I feel like there are spiders under my skin.
Every piece of fabric that clings to my body somehow feels wrong.
A glance at the mirror back the mania in my eyes, and I know. I know this familiar demon that lies beneath the surface of my dermis, waiting to bat its red eyes at me.
It’s my body dysmorphia.
I’m on outfit number seven today. On any other Monday, it might seem like I’m just a diva that loves a good runway show. But all I can do is wish that was the case. The truth is that my body image is torturing me.
Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition in which we see flaws or defects in our appearance that others do not. These flaws have no roots in reality, and as someone who struggles with body dymorphia, I know that my mind is lying to me. Yet here I am, hunched over on the floor of my room, surrounded by a heap of clothing so tall that it casts a shadow around me. While defects that I perceive aren’t actually “real,” they feel incredibly real to me. The shadow of my clothing pile and the beady-eyed dysmorphia demon inside me take turns leaving me in the darkness. Then, I hear a knock on my door. How long have I been in my own world? The glow of my iPhone’s screen told me that my “hours” of struggle lasted mere minutes.
It’s my son asking for me. He’s extremely empathetic and can spot a phony emotion from miles away. As I hear his little feet skip away, I give thanks that my acting held up.
My body feels weak. My temples tingle, and I feel a cold sensation in the back of my head. Suddenly, I feel like all the butterflies that danced inside of me stopped fluttering. I recognize that I’m having an anxiety attack.
How can I take my son anywhere if I’ll somehow embarrass him? Who wants to be with their “fat” mother?
But I recognize my thoughts for what they are – intrusive. My thoughts are simply unwelcome visitors to a lavish party. The party can go on without them.
I slowly pull myself up from the floor and look into the mirror. I stare down my personal demon – my dysmorphia. Suddenly, my thoughts begin to shift. The body in the mirror is just that – only a body. Inside the body lives swirls of thoughts and words. Inside, a heart beats and organs keep me alive. I am still in the throes of my anxiety attack, but I finally see the light beaming from the other side.
I finally settle on an outfit. The spiders no longer crawl under my skin. The fabric feels soft against my skin. A glance at the mirror reflects a perfectly ordinary body.
I like to wrap my life in a pretty box and leave it to sit on a shelf, never for anyone else to open. But I find it hard to keep the lid on the box, and when I can’t, I discover that I have my own monsters to battle. I don’t pretend to have an answer to my body dysmorphia. Sometimes I can pull myself out, but other times, my dysmorphia stays with me all day.
Today, I fought the monsters in my head. It’s the first day of spring, and warmth is returning. The air is electric with the promise of blossoms and thunderstorms. A new season is upon us and with it, a new opportunity to keep the darkness of my body dysmorphia at bay. For now, I choose to say goodbye to the darkness and feel the warmth of spring.
Previously Published on The Mighty