Living with body dysmorphia
Carly, who has body dysmorphic disorder reveals how CBT has given her a new, balanced, sense of perspective.
Why don’t I look as nice as the other girls? Why am I not slim enough? Why do I have to spend two hours getting ready just to feel pretty? These were the questions I would ask myself everyday while suffering with body dysmorphic disorder.
BDD also known as body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. Although these flaws are often unnoticeable to others, it can have a huge impact on the individual’s life. I was diagnosed with BDD in September 2016, but I believe I have suffered with it since being 11 years old when I was transitioning into high school. Being a young girl is never easy, suffering with BDD made it even more difficult.
"My friends and family would often remind me of how beautiful I was but that never mattered. I was not good enough. I was trapped inside my own head, with no escape."
My worst trait was comparing myself to others, especially girls who I thought were flawless. 'Why don’t I look like them?' I would ask. My friends and family would often remind me of how beautiful I was but that never mattered. I was not good enough. I was trapped inside my own head, with no escape.
I didn’t like anything about myself. I was ugly - or at least I thought I was. I would often pick up on tiny issues about my appearance and become obsessed with how I could change them. I would often look up different surgeries and how much it would cost. I remember seeing my smile on a picture and I noticed that one eye looked smaller than the other and I hated it. I wanted to change my smile - the one thing that shows my happiness.
"I would put on makeup in my own family home just to speak to my loved ones. I couldn’t bare to look at my own face."
In July 2016, I started to break out in acne and my self-esteem became even lower. I would put on makeup in my own family home just to speak to my loved ones. I couldn’t bare to look at my own face.
During this difficult time, I was in my second year at university. But, due to my mental health, I found it very difficult to attend lectures and my attendance dropped very low which led to me receiving a letter to politely inform me that I needed to start attending my lectures otherwise I would lose my place on the course.
After great deliberation, I decided to speak to my GP in September 2016. I was extremely emotional and found it difficult to get across what I wanted to say. Initially he suspected depression, and I was referred for counselling.
The counselling focused on the depression. It helped me a great deal as I was able to speak to someone about the things that were bothering me, but I still didn’t like the way I looked. I was obsessed with trying to be ‘perfect’.
After speaking to my counsellor, she decided to refer me for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I had seen a little bit of CBT before as I enjoyed watching The Speakmans. I always found their work intriguing so I decided to go for it. I was on the waiting list for around eight months before getting the opportunity to speak with a therapist, but, once I started therapy I knew it would change my life forever.
"I was one of those people who didn’t want to accept help I thought I could do it myself. However, having CBT was the best decision I ever made."
CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. I think of it as “changing negative thoughts into positive ones’’. This therapy transformed my life for the better. I was one of those people who didn’t want to accept help I thought I could do it myself. However, having CBT was the best decision I ever made.
I started my therapy in November 2017 and finished in March 2018. During such a short period of time, I was able to completely transform the way I thought as a person. I started to believe in myself and ‘live in the moment’ - I finally started to feel good about how I looked. For the first time, I stopped comparing myself to those pretty girls on Instagram and found happiness in myself.
I didn’t think I would ever look in the mirror and not hate what I saw. But I started to focus on the things I did like. I started to love my smile - it shows that I am truly happy in the here and now. If someone would have told me that I would start to focus on positive factors in my life instead of negative ones, I wouldn’t believe them.
If I can give one piece of advice to my old self and anyone suffering with BDD it would be to talk to someone. Whether professional or not, ask someone three things they think is a good quality about you. We are all unique and all have fantastic traits and these factors are what make you, you. Never be ashamed of who you are and always live in the moment.
Remember to breathe, and most importantly remember to smile. Focus on the positive factors in your life, and write them down and if you have a bad day, remind yourself that it’s just a bad day and not a bad life.
After seeking help and working hard on becoming a better me, I finally managed to complete my degree in June 2018, and I am truly happy.
I did it.
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