DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

                  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we pause to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. A dynamic Southern preacher who came to be the face of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and beyond. He is oft quoted (as above) and represents the very best of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.

Three words which are being bandied about with great frequency in the eating disorder community. Seemingly every eating disorder organization now includes a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.

How do those three words intersect? After all, what is diversity without inclusion?

For that matter, what do those words even mean in the context of a serious, deadly mental illness like eating disorders? We are not addressing those terms in the context of being able to sit on a bus. We are not addressing those terms in the context of admission to a school or university. We are not addressing those terms in the context of greater representation on corporate boards of directors or partnership in law firms or accounting firms.

We are addressing those terms in the context of a deadly mental illness, an illness with biological and genetic components. An illness that claims a life every 52 minutes. Life and death. The highest stakes possible.

Today, many organizations in the eating disorder community are racing head long into political correctness to see which one can virtue signal the most. Some are choosing to include pronouns after their names believing that illustrates how enlightened and inclusive they are. Some organizations publicize how they are expanding their membership and committee involvement to include greater representation among African Americans, Hispanics, LBGTQ and other minorities. All are commendable and worthy actions. All are needed actions.

No rational person can argue against the fact that the mental health industry in general, and the eating disorder community specifically, need many more African American, Hispanic, LBGTQ and other minority counselors, therapists, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and other medical and mental health professionals.

No rational person can argue against the fact that medical and mental health services must become more available and more affordable to the African American, Hispanic, LBGTQ and other minority communities.

To further those ideals, I am embedding an article from National Council of Non-profits. This article sets forth practice pointers; questions to consider when establishing a D&I action plan; Resources for your learning journey; Resources for Non-Profit Employers; Diversity on Boards of Directors and for Grant makers and includes other useful information:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/why-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-matter-nonprofits

These are incredibly complex issues which involve and impact all aspects of life … from education, to healthcare, to access, to education, to treatment and research funding, to the family structure and society in general. And because these issues are so incredibly complex, to provide real life, workable solutions which will better society as a whole, we need the greatest thinkers and leaders from all walks of life, who are well versed in and have ideologically diverse backgrounds and experience. And therein lies the breakdown in the mental health community, particularly the eating disorder community.

Most of the eating disorder organizations are dominated by women who identify politically with the very far left. Women of intelligence. Women of passion and drive. Women who have controlled and monopolized the eating disorder community from its inception. And in the present drive to be more diverse, they are looking for women, people, and non-binary persons of different races, creeds, or sexual orientation. African-American persons. Hispanic persons. LBGTQ persons. Trans persons. Non-binary persons. A veritable rainbow of persons. All commendable. And yet despite this drive for diversity, these organizations seem to be only seeking persons who all think, believe or have the same ideals, ideological mindset and political views. If you are politically far left with a far left mindset, you are welcome. That ideological mindset is cast in stone.

However, if you do not have that mindset, not only is a place at the table not open to you but you are subject to being ostracized and in some cases, fingers are pointed at you as part of the problem. Despite the fact that eating disorders intersect between medical and mental health issues, one person in the eating disorder community publicly stated, “Public health in this country is getting it so wrong. Those of us who have done the work around our internalized biases no longer trust the medical establishment to actually help us. This is no space for white, straight and thin folks to jump in.”

One organization likened eating disorders to intersecting with oppressions like racism, ableism, healthism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, classism and more. When one delved further, white male privilege was included in the list of “isms” harming people with eating disorders.

And therein lies the problem and begs the question … How can an organization or leaders in a community preach the necessity of diversity and inclusion, when their very actions dictate that diversity without inclusion is not only acceptable but is the right path to take? They ostracize and exclude persons of different ideological intellects simply because, they think differently.

In 2015, Somalian born, Dutch American activist, Ayann Hirsi Ali authored an OpEd article in The Harvard Crimson in which she stated the following:

“Diversity. It is a principle that today’s society values greatly—a sign of virtue, moral progress, and greater social inclusivity. 

Yet somehow we have got so caught up in the pursuit of diversity that we have drifted away from the core of what it was all about, the core of liberalism: the individual.

Instead of struggling and campaigning for the freedoms and rights of the individual, some of us seem more focused on the freedoms and rights of the group.

The greatest overarching identity that liberalism exalts above all others is humanity. We should be fighting for the individual not simply because he or she belongs to this or that minority, but because we are all human.

The identity politics of our time has created a language of political correctness that sometimes verges on censorship. We have allowed the voice of the group, or whoever claims to represent the group, not only to speak for the individual, but sometimes to shout down the individual if his or her story does not fit with an approved narrative.

As a black woman and an immigrant, I am all for diversity. Who isn’t? But I care more for individual freedom. For, in a truly free society, our group identities should diminish, not increase, in their importance.

That, not the entrenchment of historic differences, should be our goal.”

Greater societal inclusivity. Standing up for the rights of the individual. Diminishing group identities. Listening, then trying to understand, and in some cases, embracing the ideas, passion and vision of those who may be ideologically different. Instead of attempting to quash the ideas and resources of those whose thoughts and vision differ from ours. That doesn’t mean you are wrong. To the contrary, it shows greater wisdom, foresight and vision.

Eating disorders are an incredibly complex medical/mental health illness having biological, genetic and societal aspects to it. As such, one wonders why all interested parties, organizations, persons, and leaders cannot band together as one since we all share one common goal, that is, saving as many lives as possible. Why can’t we put away our egos, our own insecurities, our hubris and fears and remember what we are working toward. We certainly don’t have to like each other, but if an intellect and resources we currently do not have or are not making best use of are presented by ideologically different persons, how can we possibly turn down those resources?

The activist, Leigh Morrison in an article in The Inclusion Solution, stated as follows: Next time you encounter an activist action that you may view as “unproductive,” I invite you to ask yourself: why might this person or group see this action as necessary? What privileges do I hold that may prevent me from fully understanding their experience or decision? What may I need to reflect upon or learn more about before I can respectfully engage in thoughtful and informed discussion about this topic? 

And on the day we remember Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember his words:

“The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.”

“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”

SO 2020, “HOLD MY BEER” [and a look at a massive heart attack]

The overused punch line, “Hold My Beer” is believed to have its origins in the 1990s and involved those “lovable,” Southern rednecks. The comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who turned redneck jokes into a cottage industry, included this one in his 1996 book, “No Shirt. No Shoes…No Problem!”: “What are a Redneck’s famous last words? Simple. ‘Y’all watch this!’

25 years later, we widely use “Hold My Beer.”   The background of the joke is in essence: Someone does something outrageous and then someone else says “hold my beer” as a prelude to doing something even more outrageous.  Its popularity exploded “on the line” (thank you Vince Vaughn), as the expression became associated with so-called “fail” videos, showing people attempting wildly misguided and foolhardy stunts.

With regard to 2021, some have used “Hold My Beer” in a light-hearted fashion while fervently hoping that 2021 does not exceed the many disasters which defined 2020. Everyone knows someone whose life has been upended by Covid-19. Either they had it, had a friend or family member who had it or knew someone who died from it. We all know someone whose business was detrimentally impacted by Covid-19. We cancelled our traditional family holidays or get togethers. We missed going to our places of worship. And for some of us, in 2020, the dark specter of death appeared to mercilessly claim our loved ones.

In 2020, for me, death did not take a holiday. Instead, it hovered in a cruel manner insinuating itself in its attempt to claim the last vestiges of humanity and hope. On a quiet Friday night in September, death came quietly and peacefully to my 90 year old mother. She had been in a rehabilitation center since February. Since March, the only people she saw were her fellow tenants and healthcare workers. Then came that phone call in the night, “Mr. Dunn, we just found your mother in her bed. She was non-responsive.” And you are left remembering the person she was, the person who nurtured you before dementia began to take her memory.

October marked the first commemoration date of my dad passing. It also marked the fourth commemoration date of my beloved daughter passing. But, death was not through with its insidious plans. On a calm, early November afternoon, I got that call from my older brother’s wife. The pain, the fear, the anguish reverberated as she told me that my older brother had a massive heart attack while at home. A few days later, we watched over him as his heart beat for the last time.

Afterwards, we tried to go back to our daily life …while picking up the pieces from the carnage that death had left. At year end, we tried to believe the worst was behind us. We tried. And before 2021 was even one week old, the specter of Death reappeared, mocking us, grimly laughing at us, taunting us with, “Hold My Beer.”

