Body Dysmorphic Disorder
There's this girl I knew once; looking at her was kind of like looking in a mirror.
She's got similar hair color. Similar smile. Definitely a similar build.
She was one of those people I could look at and think "look at how happy she is. How beautiful. Even looking like she does. So close to like me."
Then one day I heard about something she was doing that was going to really alter her appearance.
My world came shattering down around me.
If she isn't happy looking like that, if that's so much a facade that I never ever knew, then how can I possibly be happy looking like me?
I know we're different people.
I don't expect us to be that similar. But I know that we're a lot alike.
I took pride in that. If anyone ever said, "You know, you and so-and-so, you look like sisters, you could surely pass for..." (Ok, they didn't say it, but they COULD have, and now? Now they can't.)
I don't wish anything negative for her. I know her choices are her own. I know she thought hard and doesn't take her decision lightly in any way possible.
But I needed to say this. I needed to write this out and say, what about me?
Again, it's not about me, and I know that. But isn't it amazing to think that someone else's self-esteem is something I hung my own upon? I weighed my own insecurities against what I thought were hers. I spent my time watching someone else - who truly didn't seem to have them. And now, well, now I know she does. She did. She probably always will, to some extent, but she's working to change things in a way I never could.
So mine will always be mine. As they always were, of course, but how do I face this? How do I listen to the glass shatter as it turns into shards around my head? Before my eyes? How do I shield myself to make sure I don't fall deep into that hole of pain? What can I hold on to?
I don't want to fall into that well that sucks me in and causes me bloody knuckles and nails as I claw my way out. I don't want to go there. To that place where I'm stuck and all I can do is look at myself and feel sad. Find flaws I try hard to ignore.
I read about moms, women, those of us trying to teach their daughters that we're all beautiful. I want to be one of those people. I want to show my child that I see my own beauty. That I'm more than just the thoughts that race through my head.
And I'll do it. Even if I don't have that alternate mirror to look for or into anymore. I'll keep trying. Hopefully I'll find my way. Hopefully the only mirror I'll need will be my own; I'll be happy and strong no matter what it is I think I see in there. I'll remind myself how what's inside is so important and what counts the most. No matter what. I'll get there.
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Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?
Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
It's time to Ask The Band!
I apologize in advance for my terrible writing, but I'm like 14, y'all, and I don't even know how to say this...
I have weight issues. Serious weight issues. "So?" you ask (or I assume you do). "So do most women."
Well shut up and listen (I say lovingly). I've dabbled in quite a few self-destructive behaviors in my lifetime, but I've always been obsessed with my weight. I've starved myself for days, chewed-and-spit, and tried countless times to make myself throw up unsuccessfully (my hidden talent? I can touch my uvula without throwing up!).
I know I have no justification for this. I am not fat, or even a little overweight. But being skinny; really, truly skinny ... it's like a shining beacon of light in the distance. In all the things I deal with, this is by far the least serious (...isn't it?), but I've never told anyone and I feel like I have to.
And isn't that what The Band is for?
Quite honestly ... I'm scared. I'm scared it will never go away. That I'll forever spend my nights in front of a freaking distorted full length mirror, analyzing every single thing about my body. That I will always compare myself to every single pair of thighs I walk by, wondering if mine are fatter or skinnier, because I can't tell anymore. That I'll never stop taking videos of myself walking around and watching them over and over trying to see if my butt is too big.
I'm asking for your help here, Band. What should I do? Is this normal?
I know it's not that bad, I just can't live with it as a secret anymore. Thanks for reading this, The Band!
You're so amazing.
Eating disorders affect the entire family.
This is her story.
As a kid, you don't have much choice about anything. What to wear, what to watch on television, what classes to take; those things are decided for you by the people who know better, or at least, should know better.
I never had a choice about what I was going to eat. My mother had an eating disorder. She had this fear that she was going to weigh over a hundred pounds and that when she did, she'd be so horrifying that my stepfather wouldn't love her anymore. Once she told me she hated eating, "because it made her have to use the bathroom."
