I have decided to write a blog about my journey towards fighting Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD). I have self diagnosed BDD with help from my partner, however after researching on the net and speaking with a few people (including a councillor), everything points to BDD being the most likely diagnosis from what I am experiencing and feeling. I have two aims from writing this blog.
- I want to use this as a way to express my feelings and anxiety towards my issue and help me get things ‘off my chest’ so to speak. My partner is my rock and I have been able to explain and talk about everything I can to him, however sometimes writing things out rather than talking leads to a better way of explaining what I really mean. I have a tendency of going off on different tangents when trying to explain things verbally, just because I have so much to say and am not sure where to start or what to talk about first!
- My second and probably my most important aim is to put my experience out there in the hope that it will be read by someone also going through the same difficulties as me and help them through this misunderstood disorder. When researching BDD it was hard to find someone who has experienced it in a similar way to me. If my blog can help just one person, then it was worth writing.
So where do I start? I guess by telling you how I came to self-diagnose myself with BDD.
I have always kept active and fit throughout my life, playing football for and captaining a local football team since I was 9 (and still playing to this day at 33!), being involved in all sports at school, going after school clubs and clubs in my adult life too. I have never worried about how I look, about putting on weight or what I eat due to staying active. Even after having my daughter, I never worried about having to lose weight, it just fell off me.
When I met my partner in 2013, my life changed for the better. I fell in love instantly and our relationship blossomed almost like they do in the movies. I became a different person, a more positive and happy person without even trying! The new me resulted in promotions at work and achievements I thought I would never achieve. The positivity and happiness alone made me a better person inside and out. My daughter is thriving in happiness too, and we are very lucky that both our children (my partner has a son) get along so well, just like brother and sister.
We were, and still are, the power couple to our friends and family. We are so suited to each other, the closest to soulmates you can possibly be in my opinion. I have never been happier and I have found my rock.
My partner was a strength coach, and he become my football team’s strength and conditioning coach. We both enjoyed working together at football and he was fantastic for the team. On a personal level, he helped me get stronger and faster for football. I am in the best shape of my life all thanks to him. Not only did he help me in improving my performance at football, but he helped me get over some health issues such as IBS by going gluten free (I had a gluten high sensitivity intolerance which I didn’t know about) and allergies (taking away the foods containing gluten that I was intolerant to got rid of a few allergies I had and skin sensitivities). I have never been healthier…..physically.
My success on and off the pitch in terms of health and fitness was noticed by everyone….family, friends, football team mates, work colleagues. Everyone commented on how good I looked, eager to know how I did it. By living a much healthier lifestyle by following my partner’s advice, I was inspired to do the same for others. My partner pointed me in the right direction to educate myself by listening to podcasts such as Ben Coomber radio (which I highly recommend for anyone interested!) and reading up on nutrition, strength training, supplementation, etc. I even took a nutrition course (Body Type Nutrition Academy), followed by a gym instructor course….passing both with flying colours.
Confident in my knowledge and passionate enough to want to share it, I started training some of the girls at work as well as a couple outside of work. This turned out to be a great success, with a few of the girls achieving great weightless the right way. One wore a bikini on holiday for the first time since she was a teenager after new found confidence with her weight loss. One stopped experiencing lower back pain after doing strength training exercises each week with me. Providing nutritional advice alone to people I knew showed to be beneficial too, one guy lots 4.5 stone just from following certain healthy food lists I provided to him.
Practising what I preached and looking after my health as well as others, led to body composition improvements of my own…..I was soon seen as the health and fitness guru, my friends and family describing me as a ‘machine’. I loved this ‘title’ and it spurred me on to continue with my health journey, improving body composition even further.
However, this determination led to increased pressure to reach my goal, pressure from myself. I soon felt as though I HAD to look good all the time, that I HAD to train hard and eat healthy, that I HAD to eventually have the body of a bodybuilder! Although I know I look great, am in the best shape ever and feel better and stronger physically than when I was in my 20’s, I am still not happy with a certain part of my body……my stomach.
For some unknown reason, my stomach is my focus. It determines whether I am doing well in being healthy and improving my body composition or not. I am training hard at the gym and eating well (ensuring I am still following a flexible diet, so I can have a meal of my choice once or twice a week). I am seeing great improvements in body composition, gaining muscle particularly in the upper body. However I am not happy with my stomach.
Now my stomach is probably flatter and thinner than 90% of the women I know……I am not denying that. However it is still the one thing I get anxious about, the one thing I worry about, the one thing that occupies my mind 24/7. I know I have a great stomach, I know it will bloat out after eating certain foods, I know it is the most variable part of my body size-wise throughout the day due to natural circumstances, but I hate it.
