Earlier in the year upon hearing about Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, the first thing that came to mind was Sesame Street.
As a child I often heard "Sing" by the Carpenters on old Sesame Street videocassettes. I would sing along, imagining I was hitting the notes with my mismatched outfits and platinum blonde hair. Little did I know that I was singing along to a song written by a woman who became the face of anorexia nervosa -- and its ultimate consequence, death.
When I was 12 years old I rolled my eyes at celebrities. This one was entering rehab again? Gosh, he should just quit the drinking and the drugs! That one was refusing to eat? She needs to put the food in her mouth and get over herself!
My ignorance was sliced, my mindset stabbed when I developed an eating disorder at the age of 18.
I was not vain. I was not selfish. I did not choose to don anorexia one day. Rather it developed in me over time and crushed me when it finally emerged.
I was in pain, I was afraid, and I was lonely. The unhealthy part of my brain told me that not eating would somehow help, when in reality it robbed me of my existence.
After years of fighting and pushing, challenging and throwing punches at my eating disorder I am recovered. I am healthy. I am vibrant.
Had I succumbed to my eating disorder, had I given in to the notions that my life was not worth it, you'd have never heard of me.
The news of my death would not be plastered on People magazine, my image flooding Facebook. My family and friends would have mourned and maybe my name would have circulated around my community. But I would have died an unknown. Maybe my memory would have been used to inspire others toward recovery, but had you searched Temimah Zucker you would have found empty space, much like the way I felt at the time -- empty.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's death has overwhelmed the start of this year. He was a brilliant actor, talented director, a family man, and in recovery for twenty plus years. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Karen Carpenter lived lives in the spotlight that will forever allow their memories to be engraved in our hearts.
But there are countless others whose lives have been taken by an eating disorder or by substance abuse, and you have no clue who they are.
Who are we to measure one life against another? Hendrix was a talented musician, who knows how far he'd have gone had he lived past the age of 27 -- but is his life more important, more valued than another who was lost to the same illness?
Substance abuse and eating disorders are both mental illnesses. We are prone to blame the sufferer, to dwell in ignorance and shame those who suffer. We forget that lives are lost, we forget that families mourn each day. The nation mourns when we lose great talent, but we do not mourn when we lose the unknown.
It is time to make them known. Pledge to Remember will allow us to remember those whose lives were taken. It is not only the celebrities who are missed, but also the souls we knew, the people in our lives who suffered. Pledge will provide a memorial to those who did not make it to our magazine stands, to those loved ones who wake up each day, hoping that their terrible loss was just a nightmare.
There are stories to tell and we owe it to them to listen.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.