Geeks Vs Loneliness: body dysmorphic disorder

We hand over to Chloe to talk about her life with body dysmorphic disorder...

Welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our place on the site where we try and natter about things in life that may be affecting you, or people around you. No miracle cures are promised, just a few thoughts that we hope may one day prove useful to one or two of you.

This week, we’re proud as punch to add Chloe Catchpole to the Den Of Geek team, and she sent us this wonderful piece on the battles that she faces on a day to day basis. Chloe: we think you’re awesome. Over to you…

The mirror is my sworn enemy, each time I catch a glimpse of my reflection (however brief it may be) unbridled repulsion swells within every pore of my being and a tsunami of crippling self-hate drowns all conscious thought. Since my mid-teens I’ve suffered with BDD or Body Dysmorphic Disorder to give it its medical definition, although I was not officially diagnosed until 2013. This little known condition results in a debilitating preoccupation with perceived physical flaws and defects. I want to make it clear from the outset that BDD has nothing to do with vanity, everybody has some sort of body image issue – it is part of human nature especially in this modern day media consuming society. My earliest recollection of this vicious disease was back in secondary school (before I knew anything about mental health).

I feared school picture day more than any other, dreading the thought of my severe ugliness being captured and turned into a physical media available for purchase. The minute it was over I shoved the photo proof into the bottom of my school bag away from prying eyes and felt emphatically mortified for the photographer who had laid eyes upon me. The symptoms of BDD etched away silently over the next few years leading me ever closer to a waterfall of soul-crushing destruction.

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As I moved on and into college my social life quickly decreased, the friends I once had drifted apart and I felt increasingly isolated. Another sudden death in my immediate family (the second in an eight month time frame) tipped me over the edge and the catastrophic grief snowballed into anxiety, depression and BDD. I shut myself off from the world not wanting to continue with life, I began to self-harm regularly in order to reflect the excruciating pain I felt mentally. I seldom left my bedroom due to being so ashamed of the disfigured gargoyle-esque reflection I saw. My brain was on venomous critical overdrive, the fear of being seen in public and judged on by my appearance was vomit inducing.

I spent many a sleepless night on my bedroom floor weeping to ‘Out There’ from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, sobbing to its shattering relatability. I habitually concealed every flaw, a scarf for disguising the hump on my neck, layers of make-up to camouflage my abhorrent uneven and bumpy complexion, tops with full length sleeves to hide body hair. (The list is endless but I’ve provided my top three just to give you a rough idea). Over the past six years I’ve been prescribed a range of antidepressants alongside an intermittent routine of specialised cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Though my life is better than it once was, day to day existence is still an uphill struggle. I can sleep for hours on end hushing the demons inside my mind, only to then stay up all night ruminating about what a failure / freak I am.

Social interactions are still an intimidating task, I automatically assume everyone I meet hates me and that they are only being agreeable to be polite. Compliments are also a no go area in general, I feel totally embarrassed in receiving any, utterly convinced that said person is lying and has an ulterior motive. This paranoid way of thinking is infinitely tiring, there is no living in the moment, no spontaneous joy. Everything is numb and detached and I constantly long for the safety of home and invisibility.

I hope one day that life will become more bearable and that my BDD’s anguishing grip will loosen (even just slightly). To anyone suffering the same plight I want you to know that you are not alone and please don’t suffer in silence.

Find out more about BDD:

Thanks, as always, for reading.