Thursday, 20 June 2013

A bit about BDD

Today I want to try and write a little about Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and my experience of living with it. This is probably the hardest thing for me to write about, to think about. Harder, in many ways, than even the abuse by my father. I don't know why that is the case, I only know that it is true. I'm making the effort though because of all the mental illnesses I struggle with, this is is the one I've found it is hardest for people to understand.

When I have tried to explain it to people, their responses have been varied. Mostly, I have been met with words along the lines of 'but you look great, you've got nothing to worry about.' Which is sweet, and appreciated. It doesn't actually help though. The thing people seem to find so hard to grasp is that whatever they are seeing, it's not what I am seeing. So whilst on the one hand I can understand that they probably do think I look perfectly OK, my reality is different. So very different.

In my reality, my body is out of proportion. My lower arms and legs are like spindly insect legs, growing out of a bulbous, segmented body. My head is tiny, my features uneven and lopsided, my hair stringy and thin, my neck is bigger than my head. It honestly doesn't matter how much other people tell me this isn't true because for me it is. For me, this is exactly what I see when I look in the mirror. Whilst it's nice that other people don't find me physically abhorrent, at the end of the day it's how I feel about my body and looks that matters. So whilst I appreciate that people are trying to make me feel better, the reality is that until I can learn to not care so much about what I see - or to perhaps, one day, see something different in the mirror - all the compliments in the world won't help.

It goes deeper than that though. It's not only that I hate how I look. According to an old therapist of mine my obsession with my looks is a way of masking the underlying fears that I am wrong somehow. I think there is some truth in that. Certainly most of my anxiety seems based around the idea that I am simply not right in some way. Whatever the case, telling me that I look fine isn't enough to make me see it. 

I suspect the best way for me to deal with this issue is not to focus on my looks at all. I'm not there yet, but I'm trying. It is certainly the case that when I can become engaged enough in something else that I stop thinking about, I'm happier. This is something I want to work on further when I am back in therapy once more.

In the meantime, my life is an exhausting one. It's one of constantly adjusting clothing, touching up make-up, teasing hair into exactly the right place. It's one of anxiety almost every second that everybody else can see what I see and they hate it as much as I do. 

In the past, it was one where I starved myself to make everything smaller, so that my head and body 'matched.' Sure, there were other reasons for my eating disorders, but this was an increasingly big part of it. I still hold the scars where I carved the words 'fat' and 'wrong' into my leg. I once tried to carve off the bits I didn't like, the excess fat and bone that made my frame 'wrong.' 

So this place I am in now, this is progress of a sort. I no longer resort to such drastic measures as trying to alter my body by harming it. I am still a very long way however from being able to view it with anything other than disgust and terror.  After over a decade of work, I can finally accept that other people don't see me the way I do. I can finally understand that what I see is not real but is only a cruel distortion of reality.

My hope is that when I return to therapy, I will find I am more able to discuss BDD, to work on this illness as it has never been the focus in the past. 

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