Body Dysmorphic Disorder, also known to some as ‘Body Dysmorphia’.
There are many people who will read the headline of this post and think nothing of it, many people who will be reading this just to learn about a different type of disorder, or some of you may just be intrigued to know what exactly it is and what it means, but there will be some readers who have this disorder, and these few will know how this disorder, can seriously control many aspects of your life.
Medically, Body dysmorphia Disorder (BDD) is described as a ‘distinct mental disorder in which a person has symptoms of a medical illness, but the symptoms cannot be fully explained by an actual physical disorder. People with BDD are preoccupied with an imagined physical defect or a minor defect that others often cannot see’ (webmd quote/explanation of the disorder). To simplify this, BDD can be described as an individual who has a very negative view on their body, looks and self image, but to me and so many other BDD it is so, so much more.
For some, Body dysmorphia can start from bullying, for others, from their own insecurities, and some can even develop the disorder from growing up in an abusive family environment, and sadly these only name a couple of the reasons each individual can develop BDD. Every individual with this Disorder has their own story, their own struggles and their own thoughts on suffering with Body dysmorphia,
This is my story.
I didn’t always have BDD. Growing up, I was actually a pretty confident kid. I started Swimming at the age of 4, Gymnastics at the age of 5 and even gave Taekwondo a go at the age of 9. Swimming, however was always my favourite- and I stuck with it all the way into year 9 of highschool. Throughout Primary school I began to get bigger, yes. Was it something i noticed? Of course it was, but I was a kid, and I certainly didn’t let it bother me. The early years of Primary school, Kids weren’t cruel, everyone respected everyone and always played nice, however leading up to year 5 and 6- thats when the bullying began. Now looking back on it I laugh, because it was just young boys, being boys, trying to get a quick laugh from their mates, but back then being an 11-12 year old girl, it was something that definitely affected me, thats for sure.
Moving into Highschool and becoming a teenager, now thats where I would have to pin point the starting point of developing BDD. Highschool was tough. It can be for a lot of students, and not just females but males too. I feel like now looking back on it, everyone just wanted to get a laugh out of their friends, they wanted their friends to think they were cool or tough- but half the time It all was an act. I had a group of friends, A descent size too, I mean we were teenage girls and often our friendship groups changed. The worst thing about going to an all girls school? The amount of backstabbing. Every day it was something new. If you did something embarrassing, of course everyone knew about it but you would only have to wait a day and everyone would be talking about some new piece of gossip on someone else. Looking back on it, it was actually kind of sad. Looking back on it, I think a lot more discipline should have been taken on students who thought it was okay to put down others because they weren’t their definition of beautiful or perfect. If anything, now, It only reflects badly on the ones who did the bullying and the ‘body shaming’.
I was actually quite a big girl during the start of Highschool and leading into my last 3 years of Highschool. I knew it, I hated it, and I would cry over it every single night. I would come home from school and cry to my Mum and Dad about how I looked. Id constantly ask ‘Why?’. ‘Why me?’. I would often have a pity party for myself, and looking back at that now I shake my head. The turning point was going from an all girls School in year 9, to transitioning to the Co-Ed Boys and Girls Campus to complete year 10, 11 and 12. Luckily, for me I never got a crush on any boy from my Highschool, not one. I had boyfriends, yes – but none of them attended the same school as I did, and personally I was too ashamed in my body, my self image and the way I looked to fully be happy in any relationship I was in, so they all faded pretty quickly and were nothing too serious. I was scribble my face out in photos, hide my face in photos, crop my photos – Anything that would stop me from having to look at myself any more than I had to.
(As you can see from the above photos I found on my still existing myspace page that I uploaded from 2008-2010, I hid behind black and white photos, my side fringe and often covered my face in every single photo that was taken of me. Yes, I wasn’t a skinny girl but hating myself this much, wasn’t healthy)
In year 10, My Best friend dropped out of High-school, My Dad became extremely ill and my motivation to do anything was lost. My grades dropped, my happiness dropped and I honestly felt as if nothing was going right. I was depressed, I felt alone and I felt like i had nothing. Add a load of homework, bullying and a bunch of gossiping teenagers to that and It was a great mix of disaster for any teenage girl. Now, I’m not trying to throw a pity party for myself here again, As everything that happened through high-school has made me who I am today, but going through it, and knowing still what so many young woman and men go through throughout their High school experience breaks my heart. I hid behind baggy clothes and a hideous side fringe.