Almost two months to the day when I got that phone call from my older brother’s now widow, on Tuesday January 5, 2021, I received a call from the wife of my younger brother. The number was a Las Vegas number I did not immediately recognize. I heard a sobbing female voice. Between those sobs of terror, I hear, “Jim had a massive heart attack. He’s in the hospital in surgery right now.”

I am one of the few people who still refer to my younger brother as James … not Jim.

So, yes, my younger brother, almost 2 months to the day my older brother died of a heart condition, had a massive heart attack. I was told he had 100% blockage in one heart ventricle. This past year, naturally being a Dunn, he didn’t tell anyone he had been having minor chest pains as a result of not getting enough oxygen in his system. “Just rub a little dirt on it, you’ll be fine.”

Paramedics arrived. Their worry and anxiety could not be hidden. On the frantic drive to the nearest hospital, calls to the doctors at the nearest hospital were made by the paramedics. Wheeled into the emergency room, twelve (12) medical professionals began to work on him, desperate to save his life.

Have you ever wondered what a massive, heart attack looks like? When one of your ventricles is 100% blocked? Well, it looks like this …

If you are fully aware and alert, you feel agonizing pain in your chest, you feel death begin to sink its icy claws into you. You hear the medical professionals surrounding you, reassuring you, and encouraging you to stay strong, it will only last a few more minutes … and then inexplicably, you may slowly begin to feel yourself start to breathe. In fact, just five (5) minutes after they start to perform life-saving medical procedures, if you are lucky, your clogged heart starts to look like this …

The medical professionals continue to reassure you, just a minute or two more and then … you breathe easier, you feel life begin to flow back into you. Just thirteen (13) minutes after they began to work on you, the blood flow into your heart begins to look like this …

Your pain eases. Your breath starts to come easier. Visions of your older brother dying start to recede. You dare start to believe again that your two children will not live the rest of their life without their dad. The reality hits. Your life can begin anew. And perhaps, in that brief period of time, your soul will find you. And your new journey will be embracing the reality that your soul’s purpose will be revealed to you. You may have dragons to slay … or your own demons to face. But, you are here.

Facing mortality does that to us. Yours or your loved ones. Mortality. Life and Death. It is so uncomfortable to face, to discuss, to try to grasp the finality of death.

Death. The manifestation, the reality, the most glaring sign of our failure. Especially with regard to eating disorders. If the United States Deloitte Report on Eating Disorders is accurate, the mortality rate among people suffering from eating disorders is far worse than what we previously thought. With the highest mortality rate belonging to people who suffer from anorexia nervosa.

Parents of children whose lives were ripped from our loving arms are shunned in the eating disorder community. The stories we could tell, of what worked, what did not work, stories that could provide new, incredibly strong insights into this disease, go untold. Journals of its victims go unread by eating disorder professionals. We remind you of your own failure. To ignore us and the voices of our loved ones who have been taken is bad enough. But, we now know that some individuals and organizations in the eating disorder community use us as fund raising ploys to attempt to fill their own coffers. Individuals and organizations too craven and cowardly to embrace transparency as they blindly race to the bottom of the political correctness barrel.

We are the uncomfortable reminders of your failure.

Our own mortality hits us all in different ways. Family members taken. Family members on death’s door. Beloved children taken from us. Our own mortality.

You have an incredible opportunity to listen, to learn, to grow. To go beyond your own perceived limitations so that more lives can be saved. You can embrace this opportunity to learn … or suffer the consequences if you do not.

MY ETERNAL BELOVED

My Eternal Beloved,

Christmas is once again upon us. And this year like no other.

Four years and 8 weeks ago, you were taken. The light of your existence was extinguished. And yet, I pray each day that you are soaring higher and farther beyond all human comprehension. I pray that you are seeing, and living, incredible experiences that we, on this earthly plain cannot possible fathom. That you are surrounded by peace, by love.

This year is so very different than past years. In the past 14 months, you have been joined by my dad, your “Paps.” In the past two months, my mom, your “Mams” has joined you. (I hope you are being nice to her and not pulling the practical jokes you loved so much!) And in the past 6 weeks, my loving brother, your “Uncle Chuckles” is with you. (Now with him, pull all the practical jokes you want!). But, in our world today, a world so caught up in fear, and anger, and bitterness, the sting of missing you is greater than ever before.

At the same time, an incredible bundle of joy, a new life arrived at just about the same time your Uncle Chuckles left. Your niece, my granddaughter, Riley Emilia came to us. In fact, I held her for the very first time about one hour after I was told that my brother’s condition was fatal, that he was in essence already gone. And the tears came, uncontrolled and relentless. A combination of the greatest love and the deepest pain enveloping me at the same time. But also, seeing my son differently, perhaps for the first time. And although already a loving dad to a now, incredible 9 year old Spitfire (who by the way, reminds many of you and the fighting spirit you have), this new life seems to have rejuvenated him soulfully. There is now a calmness within him. And I am seeing an aspect that either I could not, or would not see before.

He remembered how decorating the Christmas tree was something that you and I held dear. How we adorned the tree and then spent hours stringing popcorn and cranberries. So, he brought his loving wife and Riley to my house and helped decorate the tree this year. I rediscovered the difficulty in decorating the tree with one hand while holding a baby against your chest. And the time that we held so dear, the joy of seeing our tree come to life, came to life in a different, sacred way this year. Who knows, perhaps next year we will reprise another tradition we had … driving out to East Texas and finding our tree at a Christmas tree farm.

But now, my son, your brother, has asked, has burdened me with a task so incredibly difficult, that I will need to summons all the willpower, courage, strength and resolve I have.  With Kennedy, my other granddaughter now being 9 years old, my son believes it is time she got to know you, her Aunt Morgan much better. So he asked me to go through your journals, the very repository of your struggles, your fears, your hopes, your strength, your anger, your love … and find inspirational passages and pages which defined the very best parts of you. To assemble them in a booklet and give it to Kennedy as a Christmas present.

Your journals are a sharp reminder of your struggles, your hopes and in some ways, my belief of my own failures. He was asking me to undertake an onerous burden. I also believed that he did not truly have an idea of how difficult this was going to be, that some wounds were not meant to be reopened. I was wrong about that too.

Two days ago, he called me and we started talking about this task. When I told him how taxing it was on my soul, he replied, “I know it must be. But dad, perhaps you need that.” You see Morgan, sometimes wisdom comes to you from unexpected places in the most unexpected ways. And you simply must leave yourself open to embracing that wisdom. So, as I assemble Kennedy’s book, there are moments of laughter, moments of tears and moments of admiration as I read once again, the incredible strength, the incredible character, the depth of wisdom, and yes, your fears, your hurt, your pain and how you courageously poured out your emotions, thoughts and feelings onto those pages. And I am reminded anew of how and why you inspired so many.

Oh Morgan, what a community in which I have been immersed. The eating disorder realm. There is so much anger, fear, hurt and yes, some hatred. So much dysfunction. Sometimes it seems like some of the leaders have lost sight that this is an incredibly deadly disease, a disease that claimed your life, and are more concerned about their own power, their perceived legacy. And you are constantly being joined every day by others who succumb. But, at the same time, there are also incredible persons of great character, intelligence, wisdom, faith, compassion and humanity. Persons, like you, who inspire others to lift themselves, to challenge the status quo, to embrace the endless possibilities of what could be.

My beloved daughter, physically you are not here with me. But many times I feel your presence and know you are with me. Help me to continue to grow, to become a man, a daddy of whom you would be proud. When I stray from the path, help me find my way back.

Tonight, at 11:31 p.m., I will again light a candle for you. One candle to illuminate a room of darkness. One candle to guide me. One candle to sustain me. One candle to give hope. One candle to give, and receive love.

Merry Christmas my beloved daughter. I love you.

Your Daddy

PRESS RELEASE FAUX PAS AND … “WHY THE TWO ORDERS COLONEL?”

A press release can be an incredibly useful tool. In the hands of a skilled professional, a press release can inform, educate and entertain an audience while setting the foundational tone to acquire that which is desired. But, in the hands of an amateur, when pressure is applied, when an entity is being closely scrutinized, a poorly designed press release can become a dangerous, costly mistake leading to liability and unwanted attention.

