This post is going to be a difficult one to write. I’ve tried typing it countless times but it all ended up in my recycling bin. When I was approached by the wonderful creators of the #MentalMovement to write of my ongoing battle with BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder), I was rather reluctant. Not because I was afraid of telling my story or putting such a vulnerable side of me out there, but because I couldn’t help wondering what gives me the right to give advice to other sufferers out there. I can barely get through some days and this ought to be a place where you can come and feel a spark of hope. Then I saw a little line that’s written in the corner of my notebook – “Be the person you once needed.” I never wanted to know that everything was going to be okay, and I didn’t want someone to tell me what to do.. I just wanted to not feel alone in my battle. So, I’m writing. And I’m not coming to you as a professional, a guide, or a writer. I’m coming to you as a friend who understands.
This is my story.
I had just turned 12 when I started to loathe my appearance. I would look in the mirror and hate the girl staring back at me, I often still do that. You can’t say I’m not a young lady of habit, heh. Yes, I mask my awkwardness with humour. I was chubbier than most girls my age back then, due to various reasons that really don’t matter in this blog post. One could argue that it was just that stage of chubbiness that most girls go through, hormones and physical changes playing a big part in it. I was a young developer. I had lumps of fat on my chest before anyone I knew, and my hips swelled outward. It was just a part of growing up, but I couldn’t see past my own reflection to realise that. Or listen to what my mother was yammering on in my ear.
The following year was what I’d call my turning point. It was the year that molded me into the person I am today. For the better? Maybe not, maybe yes. I don’t know. Home life changed a whole lot and because of that I gained a hefty amount of free time, which I chose to use by becoming obsessed with body image. I took a shine to working out and I restricted calories to a point of ridiculousness. It was.. messy. I was a mess. I still am some days, and that’s okay.
A girl in high school once commented on the amount I was eating – mocking me in front of the others at the table as it was apparently deemed as “too much”. That was when I was at my heaviest. Yet when I began to take control over what I put in my body that led to my mother commenting on my food. I understand now that she was just worried I wasn’t eating enough, but at the time it felt like I couldn’t win and I felt embarrassed because of that. Due to this, I grew up to find it ridiculously hard to eat in front of people and to discuss food. I still do. I’m slowly learning, but some days the thought of going to a restaurant and eating is nauseating. What if people are looking and judging me for the amount I put on my fork? Will the waiter be thinking that I’m too fat for what I’m ordering? Such idiotic thoughts, but yet I can’t stop myself from thinking them.
My other problem is that I now find it difficult to stop working out after a certain time, despite the fact that I know it will cause me a great deal of pain due to Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that worsens after extensive movement or stress. But that’s another story for another time. Exercise was my escape, and I lost that the second pain became it’s following act. This is undoubtedly the main reason why I continue to have such an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s my only source of control. I can’t choose when to work up a sweat any more, nor can I choose where my life is leading.. But food? I can choose what goes in my mouth and I get the choice of how much gets eaten. It’s terrible to write such a thing, but I can’t hide from the abundant truth. I lack a sense of leadership in my own life, so my mind naturally takes advantage of it when I find some.
Through all of this, I never felt like I lost a pound in spite of those rough years. I’m 19 years old as I write this, and I still don’t. I wake up everyday and feel embarrassed when I look into that shiny thing we call a mirror. That may be too honest, but that’s the point of writing this. Honesty. I often feel sick when I’m getting dressed and I can feel the skin of my body being tugged and squishing together, when I walk and can feel the way my thighs and stomach wobble and I’m adamant others can see it through the layers that I’m wearing. I make excuses every time something proves that I’m no longer the 12 year old girl who weighed a little too much. It’s as though my brain constantly reverts back to it’s old ways, as though it wants me to hate myself as it’s all I’ve known for so long. It’s my safety net from reality.
I did seek medical help at one point in my life but they automatically put my troubles with body issues down to social anxiety as I was constantly worried about what others were thinking of me. That may sound a tad conceded, but yes. I understand now that although I may have anxiety when put in circumstances that involve crowds or interactions, I’m more likely to judge myself than others are. I’m not as bad as I used to be, and there wasn’t really a turning point that made me come to my senses.. I just, slowly got back to being me. I had my first love, and I found a unit of friends online that distracted me from wanting to do my nightly workout. I guess I suppressed the obsession. But to this day, when I’m alone and the silence is suffocating me, I become fixated on my body. It isn’t healthy but I’m working on it.
So, that’s my story so far. I’m ever so scared that I’ll never feel comfortable in my own skin, and I don’t fully know how to come to terms with that. How to be okay with the realisation that I might not ever accept a compliment gracefully without wondering why a loved one would lie to me in such a way. But I’ll get there, and I’m hoping some of you will take the journey with me.
You aren’t alone, and you weren’t born wrong. This is an invisible illness, and never allow someone to put you down or make you feel less than you are because of it. You can do this. You’re a fighter.