I cannot walk past a mirror without looking at my stomach. If I am at home and I am not happy with what I see in my bedroom mirror, I will go to my daughter’s mirror to look as it is lighter in there and I can see the lining of muscles better. At work once I have been to the toilet, I have to lift my top up to see how ‘bloated’ it looks. This determines my mood for the rest of the day. If I feel I look bloated, then it occupies my mind for the rest of the day, guilt and hate rule. I will NOT look at my stomach at any point of the day if I feel like I need a wee as I know my stomach will be more bloated than after my wee.
I am constantly touching my stomach, pinching it to see how ‘fat’ it is today. Stroking my stomach from hip to hip……Can i feel my hips bones? Does it feel flat? Can i feel a bump like I am pregnant? Is my waist curving inwards?
The minute I stand up from my desk at work, I concentrate on my posture, in case my stomach is ‘sticking out’, sucking my stomach in for the fear that others are looking at my and assessing my body, or to be more precise, my stomach.
I will not wear any thing tight that will show the shape of my stomach, unless it is in the morning when I know my stomach has no food inside it to bloat out.
I will not go swimming with my children unless it s in the morning where I can skip breakfast to ensure a ‘flat’ stomach at the baths. Once at the baths, I tense my stomach to show my abs at all times, in case people are looking and judging.
I will not get changed in front on anyone at the gym in case people expect more from my body…..to be more muscly, thinner, toned, cut.
I used to enjoy getting changed in front of the football girls because I was happy with my body, they knew how hard I have worked to get where I am and always told me they wished their body was a muscly as mine! That was before I started this stomach paranoia. Now I will not get changed in front of them, I will get changed in the toilets.
I am going to Benidorm for a hen party in May for my best friend (also my work colleague and my biggest fan when it comes to health and fitness! She has also done very well in her journey to a healthier lifestyle by following my recommendations and training with me occasionally). The pressure I feel to look amazing for that is immense, the pressure I have put on myself that is. no-one will care about what I look like, but i still want to look the best I can. None of them have seen me in my bikini but they know I promote health and fitness, so i feel as though my success as a health and fitness ‘guru’ will be judged by my body, in particular my stomach. Will I disappoint? Will my opinions mean nothing after they see me in a bikini? Will their opinion of me be affected?
In July I then have a holiday in Greece with the In-Laws…..my worries are not as strong with them as I know they are more interested in how happy we are as a family rather than what I look like. They just want their son (my partner) and grandchild to be happy and I think they now by now that they are extremely happy living with my daughter and I.
I guess the worse part of my paranoia is how it is affecting my attitude towards my partner. Now let me be absolutely clear from the start, my partner has NEVER EVER put pressure on me to look good, has NEVER told me I need to lose weight, has ALWAYS told me he loves my body from the very start, has ALWAYS encouraged me in my health and fitness goals because he knows it is what I want and has always given me the tools to achieve, has NEVER said anything negative towards my body or stomach, has ALWAYS been sexually attracted to me and shown it every day, has ALWAYS been positive towards my body shape and composition…..the list goes on. He is nothing but a positive ray of sunshine for me and it was actually him who suggested I may have an anxiety after becoming worried about me, noticing a change in my mental state and how it is affecting my every day life. He is the only person I have spoken to about this and has been nothing but supportive, loving and caring.
Since we met in 2013, we have had an amazing sex life. Now I know most couples will say this, with only 10% of them telling the truth. It is a well known fact that most couples stop having sex as regularly after the ‘Honeymoon’ period ends. Well I can genuinely say that up until my paranoia issue began, we were not one of those couples. We are unbelievably compatible when it comes to the bedroom, exploring all of our fantasies, seemingly experienced a ‘first’ almost every time we have sex even to this day. We used to have sex at least once or twice A DAY. Sex isn’t the be all and end all of a relationship, however sex brought us even closer. Once you have found your soul mate, you can do anything together.
But since my paranoia, our sex life has been negatively affected. We do still have sex, but only if I leave my top on, or if its dark, or in the morning when I don’t feel ‘bloated’. There are no more spontaneous episodes in the evening or afternoon, sneaking away like teenagers when the kids are playing downstairs, having a mess around in the kitchen once the kids have gone to bed whilst making tea, no more experimental sessions on our massage table where we explored each other’s bodies from head to toe. All because of a body composition paranoia that I know is stupid and uncalled for.
My paranoia is something that I know is in my head. I feel paranoid about taking my top off in case my partner is disappointed with my progress or thinks I am looking ‘fat’ tonight. I feel embarrassed when I do feel bloated, like I have let him down, like I am getting old and not good enough for him. I hate seeing my stomach if I am on top, if it is not looking great or you cant see my abs maybe because of water retention. In the morning when we have sex, even thought I don’t mind my stomach as much as I know it is ‘flatter’ than it will be later on in the evening, I still find myself turning away from him, having sex form behind so he cant see my stomach.