Nowhere is this more true than in the litigation arena. For persons, corporations, foundations and other entities experiencing federal court litigation for the first time, the grandness of the arena can be overwhelming. A judge appointed for life by Congress. The full trappings of the adversarial system. The most skilled litigators and law firms. Attorneys who prey upon mistakes, upon errors contained in press releases and other publicly released documents.

Late last Thursday night, litigation was filed against the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). The case sets forth complex causes of action set forth over forty-five (45) pages. Understanding of the complexity of the claims demands the greatest expertise, intelligence and courtroom acumen from even the most experienced of attorneys. And yet, at approximately 3:30 p.m. the next day, NEDA issued a press release about the lawsuit. This press release is set forth here:

https://www.facebook.com/NationalEatingDisordersAssociation

The desire to start to frame the issues and get ahead of the narrative is intuitive. But, it can also be a siren song leading to the inevitable destruction of that party. Especially if that party is being less than complete or transparent. In NEDA’s press release, it stated in part the following:

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by an attorney who has been active in the eating disorders community, Steven R. Dunn, so may be familiar to members of our community.”

For reasons known only to NEDA, it chose not to comment on the other law firm and attorney representing the plaintiffs in this case. That is, The Nichols Law Firm led by Justin P. Nichols based out of San Antonio. Mr. Nichols is a leading consumer, credit and plaintiff’s attorney and is listed as one of the top 20 family law attorneys in the San Antonio area. Mr. Nichols is also a champion advocate for the LBGTQ community. In January 2014, Mr. Nichols filed the first complaint under San Antonio’s then new, nondiscrimination ordinance claiming AT&T fired his client, Matthew Hileman, because of his gender identity. In fact, Mr. Nichols represented the first three people to utilize that amended non-discrimination ordinance. The ordinance added protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mr. Nichol’s name is listed on the Complaint. At the time of the press release, NEDA had this information. As such, one is certainly justified in speculating why NEDA consciously chose to not comment on Mr. Nichols, his impeccable reputation and history of representing persons in marginalized communities.

Later in the Press Release, NEDA states, “We are deeply disappointed that at the very time the eating disorders community should be pulling together to meet these pressing needs, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit and Mr. Dunn have chosen to take an action that will create friction within the community and divert precious financial and personnel resources that should be devoted fully to those NEDA serves.

On October 28, 1980, then Governor Ronald Reagan in a presidential debate with then President Jimmy Carter uttered one of the most well-known and oft repeated phrases, “There you go again.”

Again, for reasons known only to NEDA, it chose to be less than transparent and forthright with regard to the above statement in the following manner:

  •  NEDA chose to not disclose that it had received extensive documentation of these claims as early as mid-August;
  • NEDA chose to not set forth the communications NEDA’s attorney had with plaintiffs’ attorneys on this matter;
  • NEDA chose to not disclose that NEDA’s interim CEO had a cordial conversation with Plaintiffs’ attorney regarding possible ways of moving forward;
  • NEDA chose to not disclose that it had received an extensive settlement brochure in September;
  • NEDA chose to not admit that Plaintiffs’ attorneys made good faith attempts to resolve this matter prior to litigation being filed;
  • NEDA chose to not list that NEDA has in place, directors and officers liability insurance and that its annual retention amount on the policy (amount not covered by insurance) is less than one percent (1%) of the monthly amount it pays in rent.

NEDA claims to desire greater transparency with the community. And yet, for an organization claiming it desires this greater transparency, one is justified in questioning why all of these facts and issues were not disclosed to the community in its Press Release.

Of even greater concern is the fact that NEDA’s lack of transparency pertains to not just these so called “meritless claims,” but its own failure to disclose that it utilized these “meritless claims” to fire two of its arguably most important employees, employees who at the very heart of these “meritless claims.”

A Few Good Men

The movie, “A Few Good Men” was released in 1992. Tom Cruise played a young military attorney, Lt. Daniel Kaffee, defending two marines accused of causing the death of another marine during an illegal, “Code Red” enforcement. The villain is Colonel Nathan Jessup, played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson. Nicholson concocts an elaborate web of lies, deceit, deflection and subterfuge in order to shield his own liability. Colonel Jessup epitomizes the very essence of “lack of transparency.”

Nicholson’s charade is finally exposed after a thorough investigation into all facts and a masterful cross examination conducted by Cruise as Lt. Kaffee. In short, the seminal part of their characters’ interaction was as follows:

Kaffee: A moment ago, you said that you ordered Lt. Kendrick to tell his men that Santiago wasn’t to be touched
Jessup: That’s right.
Kaffee: And Lt. Kendrick was clear on what you wanted?
Jessup: Crystal.
Kaffee: Any chance Lt. Kendrick ignored the order?
Jessup: Ignored the order?
Kaffee: Any chance he forgot about it?
Jessup: No.
Kaffee: Any chance Lt. Kendrick left your office and said, “the old man is wrong”?
Jessup: No.
Kaffee: When Lt. Kendrick spoke to the platoon and ordered them not to touch Santiago, any chance they ignored him?
Jessup: You ever served in an infantry unit, son?
Kaffee: No, sir.

Jessup: Ever served in a forward area?
Kaffee: No, sir.
Jessup: Ever put your life in another man’s hands and asked him to put his life in yours?
Kaffee: No, sir.
Jessup: We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It’s that simple. Are we clear?
Kaffee: Yes, sir.
Jessup: Are we clear?!
Kaffee: Crystal. Colonel, I just have one more question … If you gave an order that Santiago was not to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would Santiago be in any danger
Jessup: Santiago was a substandard marine. He was being transferred…
Kaffee: That’s not what you said. You said he was being transferred because he was in grave danger.
Jessup: That’s correct.
Kaffee: You said he was in danger. I said “grave danger”? You said…
Jessup: I recall what I said.

Kaffee: I could have the court reporter read back to you…
Jessup: I know what I said! I don’t have to have it read back to me, like I’m…
Kaffee: Then why the two orders? Colonel?
Jessup: Sometimes men take matters into their own hands.
Kaffee: No, sir. You made it clear just a moment ago that your men never take matters into their own hands. Your men follow orders or people die. So Santiago shouldn’t have been in any danger at all, should he have, Colonel?

Which brings us back to NEDA’s press release. In material part, NEDA states, “We have reviewed these claims with our legal counsel and believe that they are without merit.”

We now know that in mid-August, I brought to the attention of Geoff Craddock, the Chairman of NEDA’s Board of Directors extensive information and documentation regarding alleged conduct and actions of certain NEDA’s officers. This information consisted of almost sixty (60) pages of documentation. Information and factual allegations which are incorporated into the lawsuit against NEDA, a lawsuit which NEDA believes is without merit.

And yet, approximately one month later, the week before Weight Stigma Awareness Week, NEDA fired its Chief Global and Strategic Officer, the person who receives the most credit for originating Weight Stigma Awareness Week in 2011. To date, NEDA has never publicly disclosed the reasons behind that decision. Then, approximately one month after that, NEDA parted company with its Chief Executive Officer. Again, without explanation.

To believe that the timing of the ending of NEDA’s association with its CEO and one of her most important officers is a mere coincidence and not related to the “meritless claims,” stretches the imagination beyond all belief. And so when we revisit NEDA’s Press Release and NEDA believing the claims in the lawsuit are without merit, we can’t help but ask,

“So Colonel Jessup, after you received documents and information from Plaintiffs’ attorneys, information which has been incorporated into this lawsuit, a lawsuit which you publicly claim is wholly without merit … why did you fire two of your most important employees within about sixty (60) days after receiving this information?”

“Colonel Jessup, besides receiving the information at the heart of these “meritless claims,” what other information did you receive that was so egregious, that you heartlessly fired one of the architects behind Weight Stigma Awareness Week just mere days before that week started in September?”

“Colonel Jessup, after receiving the documents and information, you could have stood up for, and supported your former officers. Instead, you fired them. Why?”

Eating disorders are believed to have the second highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Families entrust the lives of their beloved children to treatment professionals. Families seek credible, accurate evidence-based information from organizations involved in the eating disorder community. And if an organization refuses to be transparent with the community, if it issues inconsistent and illogical press releases, if it refuses to be accountable for past mistakes, why should the community continue to embrace that organization?

Families deserve better.

Treatment professionals deserve better.

Our children, our spouses, our parents who suffer from this disease deserve better.

