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Elated, Not Emaciated

Elated, Not Emaciated

Hardworking. Musical. Intelligent. Kind. Dedicated. Motivated. Smart. Successful. Good kid. Positive. Strong values. Fashionable. Skinny. Normal. Friendly. Loving. Passionate.

All of these characteristics described who I was growing up as I developed my Suburban-Chicago girl life.

Anorexic. Disordered. Mentally ill. Starving. Emaciated. Underweight. Tired. Grumpy. Unstable. Stressed. Negative. Skewed values. Out of touch. Distant. Inauthentic.

Two years ago I never would’ve believed these could be used to describe me. But one year ago they did. I need to take you back much further though, if you are going to understand.

The Beginning

From a young age I was skinny. I never could find pants that would be tight enough in the waist and long enough in the legs. I knew I was thin. People told me so. It was a small piece of my identity; never something I thought much about, but I knew it was there.

My personality as a young girl was shy and hard working. I always wanted to do the right thing. I had a great family, an awesome best friend, and was successful in school. I had a good childhood.

Then comes the awkward teenage puberty years. I mean who likes them really? I had gained some confidence in middle school as I established my identity as a musician and a self-proclaimed nerd.

By the end of 8th grade though, I had a significant amount of acne. Yes, everyone gets acne during puberty, I know. But for me, it was seriously damaging to my body image.

 

By the end of 8th grade though, I had a significant amount of acne. Yes, everyone gets acne during puberty, I know. But for me, it was seriously damaging to my body image.

 

I went into high school very self-conscious about my appearance. There was not a day of freshmen year I didn’t go to school wearing makeup to cover my acne.

My high school was very strong academically and because I have always strived to do my best, I pushed myself very hard. I earned great grades and was very successful during the first couple years of high school.

I also continued to love playing cello in orchestra and found most of my friends through music. Overall I was happy, even if somewhat stressed, freshman and sophomore year.

The Change

Things began to change summer before junior year. That is where the seeds of my eating disorder were planted. There were no disordered habits yet, but my negative body image had transferred to my whole body.

body-image-media
Image Courtesy: YouTube.com – Megan Kay

 

I was keenly aware of what the right appearance for a women in our society is: thin. I progressed through puberty and I was gaining weight.

It was not something I consciously thought about, but hindsight is 20/20, and now I realize that my identity as a skinny person was being challenged.

I no longer thought I was thin enough. I wasn’t anorexic yet, but these feelings were foundational in what happens next.

My Eating Disorder

People always told me junior year would be the most stressful year of high school. I didn’t believe them until I developed an eating disorder during it.

Junior year was most definitely stressful. I was taking rigorous courses. I was worried about applying to college. I had to make decisions about my future.

My schedule was full of music extracurriculars. I had no time for myself. I was constantly busy. I was constantly stressed. I didn’t have a spare moment to step back and realize I was doing too much.

So around November of my junior year I began to exercise some. It started off as a stress reliever. Nothing more. I would get up before school and run on the treadmill. Nothing harmless. It was healthy even.

So around November of my junior year I began to exercise some. It started off as a stress reliever. Nothing more.At this time, I continued to have negative body image. I questioned whether I was skinny enough. Even when people would tell me I was skinny, I told myself that, no I really was not.

 

Through the holidays of junior year, I did not really have a lot of disordered behaviors yet, but I had thoughts about eating less. Plenty of people feel this way as they make their resolutions to eat healthier and exercise more for the new year.

The difference for me was that I actually followed through with those resolutions. All the way to anorexia. I thought I was doing the right thing. I was buying into our diet culture idea that happiness can be achieved through dieting and exercise.

I thought I was doing the right thing. I was buying into our diet culture idea that happiness can be achieved through dieting and exercise.

 

My Coping Mechanism

It did not take long for eating “healthy” and exercising to become the center of my thoughts and thus, the center of my life. Often eating disorders are a coping mechanism.

Mine definitely was a coping mechanism for dealing with the stress of high school life and not feeling like I was ever good enough. By controlling my eating and weight, it felt like I had control over my life. The sad reality is that my eating disorder was actually controlling me.

I became obsessed with running. I had to run every morning before school. I would get up at 5am to run.

Now looking back that sounds insane, but at the time it was the best part of my day because it was the only time I felt okay in my body.

Now looking back that sounds insane, but at the time it was the best part of my day because it was the only time I felt okay in my body.

 

After I ate breakfast, however small it was, I became negative about my body for the rest of the day. I was consumed by thoughts of not consuming food. It was a constant battle to see how much less I could eat.

Body Positive Memes

 

After a few months of this, I had lost a significant amount of weight. By the end of junior year, I not only had the mentality of an anorexic, I looked anorexic.

Losing Control

Having an eating disorder takes your life away. The things that used to bring me joy did not any more. I didn’t have the energy to fully enjoy them. I couldn’t completely focus on things because food was a constant thought in the back of my mind.

