Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
It's very rare for me to publish a post that isn't designed to amuse in someway.
Yesterday I talked a little about how I was feeling right now.
It's not great.
I had some lovely supportive comments (thank you all :) and rather than just crawl away and hide which was my first instinct I decided to face things. To work through them and to carry on blogging.
As I said yesterday. There is a temptation to spill my guts on here but the situation I'm in at the moment isn't an appropriate one to share.
It's ugly. It involves people that I want to protect so exposing the guilty is not an option however tempting it may be.
It has brought back a post that's been at the back of my mind for quite a while. Something I've almost shared on more than one occasion.
But it's so far removed from the person I'd like to be perceived as.
So far from the person that I really AM that I've never written it before.
The truth is, it is a part of me too. It's not what defines me. It hasn't always been part of me and I'd like to think it wont always be.
But for now it is.
You may or may not have heard of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
It's not particularly widely known. It's often misdiagnosed or it's kept a secret.
It has many different forms and each person who lives with it experiences it in different ways.
It often becomes apparent in early teens or young adulthood. It can be triggered by abuse, neglect or life experiences.
It can strike at any age. It can happen for no apparent reason.
As I said, It can have many different forms but I am only going to talk about one of them here. I don't pretend to be an authority on it and it wouldn't be appropriate for me to discuss any of the other forms it takes.
BDD can manifest itself as a somatoform disorder.
A mental disorder characterized by physical symptoms that suggest physical illness or injury - symptoms that cannot be fully explained by a general medical condition.
This is in no way connected with or should be confused with Munchausen Syndrome wherein those affected feign illness to draw attention to themselves. This is very real.
So, why am I talking about it?
Well, in the summer of 2009 my marriage ran into difficulties. It was a hugely stressful time during which I became physically ill.
I suffered a series of kidney infections which were very debilitating.
I also suffered from arrhythmia (an uneven heartbeat). At times my heart rate would reach 124 beats per minute and stay like that for several hours, it was exhausting.
My blood pressure was very erratic. Through 3 pregnancies it had always been stable so this was a cause for concern.
The main concern being that my blood pressure dropped dramatically when I went from sitting to standing. (the opposite should happen in a healthy person) although it was raised the rest of the time.
I also lost a considerable amount of weight in a very short space of time approx 35lb in just over 2 months.
Over a period of months I underwent many, many tests all proving inconclusive.
I was tested for Addisons disease which can be notoriously hard to diagnose and is still something that can't be completely ruled out.
There was a fear at one point that I had a tumour on my kidney.
I was put onto beta blockers to regulate my heartbeat.
My heart was regularly monitored as the increase in my blood pressure had cause a heart mummer (only previously apparent during pregnancy) to reappear (this has since disappeared again).
I spent several months in a constant state of fear despite having a fantastic GP who did all he could to reassure me and hospital consultants who spent many hours doing everything they possibly could to find out what was going on with my body.
During this time the situation at home deteriorated and I struggled to deal with it all.
Ok, maybe I wasn't dealing with it!
My doctor was keen that I should try anti depressants but I didn't feel they were for me. I think that was my ignorance showing. I didn't want to be labeled as depressed. That wasn't what I was about. I felt my problems were medical and if we could solve them then I would be able to deal with the stress.
I still resist them although having spoken to many people I sometimes wonder if my own stupid built in prejudices are preventing me from the benefits I have seen other gain.
I can happily discuss the benefits and encourage other to give them a go.
I KNOW they help. I've seen it with my own eyes.
My doctor then suggested CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) as an alternative. Again, I wasn't keen. My problems were circumstantial, they weren't a result of an inherent or underlying mental health issue.
I was unhappy because my life was shit basically.
However. I had to admit that I had a problem when I had an increasing reluctance to have contact with my own body.
The circumstances of my marriage breakup were not nice. I'd been left feeling physically contaminated. Unclean. I had a feeling of self disgust and self loathing.
None of it was my fault but it didn't make any difference.
CBT turned out to be the breakthrough I needed.
After several sessions I felt able to talk about this feeling which was the first time BDD was mentioned and the connection between the physical and emotional symptoms was made.
I'd like to say that having had this recognised (I hesitate to say diagnosed as it really isn't that simple) that there was an easy answer to this but that wouldn't be true.
For about year I really struggled with this.
Although apart from a tendency to drop weight very quickly my physical symptoms are all but gone now there has been a lingering psychological affect.
During that time I did form a relationship but it was pretty much doomed due to the BDD. The physical withdrawal led to a kind of emotional detachment (I'm not explaining that very well).
Anyway, I must have been a complete nightmare.
I feel pretty bad about that. I think I knew right from the start how it would end.
Funnily enough, earlier this year, I did go on to have a relationship where BDD just didn't signify at all.
I have no idea why but it was never an issue.
It was like it had never existed and so I never mentioned it.
I guess I thought it was somehow miraculously cured and anyway it wasn't something I wanted to talk about. It was all way too weird for me.
I just wanted to be 'normal' again.
The relationship didn't last for other reasons which I was pretty gutted about. But shit happens, I'm dealing with it.
It did however gave me the false hope that BDD had been banished completely from my life.
Given this 'diagnosis' some people may find it hard to understand how I could have published photos of myself as part of the I heart my body campaign.
To be honest, it wasn't easy. But then I'm not sure that makes me any different to anyone else.
For me it was important part of trying to try to regain the confidence I once had in my body and I found it very empowering to talk about the things I loved about it.
I also found that I could look at the photos quite dispassionately and see that it was an attractive body. I can SEE it is, I just sometimes struggle to feel it.
BDD doesn't have the hold over me that it did at one time but it hasn't completely gone.
It has stopped me from fully entering into a relationship since then.
I date men. I LIKE men. I'm attracted to them.
I flirt, I have fun I can even be physically affectionate but only when I feel safe, only when there is no chance of it progressing any further. Any suggestion of anything more has me running for the hills.
I don't want to hurt anyone else and I'm scared I will. I'm actually scared I already have ...
Yet at the same time I still feel the emotional detachment.
That doesn't sit well with me.
I CARE about people and so, for now, I've decided that there are other things in my life that should take priority.
I don't know what the answer is. Maybe one day I'll find someone else where it isn't an issue.
Maybe I won't and I'll have to accept that it's something I live with from now on.
It doesn't affect my day to day life.
But it's not the way I want to be forever.
I'd like a happy ever after someday.
I miss intimacy. I miss sharing. I miss being held.