Our dear, beloved fallen children taken by this insidious disease deserve better.

We deserve better.

Lift Up the Downtrodden

Undoubtedly, many of you are aware of changes that have taken place over the past few months at the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). Ms. Claire Mysko, NEDA’s former CEO and Ms. Chevese Turner, NEDA’s former Chief Policy and Strategy Officer are no longer associated with NEDA. Subsequent to their departure, I had the pleasure of speaking with NEDA’s interim CEO, Elizabeth Thompson.

In my role as an attorney, I represent a number of people … people who have been angered, people who have been hurt, people who believe they have been misled by certain conduct and actions of NEDA. I brought this information to the attention of Geoff Craddock, the Chairman of NEDA’s Board of Directors. Which merited communications with and attention of NEDA’s attorneys.

The purpose of the communications was not just to inform NEDA of its officers’ and employees’ conduct and actions, but to attempt an expeditious and confidential resolution of all claims. To bring closure for my people and to set the groundwork for hopefully, a brighter future. Resolution that in the long run, could have resulted in a stronger, more open and viable organization.

And yet, time and time again, our good faith proposals were rejected and still we practiced forbearance hoping we could find resolution. But, the initial hope we had to avoid protracted and public litigation began to flicker and dim. And then, was finally extinguished.

I strongly believe that wrongs were committed and people were hurt by these wrongs. And we must ask ourselves, who are we if we enable conduct that hurts people? Who are we if we do not stand up to those who hurt others, especially if those people who have been hurt are some of the most vulnerable in our community? Isn’t it incumbent upon those of us who can provide help, to provide that help and protect them? And if we do not, don’t we become complicit in the hurtful conduct by turning a blind eye as we stand on the sidelines, our eyes cast downward?

I cannot abide that. As such, along with co-counsel, we have instituted a class action lawsuit against NEDA and its former officers in federal court here in North Texas.

This lawsuit will undoubtedly be a long, laborious process. Because of the very nature of our legal system, it will be adversarial all the more so because NEDA will be represented by attorneys employed by its insurance carrier. But, when communications break down, when accountability for past allegedly harmful conduct is not demanded, when an entity continues on with a “business as usual” attitude in the face of its past, highly questionable conduct, then surely we must stand tall and hold ourselves to be counted.

In closing, I am reminded of the Commencement speech given by Admiral William H. McRaven to the 2014 graduating class at the University of Texas:

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.

And what started here will indeed have changed the world — for the better.

Love (and Death) in the Time of Covid

It was inevitable. The scent of bitter almonds always reminded Dr. Juvenal Urbino of the fate of unrequited love.”

And thus began the international best-selling novel, “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And whereas many people believe this literary classic to be a romantic love story, in fact, the author did a masterful job of hiding the true meaning of the novel in plain sight in the very first line.

Today, we live in a time beset by strife, fear, anxiety, depression and yes, death. Those cruel emotions and feelings rule our days as so many of us only embrace those whose ideals and views on life mirror our own. We internalize, while turning away from a future of uncertainty. The road less traveled is not for us. And in avoiding that road, we are missing the opportunity to explore and discover the great mysteries of life, and yes perhaps death, which are hidden in plain sight.

The past sixty (60) days have seen events transpire which impact not just me, but the lives of so many around me. As I set forth those events, it reads like a cheap Hollywood B-movie, too bizarre and implausible to possibly be true. And yet, that road less traveled was laid before me and I had no choice but to walk that path. So, for simplicity sake, I will set forth the events from the past two (2) months in table format:

DateEvent
  
09/18/2020My mother, Vera A. Dunn dies alone, in a rehab center where she had been since February. No in person visits had been allowed since March because of Covid-19.
10/24/2020The one year commemoration date of my dad, Richard E. Dunn, passing away from abdominal cancer.
10/30/2020The four year commemoration date of my beloved daughter, Morgan dying after fighting eating disorders for 7 years.
11/05/2020Thursday day, Rebeca, my brilliant daughter-in-law starts to go into labor.  About one week early.
11/05/2020Thursday evening, Something for Kelly has a successful in person and virtual fundraiser with major innovative announcements for SFK. A number of treatment centers agree to collaborate with Cindy Bulik, PhD on her EDGI initiative. This surprise announcement is made that evening.
11/06/2020Friday morning at 7:36 a.m., Rebeca gives birth to beautiful healthy baby girl, Riley Emilia Dunn. My son, Hanford calls me with this joyous news at 7:42 a.m.
11/08/2020Sunday morning, I am invited to attend and address a men’s group consisting of 37 dads whose loved ones are suffering from eating disorders. The hour long session is incredibly upbeat.
11/08/2020Sunday evening, we receive a telephone call from Gayle, the wife of my older brother, Chuck, telling us that Chuck has been rushed to a nearby ER. He was unconscious, apparently had a heart attack at home, just 8 feet away from his wife. He made no outcry.  We have no idea of his condition.
11/09/2020Monday morning, we host Brian Hufford on the Mental Health Moment. Brian and I discuss the latest ruling in the Wit case which will have huge implications in the mental health community. 
11/09/2020Monday drags on with no news of my older brother.  But, that evening, I  receive a call from my son saying that he is rushing his wife to the ER.  My son says her speech is “Not Right,” she has tightness in her right arm and swelling in her legs.  She is in pain.
11/10/2020Tuesday, my son calls and says that his wife is all clear, no issues and is resting comfortably at home.  My son and Rebeca ask me and Patti to come over that afternoon to see the grandbaby for the first time. 
11/10/2020Tuesday afternoon around 2:00 p.m. I am told that my older brother, Chuck had massive heart attack, his brain is not responsive, he is on body support and we need to expedite going to Florida. I am reminded that I am the executor of the Will and the Surrogate on the Living Will.   I start to reflect on the fact that for the second time in 4 years I may have to make the decision to take a loved one off life support.  The first being my daughter, Morgan.
11/10/2020Tuesday afternoon around 3:00 p.m. I receive a text from James Dunn, my younger brother in California.  He is in the ER.  He fell down some steps and possibly injured his neck, shoulder, and upper back.  He is  waiting on the results from X-Rays and CT Scans.
11/10/2020Tuesday afternoon around 4:00 p.m. I arrive to see my granddaughter for first time.  While holding her, a flood of emotion overtakes me, and I find myself shaking as tears flow like a tsunami washing away my heart and soul, my mask covering my anguish … and love. My son is totally confused.  He has no idea yet about his Uncle Chuck.  I hold my granddaughter for what seems like forever and for the perhaps the first time in my life, I experience “love at first sight.”
11/10/2020Tuesday early evening, I receive an unsolicited email from one of the dads in the dad’s group from two days before. He tells me how life changing that session was, how Morgan is doing great work through me, how he is inspired and has renewed strength.  
11/10/2020Tuesday evening, I receive an update on my older brother’s condition:  He was without oxygen for 15 minutes.  Has been without sedation for days and is not responding.  He is not coming out of the induced coma.  Diagnosis is grim. Plans are made to go to Tampa.
11/10/2020Later that evening,  a friend had given a gift card for dinner so we can go out without any care.  Our friend, Dr. Stephanie Setliff who is instrumental in SFK’s work with eating disorders joins us.  She readily sees the whirlpool of emotions dragging me under and quickly shifts into “doctor mode.”  But, she does it in a subtle and nefarious way and shrinks my head while I am not even aware of it. Patti believes she sees me change before her eyes.  I swear revenge for having my head shrunk.
11/11/2020Late morning, we are in an Uber on the way to DFW airport to fly to Tampa on an American Airlines bereavement pass. While in the Uber we get a call from Gayle, Chuck’s wife.  All flights going into the Tampa airport have been cancelled, the Tampa airport is closed and Hurricane Eta is about to hit Tampa.   The flight is rescheduled for the following day.
11/12/2020All siblings, Chuck’s adult twin sons and his wife are finally in Tampa. We meet my brother, James (who can barely move his left arm), his wife and my sister who arrived after us, at a nearby restaurant. (thanks to Don Blackwell for the recommendation). We go to Chuck and Gayle’s house.
11/13/2020Friday the 13th. Yes … Friday the Flippin’ 13th. We go to the hospital. There is no brain activity. It is confirmed that I am the Surrogate. Everyone talks. We discover that Chuck is an organ donor. This will delay things by about a day. The decision is confirmed that when donees are found, the “body support systems” will be disconnected. Disbelief and sorrow permeate and grip us all.
11/14/2020We wait to receive the call from the hospital that it is time for us to return one final time. We continue to tell stories of Chuck’s life. I write a few, brief views on Chuck’s life to be read before the medical devices are disconnected. Gayle comes up with a play list to be played while she and his boys wait for his last breath after the medical equipment has been disconnected.
11/14/2020I talk with the hospice liaison around 7:00 p.m. We are told to be at the hospital no later than 10:00 p.m. Donees have been found. We are reminded that once the medical equipment is disconnected, they will only take organs if Chuck’s life functions end within 60 minutes.
11/14/2020The siblings say our last good-byes. Gayle and his boys will be with him. Patti and I leave the hospital for the last time around 9:45 p.m. and go to a restaurant/bar across the street.
11/14/2020The medical equipment is disconnected at approximately 11:00 p.m. Chuck hangs on for approximately 70 minutes. And peacefully breathes his last.