A starving body and mind cannot reach their full potential. Being skinny is portrayed as something that will make you happy, and I bought into that. But when I was at my skinniest I was the furthest I have ever been from being happy. I was grumpy and irritable and depressed, but I couldn’t understand why.

skinny is portrayed as something that will make you happy, and I bought into that. But when I was at my skinniest I was the furthest I have ever been from being happy.

 

Summer before senior year passes by as I continue my same disordered habits. I have lost so much weight by this point, and my parents have noticed. Both my parents and I are in denial that I have a problem. My parents just wanted me to gain weight but I didn’t.

Senior finally arrives and I am so happy to almost be done with high school. Since junior year is over, the one colleges care the most about, I try and stress less about school.

Realizing I Have an Eating Disorder

It was a gradual process, but during September of senior year I began to think something might be a little off. I read an article in Seventeen magazine about Tyler Oakley’s struggles with an eating disorder and I related to his experiences.

tyler-oakley-body-positivity
Image Courtesy: Seventeen Magazine

 

My mom told me that at my doctor’s appointment in October they would be worried about how much weight I had lost. I was realizing more and more how much confidence I lacked in my body, despite all the focus on eating healthy and exercising.

The turning point for me was at the beginning of October during Homecoming of senior year. This was a night that should be full of fun: getting dressed up, hanging out with friends, eating at a nice restaurant, going to the dance.

The turning point for me was at the beginning of October during Homecoming of senior year.

 

That night is one I don’t think I will ever forget, but not because of how much fun I had. At the restaurant, after eating my dinner (salad, the only thing I would order out), I went to the bathroom to freshen up. I remember looking at myself in the full length mirror and thinking I look so fat in this dress.

Darcey Pittman
Darcey Pittman before diagnosis

 

I will forever be grateful that I was able to realize I am wearing a size zero dress. I should not be calling myself fat. I have a problem.

I will forever be grateful that I was able to realize I am wearing a size zero dress. I should not be calling myself fat. I have a problem.

 

This experience juxtaposed with a moment at the dance solidified my need for help.

I hugged a friend at the dance and she told me “Wow you are so skinny!” Clearly something was not right here. I thought I was fat, while others told me I was skinny.

I thought a lot about my life the following week and by the next weekend I had come to an important conclusion.

My Bravest Moment

One of the bravest moments of my life, if not the bravest moment of my life, was walking into my mom’s office, opening my mouth and hearing the words “I think I have an eating disorder” come out.

 

Positive Body image
Darcey and her mother

 

One of the bravest moments of my life, if not the bravest moment of my life, was walking into my mom’s office, opening my mouth and hearing the words “I think I have an eating disorder” come out.

 

The next day I was diagnosed with anorexia. That day changed my life.

I felt like everything I had known was completely turned upside down as I began my treatment for anorexia.

How had this happened? I thought senior year was supposed to be filled with happy memories, not dietician appointments and therapy sessions.

It was so difficult to comprehend. Everything I thought I was doing to be “healthy,” was actually doing just the opposite to me.

I couldn’t even understand what was happening myself, much less could I talk about it with others. I continued to go to school like everything was fine. Mental illness is a silent battle. No one can see mental illness from the outside.

Treatment has been a long and hard process. I had no idea the hardships I would have to fight through when I entered my journey towards recovery.

What an anorexic fears the most is gaining weight and eating different foods, but only by doing those things in treatment can you fully recover.

I would not say I am fully recovered yet, but I am well on my way.

As a freshman in college now, I have adjusted well to my new environment. I am currently weight restored and am learning to love my new body.

I have survived the hardest part of recovery and want to share my story to help others.

Being 5 pounds less, 10 pounds less, 20 pounds less, will not make you happier. I learned this the hard way.

It was an important lesson to learn though. Only by accepting yourself can you truly be happy.

It was an important lesson to learn though. Only by accepting yourself can you truly be happy.

 

Striving for body positivity is an ongoing journey for me. It seems counterintuitive, but I am the happiest in my body now, at the highest weight I have ever been.

Now I know my worth should not be based on my body. My goal in life is not to be as skinny as possible. I am meant to do so much more with my life. Body positivity is freeing.

When you can accept yourself, you are unstoppable!

Darcey Pittman
Darcey Pittman months after diagnosis

 

My story is still being written, but I know that I am not simply a recovering anorexic. I am so much more.

I am all that I was pre-ED and more. Warrior. Recovering. Feminist. Survivor. Strong. Powerful. Inspirational. Blogger. Committed to change. Empowered. And most importantly, ready to EnD ED and be body positive.

For more on my story check out my blog at endedblog.wordpress.com and follow me on Instagram @endedblog

About Darcey Pittman

I’ve been in recovery from anorexia for the past year, which has led me to strive for body positivity and self acceptance. Currently a college student majoring in gender studies. I play the cello and am an avid giraffe lover!