Counseling And Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I have struggled with eating disorders on and off for a long time. Even today, I’m aware that restrictive diets or plans could trigger old habits. I still find it hard to admit I had a problem. It’s very hard for me to talk about, even today. I was treated with body dysmorphic disorder but it took a long time to get there.

I think it actually started when I was 12 years old. My body started to change and I wasn’t ready for it. One morning I was thinking of Barbies and the next morning I was sitting on the toilet, starting at my thighs, and wondering when they got so WIDE. I started to fixate on my face as well, especially my forehead and neck. Both were way to large, in my opinion- my forehead too wide and high, my neck a tree trunk that belonged to a lumberjack.

This was back in the day of print film but my father ran a photo shop, so I felt free to take a bunch of pictures. So I started to take photos of myself, back before it was called “selfies”. I wanted to see if I could spot flaws. I would pick every picture apart, noting future improvements, as if I was a science experiment.

Food became a reward or punishment, depending on the day. When I was feeling out of control in the rest of my life, I wouldn’t eat. I would hide my food or throw it out. It made me feel that I was doing something productive, for me, something private that no one else could control. Also, I needed to feel different and distant from my peers. They bullied me every day, so I wanted to feel I was not like them, in any way.

When I was feeling elated or very sad, I would use food to celebrate or punish myself, respectively. I would eat and eat and eat- without regard for feeling full or if wrappers got in the way. It was about speed and quantity, not pleasure. I binged and starved myself on and off during University. It wasn’t about weight- and the way I did it, I ended up gaining weight- it was about hating myself. It was a new way to torture my body and it ruined my metabolism. I felt in control every time I imposed new rules on myself.

I had a bathroom to myself in our duplex, and I would spend hours picking myself apart in the mirror. My eyes were too far apart and small, my forehead as high as a wall, my neck awfully thick. I would also actually pick at my skin, trying to “fix” it. When I was in class or out with friends, I was sure everyone was looking at my “deformities”, too. I would cut conversations short when I thought they were looking too long at my forehead or neck, horribly self-conscious.

The bulimia didn’t come until after University, when I was working a terrible job. My boss was horrible and I was feeling out of control again in every aspect of my life. Horrible boss in a nowhere job, terrible boyfriend and short on cash, the only way I felt I had some stability was to control what I ate and my weight. (Plus, I was in Vancouver, the L.A. of Canada where appearance feels more important). I felt that no one else could endure to eat food and throw it up- look how strong I am!! Ugh.

Now I know that I suffered from body dysmorphic disorder during that time. I don’t think we had that label then, but I did see a therapist for it, twice. Once in University and again in my mid-20’s. The time in my mid-20’s helped the most. I went there because I felt stressed and lost, but also to talk about fixing my (non-fixable) relationship. The therapist totally clicked with me at once and helped me work through SO MANY OTHER ISSUES.

That lady knew what made me tick as soon as we finished our first session. It was fantastic, the first person that I went to that I couldn’t pull the wool over their eyes. She helped me work through some of my body issues and relationship issues simultaneously. I couldn’t have done it on my own. It took years after that to accept food as a healing thing and not as this scary monster. I know that food isn’t an enemy anymore but I still have to be wary of restrictive diets or plans. I could never do a cleanse or fast, for example. Knowing this makes me stronger. Accepting that I will never be “over this”  makes me stronger, too. (I know that some days, even now, there is a disconnect between what I see in the mirror and what everyone else sees. I can now dismiss these destructive thoughts). Being aware of what will trigger me makes sure that I won’t accidentally slip into old habits.

I don’t think about my face, neck, or acne 24/7 anymore. Avoiding social situations has ceased and I embrace food now as something nourishing and healing. I’m comforted by the fact that there is help out there if I need it again, even online. Isn’t it crazy that online counseling is a thing now? It sounds so crazy convenient! I am comforted by the fact that it’s at my fingertips if I need it. Sometimes, technology is the thing that heals and binds us together and I love that.

Thank you for reading my deeply personal confession.

Have you or someone you know struggled with an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder?

You may also enjoy these mental health posts:

Choosing Mental Help That Is Right For You: Therapist or Psychologist?

Keeping it Together

Surviving the Introvert Hangover.


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