23. EACH DAY. 23 lives that have been lost. 23 unnecessary deaths. How did they die? They starved themselves to death. They threw up their guts to the point that their eyes became permanently bloodshot. They believed that they were “less than” anyone or anything else, and made themselves so invisible that they lost the will to live.
When Sarah was just 5 years old, she watched her mom sing in the choir at church. She and her mom would sing while mom cooked, and mom would sing to her at night. Sarah loved and lived to sing.
Sarah sang in the youth choir as she grew up, and knew that she wanted to sing professionally, “I just love being on stage – whether in the lead or in the choir.” She remembers the day that she told her mom that she wanted to sing professionally. For Sarah’s 12th birthday, her mom took her to the Christmas symphony in Atlanta. She loved everything about it – the lights, the emotional build-up, the audience in awe. “Mom, omg, I absolutely LOVE this. I want to sing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra!!”
Sarah mused and giggled with her girlfriends that next week at school. As a sixth grader, she felt awkward and was a typical pre-teen. She watched her friends closely and sought to strike a balance between being different, but not too different from her friends. She hit puberty before many of her friends, and her tall, rounding figure made her feel “fat”. She heard her mom comment about her own figure, and she feared being “a full-figured girl” like her mom, because she could see how unhappy her mom was.
When her parents told her that they were going to get a divorce in the new year, she was sad and shocked. She protected them and her younger brother from her tears, as she didn’t want to add any more stress to their lives. She felt like a burden, yet out of control and lost at the same time.
Sarah began to diet, in order to slim down and stay small. It also kept her mind off of her parents. She first began to cut out sugar, then starches, then many other foods that she needed to have in order to grow in a normal, healthy manner. She joined the track club at school and would exercise as much as she could, often until she was exhausted and dizzy. She slowly began to wither away, but never reaching the point that she felt that she was “good enough.” She told her parents that she was “ok”, and continued to run to cope.
What happened over the next three years was extremely scary for the whole family. Sarah appeared to lose focus on her studies and became more focused on running the 5K in record time. She dropped singing because she felt that it was too financially draining for her parents and became too tired. Besides, her throat hurt because of the purging that became an all-too-familiar way of her managing her sweet cravings.
In the end, Sarah lost the will to live. Her overwhelming feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, and loss became too much for her to bear. She went through a 60-day treatment program for eating disorders, outpatient therapy, and support groups. Her parents and brother begged and pleaded with her to eat and listen to the treatment team, but she suffered a massive heart attack in the hospital and could not be resuscitated. She was 19 years old.
Unfortunately, Sarah’s story is far too common. Please help Manna to decrease the #23perday to zero. They need to know that you care and that they are worth it.