A person who at the young age of 64 appeared to be the picture of health. A marathon runner. Sailor. Captain of American Airlines flights. I am left to wonder and ponder. I think back to the quote I used in the last article. 

“You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”
― Graham Greene, Brighton Rock

And right now, I am having a very hard time embracing “the mercy of God.” But, I do not have a difficult time remembering the incredible life led by Charles R. Dunn.

Chuck’s twin sons, one a Captain in the Air Force stationed at the Pentagon at the young age of 29 years. The other, a police officer and SWAT team member in the Midwest. Both, outstanding young men placing service to their country over their own wants. And the world is a better place.

He pinned the police officer’s badge on his son for the first time:

When I needed him for support at an eating disorders walk, he was there:

During our childhood, he was the person I followed (sometimes into trouble!):

A proud, loving father:

The man I occasionally tried to get into trouble as we reverted to those yesteryears of being little boys:

I swear, the really good wine is over there!

And of course, a loving husband:

Love’s greatest gift is its ability to make everything it touches sacred.

I could go on for quite some time as musings of life, and death swirl endlessly. Instead, perhaps just simply setting forth the words which flowed through me to be read to the hospital staff will have to suffice:

“There are very few times when you come across a person who personifies “Warrior Mentality.” That larger than life person who goes to battle each day with the mindset of, “I will either come home carrying my shield or will be carried home on my shield.”

That certainly was my brother, Chuck. He sailed fearlessly, he yearned to fly the biggest and fastest planes and he loved owning and driving fast cars. But, he did those things not out of  a superficial sense of self-importance, but because they brought such great joy to his heart.

He loved fiercely … his beloved sons and the person who became the better part of his heart and soul, his loving wife.

And when he left us, I believe he left secure in the knowledge that he left the world a better place than what it was when he came into it … because of his sons and because of the many people whose lives he touched and helped … and with the donation of whatever parts of him may go to others, he will continue to touch and help others in the future.”

You were a man Chuck. You were a great, big man.

The Past, the Future, the Joy, the Sorrow

“You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”
― Graham Greene, Brighton Rock

Life’s complexities are sometimes revealed to us during moments of our greatest weakness when we are most vulnerable. And then sometimes, the awful complexities of life are cruelly revealed to us at a time when we believe we are the strongest, when we are rejoicing.

It would be difficult for me to imagine greater examples showing the incredible dichotomy of life which have been disclosed or forced upon me in the past seventy-two  (72) hours.

Last Thursday night, November 5, 2020, I witnessed the possibilities of a greater tomorrow when driven, compassionate people come together. Despite the Covd-19 apocalypse, and idiocy of a national election hanging in the balance, the Something for Kelly Foundation (“SFK”) hosted a live and virtual event rolling out the EDGI initiative. EDGI is spearheaded by Dr. Cynthia Bulik. During this event, Patti Geolat, Founder of SFK and Dr. Stephanie Setliff, Regional Director of ERC Texas disclosed to Dr. Bulik for the first time, that a number of treatment centers nationally are embracing this initiative and will encourage their patients to participate. And for the first time, we get to see a collaboration between research doctors and clinicians on a large, national scale. The event was filled with live music, laughter, love, joy and hope for a greater future.

Upon arriving at home that night, my son advised me that he and his wife were on the way to the hospital. The same hospital in which both my beloved daughter and loving father breathed their last. But, this time it would be different. This time, we will bask in the joy that comes from the birth of a new soul. And so, laying my head on the pillow that night, I envisioned the endless possibilities of a far better world.

At 7:42 a.m. the next morning, I received a live Facetime message.  I immediately see the smiling face of my son, Hanford, the exhausted but glowing face of his incredible bride, Rebeca, and … the hope and promise of a better world in Riley Emily Dunn. Born just six (6) minutes before. Tears fill my eyes as I watch the parents so filled with love that they can barely communicate holding the miracle they brought into the world. And for a moment in time, that huge hole that exists within my heart and soul, feels a little smaller.

Later that same afternoon, I had a positive, upbeat talk with D. Brian Hufford. Mr. Hufford is one of the lead attorneys in the Wit v. United Behavioral Healthcare case. Three (3) days before, on election day, the federal district court in California published its ruling on the remedies and ramifications imposed against UBH for its bad faith conduct. The ninety-nine (99) page ruling again eviscerated UBH and will provide new hope for the thousands of people insured through UBH.  Brian agreed to appear on the Mental Health Moment the following Monday at 8:30 to talk about the significance of the case and how it will positively impact so many people. In addition, we would address the upcoming oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the case involving the Affordable Care Act.

Despite the 2020 Zombie Apocalypse, the idiocy of the many people who have chosen to define their very existence on who they voted for, and the hardships encountered by many, a beacon of hope, of a greater future is shining brighter.

On Sunday morning, I was honored to be able to participate with a men’s group. This group consisted of fathers and husbands whose loved ones were undergoing treatment at ERC Dallas. When the Zoom session started, I noted there were THIRTY-NINE (39) DADS in attendance! During the years that saw Morgan in treatment, there was never a men’s group like this. It was so well attended and the questions, so many intelligent questions came pouring from these men. And, I felt humbled. I felt grateful. They looked upon me as some kind of expert. I am not. I do not embrace the term, “Expert by Experience.” But, these men stood up to be counted. I felt inspired by them.

Later that day, one of the dads emailed me. His email brought tears to my eyes when he said:

“Hello Steve,

My name is K*** and I was at the meeting with Dr. **** this morning. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. It is very powerful and moving. I am very sorry for your loss. Your daughter sounds like she was an amazing person. I wish I was able to have met her.

Your incredible attitude and dedication toward bringing awareness to eating disorders is admirable and inspiring. The insight that you shared with us was very helpful. I was able to look up some of the work that you have done and it is very impressive. Your labor of love is very special and I want to thank you for what you are doing. The strength you have found from your grief is truly amazing. Thank you again.

Your daughter would be very proud of you, sir.”

Love, hope, joy, inspiration is flowing. Despite setbacks, despite all odds, despite the fact that my mother passed away in mid-September … I have a strong sense that the tomorrows will be better.

And then … And then …

Sunday evening about 8:00 p.m., I find myself talking on a cell phone with Gayle, my sister in law who married my older brother, Chuck. Now, Chuck is one of those stereotypical Type A personalities.

He is a pilot with American Airlines (although he says he is still an America West pilot) and has flown internationally for many years. (He says Venice is his second home.) He is an avid sailor and has sailed in conditions that would frighten most. An adventurer. Incredibly poorly dressed. Chuck’s idea of dress shoes is black boat shoes. And what a love of music!

And now, he is on the way to the hospital with the paramedics. He was drinking wine at home with Gayle. And then, he became non-responsive. Gayle called 911 who told her to perform CPR. Imagine … the fear, the terror, as you administer CPR to your loved one, hoping beyond hope that the paramedics arrive quickly. At last she feels a pulse.

Because of Covid-19, Gayle is not allowed to do much when she arrives at the hospital. Chuck is rushed into ICU where a breathing tube is inserted. Is it a heart attack or stroke? (both of which are prevalent on our mom’s side of the family) Is it a brain aneurism? Calls to his twin boys are made. And we wait.

It is now the next day, Monday afternoon. By all accounts, that morning the Mental Health Moment segment with Brian Hufford exceeded expectations. I don’t remember any of it.

