This last week has seen every emotion I have, and managed to sap any energy I had left over from a busy month.
This time last week I had done one exam, preparing for the next. My focus was solely on being able to pass my exams after missing so many lectures and being so disengaged. This meant the comfort and study eating was real — buying food out rather than making it was quicker, and snacking on chocolate and crisps was much more satisfying. I knew I had probably gained weight and this is normal, I was giving myself the grace to do what I needed.
A few days later I started to feel the damage. Once my focus had drifted from exams, I started to notice that I had maybe gained a bit of weight, but i knew I could probably lose it again.
Thursday I had a follow up CBT appointment to decide on treatment and more information. Here, all my thoughts and worries spewed out, and both I and the therapist realised the root of a lot of my problems – the way I look. She diagnosed me with body dysmorphia disorder, a disorder which means you see yourself in a distorted or exaggerated way that is not true to real life and there is a constant focus on the way you look. I cried instantly with relief, and then I cried in sadness. Why? Why couldn’t this be easier.
I got home, sat for a while and wondered what to do next, and settled on going out and buying some shorts, a move I have not previously made. I wanted a big fuck you to my head, that I could wear them, atleast out of my bedroom and not feel such a huge shame for my legs that are so different to everyone else’s in my flat. A weight had been lifted, that someone had actually seen what I experienced as unusual and not normal.
And of course, the doubt kicked in. I looked down and I could see the ripples of uneven skin, and the excess fat flattening on the floor when I sat down.
But seriously, what if my legs are as big as I think they are, are as wobbly and have as much cellulite, but I focus on it too much, and that’s what makes me different. How is it possible that I actually see myself differently? Surely that’s not a thing that can actually exist. It’s an excuse. It’s an excuse to settle with myself for how I am rather than what I can be.
I don’t know what I see when I look in the mirror and that’s more terrifying than I realised. The more I think about it, the more it dawns on me that I am not in control of my perception or how I see myself.
It’s made my realise I feel so detached from my body. I don’t recognise that it’s mine, because I don’t actually know what it looks like. I don’t know if I can look at it holistically at all, it’s just mismatched parts stuck together that don’t work together.
I experienced my first realisation about how linked everything is since my appointment. I got stressed, and I got uncomfortable. I was annoyed with the tv (first world problems), and I began to feel my belt digging into my stomach, and my arms moving under my cardigan and the way my trousers tightened when I sat down and I couldn’t bear it. I wanted to tear into my skin and scream, looking for someway to escape the feeling that I was growing in a matter of minutes.
Sometimes I just want to let it win. It would be so easy just to go back to bed, and give up on fighting back and just accept that this will be me now.
My real problem. Why the fuck do I have to write a blog post on my diet and my body. I could write about so many things, there’s so much more to me that this, I know that and yet, I choose this. Because this is the one thing that dominates my mind. I am not comfortable if everything is not perfect. My feelings on my body reflect how I act in everyday life – I want everything to be perfect, predictable and easy, but life, and managing bodies are none of those. My stomach bloats after a big meal, sometimes it’s just a bad hormone day, sometimes you just can’t eat anymore salad.
I really can’t find the words to express my experience of BDD, partly because the feelings change day to day, and hour to hour. I’ve tried to quite a few people, and find myself just repeating the same things “I know I sound vain but it’s not like that”, “I hope I don’t sound dramatic”, “it’s hard to explain” in fear that I just sound like i want attention from a made up illness. I’m so tired of being weak, this last year I have felt nothing but. I keep telling myself that this is the up, and that it will get better now, and yet there always seems to be something shoving me back down again.
The only hope I have is that my depression and anxiety have carried on, potentially because I have not found the root of them. And this diagnosis may be part of that, the underlying cause, which in my eyes is quite feasible. I explained BDD this evening as my underlying mood – I could have the best time, but if I don’t feel confident and ‘right’ in myself, that can dictate it from behind the scenes, tainting a lovely memory. From September I will start therapy properly, and until then I will work on making myself feel better in my own skin. I want this to be my better year, where I finally get control of my head again and stop making excuses for myself constantly. I’m fed up of apologising for being a burden, or being weak or for crying for no reason again.
So far the shorts haven’t been worn outside of my room. But I’m only hoping it’s a matter of time before I get the strength too.
P.s. I’m sorry if this post is a bit all over the place, it took me 5 days to write it,because I couldn’t get the words out.