I have re-written this article so many times. Simply put: this was very hard for me to write. Believe it or not, it was much longer and cutting it down was quite the struggle. And though I didn’t anticipate the difficulty, I wrote this to share my experience in hopes that someone with a similar problem acknowledges that these aren’t normal actions and reaches out.
The start of high school was precisely when my body dysmorphia began developing. After bursting into tears and confessing my fear that I was “fat” to my mom (which I vividly remember), she suggested that I jog on our treadmill for 20 minutes a day until the first day of school. Mom said that it would “make all the difference” because I rarely got any exercise. She was absolutely right. I began to thin out a lot
and was so
much happier! Disclaimer: I lost weight because of my additional exercise and the fact that I was not done growing. My body was more likely than not still developing and changing and I was dropping my “baby weight,” as this is so commonly referred to as. Since I was so happy with my body after I began working out, I didn’t stop. And I shouldn’t have because I didn’t play sports or participate in any physically active activities anyways and the healthy thing to do would have been to continue. However, I began to feel as though nothing I did was good enough. That I needed to challenge myself or I wouldn’t be skinny anymore (or “skinny enough” as I would later think). So, I started running for an hour a day. An hour a day on the maximum uphill setting and an extreme resistance setting. This plus an ab workout. This plus jumping jacks. I might have neared a panic attack if I didn’t workout for a day. On a day I did workout, if had ran for 8 minutes short of an hour, I wouldn’t be able to think of anything else until I ran for 8 more minutes exactly. I might have neared a panic attack if my workout didn’t “feel hard
enough.” Then I started measuring myself in my mirror. What didn’t I know? That this wasn’t normal.
At first it was a simple “I wonder if I look any different.” I would look at myself from different angles to “check my progress.” I started to frequently pull my shirt above my stomach to see if my waist was any smaller, turn to the side to see if my stomach was any flatter. This soon became a pastime. Everyday after school and before I worked out I would go to my bathroom and pull up my shirt to “make sure I still had a flat stomach.” After the workout I would “double check.” “Double checking” turned into debating with myself whether or not it was acceptable and truly flat. I spent hours a day sometimes just staring at my body in a mirror. Every chance I could get I would check how flat my stomach was: before eating and after eating, before a workout and after a workout. If I felt confident on a particular day I would stare until I convinced myself that I was “fat” again, in the same way you stop liking a picture of yourself after you look at it too long. This wasn’t normal. I started asking to go to the bathroom at school to check that I was still thin
in our girls’ room mirrors — during class. I constantly asked mom “I don’t look like I put on weight, do I?” This wasn’t normal and I had no idea.
Fortunately, I never felt the urge to self harm. And though at that time I would feel proud
of myself for eating less on occasion, I never did develop an eating disorder. Since I didn’t realize I had body dysmorphia until a few months ago (after some viral tweets regarding BDD awareness crossed my timeline), it was hard to remember how this ended. I know that in addition to receiving help with anxiety, at one point I refused to look at my body in a mirror at all. But that would be the extent of my memory. And while I still workout everyday, my reasons and conditions are much healthier than that of 2 years ago. If you relate to any of these feelings or actions, please please please recognize that this is not normal behavior. Body dysmorphia can lead to even worse feelings and actions as a result. Please seek help. Click here for information on Body Dysmorphic Disorder.