Towards the end of year 10, I wanted to make a change. I decided to start ‘eating healthier; and joined a local gym. I would starve myself by eating 400 calories a day then going and doing endless hours of cardio to burn off the calories I ate, then destroy all that work by binge eating on a weekend because I was always SO hungry. I knew it was the wrong way to go about it, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I wasn’t losing weight, But I was and I would cry about it every single day. I knew I was doing it the unhealthy way, and I think doing this to my body back then has ruined my metabolism now. I kept this up all through year 10 and all through year 11. Starving myself, then binge eating, then starving myself, then binge eating. It was a rotation that went around and around and around again. I lost a few kilograms, however every time I looked in the mirror i hated what was staring back at me. i hated my hair, my face, my teeth, but most of all- my body.
The extent and depth of my emotions and feelings were, and still are incredibly deep, which I do speak about in the novel I am currently writing, and will release to you all once completed, however I still find it hard to explain the pain, hurt and hate I had for myself. When year 12 finally came around I was more body conscious then ever. I wouldn’t wear anything other then black leggings and clothes that would hide my weight. Year 12 was hard, especially the first half. I struggled to keep up with study, working out and eating healthy, and then I met my Boyfriend, Ryan. I was honestly amazed he even showed interest in me to be honest, Here was this fit, good looking football player.. then there was me, this chubby, shy, no confidence 17 year old who hated the way she looked – but he stuck by me, through it all, and honestly I cannot thank this incredible man for everything he has done for me over the last 4 years, that’s for sure.
Once year 12 was done, My happiness definitely boosted. Although I still hated the way I looked and how I presented myself. I was away from the negative High school environment. I got my license, a full time job and was enrolled in my Beauty Course however my Dysmorphia got worse. I started eating a lot healthier, however in 2013/14, I was over exercising – sometimes doing up to 4 workouts a day, spending thousands on products, plans, boot camps and anything I thought would help me lose weight and love my body, but nothing would work. I was 2 dress sizes smaller from high school, however to me – I still looked horrible, I still felt horrible, and I still had no confidence. I had Ryan telling me I looked great, old High school peers messaging me asking for advise on how to lose weight and telling me how great I looked, however none of it sunk in. To me, It wasn’t good enough – and If I’m honest it still isn’t good enough.
(Here is a photo I uploaded to my Facebook in late 2014- after starting a new fitness regime. I was getting comments telling me how great I looked, but to me, there was hardly any change. I hated my body so much in the first photos, And hated my body just as much in the second set)
Focusing in on the last year- I began my Beauty course and was suddenly surrounded by young, skinny, beautiful, fit girls my age and older who ate like shit, but still had incredible figures, who were confident and so happy with themselves.. then there was me. Who wasn’t shy, I had a great relationship with everyone in my class- however would never even think about showing my body to anyone in the class and would even struggle to contribute to some classes if it meant I had to take my top off or do anything like that. Even sitting here, writing about it now gives me major anxiety and worry. Towards the middle of 2015 I got doctors to run tests, body comparisons, anything I could to see If I had anything wrong with me – and that’s when I was diagnosed with BDD. I had no idea what it was, had no Idea why he was diagnosing me with it, and had no idea why he was asking me to see a therapist about ‘hating myself’. Luckily enough I accepted my disorder and didn’t have to go on to seeing a therapist for the issue but accepting the fact that I had BDD wasn’t easy for me. I always put up a front of a strong, independent girl and it was hard for me suck up my pride and just accept the fact that i had a mental disorder, but accepting it was the first step to what I know will be a long recovery. I went to 3 other weight loss specialists towards the end of 2015 trying to see if they could help me – and they were all disappointing, one place (Melbourne Weightloss Clinic) had the main specialist tell me to “Just drink weight loss shakes for 3 year and you will definitely see a change” but that I was “Overreacting because the clients she usually sees are 5 times as big as me”. And i think that is a major issue. Its not about being a certain size. Having BDD is an issue for girls, woman, men and boys of all ages, sizes and shapes. I personally know a beautiful, fit, thin young woman who has BDD but sees herself as chubby and unattractive. It comes down to your own perception and your own image of yourself.
(Here is another image I uploaded to Facebook much more recently, In October of 2015 to be exact. I look at myself there in 2010, and had no confidence, unhappy and overweight. I look at the photo on the right that was taken recently and although I do look like a different person, the feeling inside it still much the same. I’m wearing black because wearing anything else for my boyfriends football presentation would have made me look ‘obese’ as I would say. It took me 4 weeks to decide on an outfit for the night and only chose this because to me it was the only thing that looked half decent and the only outfit that to me, didn’t make me look how I felt.)
