Mental illness blights the lives of millions. Every day, they have to fight a battle that no one can see inside their mind. It’s a lonely experience for many, and it can lead some into a place so dark that they believe they have no option other than to take their own lives.
But one woman suddenly decided not to end her life because of a simple message on a Starbucks cup. To those who don’t know her, Bekah Georgy of Salem, New Hampshire, is a happy young woman who loves dogs, ballet and spending time with her friends and family, but she has a dark secret which has consumed most of her life so far. “When you look at me, you might assume I’m happy, bubbly, outgoing, and full of life. But you don’t really see the complete me. You wouldn’t know that behind this plastered smile is a girl who has broken and fallen to pieces,” she revealed “You wouldn’t know this girl had so much self-hate, she starved herself for over half her young life.” Bekah suffers from anorexia nervosa and her battle with the illness has caused her to attempt to end her life five times already. In October 2015, she opened up to the mental health website The Mighty about a small act of kindness which stopped her from trying to end her life again. No matter how bad her mental and physical health is, one of the constants in Bekah’s life is her love of coffee. In the story that she recounted, she wrote that on one particularly dark day, when she was consumed by suicidal thoughts, all she wanted was an iced coffee from Starbucks, and it was this simple craving that ended up making an immeasurable difference to her life. The story was written in the form of a letter to the Starbucks barista who unknowingly saved her.
“Dear barista, You didn’t know me and you didn’t know my story. Most importantly, you probably didn’t know writing the simple word ‘smile’ on my order would change my day for the better. When you look at me, you might assume I’m happy, bubbly, outgoing and full of life. But you don’t really see the complete me.”
“You wouldn’t know that behind this plastered smile is a girl who has broken and fallen to pieces. You wouldn’t know this girl had so much self-hate, she starved herself for over half her young life. Or that she’s tried to end her own life five times.”
“I’m guessing you didn’t know these past few weeks, and that day particularly had been extremely hard. You were just going about your job, unaware that writing a minuscule word on my drink would change my day and possibly my life.”
“Maybe you wrote ‘smile’ on my drink because you saw the feeding tube. Or maybe you could see past my fake smile because you’ve been where I am. Either way, I’m grateful. You didn’t have to make my order special. You could have treated me like another annoying customer. But you took that extra second to add some positivity to a life that’s been filled with so much negativity lately.”
Tragically, eating disorders and death are closely linked. Those who suffer from them are the most likely sufferers of any mental illness to die, and one in five of these deaths is the result of suicide. In fact, without treatment, 20% of all sufferers will lose their lives.
“You see, my day consisted of a horrible doctor’s appointment and a horrible therapy session. I was filled with hopelessness, and my suicidal thoughts were getting worse.”
“When my anorexia is bad, sometimes coffee is the only thing I can drink. But I was afraid to consume even coffee that day.”
“If I hadn’t encountered that cup, I could have done more damage to myself that night. When I read that word, I couldn’t help but smile, literally.”
“A simple act of kindness can mean the world to someone. It can provide hope for the hopeless. Now I plan to pass this hope along. So barista, thank you. Thank you for turning my day around.”
It’s a common misconception that those who suffer from eating disorders do so because they want to be beautiful. For many people, eating disorders are a way of controlling the world around them, and, after being sexually abused as a child, that was the case for Becca. Check out this video below where one woman describes how the kindness of strangers saved her life:
Recovering from anorexia isn’t an easy process – it certainly isn’t just a case of eating more. People with anorexia often develop other conditions like muscle atrophy. They not only need to change their relationship and attitude towards food and their body but deal with the effects which anorexia has wreaked on their body. Recovery involves a lot of hospital visits and therapy, which can lead to other mental health conditions like depression. That’s why the barista’s small act of kindness meant so much to Becca, whose entire world was consumed by a fight against her own mind. In the UK, 46% of those who suffer from anorexia nervosa recover completely, 33% improve, and 20% remain chronically ill. So the next time you see someone who looks like they are having a bad day, go out of your way to brighten it. They might be fighting a battle that you can’t see and a small act of kindness could end up saving their life. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out to the Samaritans on 1 (800) 273-TALK.