A few weeks back I wrote Imagined Ugliness as an introduction to my battle with body dysmorphia, an issue which means it is difficult, if not impossible for me to see how I really look. It was difficult to write and I was relieved to get to the end, but I did promise to pick up on it again…
The ‘Imagined Ugliness’ came from a title of an article I read about the subject, and it completely summed things up for me… except I don’t see it is imagined, I see it as very real. After sharing this post, a (in-real-life) friend wrote to tell me she always thought I was ‘gorgeous’. I’ve known her for a very long time, although we live in different parts of the country now so haven’t seen each other for some time. After the shock died down ( I was gobsmacked that she would describe me that way), I quickly told myself that she was wrong, or she was just saying that to make me feel better, or… well anything other than that she might be telling the truth. I still don’t know, although I know that I trust her opinion. I also know she wouldn’t say something unless she really meant it. That makes it hard because then perhaps I need to believe her?
I realised too why it was so difficult for me to write that last post. It’s because I don’t think I look like I should to have this issue. Crazy isn’t it? I don’t know what I look like but I’m already judging it as not appropriate somehow. And what right have I to say anyone with BDD should look a certain way? It’s a little like the eating disorder. When I was Anorexic I couldn’t see it and so concluded that I didn’t look like someone who would have Anorexia. I didn’t think I fitted the image. Interestingly, I can see that I looked the part alright. The odd photo tells me that loud and clear. There is no ‘right’ way to look with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), and it’s challenging for me to realise that actually I don’t only judge myself but also others who struggle with this. And that’s not something I want to do.
Today I got my haircut. I have mentioned before that I hate doing this, and actually it is beyond me to understand how some people love it. What it meant is nearly an hour of my image in the mirror right in front of me. I couldn’t get away. Plenty of time for self-examination and self-criticism. In between answering dumb questions about how many children I might have and what I do for a living (that’s all part of why I hate the process) I actually came to a conclusion that actually I couldn’t possibly look the way I was seeing myself. It was too distorted and… well I’ve never ever seen anyone else look that bad. So maybe it’s not possible. Maybe a part of my brain is lying to me.
Why am I posting all this? It’s not just for the sake of stripping bare my soul to you. It’s because I’ve realised that in a way I’m too comfortable with BDD. The way I see and feel about my body has been this distorted since I started to hear that I was a ‘big girl’ back when I was about seven years old. While it has caused some serious turmoil and distress over the years, I’ve got used to it. I have just accepted it, assumed it would always be that way and adapted my life around it.
Today I can see that what I see in the reflection is distorted and I have been making my life accommodate that. I’ve made a life where I hide from the world, keep myself separate from other people, and stay away from mirrors. And avoid the hairdresser.
Now I am realising that it’s not what I want for my life anymore. I want better. Maybe I will never absolutely love how I look, but I at least want to know what is real. The reason I am posting this is to in some way hold myself true to this. Work to change. It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve come far enough to realise that change is possible, and now it’s time to find a way to change this.
I feel quite hopeful. I’ve got some work to do to turn around the distortion but I’m lucky enough to have good help to do this. What also helps (interestingly) is that I no longer feel the need to hide. That fear is being lifted somehow, although I’m sure that in the right location I would still be fearful. Being stalked over such a long period taught me that hiding myself was perfectly natural. Actually it made total sense because it kept me safe. If other people could see the real me (even if not the distorted image I chose to see) it meant to stalkers could see me too. That was the last thing I wanted if I was to feel in any way safe.
It’s a funny connection between the BDD and the stalking but it makes complete sense to me now (hopefully I’m making some sense in sharing about it here). I was almost ashamed of who I was, ashamed of what I looked like, because it was that primarily the physical way of seeing me that the stalkers based their obsession on. They really didn’t know the real me, how I think, what I feel, so it is logical to want to deny who I am physically. I blamed me for their actions, even though I had done nothing wrong.
I’m tired of hiding me from both myself and those around me. I’m actually realising that I’m tired of cutting myself off from life. It goes beyond the physical and involves the emotional/mental side to me. I’ve been doing it for so long now that it just seems natural, but it doesn’t enable me to be the person I can be, or experience the joy that I know in my heart actually does exist. I know this isn’t an instant transition but I feel more hopeful that I have for as long as I can remember. Somehow I am going to make this work.
I’ve posted this music to finish not because I need someone to sing it to me. I really need to learn to be able to sing it to me myself. This is a journey.