She pointed out "fat" people to me at stores; ridiculed them to me. Carefully, she measured out the amount of food I was to eat and didn't allow for seconds. We had a carnival scale on the back porch to make weighing ourselves a "game" but she never failed to remind me that the scale was "too light, so I was fatter than it told me."
I weighed 90 pounds for most of high school. People see pictures of me and ask if I was ill, or assume that I was anorexic as I was always depressed and withdrawn. They assume it was my emotionally abusive boyfriend or losing Mister E.
No one knew about my mother and her war on food.
As an adult, I had no idea how to eat. I'd been taught that, to lose weight, you stop eating until you're thin again. There was no moderation. It was all right to just keep eating whatever you want. I didn't learn about exercising - you just had to stop eating. This was harder than it seems so I gained weight like it was a competitive sport.
Because my mother had always told me how fat and ugly people were, when I gained weight, I saw myself as a disgusting monster. When I looked in the mirror I wanted to kill myself, even though I had only gone from 117 to 130 pounds in college. So I stopped eating for a week, went to the gym every day, and lost five pounds. I couldn't keep it up, so I gained ten pounds.
This pattern was pervasive. I found diets and tried them, lost weight, then gained it back. Lost weight, gained it back. After every diet, I started eating again, I mean I was disgusting and no one would ever want me anyway, so what was the point of losing weight?
After two breakdowns, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In therapy, I learned what body dysmorphic disorder was and the doctor helped me understand that I was seeing myself differently than the rest of the world saw me.
With diet and exercise I finally lost the weight and made it back to my college weight and I was happy. Until they gave me the antipsychotics. My weight ballooned again and I was right back into the eating wars. I had no idea how to stop them because I'd never been taught how.
It has taken me years but I've finally started to accept who I am. I've been running because it's fun, not because I'm trying to lose weight. I've been using intuitive eating to learn when my body is hungry and when I'm just feeling emotional. I've been eating healthy, fresh food to watch my sodium intake for my blood pressure.
Most days I look in the mirror and I see someone intelligent, sometimes funny, compassionate, creative, and a little tilted. Some days I don't, and I've come to understand that's okay as well. And somehow, magically, I've lost a little weight but somehow it doesn't seem as important to me anymore.
I think I've finally won.
Bullying is a pervasive problem that knows no social, racial, or economic boundaries and takes many forms.
It is just as likely to occur on the job as on the playground.
Today, we invite you to share your story: let’s kick bullying to the curb.
I originally wasn't going to post this. But after all the heartbreaking and inspiring stories about bullying I've read so far, I figured I'll add my story to the mix.
Hi. My name is Emily, and I was bullied.
Now, I wasn't physically bullied. No one shoved me up against lockers or pushed me around on the playground. But in elementary school, I was a social outcast. I was painfully shy, bookish, and on the chubby side- a recipe for disaster when it comes to grade-school social dynamics. Most people avoided me like I had some sort of social plague that they would catch if I got too close. I had a few close friends, but I got the distinct feeling they let me hang out with them because they had known me since preschool and felt sorry for me. I wasn't often insulted to my face, but I was acutely aware that the other girls talked about me behind my back. That they said I was fat. Ugly. That no one would ever want to be my friend. Even my friends made the occasional snide comment about my appearance. And it hurt.
I would come home and try to lose myself in books, distance myself from real life, where I felt unwanted by my peers. By the time I was 10 or so, I was convinced that I was hideous and disgustingly overweight, that the only place I would ever succeed would be in my schoolwork, and that I would be alone forever.
The first time I went to a counselor for anxiety problems, I was 11 or 12.
When I hit puberty, my weight normalized, and while I wasn't exactly slender, my figure was decidedly average. At the end of middle school, I started to find friends who accepted me for myself, and by the beginning of high school, the bullying had stopped completely.
But I was still convinced I was unwanted, unlovable, hideous and disgustingly overweight. I continued to believe academics were the only place I had any chance of success, and became perfectionistic to the point of neurosis.
My first relationship was a disaster. I was 17, and my boyfriend was very good at amplifying my feelings of inadequacy. By the time we broke up, I was convinced that as well as ugly and unlovable, I was also stupid and useless. Even though I am now in a relationship with an incredible and supportive guy, I am still healing from that mess of a first relationship.
