Matthew Koma’s new single, “Dear Ana,” might sound like a letter to a lover — but it’s actually a goodbye song inspired by his battle with anorexia.
“At the time I had just started going through the realization that I’d spent many years in a very unhealthy relationship with food and battling different versions of eating disorders, and I’d never really spoken it out loud or talked about it. And for whatever reason, that song sparked the idea of, I wanted to talk about this,” the deejay and singer-songwriter says in a new behind-the-scenes video about the track, on which he collaborated with EDM artist Jai Wolf.
Koma, 29, adds that writing the lyrics during a trip to Ibiza was a cathartic experience — “kind of in this living hell of just in the throes of battling that, and that’s the song that came out,” he adds. “It definitely tapped into something that was really hard to admit to myself, never mind talk about and put into a song.”
The Long Island native — who has written for dance powerhouses including Zedd and Alesso — released the poignant, synth-tinged ballad in April. And on Monday, he opened up further about his eating disorder in a heartfelt blog for the National Eating Disorders Association.
“I remember being really young when I first became conscious of my unhealthy relationship with body image,” Koma wrote on NEDA’s website. “It was the classic ‘being in elementary school’ kind of thing; I was bullied for being a little chubby, having to take my shirt off in locker rooms, and being profoundly uncomfortable with day-to-day pressures. I quickly developed this false narrative that my self-worth was directly related to how skinny I was or how I looked. I couldn’t imagine anyone else felt this way and didn’t even think to be open about it as a teenager.”
Over the years, Koma wrote, he began to experience anxiety and panic attacks, and family and friends began to express concern over his emaciated frame; and pursuing music professionally in a looks-based industry only exacerbated his condition.
“After about two or three years of that behavior, depriving myself of any sort of real nutrition and getting down to an extremely low weight, my heart stopped working,” he wrote in the blog entry. “I ended up in the hospital and they wanted to do an emergency surgery to install a pacemaker because my heart rate was so low. My body was shutting down. My hair was actually falling out. I had no energy and couldn’t walk for more than a few minutes without feeling exhausted. I was literally dying. This was two weeks before I’d step on stage to play my first Coachella. It was the year I had my first few hit songs and from the outside, everyone must’ve thought I was thrilled. I was in hell.”
Finally, 18 months ago, Koma reached his “rock bottom,” and he turned to family and friends for help.
“Now I am in a much, much healthier place both physically and mentally,” he wrote. “It’s a place I didn’t believe I could ever get to again, it felt so far. I lost all joy for a period of time. I didn’t want to experience life or friends. I had no passion. I was a ghost. But slowly, the ‘me’ I knew started to appear again.”
Now, with “Dear Ana,” Koma hopes to help others struggling with similar situations.
“The prison I allowed myself to live in is a place I never want to go back to and I hope anyone who’s experiencing their own version of this takes a deep breath and realizes it doesn’t have to be this way,” he wrote. “Mental illness and eating disorders can affect anyone—every age, race, and gender—and I’m so proud to be a part of a community that builds strength together out of weakness.”