Living With Body Dysmorphic Disorder

[TW: BDD, emotional abuse, low self-esteem]

I am obsessed with my appearance. 

Not in an overly narcissistic, ‘damn girl you look good’ kinda way, which would be infinitely preferable, but in an ‘I just can’t accept this is what I look like’ way. How I look and how I think I look and how that makes me feel has taken over my life. It’s what I spend the majority of my time thinking about and it sets the tone for my entire mood, as more often than not I am repulsed by what I see. 

I obsessively check my reflection in every mirror, shadow and reflective surface. I have studied the way I walk, talk and exist from all angles with greater fervour than I have applied to anything in life. I am hyper aware of my existence and the space I occupy, and it is exhausting. The hatred and paranoia run so deep, I am terrified to even consider the possibility of accepting myself as I am, because I can’t think of anything worse than settling for this. Just the thought of settling for this makes me panic. 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder often focuses on one perceived flaw but when I look at myself, I am unable to see anything but flaws, it’s exhausting and time consuming and only seems to be getting worse as so much of my time is spent looking at myself and others on social media. I dislike eye contact because I don’t like having people looking at me, I don’t like being hugged as I fear the repulsion from people having to touch me, I will repeatedly go over pictures other people have taken of me to pick apart how I look from all angles, I alternate between avoiding mirrors entirely to spending hours looking at myself and overanalysing every pore. I am frequently late because sometimes how I look is so distressing, I get too anxious to leave the house. From the size of my forehead to the shape of my feet, there is literally nothing I haven’t found an issue with. I haven’t been to a hairdresser in ten years for fear of offending someone with how awful my hair is.

For as long as I can remember, I have been told that how I am, who I am, is wrong and I am reluctant to believe anything else. Emotional abuse is so insidious it seeps in and distorts everything you thought you knew and replaces it with what you now know. See, when you’re told something enough it starts to stick and I don’t know how to throw it out and start over. Worse, do I even want to - because what am I without this hanging over me? I have convinced myself, I can only enjoy life once I look a certain way – a way that constantly changes, depending what offends me most that day. I have a plastic surgery wish list longer than my arm and once contemplated having to learn to walk again, because I read it was possible to have bone removed from your thighs to make you shorter. I would literally do anything to look like somebody else, I just don’t have the funds to do so. 

I don’t have any memories from what it was like before, what I was like before. Surely, I didn’t feel this way at 5? But I can’t remember. I can’t remember. I can remember being called a half-breed at 7, I can remember being called a p*ki at 11, a n****er at 16. I can remember being groped and pushed and spat on. I can remember being told I was worthless and disgusting, that no one would ever love me, that my own father didn’t want me, that I was repulsive and unwanted and and... I can remember being laughed at. I can remember being humiliated over and over and over again, until I had to be the one telling the ‘jokes’, making the quips, just to get it out of the way. 

I can remember you mocking my hair and my teeth and my laugh and my singing and my friends and my clothes and my interests and my scars and my stretch marks and I can remember getting so angry that I wanted to hurt you, but I couldn’t, so I hurt myself instead. I’m still hurting myself, I still hurt, it still hurts, and I don’t know why I care so much when you never did. I wish I didn’t, I wish your words were as worthless to me as I find myself but that’s not how this works. You made it easy for me to see all the ways in which I’m not enough. How I will never be enough.

Recently, I took part in a photoshoot for Lovedrobe with Jess and Violet, an incredible opportunity with some fabulous people, but a terrifying concept when you don’t like what you look like. You’re probably thinking this sounds ridiculous, considering I have spent years posting thousands of pictures of myself all over the internet, but posing for yourself or with friends is very different to having to model, to be aware of your physical presence in a way I so frequently try to avoid. Overall, I had a great experience, due to the wonderful team, and it was a fabulous day but it was a struggle; I knew I needed to look at the images to see how to improve but I also knew looking at myself would only cause me to focus on how much I don’t like my appearance and how terrible I looked in HD. 

They say you can’t love anyone until you love yourself and I refuse to believe it. Sometimes I love so much, I fear my chest may collapse with the weight of it. Sometimes I worry it’s the only thing I have. I hope that by filling everyone else up, no one will notice how empty I am. How there’s a gaping hollow where a life should be, a grim, miserable shadow of an existence, too concerned with visuals to pay attention to details. Too caught up in what’s going wrong to focus on anything going right, too obsessed with an impossible idea of perfection to enjoy the experience of living. 

My previous therapist liked to reiterate that the opinions of others aren’t important and would question why I allowed the ignorance of complete strangers to have an affect on how I choose to view myself – a seemingly rational idea but one that seems impossible to maintain because everyone has an opinion on my appearance and my whispers of confidence flicker and fade under the roaring discontent my existence seems to inspire. It would seem, the combination of being tall, fat, black, and female is just too much for people to take and I am subjected to idiocy on the daily. On a good day my anger acts as shield, and the rage I feel towards people who feel they have a right to comment on others’ appearance deflects the potential hurt. On a bad day, I disassociate and lose hours of my life to a daydream world. 

BDD is isolating and exhausting and I fear there is an overlap with how all fat girls are believed to feel, or have felt, because it’s expected we feel this negatively towards ourselves. Worse, fat people who don’t feel this way are subjected to endless abuse regarding how and why they should. If you feel like this, even a fraction, sometimes or all the time, I’m so sorry. You must be so tired.

As with all mental illness, there are good days and there are worse days, but this is something I am always dealing with. I wanted to share my experience because whilst extreme, I know many of us struggle with our appearance and the comparative nature of social media can have adverse effects on our overall self-worth. Sometimes it’s just a bad day, but if you fear you may be struggling, please speak to your GP.  

Resources:

Mind
IAPT
BDD Foundation


Previously, I have written about my struggles with depression.

Always remember, no matter how you feel about yourself, you are always worthy of love & respect.
xxx


2 comments

  1. Hi Stephanie!
    I stumbled upon your blog because someone retweeted this link.
    I find your resilience and honesty to be incredibly inspiring. I don’t know much about BDD, but you’ve definitely opened my eyes to it. I suffer from my own mental health struggles, so I can relate to that in my own way. I know it’s difficult, but I believe in your strength.
    Sending you all the love in the world. You’re so strong and so beautiful. Your journey is an inspiration.
    -Nicia

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Stephanie!
    I stumbled upon your blog because someone retweeted this link.
    I find your resilience and honesty to be incredibly inspiring. I don’t know much about BDD, but you’ve definitely opened my eyes to it. I suffer from my own mental health struggles, so I can relate to that in my own way. I know it’s difficult, but I believe in your strength.
    Sending you all the love in the world. You’re so strong and so beautiful. Your journey is an inspiration.
    -Nicia

    ReplyDelete