Val’s Story

I had no idea there were others out there like me. I thought I was the most vain, selfish, narcissistic person ever, but reading about BDD, and in particular the personal stories of other sufferers, I knew I had found my answer! I finally knew what was wrong with me, and for me that was half the battle. I had spent years in and out of therapy without being properly diagnosed.

For as long as I can remember I had self-esteem issues. My first BDD attack was when I was 12. My Grandparents sent me off to an all-girls boarding school to get me out of my mother and stepfather’s house. I was there until the age of 14. Anyway, I saw a picture of a very thin blonde girl and something snapped. I got out my secret stash of extra-strength Tylenol and locked myself into the bathroom. It was a room with only a bathtub in it; the shower cubicles, toilets and sinks were in a different room altogether. I ran a nice hot bath and swallowed the whole bottle; when I woke I was having my stomach pumped.

“Eventually my mother and stepfather kicked me out of the house because of my ‘attitude problem’”

That was the first of several suicide attempts. I was sent home for a week to ‘recover’. By the time I was in grade 9 I was in full self-hatred self-mutilating mode. I insisted I wouldn’t go back to boarding school and told them if they tried to send me back I’d find a way to get expelled. That year I was in two different schools in different cities (my parents moved in the middle of the school year) and in each one I fell in with a group of kids that weren’t of the greatest mindset. They did drugs, drank, pulled B-n-E’s, etc. Eventually my mother and stepfather kicked me out of the house because of my ‘attitude problem’. I ended up living with people that I would deem pretty ‘seedy’ but I had no where else to go. My grandparents lived 3000 miles away and I had no family to speak of other than my dad, who was working in the camps up in the Yukon.

I never pulled any B-n-E’s but to earn my keep I had to do equally if not worse things. After another failed suicide attempt, my parents moved back to my original city and my grandparents gave them the money to enrol me in a local private school, hoping that would turn me around. I was there for my grade 10 year and absolutely refused to return the following year, again making my point by slashing my wrists. I went to the senior high school in my area for my grades 11 and 12; there I made many friends, almost all of whom were just as messed up as I was.

“I had stopped eating and was surviving on an apple and two pieces of bread a week”

By this time I had stopped eating and was surviving on an apple and two pieces of bread a week, along with lots of coffee, water and cigarettes. I was working out excessively and doing any type of drug that I could get my hands on. The drugs took away the hunger pains as well as the emotional pains. I graduated with a not-so-bad GPA, considering I was in the mall across the road smoking and drinking coffee the majority of the time.

After graduation my parents moved and left me to my own devices. Not long after that my dad shot himself and that sent me into a downward spiral. I got in really deep with the coke, bingeing for days – no sleep, no food, and finally crashing. Then the cycle would begin again. I knew the coke was ageing me and I didn’t want that, I HATED that! I looked like a shrivelled-up used piece of goods at the age of 21. At the time I thought it was vanity that saved me. I went back to school and have been in the same sort of business since then.

I met my husband when I was 24 and clean. Things were definitely looking up for me. I still hated myself and my appearance, but I somehow managed to put it on the back burner – until January of 2006. It was a month before my 30th birthday and I snapped. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate at work, my marriage was suffering terribly and it was all because of my body and my hatred of it.

“I absolutely loathed myself, everything about myself”

Throughout all those years I absolutely loathed myself, everything about myself, especially my body: everything about it, from the shape to the length to the width. No matter how thin I got it was never good enough for me. If my hatred wasn’t in the front of my mind it was in the back of it. I constantly compared myself to others. I went though stages of not looking in mirrors, and of being mesmerized by them for hours. All shiny surfaces were up for securitization; anywhere I could get a glimpse of myself I would. Most of the time I walked away feeling defeated, angry and sad, because nothing changed. I was constantly trying to figure out ways I could get skinnier. I was envious of every female that I saw because they were all prettier and skinnier than me. I NEVER asked for reassurance from others because I was terrified of the answer. On the rare occasion I did go out I would wear the biggest, droopiest cloths and a hat, so no one could see me.

Just before my birthday I went to one of my many ‘quest-for-perfection’ appointments and the nutritionist asked if I had ever heard of BDD. She had asked how many inches I wanted to loose and I guess to her my answer seemed unreasonable. That night I went home and started surfing. I was glued for hours. I was in tears for hours. I had no idea there were others out there like me. I thought I was the most vain, selfish, narcissistic person ever, but reading about BDD, and in particular the personal stories of other sufferers, I knew I had found my answer! I finally knew what was wrong with me, and for me that was half the battle. I had spent years in and out of therapy without being properly diagnosed.

I made an appointment with my doctor the next day and told him my story, and about my recent ‘breakdown’. He started me on medication and referred me to a psychiatrist who specializes in CBT. It took several months of being on a waiting list, but I tell you, it was well worth the wait. My psychiatrist has diagnosed me with BDD, along with several other disorders, and we’re actually gaining on them, slowly but surely. I still have my rituals; I still compare and get envious, but it is diminishing as I catch myself, and correct myself. The therapy is very hard work, but I think in the end it will be well worth the effort.

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The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation. Charity no. 1153753.