These two are intrinsically linked, yet it doesn’t appear to be widely recognised that they are. Mostly, women who say they can’t leave the house without make-up are just popped into the ‘vain’ or ‘shallow’ category. But what if you really can’t leave the house because you are so shamed and self-conscious about your (probably imaginary) ‘defect’?
Even now there are several times each week that I have to effectively ‘force’ myself out of the house. Some of those reasons are related to anxiety – others are related to my Body Dysmorphia, even now after all this time when I consider myself to have largely conquered it. I avoid lots of situations in order to protect myself and evade the panic attacks and physical symptoms I feel when I expose myself to certain situations.
When my Body Dysmorphia was very very bad, and not affected by anxiety, I felt so shamed leaving the house even though I was dressed up and made up to the nines. I’d try on so many outfits but none of them looked right; others I felt ‘fat’ in. I walked with my head down, my face hidden, made journeys as quick as possible. I was 16/17, I couldn’t drive, I had to walk everywhere or get the bus. I felt eyes on me wherever I went, even though it was highly unlikely that anyone (let alone everyone) was looking at me, and even less likely that they were scrutinising me.
Going out into the public domain is a very scary prospect for anyone with Body Dysmorphia. Your own criticism is crippling – so imagine the weight of the perceived criticism you feel you’ll expose yourself to by going outside.
At that time, I was fixated on my acne and my boobs – yet as I walked down the main road feeling sick because I felt every car that went past was analysing my face and chest size, it never crossed my mind that it would be impossible for them to be able to even see my face as it pointed down to the floor, or that they would be looking at my modest chest whilst they were driving past at 40 mph. Body Dysmorphia is irrational – and that’s why your friends and family are unlikely to be understanding about how you’re feeling.
Please know that even if your friends and family don’t understand, so many others do! Body Dysmorphia is more common than people think – and it’s a spectrum disorder which means that it has varying levels and of course everybody is different – everyone has different things they hate about themselves, different triggers, different stories and different lives and reasons they are feeling the way they do.
If they are open to it, show this blog to family and friends to help them to understand – that’s part of what it’s there for!
And as always, I love to hear your thoughts, comments and stories.