Living With Body Dysmorphia – An Inside Look

So, Miley Cyrus admitted that she has struggled with body dysmorphia her entire life while interviewing Lili Reinhart on her instagram show, Bright Minded. It’s not my place to say if she actually has this disorder or not, but I was disappointed that the conversation only addressed Photoshopped reality. It is so much more than that.

Picture this:

7am

You look in the mirror to check your outfit and you see a bloated 200 pound version of yourself. You pinch your skin wishing that you could cut off the undesirable parts.

You step closer and see every pore clogged with dirt. You pick and squeeze until your face is blotchy.

9am

You’re in the bathroom at work (or school) and you build up the courage to peek in the mirror while washing your hands. Oh! It’s not that bad! You’re not that toned but you’re 150 pounds lighter.

Noon

You scroll through photos on your phone from last night during your lunch break. She’s ugly. Her arms are thick and her face is warped. It’s offensive. You looked different last night. You fight back tears.

You become aware that you’re finger combing your hair looking for coarse strands. They don’t belong there. You pull them out when you find them.

3pm

To make your unpredictable appearance predictable, you go to the gym.

Hold on. Before you hit the treadmill, you stand in front of the mirror for 15 minutes pulling at pieces of hair and picking dry skin off your face. You hope nobody in the locker room notices.

You watch yourself in the mirror as you do squats. A potato in its unnatural habitat. Out of anger you push your limits because extra effort will transform this potato.

In thirty-minutes, you look back into the mirror and you’ve easily dropped 20 pounds.

5pm

You’re out to dinner with your friends. You insist on taking 50 more photos than necessary because you look terrible. “But you look so good… it’s not that bad… you look fine… it’s fine…”

You try sharing your feelings but all they say is “I totally feel that, I feel so ugly.” They drop it and move on. How do you tell them it’s more than that?

You fear photos, passing mirrors and big moments like weddings, graduations and parties because what will you look like that day? Will you recognize yourself?

Here’s the thing:

You believe your true appearance fits your personality and lifestyle. It’s not even necessarily ideal. It’s just you. Your true physical version – no distortions.

Then there’s the version of you that other people see, it’s unknowable.

There’s the version of you in photos and mirrors. It changes daily, hourly and within minutes.

You are embodied as a web called “Versions of You” and they are unreliable and unrecognizable.

This isn’t a Photoshop beauty industry problem. That’s only a trigger.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is constantly being hyperaware of your physical presence that visually changes on a regular basis. It’s confusing, embarrassing and painful. (And just to clarify, it’s not like looking in one of those distorted clown mirrors – don’t let the cliche memes fool you)

Imagine not being able to ignore your appearance which physically changes every time you look into a mirror. What would you do to control that?

Pick your skin? Pull out your hair? Sit in an awkward posture? Purse your lips a certain way?

Imagine missing out on so much joy in this amazing thing called life. You wish you could have fun and look forward to events and plans; you wish you could be fully present.

It’s physically impossible not to obsess about your appearance. It isn’t jealousy over a photoshopped instagram model and it certainly isn’t vanity. If you could flip a switch and turn it off, you would’t hesitate.

Can you picture it?

My issue with this interview is that if we’re going to bring up body dysmorphia, let’s have a real conversation about what it is and what it’s like. Photoshopped reality has its place in the conversation but it should not be the focal point.

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