When the mirror is your enemy: living with Body Dysmorphic Disorder
The first time I learned about Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) was from an episode of Dr. Phil, when I was probably too young to watch Dr. Phil. I remember thinking how strange, and how scary it must be to have the mirror be your worst enemy.
Years later, that became the truth for me. People will often ask my why I have self-esteem issues, if I was bullied, etc. Yes, I was subject to my fair share of schoolyard cruelty, but I know plenty of folks who’ve had it worse. So, I don’t have an explanation as to why BDD decided to rear its head during my last year of high school – a time when I should have been having fun. It just happened. When I think about my life during that time it feels like watching a movie. I was so absent from my daily life and so much of my time was spent comparing myself to other women, thinking about the flaws on my face people must have been staring at when they talked to me. It was almost an out-of-body experience.
When I decided I needed to recover, the phrase “fake it till you make it” really applied to me. During the end of the school year, my mom was afraid to let me attend university – she thought it would be too much. So, I pretended to be better. And eventually I did feel better. (By the way, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this approach to anyone else, because things I didn’t fully deal with came up in other forms later.) I decided to avoid the theatre major at MUN I was considering, because I did not think it would be a good environment for my recovery. I stayed local and attended King’s for journalism instead. Lo and behold, I survived. It’s been about a year since I graduated university.
These days, I am still learning to love myself. I’m torn between “everyone is beautiful” and “exterior beauty doesn’t matter.”I feel so fortunate to have a support system of people who are more concerned with lifting each other up than tearing each other down. There are so many conversations to be had about the way we see beauty, and I know I can’t list them all here. I’ll just say I think we should all do our best do get rid of the expectations we have about what people “should” look like. We put people into boxes based on gender, race, age, etc. and it’s just not reflective of reality. “Women shouldn’t be hairy,” for example. Well, says who?
After my initial conversation with Jeremie, Brian and Taylor, I felt great. In the days following my interview, though, I felt anxious. What will people think of me when they hear this episode – especially people I know? Will they see me differently? Will they call me crazy? These thoughts, I feel, stem from the same place BDD stems from. I do not need to be ashamed. I have mental illnesses but they do not have me.
P.S. For anyone who is struggling with self-love, I’d like to include a few links to things that have helped and inspired me over the years.
Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi (about anorexia, not BDD, but I still found it relatable)