Addressing the Prevalence of Eating Disorders through Fiction
Before I Disappear, by Barb Herding, chronicles the story of Lauren Stafford, a 16 year old girl whose self-esteem has been crushed by rejection from everyone in her life. Lauren develops a skewed perception of her body as a result of the rejection that she experiences, which turns into an eating disorder.
When her eating disorder spirals out of control and she is rushed to the hospital, Lauren meets other teens who are suffering from the same problems, and she sees that she is not alone and just how many different types of people are affected by the same affliction. As she is introduced to both males and females, she learns about teenagers from all walks of life who are internalizing different types of pressure. In group therapy, she meets Bridget, a ballerina who collapsed during her solo in The Nutcracker, Paul who should be fighting in his first championship wrestling match, and Vivian, a model who never made it to her first real photo shoot. Then there is Jenny, who does not want to tell her story to the group, as her eating disorder and near fatal episode result from a dark secret rooted in her childhood.
According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, approximately one percent of adolescent girls develop anorexia nervosa and another two to three percent develop bulimia nervosa. Alarmingly, one out of every ten anorexia cases is fatal, resulting from starvation, cardiac arrest, suicide, or other related medical complications.
Herding’s story provides an important message about eating disorders, their potential consequences, and the road to recovery, addressing an issue that is prevalent in our society through fiction. Before I Disappear is a heart-rending story that is certain to tug at the emotions of its readers, provide teens with an important message about eating disorders, and help parents to understand their teenagers who suffer from eating disorders.
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