It is 4:00 p.m. East Coast time and I have no update. I know he is alive. But, I have not heard any reports or findings. The ticking of the clock counting off the seconds echoes through my head. Chuck and I have talked about how we wanted to face the end (as if most of us have a choice). We agreed that at the end, before whatever fatal disease or condition claimed us, each of us would get a small sailboat, about 2 pounds of cocaine and two cases of champagne. That should just about do it. We would boldly sail away going on one last, great adventure! By God, we will go out on our own terms!

And the seconds tick away. Endlessly. Droning. The sands of time pouring through the hourglass. You may wonder how many grains of sand are left. Maybe you smile thinking of that sailboat.

And you remember little Riley. The future Riley could have. The future you so desperately want her to have. You look at her picture. The picture at the top of this article.

You still have hope. And you remember. You remember what still inspires you each and every day. What pushes you forward. What demands that you remain focused on helping others who so desperately need help. You remember.

And even in your pain and despair, you smile. For you do remember. You look at the pictures at the top of this article. You smile.

The picture on the right is the future, Riley.

The picture on the left? Your beloved Morgan.

The past connected to the future. The future tied to the past. And all of us mere bridges between the two.

And so, I await. I remember. And, I hope.

Musings on Grief, Humility and Faith

October 30. The 303rd day of the year 3 out of every 4 years. And for the vast majority of people in the United States, the day is mostly marked as being the day before Halloween. Quite frankly, there is no particular significance to this day.

However, for me, October 30 will be that one day of hell each and every year. October 30, 2016 at 11:31 p.m., when my beloved daughter Morgan was forever taken after fighting eating disorders for oh so very long. A personal tragedy.  An extinguished little life, a brave soul which burned so brightly, and now largely forgotten. But, that is the reality. This third rock from the sun. Society in general, Morgan’s friends, my friends and family moving onward with their lives. Seeking out a bright future, their tomorrows filled with hope and joy. As it should be.

Every October 30 beginning in 2017, I have written an article which I hoped expressed the thoughts, emotions, feelings and existence of a parent who had the most precious thing they hold dear, taken from them. In going back and reading those articles today, I am not going to even remotely feign being able to understand the complexities of the evolution of grief and bereavement. But, this journey began … and continue I must as a mere passenger.

October 30, 2017.

https://dadsjourneywithed.blogspot.com/2017/10/one-year.html

Reflecting on the words now which were written then, I see this dense fog which so grips the brain, the heart, and the soul that first year. Surely the world would immediately understand that an incredible person was taken long before her time. The eating disorder community would take notice, would commiserate and honor her death and would use this tragedy as a starting point for a more evolved, greater tomorrow.

And for those lucky enough to have certain gifts, you know … you know for certain, that you are guided by inspiration, by sorrow that is turning into resolve. You have clarity. You have purpose. You have a clear path.

And the reality is … you are so incredibly naïve and in such pain. This fog has you in its icy grip. Perhaps your eyes are more open. Some of the things you begin to see are not what they appeared. What was once clear, is now less in focus. But still, you must persist. You have no choice. You have no control. Something far greater than you is in control.

October 30, 2018.

https://dadsjourneywithed.blogspot.com/2018/10/living-lifetime-in-two-years.html

Year two. And occasionally you are touched by glimpses of that indomitable spirit which exists within us all. A 10 year old boy two weeks before Christmas being entertained by firemen as their firetrucks sit outside of your complex. That precious Angel Boy’s arms conducting a symphony of joy, a smile “as big as Texas” on his face, a big firemen’s hat on his bald head… and you see the tears well in the eyes of those young, first responders, those firemen. Those heroes.

Through eyes you can’t imagine are not clear, you conduct hours of meticulous research looking at various aspects of a hurt, divided industry and community. You question why can’t people see the divisions? You are filled with righteousness! Everyone except you is going in the wrong direction!

But, for one glorious night, on October 30, 2 years to the night that your beloved Morgan was taken, at the exact time, you are sitting awake with two very special people, Patti Geolat and Elissa Myers. You are so touched by Patti, for her strength and that she may see beyond the scarring, the pain, the agony. For Elissa knowing that against a number of people’s advice and warnings, she came to Dallas. Whatever Elissa saw, whatever soulfulness she saw, how would I ever be able to turn away from that bright light?

And so, with (I hoped) more strength, more wisdom, more experience, and much more faith and a belief in a far greater Power, one pushes on. But now, and you don’t even realize the importance at the time, humility has come. Drop by drop upon the heart. You understand you do not have all of the answers. And you slowly try to learn how to trust again.

Against all odds, an incredible man comes into your life. A man whose daughter fought eating disorders for years. And yes, survived. But, you see something in this man that you know is missing in yourself. You see an incredible heart, you see the very essence of love, of faith in humanity. And you feel humbled in his presence. He lifts you up to a higher place. He instills in you a gift that has been lacking. Grace under pressure. A humble servant of God. You know that that incredible gift was brought to you for a reason. You don’t question it. You only embrace it.

October 30, 2019.

https://wordpress.com/posts/adadsjourneywitheatingdisorders.home.blog

Year three … three long years of remembering. And the grief is heightened as your dad, a man who had lived 89 good years, breathed his last on October 24, 2019, just six (6) days before the day you dread so much. Your siblings by his bedside. In the same hospital. You hear those words again, those words that ripped out your heart three years before … “[s]he’s gone.”

Four days before that, a tornado ripped through Dallas costing as much as $60 billion in property damage but against all odds, did not take one human life. But, that horrific tornado and remembrances of your beloved daughter were only the precursors of global events to come.

The catastrophic fires in Australia. The rise and then explosion of Covid-19. The looting and rioting in many cities in the United States. The idiocy of self-important political views being paraded in public for all to mock. 2020 will mark the most recorded hurricanes with 11 hitting mainland United States (a record). Wildfires scarring more than 4 million acres in California. For the first time in recorded history, two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time. So many other disasters, both man made and natural which try men’s and women’s souls.

Covid-19 took a personal toll. My elderly mother, who entered a rehabilitation center in February, never left the facility … alive. Like all elderly and nursing homes in Texas, in March this facility was closed down to all outside persons because of Covid-19. The last time I saw my mother was on September 18, 2020, just 30 minutes after she passed away, alone, in her room in that facility.

Life. Death. Remembrances. Love. Laughter. Triumphs and Failures. Insight and Idiocy. Which brings us to …

October 30, 2020.

The 4th year. And I am reminded of an expression: “An avalanche starts with one pebble. A forest with one seed. And it takes one word to make the whole world stop and listen. All you need is the right one.”

Sometimes a point is reached where enough is enough. Four years of research. Four years of investigations. Four years of uncovering facts and evidence. Four years of figuratively “hunting” so called leaders. Four years. And now? You reach the Point of No Return.

For those who wished me to just stay home, community “leaders” who plotted with others to silence my/our voices … your opportunity is over. Your time to strike was before. As for now? The chess board is set, the moves have begun. And all the time while you were playing checkers the pieces of a 3D chess game were being set and strategies were implemented.

Persons, foundations and organizations which thought they were impervious are discovering, perhaps too late, that the curtain has been drawn back. And we shall see what we shall see.

Meanwhile, there remains, grief and humility.

As for grief, at least for this one person, I have come to understand that grief is not linear. As time marches on, we do not “get better,” or grieve less. I believe instead that grief is on a movable spectrum. There are those days in which we do not even have a conscious awareness of the grief that will forever exist in our heart. We “feel good.” God has granted us gentle mercies on those days. And then on other days, a certain scent, a song, a memory, seeing past familiar places, take that conscious awareness you have, cruelly casts it aside and you remember. You remember just as surely as if the tragedy had happened that very day. You feel a knife in your heart. It is a reminder. A reminder to remain humble. To know that you are merely a conduit. You have no control over a greater message. You are reminded.

As for the future … you dare to hope again. You dare to believe again. You dare to have faith again. Not because of anything that you can control. But instead, because of the circle of life which both confounds and amazes us.

For a new life is about to come into the world. A child. A granddaughter. Perhaps as soon as today! You hope and you pray that it will be today. A day which has been a day of mourning. Perhaps becomes a day of rebirth, of new life.

You hope.

You hope.

GET IN THE GAME

We can either watch life from the sidelines, or actively participate … Either we let self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy prevent us from realizing our potential, or embrace the fact that when we turn our attention away from ourselves, our potential is limitless.

