive spirit and heart of gold and touched people’s lives all around him. In true Matt Ryd fashion, he left an open message for his friends, fans and others who supported his dream of being a musician that he asked us to share with all of you. His message reads as follows:

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“To all the people who have taken time to listen to my music and support my dream, even though it stops here before I become a big shot and get to prove that I won’t lose touch with my frans: Thank you. Thank you for the joy that you brought into my life. Because there have been absolutely no times that I have been happier than when I’ve been onstage, than when I’ve watched comments roll in on YouTube videos, or when I’ve had simple Facebook conversations with people halfway around the world. You are all wonderful and amazing and I thank you so so much for your time and your attention. I’m just happy that I’ve been able to make any impact in your lives. I truly regret that the music has to stop along with me.”

********************************************************************
Matt lived to write and play music and was always overwhelmed and humbled by the tremendous support that he received from so many of you. Thank you to all of you for being a part of his life and providing him with such unbridled joy in the midst of all of his struggles. He will be missed greatly by us all, but we think his passion for music will continue on – in the words and lyrics of the other wonderfully talented singer/songwriters that play nightly across the Chicago landscape and beyond – and we know that is what he would want.

There will be a memorial service in a few weeks to celebrate Matt’s life and the music he loved so dearly in a way that he would have wanted. More information will be posted as it is determined. Matt also very humbly requested that any remembrances be made to either ANAD (www.anad.org) or NEDA (www.neda.org) which are two eating disorder support organizations that were important part of Matt’s life for many years.

Thank you again for the part that each of you played in Matt’s life. We will always cherish the happy moments and memories that being a musician provided for Matt over the years.

Steve and Joani Ryd

Right now I can’t even read through the entire message because I’m crying too hard. I want to watch the video again that he made last year, but the moment the music comes on I know I can’t.

On March 5, 2013, he shared the following message on his Facebook page:

Hey everyone,

As National Eating Disorder Awareness Week has drawn to its close, and having finished an overwhelmingly successful fundraiser (for which I owe you all of the credit), I feel like the time is right to make an announcement.

I’m going back into residential treatment for my own eating disorder for a while. Actually, I’ve been in residential for the past week, but didn’t want to distract from the fundraiser until it was complete.

Some of you are probably thinking: “Wait a second… wasn’t he *just* in residential treatment?” Well… yes and no. Yes, I left residential treatment about 5 months ago when my insurance ran out. 5 months is a relatively short amount of time, but can also be an eternity when you’re left with unresolved issues. In my case, as the eating disorder symptoms stopped being a problem, that led to intense anxiety. That anxiety, in turn, led to a pretty bad bout of depression. And that depression led me to turn back to my eating disorder.

In technical terms, I relapsed. It’s not uncommon. Statistics vary, but it’s generally believed that somewhere around 50% of patients tend to relapse in their first year after spending time at an inpatient/residential facility. Unfortunately, though I tried very hard not to fall under this statistic, as I’ve said before: eating disorders are sneaky little bastards, and they can come creeping in and take over your life before you even know it is happening.

I have no clue how long this stay will be. I do know that, this time, I’m staying here until I’ve worked through the underlying issues that lead me to turn to my disorder. Last time, I essentially cured the symptoms without fixing the disease. Or, to get all metaphorical on you, I tore up the weeds in the garden without managing to dig up the roots, and, as is expected, the weeds grew back.

In the meantime, I’ll obviously be taking a hiatus from music and production while in the recovery process. But I’ll also be taking a sabbatical from social networks (Facebook, Twitter, my blog… and I’ll try really really hard not to Instagram the pictures my parents send me of my cat). I’ll do my best to respond to personal messages on any of those platforms, but I won’t be responding to or making any wall posts, @ replies, or anything like that.

But I’m not dropping off the face of the earth. If you’d like to reach me for any reason, I’ll still be checking and doing my best to respond to emails at matt@mattryd.com. If you have my personal cell phone number, I’ll be doing my best to respond to any texts that I get, and if you don’t have my personal cell, you can text my work phone at (773) 980-6793. I do have to emphasize that I will *try* (and will try very very hard) to respond to everything. But, just to put things in perspective, I have *very* little free time, so I apologize in advance if some communication falls through the cracks. I promise, I will read everything, and that emails and texts from the outside world are greatly appreciated, as I’m a little bit sequestered at the moment.

Let me just say thank you to you all for your support and for sticking by me during my struggles. I promise that, when the time is right and when I am healthy, I will be back, and will be better than ever. I’ll be putting out albums left and right, producing like crazy, hanging out with as many of you as possible… and best of all, I’ll be doing it without an eating disorder. If you thought that I was able to do cool stuff before, just wait until you see me when I’m healthy. I plan to be a force to be reckoned with.