I have spoken to my partner about this, and he noticed my paranoia sooner than I realised it. I no longer initiate sex, I no longer want to take my top of, not just during sex but when I get changed for work, I turn myself away from him so he doesn’t see my stomach, or I tense my stomach and suck my tummy in if I have to faec him. I won’t wear nice tight dresses and tops like I used to.
I have always been a good eater, in fact sometimes too good! I am the human bin in our house 🙂 however there was a point about a year go where I tried the KETO diet as an experiment. Now this diet is certainly not for everyone including myself. Great at first for body composition as it takes away most of the water retention (which I know is the main culprit to my ‘belatedness’, not that I am ‘fat’), and has been proved to help with certain health issues. My stomach looked amazing on the KETO diet, but KETO wasn’t sustainable and it certainly wasn’t sociable so I decided to come off it. Once off it, my water retention came back, particularly at certain times of the month, as it does for every women. Part of me thinks that I now compare my stomach to what I managed to get it to on the KETO diet, maybe it is. But it is also much ore physiologically that that.
I do sometimes suffer with perfectionism, I want my hair to be perfect, I want to look good all the time, I want people to think I do deserve to be with my gorgeous man. Thats a pressure I have always put on myself. Maybe it stems back from before I met my partner.
I was previously married. I met my daughter’s father in 2004, we had her in 2008, then we got married in 2010. A year later I discovered he had cheated on me with someone at work, and it possibly started before we got married. This knocked my self confidence tremendously, I was broken. Even though now I realise he wasn’t my soul mate, I wasn’t in love with him as much as I thought I was, there was someone better out there for me…..it still didn’t stop the pain at the time.
I because a single mum for a couple of years, enjoying the single life once I regained a bit of confidence, until I met my current partner, who brought me to life and made me happy again. Even happier than I was before. He showed me what real true love was. He is the one I am supposed to be with.
But maybe my past experiences are haunting me, and I am worried the same thing will happen. This was suggested by my partner. He thinks I may be paranoid about what could happen, even though I know it won’t happen. Strangely, he experienced exactly the same thing as me…married, child, cheated on, found his soulmate. I am sure everyone is worried something bad might happen when they are happy, although I never used to think like that. I was so indulged in my new found love that I never had time to think of negatives, he wouldn’t let me, we were and still are so happy. But these paranoias have led me to become a little less positive each day, for no reason whatsoever.
Not sure if i have gone on a tangent above, I am sorry if i have 🙂 but I wanted to get everything down in writing that I am feeling.
Anyway this is where I am now. My partner expressed his concerns and after opening up to him over how I felt with my stomach and the pressure I have put on myself he has supported me and guided me to speaking to someone professional about it. We researched on the net, with all of my symptoms, worries and characteristics pointing towards BDD, a common disorder experienced by many people working in the health and fitness industry. I took a questionnaire and it told me to get help NOW!
My partner gave me the number for LIFEWORKS, a company who help people with concerns about all aspects of life, whether it be family, money, health, children, etc. I eventually plucked up the courage to phone them and spoke to one of their councillors. After eventually getting over the difficulty of opening up to him, I explained what I was experiencing and he suggested I may have some sort of BDD. He gave me the number of my local Primary Care Psychological Service to see if I can see someone about therapy.
Yesterday I phoned them and spoke to a lovely psychologist about my problem. She made it easy to speak to and open up. I felt emotional in parts, particularly when talking about my partner and how it is affecting us as it is the worst art of my paranoia.
She is going to check with her supervisor, but because I have no problem with eating, she thought seeing me herself and referring me to the Primary Care Psychological Service rather than an eating disorder group would be best.
I now have to wait for her call next Monday which she said will be a ten minute call to discuss popping in to see her.
Talking on the phone to a complete stranger is very hard at first and yes I did cry on the first call. But once I got things off my chest, it was easier, particularly because you know you are talking to someone who is experienced in the area and has dealt with my patients like yourself. It may be hard to talk to someone in person that I do not know, I am soon to find out, but all I know is I am one step further (probably the hardest step) to help.
The psychologist suggested CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) as an option, which I am all for.
So I will be writing down my experiences in this blog from today. Please feel free to comment and let me know if this is of any use to you. It would make me so happy if I knew at least one person found my blog helpful.
One last saying I want to end with is a quote I heard recently that I keep telling myself to try to help with my paranoia…..
“She had such a great set of legs and bum…….said no-one EVER at a funeral!”.
To me this is saying that when you pass, no-one cares about how you looked, no-one remembers you for your body composition, everyone remembers you for your character, your personality and your legacy you leave behind. You are not judged by the people you love by your body, you are judged by who you are as a person.