For years I was at war with myself.
I spent years battling Body Dysmorphic Disorder, constantly in a state of self loathing and at war in my own mind. I stared in the mirror for hours, constantly checking and measuring and the cycle of angry thoughts spiraled.
“You’re so ugly. Who would love you? Everyone knows you gained weight. You can’t even take care of your skin, how is anyone going to think you can take care of patients? I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself.”
I was 22. I was deep in the midst of post partum anxiety and my BDD was out of control, infiltrating every aspect of my life. At work, I was irritable and hard to be around. In my marriage, I took my pain out on Craig. I wasn’t present as a mom, mindlessly scrolling, working way too much, or throwing myself into anything that could get me out of my mind and calm the chaos, the voices berating me over and over again.
“You look like a man. You have such masculine features. How can Craig stand to be married to you? How could he take you out in public looking the way you do?”
My mom was walking out the door to an appointment, I was crying in the bathroom at her house, she stopped me, asked what was wrong. Through sobs I told her, “I HATE myself. I absolutely loathe everything about me.”
I wrote this piece mid-battle with BDD:
My mind is playing tricks on me tonight.
It is telling me my waist has more inches today than it did yesterday.
It tells me I’m filling in the once loose skin on my arms.
It tells me I’m not good enough and I’m not smart enough.
It tells me I look like a man.
It tells me to move my legs so many times that I can’t sleep.
It screams in a casual conversation, “THEY KNOW YOU GAINED WEIGHT. THEY ARE LOOKING AT YOUR ZITS AND WONDERING WHY YOU CAN’T TAKE CARE OF YOUR SKIN.”
My mind yearns to be silent. It yearns to have peace. It yearns to appreciate the blue in my eyes instead of the blackheads on my nose.
My mind is loud tonight.
My love for myself is scarce.
I have hope for tomorrow to be quieter.
I lost my identity in becoming a nurse, a mom, a wife and I was numbing with over working. Who was I? What did I do for fun? What do I like? Who am I?
That was my breaking point. I started therapy. I saw a psychologist. I started taking anti-anxiety medications. I read a lot of books. I studied what it means to love yourself. I spent a long time figuring myself out. I did a lot of growing up when my Dad got sick. A big dose of “what really matters” expedited my recovery. I found a hobby. I reconnected with friends. I scheduled time with my husband.
I remember the first time I went out, really went out just to have fun. It was terrible and awkward and wonderful. I went to ariel yoga class with my best friend Regan. We were just reconnecting after some growing pains had kept us apart for a few years. I remember thinking, “this is what people do, they go out and they have fun. They schedule something fun for themselves and then they go do it and they enjoy it. You can do this, just be normal.” My “fun” muscle was a muscle I hadn’t flexed in years. It felt so weird and uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to do it. That was the first of many things I did to learn how to have fun.
Slowly but surely, I began to heal. The intrusive thoughts didn’t terrorize me all of the time, I found worth beyond the number on the scale. I met myself. I found out I like baking and cooking. I found out no matter how hard I try I’ll never be crafty. I found out I really love mountain biking. I learned how to communicate and connect and fall back in love with Craig. I learned how to create fun. I learned how to find joy in the little things. I learned how to really be grateful, not just say you’re grateful. I started blogging, I embraced a new creative outlet. I found out I can accomplish anything with a good podcast playing. I learned how good it feels to work out because you LOVE your body, not because you hate it. I learned how good food can taste when you aren’t constantly depriving yourself. I stopped setting the kind of goals that were bad for me and I started enjoying the journey until I let go of goals all together.
I learned how to be kind to my mind. What a lesson it was. I made the kind of progress that can’t be measured in tasks, only in the way people tell you “you seem so happy” and you smile because you know you are. The kind of glowing that other people don’t see, but you feel it. The smile on your face when you fall asleep, the knowing your worth when others disrespect you, the way it feels to be your own best friend, it’s all about being kind to your mind.
Being kind to my mind looks like scheduling coffee with a friend, biking the Trout Run Trail, hiring a personal trainer, only working as much as I need to support my family, a dance party in the living room with the boys, spending time with my mom, calling my siblings, having a date night with Craig, being so grateful, singing in the car, getting rid of my scale and laughing as much as possible.
I spent so much time longing for happiness. It could have been there all along. There isn’t anything I do now that wasn’t accessible to me then. It’s choosing to love yourself. It’s choosing to be kind to your mind. It’s choosing to end the war.
Be Kind to Your Mind – such a simple phrase – holds so much meaning for me. So I reached out to a local artist, I spent hours going back and forth on the tiniest of details, and I created this shirt. A huge thank you to Andrea from Indigo Studio. She created the floral, I completed the design and sent it to my fabulous screen printer who brought the vision to life.
Please also note, much of what I was struggling with in 2017 and 2018 would later be diagnosed as ADHD. If these symptoms or these thoughts sound familiar to you, please read my blog post about my ADHD diagnosis and Living with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and this one too.