I know I’m not the only one. There’s many people having a really hard time feeling good about themselves. I know it has become harder than ever to self-love.
That is why I have decided to share my reality. The reality of body dysmorphia.
Body dysmorphia proves that reality can be a tricky thing to grasp. In my case, the example is that my body is not in a fixed shape. It’s an ever changing mass, expanding or contracting day after day, sometimes hour after hour. The only constant thing about it is how much it disgusts me. When I look at myself, I feel as if I was inside a mirror maze. But the problem is not the mirror: it is me.
I understand that most people don’t know what I am talking about. I envy those people.
When you have body dysmorphia, very few things seem certain, however. The real and the unreal become interwoven. You cannot rationalise about it. Everyone I asked gave me the same answer, they said I looked skinny. That sounded so ridiculous to me I would just think I was living in some Truman Show reality, or that I was crazy.
Crazy or fat, that was the unappealing choice for me.
But I was never stupid enough so as not to think that I was just fat and ugly, and everyone else was trying to be nice.
How could I expect a dose of sincerity from my closest ones, who knew all too well the self-loathing, self-destructive spirals I could go into when confronted with shame and criticism?
I heard the words ‘body dysmorphia’ for the first time while I was laying on a divan, surrounded by persian tapestries and African statuettes. My therapist said I had OCD and a distorted vision of my own body. A distorted vision of reality, I thought.
Reality, I figured out, is what most people consider to be real. I was fat only if others thought I was. But no one thought I was. Couldn’t that be the answer to it all? Well, it wasn’t. I kept asking for positive feedback, but no amount of reassurance was ever enough.
When fully opening up, having others dismiss my fear as imaginary only made me feel worse. The inevitable would happen. I ended up annoyed at everyone, and everyone ended up annoyed at me.
By then, I was 16 and increasingly isolated by my own choice. I avoided going out, attending family meetings and social gatherings. I searched for remedies. I went through hardcore gym routines and extreme diets, I used to weigh myself and calculate my BMI several times a day, I made myself vomit, I even contacted a liposuction company in Turkey and went abroad for surgery.
After my operation, I received more positive comments about my appearance. My boyfriend told me I looked better than ever, my family and friends said the same. Still, I couldn’t distinguish a true compliment from a white lie. And I stopped considering other people’s opinions, who could be just as dysmorphic as me.
Looking back now, I realise I have lost some of the most precious years of my life hiding from my own reflection, refusing to appear in photos, losing countless memories and sabotaging relationships.
The worst part of it all is that, after so many therapy sessions and fighting against my inner demons, I still cannot tell if I am really not fat or others keep on being nice.
I have gotten better with self-loathing, for sure. Relatively. But it does not matter how many times I see overweight people on the street and think they look good despite their higher-than-average mass. I give them the admiration I deny to myself.
That is my reality. The reality of body dysmorphia.
Alicia Saville did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.