Now I am by no means skinny or fit. I am being very honest and raw when I say this, but I still cry myself to sleep every night thinking about my body, how I look and how I present myself in clothes. I dread Summer for having to wear more revealing clothes, I dread bikinis and I dread anything that means my skin will be showing, but that’s me being real with all of you. I may not be skinny, fit or confident, but one thing I am – Is healthy. I began 2016 with a goal. A goal to be healthy, a goal to be strong and a goal to push myself and be the best version of myself, emotionally, physically and mentally. I look at my body still with disgust on a daily basis, but I nourish it correctly, I train it correctly and I am on the road to trying my hardest to change my perception of myself, my opinion of myself and I’m trying to learn to love the skin I am in, while I try to better it.
Some days are worse then others, but all have its challenges and the best piece of advise I can give is to surround yourself with people who make you smile, who are positive influences on you, who have goals, ambitions and are striving for a happy, successful future. Get rid of any negativity, any negative people or anything that can hold you back from bettering yourself.
How do I cope with it? Well.. that’s a hard question.. really. Some days I do, some days I don’t. Some days I can stand myself in clothes, and others I will cry my eyes out at every outfit I try on until I have no strength to even attempt to go out in public. There’s good days, and there is bad days but the road to recovery is there and you don’t need to battle your disorder alone. So many young woman and men keep so quiet about it to the point they feel like they have no one – I’ve done that, and its far from the truth. There are so many organisations and other beautiful woman in the communities surrounding you and close to you who are also suffering. The best thing I do when I’m feeling really negative about myself is I ensure to surround myself with the people I love and the ones who lift me up. My family, My parents, My incredible boyfriend, My close friends and my Pups. I surround myself with the people who love me and support me, I know I don’t have to go through it alone. Another way I cope is sticking to a healthy, nutritious diet and balanced exercise. I workout 6 days a week with a program that was written up for me and follow a MACRO diet, which is the right amount of carbs/proteins/fats for my body and have one cheat meal a week to keep my cravings satisfied. Its about balance and healthy living. If I know I’m treating my body right, then that’s one step in a positive direction. Have motivation. 4 years ago I would have told you my motivation and inspiration would have been a woman was sickly skinny, not that this isn’t beautiful, as all woman of all shapes and sizes is beautiful but for a woman like me who grew up swimming, who is tall and bigger built naturally it wasn’t practical nor healthy. My inspiration now is woman like Ronda Rousey (who as a fact also suffered weight issues and overcome this) and woman within female MMA/UFC as well as various strong, fit, healthy, fitness professionals.
How can you get help? If you suffer from BDD you are not alone and I’m telling you, you do not have to suffer with it alone. I personally am here for you no matter what and you can reach me or direct message me at any of my social media’s listed on my ‘social media’ tab. When I turned 21, I wrote a list of 21 things I want to do while 21, and one thing on the list was to create a forum for anyone suffering from BDD, And I am well on my way on doing that and will post the link asap and make a blog post about it as soon as its available- It will be a forum for anyone- a support page for anyone and you will see you are NOT alone and that you don’t have to battle it alone. I highly suggest speaking to a trusted GP and therapist if you feel like this outcome will help you also. I’ve also listed some incredible websites below which will give you information/support services:
http://www.bddfoundation.org, http://www.anxietyaustralia.com, eatingdisorders.org.au, http://www.betterhealth.vic,gov.
The truth is, some people overcome BDD, Some others don’t, but the reality is there is support, there is help and there is ways to improving your relationship with yourself and the view you have of yourself, and I’m here to do that with you. BDD is not something to laugh at or look at lightly, but you can get through it, you can live with it, and you can use it as a tool to be the best possible version of yourself. No matter where you are based, there is support, there is help, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Thankyou so much for reading the simplified version of my story and I am very excited/nervous to release my novel once its completed for everyone to read, If they wish. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to understand the struggle and if you are here simple to look at getting help or gain support, then I am so super proud of you. Please do not hesitate to take up my offer if you need someone to talk to/support you on your journey. Do not by any means feel embarrassed or nervous to speak to me regarding it, I am here to help- and totally understand how you are feeling.
You are not alone, We fight together.
Until next time,