I don't really know how long I suffered from panic attacks before I was diagnosed the fall of my freshman year of college. I do believe that I suffered from undiagnosed depression and generalized anxiety disorder from the 5th or 6th grade until I was diagnosed in the spring of freshman year.
All of these issues, along with my continued hatred for my body, combined to create bulimia when I was 18. I am recovering, but I still can only barely tolerate my appearance.
So I guess the point of all this is that bullying is never okay. It completely messes up people's self esteem and self worth, and leaves psychological scars that last far beyond when the bullying ends. Being bullied is part of who I am, and I don't think it's traces will ever fade. Not all of that's a bad thing- it is one of the reasons I succeed academically. But is also the root of my mental illness, and that part will take a long, long time to heal.
Hello, The Band!
I'm new here, but I'd like to share a piece of my story.
I didn't realize how toxic my relationship with myself was until I found myself kneeling over the toilet, fingers shoved down my throat, desperately trying to force myself to vomit.
Inducing vomiting isn't easy, you know. At least not for me - it was a skill I had to learn. I suppose practice makes perfect, because I eventually became quite good at it.
A year, two years ago, I'd never have pegged myself as someone who would struggle with an eating disorder. I come from a stable background, my parents have always been loving and supportive; I have never been abused - emotionally or physically. I am intelligent. Well-educated. I know exactly how eating disorders destroy the body and the mind. I am a feminist. I truly and vehemently believe that worth isn't based on appearance. At least, for the rest of the world. As it turns out, when it comes to judging myself, I become a raging hypocrite. I am very, very good at judging myself.
My body is not the only the only thing I obsess over - I've always been a perfectionist. I want to excel at everything I do. Yet, I've never excelled enough to satisfy me. That B+ could have been an A. That drawing could have been more carefully composed. I was always too lazy, too shy, too fat.
I shoved my emotions aside, telling myself that perfect girls didn't hate themselves, feel anxious, depressed, and I shouldn't either. Perfect girls don't have inner monsters. Problem is, if you refuse to acknowledge your feelings long enough, they tend to explode spectacularly.
I was diagnosed with panic attacks fall term of my freshman year of college. I was having inexplicable periods of tingling, dizziness, and trouble breathing. My ignored emotions, my personal monsters, were coming to the surface in the only avenue they had left - physical symptoms.
And I still ignored them. I went to a few counseling appointments, learned a few breathing exercises, and deemed myself "better" without really scratching the surface.
When I purged the first time, I felt as though I was watching myself do it. I knew it was unhealthy, problematic, but I felt oddly distant, like I wasn't the one controlling my body. I overeat when I'm stressed, when I'm feeling down on myself. That evening I had eaten a lot - I tried to bury my feelings with food. When that didn't work, I tried to purge those feelings, all that food I ate. I had a panic attack right afterwards: I wasn't supposed to be throwing up meals into the toilet. Perfect girls don't have eating disorders.
Perfect girls don't have monsters.
But all the same, purging became an addiction.With it arrived more serious panic attacks, constant anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.
I had shunted aside my monsters for so long; now they manifested in a way that simply could not be ignored and they were completely derailing my life.
Schoolwork, which had been the main avenue in which I struggled for perfection, became close to impossible. I couldn't concentrate on anything. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat without purging. I distanced myself from my friends - not wish to have them see me in the mess I'd made for myself. I found myself suicidal, wishing the worrying, the panic and what I perceived to be my constant failures to stop.
It was then - desperate, terrified, my life falling to pieces around me - that I finally admitted I needed help; serious help. I count it as a blessing every day that I realized I needed help, and sought it before I tried anything foolish. I know others have not been so lucky.
So here I am - on a cocktail of medication and in rigorous therapy, working to keep my inner monsters at bay. The monsters have names now. Generalized anxiety disorder. Panic disorder. Major depressive disorder. Bulimia nervosa.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I am getting better.
Because I'm not going to let my monsters eat me from the inside out anymore.
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