One of the things I have yet to hear from pretty much any plus-size blogger, vlogger, or influencer is them talking about body dysmorphia disorder (BDD).
For those of you who are lucky enough to not have heard of BDD it is a is a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one’s own body part or appearance is severely flawed. This may be something you have heard about affecting many trans people but rarely ever spoken about for overweight or underweight people. I can’t speak from the perspective of an underweight person or a trans person and I am by no means a spokesperson for BDD, or even the plus-size community, but I want to share my experience and on-going battle with this disorder.
Little disclaimer, I am not formally diagnosed and I am not completely diversified in this disorder but I feel like I’m knowledgeable enough now to openly say that I have it, with almost complete certainty.
So, how does this work for me? Well, I was born female and I identify as female but I don’t feel female. I don’t think I look or act feminine. Like everyone else in this world I have been fed images and ideas of what women and men are, and how they should act. Because of that, how I should be has been deeply ingrained into me. Let alone being dual heritage and not physically representing that (that’s a different blog).
Because of the BDD it caused very early onset depression, I hated myself and sometimes still do. I am wracked with insecurities and there isn’t anything anyone can say or do to change that. When people say I am beautiful and I am very femme all I think is you just saying that because you have to or you’re lying. Or when I am dressed up and people say you are stunning or whatever all I think and have said is ‘you don’t know what I really look like, you’re seeing what I want you to see.’ ‘All you see is the make-up and clothes. I know I’m ugly, don’t lie to me.’ And it can, and has, made me angry, and I know it is ridiculous. But this is part of the BDD, I can’t and probably won’t ever see what other people see.
I’m female but I don’t feel female. I have all the hormonal and physical markers but I still don’t feel female. But how do you explain this? How do you fix this? I wouldn’t let anyone touch me and I would never flirt and even attempt to meet anyone because why would they want me? I’m broken. Or so I thought (I sometimes still do).
A little over two years ago, I entered a really bad depressive mood. I have depression all the time but every now and then I have an episode, for lack of a better term. This one lasted a week, and it was bad. It was so bad that I attempted to kill myself. I am very good at making people believe I am untouchable and nothing hurts me, which is true at times. But this is because there is nothing anyone could say to me that is as painful as what I say to myself.
Once I had worked through this episode I made a choice, I change or I die. Now, I know this is dramatic as hell but that is what I thought. So I had to ask myself what did I have to lose if I started changing? And what did I have to lose if I didn’t? Everything, I had everything to lose if I didn’t. So I only really had one choice.
I chose to redefine my idea of femininity so I did this by submerging myself in the body positivity community. I surrounded myself self in images of beautiful plus-size women. And it did something wonderful for me, for the first time ever, EVER, I started to feel normal. And because I was seeing all of these beautiful women everywhere in these stunning clothes just slaying life and their curves. I wanted that too, and it revamped my love of fashion. I wanted to be bold again.
I have always said ‘when you see someone, you have a non-verbal conversation with them.’ You judge them, don’t lie I know you do too. But I was sick of not being in control of that conversation, I didn’t want people to tell me about me, I wanted to tell them about me. And the Heather you see before you was born, the true me.
But there was still something I needed to do for me, I wanted to work on my BDD. I wanted that feminine figure I’ve always dreamed of. I was sick of my eating disorder controlling me and I was sick of hating the way I looked naked. I felt so uncomfortable naked that I didn’t even feel comfortable naked alone, yes, even in the shower.
And in February 2017 I decided to start reclaiming back my body from the BDD. I workout 5 days a week, changed my diet completely and learned to cook. Not all at once, I wanted it to be stainable lifestyle choices. Which, brings me to today. I am 9 st (57.1 kg/126 lbs) down and 5, nearly 6, dress sizes smaller. And I am feeling more like me.
I want to be perfectly clear, I still have BDD, depression and an eating disorder. I think I always will, my drug of choice has and always will be food. But I’m also Heather and I want to share my story and what I stand for. I still need to better navigate my mental health, physical health and everything else in between. But, I need to start talking about this, I need to be more vulnerable. Because maybe it will help someone, maybe even help save someone.
So, If there is one thing I could say to anyone affected by the same issues that is, it is ok to feel the way you do. But don’t let that control you. Breathe in inspiration and breathe out confidence. Surround yourself with good influences, listen to motivational songs and take that first step. Plant your feet firmly and control that conversation.