I am so familiar with many of the behaviours Mary mentions in her story, in particular avoiding harsh lighting and wearing glasses unnecessarily. I thought it would be a good idea to share my own story in hope of encouraging others to do so as well as i think its very cathartic reading about others who have had similar struggles to your own.
I have suffered from OCD since i was very young, around 7 years old. I didn’t realize that my struggles weren’t “normal” however until i was about 21. I am currently 27 years old and about 7 years ago my struggle with BDD began.
I remember one day noticing that a friend i had just met looked much older than she was, she didn’t look particularly bad or anything, just older. Later on that day i stood in front of the mirror examining my own face to check that it wasn’t the same as hers. I noticed that i had very fine lines around the sides of my mouth, and i fixated on these obsessively for the next 3-4 years, every mirror or reflective surface i went by i had to stop and check if they were visible. I spent hours on end examining my face in different lighting, different rooms, and from different angles. I tried countless different kinds of expensive moisturizing creams and began a myriad of different “diets” to make sure nothing that could cause aging was getting into my system. This was so exhausting and i was so picky with what i ate that i lost 6-7 kilos and started to look (what i thought) was extremely unhealthy. I couldn’t understand why because i was only eating fruits and vegetables and healthy foods!
As i was against doctors and medications i visited a Chinese medicine practitioner for acupuncture to see if he could help ease my obsessive thoughts and anxiety. I visited this practitioner 10 times over 10 weeks, and whilst i thought i was feeling a little bit better, the herbal remedies he gave me caused me to break out in extreme acne!
So this became my fixation for the next year or two, trying everything under the sun and all different kinds of vitamins and foods to try and make the acne go away.
Next came the dark circles under my eyes, I’ve had these since i was very young also but out of the blue the fixation swapped from the lines around my mouth to under my eyes. At this point i started wearing sunglasses to cover them up, not only could i not leave the house without sunglasses but i couldn’t even leave my room without them. I was wearing them at all times even when i was on my own and I felt extreme distress anytime i had to take them off. This made it extremely difficult for me going to uni and having to have my face exposed during classes. I just felt completely awful. I had to avoid all bright lights, all the blinds in the house had to be drawn and all the lights off.
I got to a point where i was so exhausted and so distressed with it all that i would just helplessly cry and i felt so defeated.
I’d seen at least 3 different psychologists none of which were much help, they mostly were just trying to teach me mindfulness and how to meditate, which is an extremely valuable skill to have but i was so distressed at that point that i needed more.
Eventually i started taking medication with did ease my symptoms quite a lot, at this point the acne cleared up as i think it was stress and anxiety related, so once that was under control a little most of the acne ceased, although i still have breakouts every now and again.
I started seeing a psychiatrist regularly as well as a new psychologist, she took a different approach with me and although not curing me did help a great deal. With her help i was able to stop wearing sunglasses. I went from sunglasses to clear frame glasses to now nothing! Which is awesome, although its still quite a struggle i am getting used to it.
Additionally i was able to start eating normally again and break up the association and the idea that “i was causing” all of this from eating poorly and not taking care of myself well enough. I was about to absolve myself of a lot of the guilt and idea that i had to be in control constantly.
Anyway, today i am 10 times better than i have been in the past but it’s still a daily struggle. Some days i’m up and i almost feel normal again this can last a few days at a time before i crash and have to start again. But it is great to finally have some good days and to be able to see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel.
This whole thing has been so intense on my self esteem, i am slowly trying to build this back up and change the idea i have that physical appearance is equal to self worth.
So overall although i am still on the road to recovery, i feel positive about moving forward and enjoying my life.
I am looking forward to meeting some other people who have had or are having similar struggles to my own.