Cordelia note: If this story resonates with you or makes you think of someone you know, please reach out for help. BDD is a serious mental disorder, and you do not need to go through it alone. Please see the resources listed at the end of this post for further information.
I am so much more than the reflection I see in the mirror, which has been a very hard lesson for me to learn.
For the past few years, I have been battling Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Living with this disorder means that I literally do not see myself the way everyone else does. When I look in the mirror, I see flaws and distortions on my face and body where there are none, and have therefore spent a large chunk of my life believing that I am irreversibly ugly.
BDD manifests itself differently in each person with the disorder. I focus most heavily on my skin, and can spend hours staring at my reflection, picking at blemishes that are either non-existent or so tiny that no one but me can recognize them. Skin picking is my compulsion, my vice, my biggest temptation, my greatest enemy and my best friend.
I do it because I believe it is helping and because I want to look perfect. I think that if I can dig all of the impurities out of my skin, I will be beautiful. If I am beautiful, life will be easier. I will fall in love, have amazing friends, find a great career to pursue and get everything I have ever wanted.
So I pick, cut and scratch my skin until it bleeds. I stare at the mirror, tearing myself apart physically and mentally until I break down. I am great at making myself feel worthless. I can easily snap my spirit in two.
The mirror is the tool with which I measure my worth. If my skin is scratched or broken out, I immediately shrink into myself. I don’t want to face the world or even get out of bed. My confidence fades away and I almost forget how to exist. I am ugly, therefore I am nothing.
Alternatively, when I feel beautiful (or, more accurately, average-looking), I believe I can conquer the world. My energy level soars through the roof and I see life differently. I am more myself: outgoing, upbeat, attentive, hard-working. I enjoy reading, writing and listening to music again. I take better care of myself.
Yet, what is really different between these two outlooks? I am the same girl, with the same hopes and dreams, the same personality, intelligence, and sense of humor. Whether I feel attractive or not has little actual bearing on the rest of my life. I have still been able to meet amazing friends, have a great relationship with my family, graduate from college and grow into a (relatively) stable adult, despite feeling trapped in an abused body.
What is different is whether or not I feel worthy of these things.
I allow my reflection to decide whether I am proud of my accomplishments or if I feel guilty for having a good life. I have long believed that my being ugly means that I don’t deserve to attract positivity into my life. I shouldn’t be praised, I should be punished (and I do most of the punishing). How is it possible that people want to be around me and that they believe I will see success in my life? How can I be loved? Can’t they see what I look like? I’m. Not. Worthy.
Starting now, I am quitting letting the mirror determine my worth. That’s enough. I’m throwing my hands up and walking away.
I need to realize that I have great relationships because I am a good person. People love me because I show them love. I am successful because I work my butt off. I deserve these things because of who I am, not what I look like.
I’m not going to let a piece of glass tell me I’m not worthy of living a great life. I am worthy, and I will succeed.
Jessica Rose runs the moving and inspiring blog I Love Your Face!, where she honestly discusses her struggles with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and encourages others to accept their bodies, love themselves as they are, and never give up hope. You can subscribe to her blog here and follow her on Twitter at @jessica_rose27.
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For Further Information:
If you’re interested in learning more about recognizing, treating, and coping with mental illness, here are some resources that I’ve found to be helpful. Don’t go it alone. There are so many of us out there ready to help, and seeing a professional is the first step towards recovery.
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