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A Moment in the Throes of My Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

I feel like there are spiders under my skin. Every piece of fabric simply feels wrong somehow. A glance at the mirror reflects back the mania in my eyes and I know. I know this familiar demon that lies beneath the surface of my dermis, waiting to bat its red eyes at me. It’s my body dysmorphia.

I’m on outfit number seven today. On any other Monday, it might seem like I’m simply a diva that loves her own closet’s runway show. Oh, for it to be that… body dysmorphia is a mental health condition in which we see flaws or defects in our appearance others do not see. Flaws that are not rooted in reality. Yet here I am, on my floor, surrounded by a heap of clothing so tall it casts a shadow around me. While the flaws or defects are not “real,” they feel very real to me. The shadow of the clothing and the beady-eyed demon inside me take turns leaving me in a darkness. Then, a knock on the door. How long have I been in my own world? The glow of my iPhone’s screen tells me mere minutes.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Each knock louder than its predecessor. It is only my son, ready to go do something. The weather is a soothing 70 degrees and I remember wanting to take the top down on my Jeep. That thought seems like a lifetime before.

“Gimme a few more minutes!” I say, in what I hope is a cheerful tone. My son is very empathetic and can spot a phony emotion across a football field. My acting holds up as I hear his little feet skip away.

My body feels weak. My temples are tingling, there is a cold sensation in the back of my head, and there is the sensation that all the butterflies that dance inside of me have suddenly stopped fluttering. In a dissociative state, I recognize I am having an anxiety attack. How could I take my son anywhere with the idea that I’ll somehow embarrass him? Who’d want to be seen with a fat mother? Yet, somehow, at my core I am still myself. I recognize the thoughts for what they are: intrusive. Intrusive thoughts are like unwelcome visitors to a party, like Maleficent crashing Aurora’s party, but without the sharp cheekbones of Angelina Jolie.

I slowly pull myself up from the floor and stare into the mirror. I am staring down my dysmorphia. I am staring down my personal demon. A shift slowly comes over me, enveloping me. The body in the mirror is merely a body. Inside the body are swirls of thoughts and words. Inside is a heart that beats and organs that keep me alive. I am still in the throes of my anxiety attack, but I see the light beaming from the other side.

I finally settle on an outfit. The spiders no longer crawl under my skin. The fabric feels soft against my skin. A glance at the mirror reflects back an ordinary body.

I like to wrap my life in a pretty bow in a pretty box that will simply sit on the shelf, never to be opened. Yet, I find it harder to keep the lid on the box and like the horrors of Pandora’s box, I find I have my own monsters to battle. I don’t pretend to have an answer. Sometimes I can pull myself out of my dysphoria and other times, it stays with me all day.

Today, I fought back the monsters in my head. It’s the first days of spring and warmth is returning. The crackle of electricity is in the air with the promise of blossoms and thunderstorms. A new season is upon us and with it, a new opportunity to keep the darkness at bay. For now, it’s goodbye as I have a top to put down and a promise to a little boy to keep.

Photo by Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash

Originally published: March 25, 2021
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