I love you all dearly, and will miss you while I’m gone, but I know that this is for the best. And when it’s all done, you’ll have an even better Matt than you’ve ever had before. And hopefully that’s something for us all to look forward to.

Your friend,
Matt

Even though we never met, I felt a connection to Matt. I think it was his sincerity and honesty, even while he was struggling. I could just tell that his candidness and hopefulness were going to give others hope, too, and maybe the impetus to seek their own recovery and support.

So if you’re reading this and you’re struggling, or you know someone who is: it’s time to do something about it. Eating disorders are serious, deadly illnesses, and you (and me, and Matt, and everyone) deserve to be healthy and happy.

Here’s the video that Matt made again. Please watch it, and share this with anyone who needs to hear it.

I wish I could have met you. Rest in peace, Matt.

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Anorexia in Men on the Rise – Huffington Post Live Interview

Happy Eating Disorder Awareness Week! I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion on Huffington Post Live on eating disorders in men this past Thursday. I’m excited that they chose to highlight this subject during awareness week, and appreciate the thoughtful questions they had for everyone on the segment.

You can watch the full segment below, which includes a young man named Alberto De Leon in Chicago who is currently in recovery from an eating disorder; Margaret Johnson, the editor for HuffPost Women; Amanda Webster, an Australian mother who’s son developed anorexia in childhood; and Dr. Gregory Jantz, an eating disorder specialist in Seattle. You can watch the full video below:

You may notice that the title on the video says, “Manorexia on the Rise.” Well, I don’t care for that term one bit, and I’m happy to report that when I emailed my contact on the production team, they changed it on the main video page and wherever else it was possible. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to edit out of the video stream, but I want to extend my gratitude for the quick response they had in changing it where they could.

I’ve written about my disdain for that term in the past:

If you’ve been keeping up with me on here, you have probably heard me talk about “gender inclusivity.” I believe for ED treatment, research, and prevention to advance, it has to be fully inclusive and not just catered to the majority. I almost slipped through the cracks of the resources available to me during my own recovery because it was all designed for women, and I mourn for other boys and men who find themselves in similar circumstances.

I grimaced at the original title because taking a word like “anorexia” and altering it to reference EDs in men carries the implication that men experience it differently in some way – otherwise, they would just call it anorexia, right? …In short, it by default is not gender inclusive.

It won’t do us any good to take notice of how our recovery culture is feminized if we just turn around and make it gendered in the opposite direction. Eating disorders are, more than anything, a matter of public health concern.

Thanks again to Huffington Post Live for having me, and for responding to my request regarding the segment title so quickly. If more media outlets handled this issue with the same level of care, we’d all be the better for it.

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Quick Updates

Currently Listening: Murder by Death – Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week! Normally I try to have a ton of stuff to post and share, but life has been pretty crazy right now. If I did everything I wanted to do, I’d need about twelve more hours in the day and at least an eight day week!

Which is kind of a salient point for talking about NEDAW. Taking on more than you can handle or have time for can be a recipe for disaster, and I learned a long time ago that sometimes you just gotta let some things go.

Have you heard of NORMAL in Schools? They promote positive body image and eating disorder education  with a special focus on schools and universities. I’m now contributing to their blog about once a month, which means I will occasionally be dividing my writing between this site and theirs. My first post is about one of my favorite topics – gender inclusivity! It’s adapted in part from a seminar paper I worked on last year which discusses the gendering of eating disorder recovery culture:

Maybe you’ve never considered the idea that we have a gendered recovery culture. As a male who suffered from anorexia, though, I know it all too well. To create space and dialogue which is gender-inclusive means we need to examine the reasons that negative body image and eating disorders have historically been associated with women or regarded as a “women’s problem.” Given that it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, this seems a fitting topic. After all, we have a huge recovery culture which has a cursory awareness of eating disorders in males but rarely includes them in a visible way.
-from ‘What the Heck is Gender Inclusivity?

While you’re there, check out other great contributors like Robyn Farrell, Caroline Rothstein, Becky Henry, and Carolin Costyn! I must say, it’s seriously an honor to have my writing appearing alongside so many other awesome voices.

Stay tuned for more updates for NEDAW 2013. What are you doing this week to educate and advocate for eating disorders? For yourself?

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Review: Miss Representation

I finally got to see Miss Representation last night, courtesy of a local event for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Released in late 2011, it’s a film exploring the role of women in our society and what we can do to change the disparities that exist.