Christopher Reeve, Actor

We can either continue to collectively stand on the sidelines and debate what is causing autism and if it is an epidemic or we can get on the field and start addressing the real problem – a generation of children with autism. We are not focusing enough on prevention, treatments and support services.

            Jenny McCarthy, Author and actress

You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.

            Shirley Chisholm, First African-American Woman elected to Congress

In many weddings today, the officiant speaks the following words, “Should anyone present know of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

The origin of that statement is believed to go back to Medieval times. Communication between areas of a country was often slow and erratic, and record-keeping was anything but organized. This led the Christian church to establish the phrase as a way to give time for any legal issues in the marriage to come to light. Wedding experts have opined that legal issues included a bride or groom who were already married, or the couple was … related. At times, news of the impending wedding was posted publicly for a few weeks to give word time to travel to outlying areas. Saying ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ during the wedding day was like giving one last chance before this new marriage was legally binding.

In the parlance of modern society, we hear a similar phrase, “Get off the sidelines and get in the game … or quit complaining!”

In the eating disorder community today, people who are defined as “marginalized” have been presented an incredible opportunity. An opportunity to not just get in the game, but to control the rules of the game. But first, we should review who the “marginalized people” are in the realm of eating disorder treatment.

In general, people who define themselves as “marginalized” are anyone other than thin, Anglo girls or women with anorexia nervosa. Foundations, organizations, militant activities and advocates have questioned why girls and women with anorexia are allegedly “centered” by research doctors and treatment centers. One leader of an organization said, “Eating disorder advocates, clinicians, researchers, does it irritate or infuriate you that so much of the attention in the media and research and the public is all about “anorexia? Yeah, me, too.”

That same organization posted the following on social media: “Anorexia nervosa is the rarest of the eating disorders but gets most of the attention: Why? What is the history? How can we change it?”

Another advocate on a social media site posted the following: “We must also be centering and supporting BiPOC, LGBTQ+, fat therapists and professionals. This is not [sic.] space for white, straight and thin folks to jump in.”

With regard to research being conducted on eating disorders, a number of fringe groups and advocates are making a number of demands regarding research. A former ambassador to an organization recently resigned and among other statements, said, “I implore [this organization] to do better – reinstate [a former employee], recommit clearly and publicly to centering the voices, stories, and needs of People of Color, Trans and Non-Binary people, Higher Weight people, and other marginalized populations, and then prove those commitments in your actions, and the allocation of your resources.”

On July 22nd 2020 Trans Folx Fighting Eating Disorders published an open letter to eating disorder treatment centers and other organizations. Amongst the list of demands made in this letter was the following:

“Fund research for and by people with under represented identities in eating disorder research (BIPOC, NBPOC, LGBTQIA+, fat, disabled, neurodiverse, low socioeconomic status, etc).”

Two other advocates issued a joint statement demanding, “Fund research by and about Black and Brown people. Advocate for funding for Black and Brown researchers. End the application of research with a majority white sample population. Require poster presentations to be about marginalized clients.”

That same group continued, “The stereotypes and biases of what an eating disorder looks like (young, thin, white, wealthy, etc) are preventing us from doing the research we need to care for the people who actually comprise the majority of people with eating disorders.”

Still another organization included this statement in its list of demands, “Fund research examining disparities in who receives ED treatment and the efficacy of various treatment methods in under-represented populations. Specifically, we ask that you conduct research examining how EDs manifest in intersex populations, transgender populations, QTBIPOC, and amongst sex workers with investigators being of those identities.”

Today these “marginalized groups” are presented with an incredible opportunity to not just participate in an international research study on eating disorders, but to have their voices amplified in that study by submitting by the thousands, their participation. And it can be done at no cost and from the sanctity of their own homes. The marginalized groups have the chance to “get off the sidelines and get into the game,” safely and conveniently from their own homes.

On October 13, 2020, a research team led by Professor Cynthia Bulik at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders launched the United States participation in the Eating Disorder Genetics Initiative (EDGI).

EDGI is an international research study designed to understand how genes can influence the risk for developing an eating disorder. It is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

The purpose of EDGI is to learn more about how genes influence risk for bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and anorexia nervosa. If you have ever had one of these three eating disorders, they invite you to participate by taking their survey. To make this step even easier, this survey can be found here: our survey.

That is all it takes. Click the link. Take the survey. Participate

For those organizations and advocates who market themselves as being the champion for marginalized people, this is your opportunity to lead marginalized people through your actions.

Click. Participate. our survey.

Click. Participate. our survey.

In the meantime, if you would like to read about eating disorders from Black writers, here are some articles and books:

If you would like to support therapy resources for Black girls and women, you may wish to learn about this organization: Therapy Fund for Black Women and Girls

In the meantime,

Click. Participate. our survey.

Click. Participate. our survey.

Participate now … or forever hold your peace.

THE POWER OF THE MESSAGE

The 2020 Edition of Weight Stigma Awareness Week (WSAW) took place between September 28 and October 2. The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) under the leadership of Chevese Underhill Turner, started the WSAW in 2011. WSAW is intended to bring much needed attention to the issue of weight stigma and weight discrimination as they impact eating disorders.

With regard to weight stigma, The Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED) at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health’s published a clear and direct message:

“Weight stigma and the discrimination it is used to justify are common, negatively impact the health of all people, and are particularly harmful for those living in larger bodies. Experiencing weight stigma contributes to depression, anxiety, and suicidality. Weight stigma in healthcare and physical activity settings impedes access to these settings, leading to their avoidance. Weight stigma also creates the conditions that render people vulnerable to exploitative marketing tactics. For example, marketing of tobacco, diet products, and highly processed foods with low nutritional value is designed to drive up profits while driving down the health of struggling communities.

Weight stigma is also a significant risk factor for eating disorders. The more a person takes negative messages about body weight to heart, the more likely they are to develop an eating disorder, regardless of how much that person weighs. Stigmatizing messages about body weight come from mass media, educators, bullies at school, fitness professionals, prospective employers, landlords, and businesses. And they can also come from public health and healthcare professionals.”

STRIPED’s position is direct. Intelligent. To the point. It provides a common rallying point. An issue to be embraced by all. A vision, a mission, a reality bigger than any one person. And yet, embracing this vision is so elusive.

WSAW 2020 epitomized 2020 in a nutshell. It will be remembered for its divisiveness, rancor and emotional, reactionary messages. WSAW 2020 will be known as the time when the important message behind weight stigma took a back seat to a significantly lesser issue. The Power of the Message behind weight stigma was not only completely lost, but was not even articulated by people who claim to have been most impacted by weight stigma. As a result, the eating disorder community was cheapened.

The failings of WSAW 2020 centered on the eating disorder community’s failure to recognize that we as a society can only make progress, that we can only accomplish great and mighty things when we embrace the Power of the Message, and not the Image of the Messenger.

Chevese Turner, who occupied the role of Chief Policy and Strategy Officer for NEDA after the merger of BEDA and NEDA in 2018, was let go by NEDA in the weeks leading up to WSAW 2020. And NEDA, as it was expected and entitled to do, carried forward with WSAW 2020.  However, neither NEDA nor Ms. Turner issued a public statement on the ending of this employment relationship.

Since no statement effectively addressing the termination of Ms. Turner’s employment was issued, the confusion, rancor, anger and push back from a number of people was not surprising and was not unexpected. Some of the reaction on social media included the following:

Kaylie Bucaro Is anyone going to answer our questions about your lack of inclusivity? And lack of credit to the creator of WSAW (aka the reason this event was created)?

Meghan Cichy Looking forward to NEDA’s response on how they plan to address their organizations weight stigma.

Hanna Boleman Why did you fire Chevese Turner and then take over her project???

Hanna Boleman Why did you unjustly fire Chevese Turner?

Beckie Hill Is this ED prevention in ALL bodies? Including fat, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ etc? I’m confused. You have yet to respond to my, and hundreds of other people’s requests around Chevise. Joslyn is now gone, as is your ambassador (Ragen). Which bodies are you asking US to request for? Given your continued silence, I am left to assume it is not my body or bodies like mine.

Lisa Jennette Du Breuil Continued silence about why you fired Chevese Turner is sending a crystal clear message about who you really value, NEDA. So disappointed.

