Body dysmorphia. I hate those two words. More than the two words, I hate that I suffer from it. So what is it you might wonder and why am I writing about it for a motherhood blog? Body dysmorphia is a condition in which a person is unable to stop obsessing over a perceived flaw(s) associated with physical appearance. The flaw is typically seen as minor or nonexistent to an outside individual, but to the person suffering from body dysmorphia the flaw is consuming, shameful, and distressing. Body dysmorphia (BDD) is often called imaginative ugliness. The person suffering from BDD, ugliness is just the way of life, but to them it’s not imaginative.
BDD is thought to be a mental disorder, as there is very little known about the disorder, in which there is an imbalance of serotonin levels. It has also been linked to physical or sexual abuse, low self-esteem, and genetic predisposition. Every person with BDD has their own story for why they believe or have been told they have BDD. Everyone with BDD has their own “thing” such as obsessively grooming, excessive exercising, avoidance of mirrors, social situations, and more. BDD is much more than just an obsession of wishing to be physically different, but it’s a feeling of unexplainable shame.
My story goes back many years ago and it is very personal and deep to me. My story is very private to me and it’s something I never talk about. Not even to my own sister or mother. My life of BDD is a secret just like most people with this disorder. We all live in shame. Deep down we know that what we see is truly not a reflection of our own self, but yet we simply cannot move past it. For those of you reading this that know me will probably be shocked to know that I suffer with this, but it’s true. You just never know what a person’s smile is hiding. Life isn’t always perfect, you just never know what a person is facing on a daily basis.
Body Dysmorphia and My Pregnancy
When I found out I was pregnant, I was on a diet. Secretly, I was panicking because of the weight gain, but I wanted to be a mother more than anything so I decided to attempt to put my worries over my changing body aside. Turns out, my BDD wasn’t some on/off switch that I could control. In fact, my BDD grew intensely the bigger I got. I was torn between letting my body change naturally to my baby or try to control my body changes and proudly I can say that I chose the healthy route for my baby, but I struggled a lot. I will never forget the day of my shower. I woke up that morning having major anxiety as I knew people would be judging my size and taking pictures all for me to see on Facebook for me to overly criticize myself. My best friend, who just happens to be so kind and understanding, made sure no pictures were taken, but that didn’t stop the comments or the judgments. People assumed that I was ungrateful and vain, but really I was a person who was struggling. I resulted in wearing long cardigans even when I was burning up to hide my changing body. I avoided going out in public or looking in mirrors. I couldn’t wait to not be pregnant so I could return to my normal shape. Even when I was in the hospital having contractions, I remember thinking about how the nurses must be thinking about how fat I was. In my proudest moment of my life, I was thinking about how embarrassed I was of my own self.
Once Emilia arrived into this world, I thought my body troubles would be better, but they actually manifested into something much worse. I continued to find myself trying to hide my body and discovered that I used my long hair as a way to hide myself even more. I made the mistake in cutting off all of my hair, thinking that a new hair style would be the pick me up that I needed, but I felt even more exposed and more shameful. I avoided mirrors more than usual even going through the trouble of leaving a room that had a mirror in it. I think everything snowballed for me when I saw myself in the mirror one night. It upset me so much that I picked a fight with my husband just because I was so upset with myself. I could see the hurt in his eyes and it was a complete eye opener for me. Not only was I allowing my BDD to ruin me, but I was also allowing it to ruin my relationships with my marriage being the most important.
I particularly found myself comparing myself to other women who were pregnant or who had recently given birth on Instagram or Facebook. It became an obsession to me to be constantly comparing myself to other women. I really believe that social media, as much as I enjoy social media, is a major contribution to my self hate.
Body Dysmorphia and My Daughter
I now understand that with me having a daughter, she now has the possibility of being affected by BDD. My sweet Emilia could end up with the BDD gene. Emilia could end up learning the shameful behavior from me. Perhaps she could be better than me and see herself for the way God intended. It is one of my biggest fears that she will adopt behaviors like myself. When I look at her, I see such a beautiful girl. Everything about her is beautiful from her round, little nose to her toe that is shaped like a j. It crushes my heart to think that she could think any less of herself than I do then I begin blaming myself and playing the why game. I know deep down I have to pull myself together and find the inner strength to conquer this imaginative ugliness for her. I am trying my hardest to stop myself from doing any of my obsessive behaviors. I am trying to my hardest to train myself to like me all for my daughter. Some days are hard and I shut down. Some days are like finding a beautiful, bright flower amongst all white flowers offering a glimpse of hope. Self hatred and guilt doesn’t help anything…it just gets in the way of true change.
My purpose in writing this post is not to offer advice to someone suffering from BDD or to anyone who has low self esteem. I am simply writing this for you to know that you are not alone and that their is nothing to be ashamed of. This post is not to offer details of what I go thru or to make you feel sorry for me. I’m not even going to tell you my story. Perhaps maybe writing this is my own way of coping. Maybe I’m just trying to accept who I really am by admitting my insecurities. I hope that anyone reading this who thinks they have BDD or an eating disorder to please talk to someone whether it be a licensed professional or a friend. There is healing with admittance. We live in a society where our eyes are flooded with images of models and celebrities flooding Instagram and Facebook who look flawless. However we are also flooded with apps that alter appearances to seem ‘perfect.’ We live in a world of narcissism. As mothers, lets raise strong sons and daughters. Lets raise our children to not need to take 500 selfies only to upload 1 to Instagram to gain more followers. Lets raise our children to be obsessed with doing for others not outwardly perfection. Lets raise our children to say F*** you to society and encourage them to proud of their own beauty.
I do believe in trying to find something positive out of any negative situation no matter how hard that might be. My BDD has controlled my life, affected relationships, prevented me from doing some things. However, my BDD has made me more compassionate to others and for that I am thankful. I try my hardest to find something positive in everyone because you just don’t know what that person is going thru. I like to believe that we all have a caring, non-judgmental heart somewhere deep inside us.
If you are someone who is suffering with BDD or if you know someone that is, please check out Katharine A. Phillips book, “The Broken Mirror: Understand and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder.” Katharine Phillips has a way of describing this chronic, sad disorder in a way that no one can. She offers advice and techniques to overcome the disorder for the sufferer and for their loved ones.
So why write about BDD on a motherhood blog? Becoming a mother changes a woman. Before becoming a mom, our thoughts range from our relationship with our partners or friends to the latest Michael Kors handbag and so forth. The instant we become a mother, our thoughts are no longer about what we want for ourselves, but what we want for our children. I, more than anything, do not want to be writing about this topic. I do not want anyone even knowing that I suffer from this. I just want my daughter to love herself one day. I want her to be strong. I want her to have a kind heart. I want her to have a beautiful soul. I want her to be happy with herself. With all of the things that I want for her, I must start with me and change the way I think (Please see my blog post The Mother, The Daughter, and The Mirror). I am Emilia’s mirror and I don’t want her reflection to be of a woman who sees herself in a different light. So…I will get better.
As always, thank you so much for reading. Please feel free to reach out to me via email (found on Let’s Chat page). Also be sure to check out my Facebook and Instagram page.