I hate that I hate my body...
and am confused by the moments in which I absolutely adore it.
Today's Mental Health Saga continues with a look into my recovery from BDD and include pictures from a photoshoot I did with the extremely lovely Durrell. Pictures I took for my husband, the one person who somehow has managed to convince me I'm beautiful (though I still find flaws every day), pictures he has humbly allowed me to share in hopes of getting some catharsis that comes with the terrifying moment of allowing yourself to be critiqued by the world.
Ready? *deep breaths*
BDD (Body Dimorphic Disorder) is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one's appearance. (https://www.adaa.org/)
Even before talking with a therapist I knew that hating my body this much wasn't okay. I didn't want to look down at myself and only feel disgust but I didn't know how to make it stop? What I did know was that I grew up in a household in which my size zero mother was constantly critiquing her perfect body and spewing obscenities at the bodies of others. I knew I didn't fit her mold of beauty and pretty soon her views became my own.
Still, I used to be really good at faking self confidence.
I faked it so well that I (almost) started believing it myself.
In fact, I was borderline cocky because I thrived from the attention my body would get me. I lived for the inappropriate comments men would make, the constant compliments. It wasn't that I believed them, or that they skewed my own perception of my body, but the reassurance, even for a second, that someone found me sexy or beautiful. That they'd go out of my way to talk about my breasts or how skinny I looked that day. That was everything.
But I was never satisfied. My skin was never clear enough. I was constantly picking at my face, my shoulders, my chest. My hair was never smooth and silky. Bangs never looked good but neither did my bare forehead. My stomach always stuck out, even when I didn't eat anything except an apple all day. My ass was always covered in cellulite and soon my thighs followed.
I started wearing a one piece at age thirteen because I wanted to cover up my stomach at all times. I hated gym class simply because that meant having to change in front of other people (ie: running into the bathroom and changing fast enough that people wouldn't notice).
Outwardly I was embarrassed for people who lacked the fake confidence that I put on. At the same time, I was desperate for the next comment from any onlooker that would reassure me. At least for the moment.
My breasts were maybe the one thing that I knew, by societal standards, that were pretty great and I played that up for every outfit. Couldn't see my breasts out of that shirt? No go. That V neck wasn't deep enough? Move on to a different shirt. My dresses would cover the knees that I hated, wrinkle at my stomach to try and mask it, but my breasts were always front and center. As if to distract from everything else.
I learned how to hide my body with clothes, drawing attention to the finely crafted face I put on every morning and my chest. I was "hot" or at the very least fake hot. I did fake hot very well. I learned my angles. I learned how to use the internet. With those two things in hand, affirmation was less than a click away...
We won't dive into the details. They're muddled and messy and I'm still working through them on my own.
My husband met me while I still exuded the fake hot self confidence. I knew what men liked, I knew what they liked about me and I played that up regardless of whether or not I was actually interested.
But, we didn't start hanging out until all of that was taken away (more on that later) and for whatever reason, with all my guards down, not even trying, my husband still found me beautiful. This was incredible to me. A man. Getting to know me for me, not for the outward persona I tried so hard to maintain. Tried so hard to get myself to believe.
It was, of course, confusing when I started putting myself down later on in our relationship. He had continued telling me I was beautiful, but it was almost like the novelty had worn off. This man had feelings for me. Of course he thought I was beautiful. He had to say that. The same way my mother told me I was beautiful even though everyone else that looked like me was a fat cow (and I'm heavier now than I've ever been in my life).
There's so much body positivity out there now. I think that's what I'm trying to catch a little part of with this post.
I believe him when he calls me beautiful. But he see's me every day. It's different when a stranger says it. But it's a meaningless compliment.
This is a man who loves me inside out. I've never had anyone love me like this before.
That helps. Love.
Having someone genuinely care when you're having a panic attack because you feel you're uglier now than you've ever been in your whole life. Having someone who picks you up from the floor crying and thinks even that is beautiful.
That helps. Having something real.
More and more I have moments where I look in the mirror and feel genuinely pretty. I'd have applied my foundation perfectly and my skin looks flawless and I can appreciate that. Really and truly I can.
But I'm starting to shop for our honeymoon. That means, in an ideal world, bikini's. That's still a terrifying thought, because people other than my husband will be there.
They'll see me.
I don't know if I'll ever be ready for that.