Ellyn Silverman Linnetz Will not be doing anything unless you are transparent. All bodies are meant to be included. Not fired and bullied like you have. Lost credibility in my eyes.

Bethany Constien Wheeler How can we prevent eating disorders if organizations, like NEDA, aren’t willing to take responsibility for perpetuating body oppression of marginalized bodies?

Hanna Boleman Can you explain more about how you support bodies in all sizes and shapes experiencing eating disorders? Why did you fire Chevese Turner?

Eating as a Path to Yoga NEDA, please deal with your internalized fat phobia.

Maeve Fickes NEDA are you going to address what happened with Chevese Turner? If not, this is the most hypocritical video

Rebecca Scritchfield NEDA…. As a thin cis het helping pro, I am trying to find ONE fat person who supports your recent firing of Chevese Underhill Turner without explanation and using #WSAW2020 without crediting her or BEDA as originators. It’s sad because people deserve activism but it must be authentic, and led by the people you purport to help. What you’re doing is hollow and hurtful.

Rachel Millner NED it is important for your readers to know (and you should be stating this) that weight stigma awareness week was created by Chevese Turner founder of BEDA and taken over by NEDA only after the merger.

Weight stigma should matter to everyone- including NEDA- and you need to take accountability for the weight stigma you perpetuated by firing Chevese and now promoting WSAW as if it were your own.

As an organization, you need to do your own workaround weight stigma. If you eliminated weight stigma in your organization, it would go a long way in eliminating it in the field.

Megan L Mills Fat babe here saying: Check yourselves for weight stigma in YOUR OWN ORGANIZATION NEDA!

Ellyn Silverman Linnetz NEDA …. unfortunately I do not associate this Awareness Week with your organization. You do not represent those that are oppressed. When you do… you will need to earn back trust and loyalty.

Megan L Mills Until a statement is issued with full transparency on how they intend to address the weight stigma in their own administration, I cannot and will not support NEDA.

Kristen A. Hardy An event on bias against fat people, featuring all thin people? Sounds like NEDA!

Julie Duffy Dillon Until NEDA provides more transparency on what happened with the firing of Chevese Turner—the person who created Weight Stigma Awareness Week—I consider it a harmful organization and will not recommend it.

Lisa Jennette Du Breuil Until NEDA offers a public explanation for why Chevese Turner was let go from the organization, I’m not participating or promoting #WSAW. Do Better NEDA

Meghan Kacmarcik Seconding the comments above – we demand transparency. It is it deeply troubling to me that NEDA has decided to become to ambassador for WSAW when they chose to let Chevese (the creator of WSAW!) go, still with no explanation or answers. Even more troubling is the fact that most people on the panel about weight stigma next week are in smaller bodies. Who is leading the charge on this? Is it a person in a larger body? Is it a person who has had the lived experience of weight stigma? Considering the lack of people working for NEDA who live in larger bodies (one, if I’m not mistaken), the answer is probably no. I no longer feel safe recommended NEDA as a safe resource for clients and I will no longer be referring anyone there until we have answers. It feels like NEDA cares about using buzzwords but not actually doing anything to combat the deadly impact of weight stigma.

Beckie Hill This is NOT YOURS!! This event was started by someone you parted ways with and have yet to issue any statement about. I’m disgusted and angry at you NEDA!

Angela Meadows How dare you take credit for WSAW? This was Chevese Underhill Turner’s labour of love that she built up from nothing. WTF NEDA? This is a disgrace.

Amy Blackmore How do you expect anyone to take you seriously with your dismissal of the very person who started this event, Chevese Turner? You have done so much damage with this move. Unbelievable.

This was an outpouring of anger, of indignation, of recrimination, of fear, of resignation. And this articulation of negative energy was not even directed at society’s ignorance of weight stigma. No. The very week when the Power of the Message regarding weight stigma should have been elevated to one all powerful, unified, “we stand together as one and shall be heard” voice, it was drowned out by a cacophony of crowd noise regarding one person. The Power of the Message was forgotten. The Power of the Message was lost. And People who Lead do not allow that to happen. In fact, for People who Lead losing the Power of the Message is inconceivable.

Consider John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address and his knowledge that a democracy thrives only when citizens contribute their talents to the common good. Persons who Lead inspire citizens to acts of sacrifice. When President Kennedy exhorted us to “Ask not, what your country can do for you,” he appealed to our noblest instincts. He was voicing a message that we were eager, and needed to hear. He lifted our spirits. He recognized that it was the importance of the message that speaks to us.

In 1987, President Reagan, in his famous “Tear Down This Wall” speech extolled a message far greater than him, “We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace … Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”

Admiral William McRaven, who in a commencement speech given at the University of Texas said these powerful words, “So, if you want to change the world, start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and you will fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never ever give up, if you do these things, the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here, will indeed have changed the world for the better.”

Powerful messages and righteous causes appeal not just to our intellect, but to our hearts, our souls, and the very essence of our life. Those messages and causes inspire us to take action, to improve society, to help those who cannot help themselves. True persons of wisdom and insight recognize the power of the message and have the ability to remove themselves from the equation. They instinctively know it is not about them. And they act accordingly.

On the first day of WSAW 2020, the following message was posted on social media:

 (9/28/20) “NEDA just sent out an email to its list that talks about Weight Stigma Awareness Week.

I want to be very clear that Wendy advocated for BEDA to take on weight stigma as one of its pillars and had the idea for WSAW. I acknowledged her for this reason — it was her continually advocacy to have the organization begin telling the story about weight stigma and eating disorders.

But I also want to be clear that the board of directors and I founded the week. I did the programming and did the labor. It was an important effort between me and the board of directors. [emphasis added]

I’m sorry that NEDA feels it has to try to minimize my role because it is getting negative feedback from the community who knows who I am and what I stand for. [emphasis added]

Its author? Chevese Underhill Turner.

The remainder of WSAW 2020 was defined by acrimonious messages, demands, threats, resignations of both paid and volunteer positions and naïve calls for reinstatement. The social media posts previously referenced represent but a taste of the acrimony.

Now, imagine if the message on September 28 had been different. Imagine if that message was more along the lines of:

“Weight Stigma Awareness Week is upon us. And collectively, we must come together as one. We must speak with one mighty voice. Weight stigma is bigger, much bigger than any one person. Weight stigma has hurt so many in our community. And unless we find a way to put our differences aside, unless we find a way to send a powerful, impactful, passionate message that resonates not just within our community, and not just within the medical and mental health community, but mainstream society as a whole we will continue to fail. Whatever differences which may currently exist between NEDA and me are insignificant when compared to the seemingly insurmountable challenges which lie ahead. Embrace the message! Write the person who represents you in Congress. Send our powerful message to every school board, every city council, every medical and mental health association. Send our powerful message to every parent organization. Send our powerful message to every governor and mayor. Send our powerful message to every political group and to all media outlets. Our voices must be heard. Our powerful message … weight stigma must and will be eradicated will echo across our great land.”

Two very different messages. And those messages illustrate the differences between “a leader,” and “a Person who Leads.” A leader is merely a person who holds a position of authority. They are a “boss.” It is the spot in the hierarchy of the workplace providing authority. In essence, a leader is an authority figure because of a title. A leader leads through bullying or by excluding people who do not agree with him/her. Anyone can be a boss.

On the other hand, a “Person who Leads” receives his or her authority from within, an internal place. A title doesn’t make anyone a Person who Leads and those persons can show leadership even if they are lower in the workplace hierarchy. It is inherent. People follow a Person who Leads because they believe in that person’s innate ability to take charge and change things in a positive, direct, progressive manner. A Person who Leads assumes a place of authority because they are able to communicate their vision honestly and with transparency and inspires others to follow. Persons who Lead do not demand authority. To the contrary. Persons who Lead not only listen to, but welcome voices who disagree with him/her. Authority is bestowed upon them through acclimation. Humility and a servant mentality are their sword and shield. Persons who Lead understand the Power of the Message.

The eating disorder community just missed another incredible opportunity. An opportunity to bring collaboration and healing from the depths of despair and acrimony. An opportunity to learn, to understand that the Image of the Messenger is more often than not, an impediment to growth and progress.

The Power of the Message is about humility. The Power of the Message is about love.  The Power of the Message is pure and open, honest and transparent. The Power of the Message overshadows pain and anguish, jealousy and greed, ego and self-absorption.

The Power of the Message.