It’s easy to hear about such a film and say, “But so much progress has been made!” While this is true, and yes, progress continue to be made, it’s slowed down more than you think. I’m not always one to tout statistics, but some of the figures they’ve researched are quite startling. For example:

  • The average teenager consumes roughly 10 hours, 45 minutes of media per day, between television, movies, the internet, and music, the majority of which is TV watching.
  • Of that media consumed, women own less than 6% of TV stations and roughly 6% of radio stations. The board members of the biggest media companies (such as Viacom, Time Warner, etc) systematically outnumber women by more than 2-1, so most of the media being produced and approved is from rich men.
  • Women make up 51% of our population at present, but are only 17% of Congress (even I was surprised by how low that number is).

Mad yet? You should be.

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Matt Ryd Testimony

Just a quick post to share this incredibly moving and touching video, which happens to be from another guy named Matt (but he’s apparently a way better singer than me!)

Please watch, share, repost, and if you dig his music (which is accompanying the video), you can purchase here and all proceeds are going to the National Eating Disorders Association between now and March 4th.

[August 2013 Update]I’m very sad to write that I have learned of Matt Ryd’s death. Please read and celebrate his life with me:

http://arenomore.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/in-loving-memory-of-matt-ryd/

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Eyes Open, Mouth Closed

Way back in 2004, I made a big decision. I got out of class one night and drove from the city back to my parents’ house with the intention of telling them I had an eating disorder. It was rather spontaneous, although it had been in the back of my mind for months. Having had inconsistent luck with friends when seeking support, I wanted to try and avoid those same pitfalls when speaking with my family.

I had found an article on a website that seemed perfect – it was something I wished I could make everyone read before they tried to talk about eating disorders. I printed it out and stuck it in my backpack, where it stayed for weeks, just in case I needed it. When I finally got home, I handed the print-out to my mother and asked her to read it and to not say anything until she had.

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Review: The Slender Trap by Lauren Lazar Stern

Given that it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it seems appropriate to be talking about books like The Slender Trap by Art Psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist Lauren Lazar Stern. The Slender Trap is a workbook full of exercises to challenge the reader to think about eating habits and body image in different ways, and could serve as a good companion piece to a treatment program. However, when it comes to resources like this which are more in the “self-help” realm, I caution strongly against trying to rely on a single resource without any guidance from a qualified treatment professional (a sentiment echoed in the book’s introduction).

Lauren Stern offered me a copy to do a write-up with, but first asked me: “Is it OK that it’s geared towards women? It is definitely relevant for men, too, but the writing is directed towards females!” Well, it turns out she was right on both accounts. The topics and ideas in this book are relevant to potentially anyone with an eating disorder, regardless of gender. At the same time, it’s very much a book written and intended for a female audience, which I’ll comment on shortly. I don’t consider my writing to be geared at a particularly male or female audience, so I told her I’d be happy to give my impressions. As far as I’m concerned, anything which promotes and supports recovery is OK with me!

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 8

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

Today’s post comes from writer Benjamin David in the UK (another male contributor – awesome!) Ben writes:

Nothing beautiful has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was paramount to individual circumstance. This illness can plague, tarnish and jade the emotional faculty and instils within sufferers a ubiquitous obsession, infatuation and anxiety that can tarnish almost every element of one’s being. I have spent numerous, mundane hours pensively exploring my mind, recognising my tendencies, frailties and strengths and recognising that despite all the perceived “benefits”…. I wanted freedom. I wanted to be able to have the freedom to make an impartial action, to take an impartial, rational stance. I wanted to be able to sit down without that lingering impulse that is symptomatic of an eating disorder. Tranquillity, peace and serenity cannot be induced with a oscillating and unyielding eating disorder… The road of recovery is a journey of self-discovery. We recognise our values, qualities, desires, strengths and weaknesses. We advance within ourselves, we question the pressures that the inane mass media invoke on us, we question those comments from others about our appearance and we ask ourselves why we deserve freedom. The most striking question that we ask is what it means to be happy and what founds the most impassioned, long lasting and healthy form of happiness?

You can read the full post here.

I really like the inquisitive nature of Ben’s post, because everyone’s experience is going to be different. Before you find the right answers, you must first ask the right questions, and I think we will all have a different question & answer even if we all arrive at the same conclusions. This speaks to the deeply personal nature of recovery – although there is certainly a universality in the experience of an eating disorder (just read the whole blog series from this month, we’ve all hit many of the same themes!), the path that each of us take to recovery is as unique as the individual.

Others can push you along, encourage you, and point you in the right direction, but no one can walk it but you – day by day, meal by meal, one foot in front of the other.

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