You can guess the end of the sentence; I am not the prettiest of them all. People are often surprised I don’t own a mirror other than the bathroom one I don’t look into. So, it’s not a wild guess to surmise that I am not a fan of seeing myself on video. I had the cool experience of being part of a poetry slam that was filmed for local TV and internet. It was a great experience in person but seeing it on my computer made me feel sick. You see I have a form of body dysmorphic disorder. It’s official. I took a test on the internet and I checked off all the boxes except for picking at my skin.. My mother had screamed “Don’t touch your face” too many times for me to go there. y I know where my physical flaws lie and don’t want to go there but I went there. I wanted to see if my poetry went over well. But I was stunned by my appearance and not in a good way. To be fair, I had a series of mishaps while getting ready. The dress I was supposed to wear, had a stain and no cleaners in my town has a one hour service. Heck we don’t even have a three-day service so I was forced to wear a dress and sweater that was a teeny bit tight, and no way was I going to not wear a sweater. Women over fifty, you know what I mean.
Then there was the hair. If you read my post about my financial situation, you know I had to face the indignity of my partner coloring my hair with drugstore product; not that there’s anything wrong with that. Ok, there’s a lot wrong with that. For one, it didn’t work. It was weak and the color was brassy. Then I bought a pair of what I thought would be invisible glasses from the drugstore; well they weren’t so invisible and with my torn cornea and weak glasses I could barely read the poetry I had memorized but didn’t feel confident enough to perform without a paper and glasses covering my face. And there were other flaws I don’t want to go into now or ever. People question me because the title of my book is “Agoraphobia to Zen” I like to say Zen is a process of living in the present and presently I’m having a body dysmorphic moment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the definition of body dysmorphic disorder is
Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful that you don’t want to be seen by anyone. Body dysmorphic disorder has sometimes been called “imagined ugliness.”
When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, often for many hours a day. You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to “fix” your perceived flaws, but never will be satisfied. Body dysmorphic disorder is also known as dysmorphophobia, the fear of having a deformity.
- Preoccupation with your physical appearance
- Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly
- Frequent examination of yourself in the mirror or, conversely, avoidance of mirrors altogether
- Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way
- The need to seek reassurance about your appearance from others
- Frequent cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
- Excessive grooming, such as hair plucking
- Extreme self-consciousness
- Refusal to appear in pictures
- Skin picking
- Comparison of your appearance with that of others
- Avoidance of social situations
- The need to wear excessive makeup or clothing to camouflage perceived flaws
The risk factors are
- Childhood teasing
- Low self-esteem
- Societal pressure or expectations of beauty
- Having another psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety or depression
The body feature you focus on may change over time. You may be so convinced about your perceived flaws that you become delusional, imagining something about your body that’s not true, no matter how much someone tries to convince you otherwise. (Bolding mine)
. I learned not to mess with mirrors a long time ago when an unfortunate encounter with a magnifying mirror almost pushed me over the edge. It was in Brookstone’s and I stayed with that mirror for longer than the old man next to me sat in the test drive massage chair; read long. I learned later, no one should own a magnifying mirror because it is not how you really look. It is frickin magnified. It is how you look in your own mind if you have the disorder above. I went further than just not looking into mirrors, I cleared my house of any and all mirrors.
I don’t think I have body dysmorphic disorder because the flaws I have are not minor and were pointed out to me in detail by my mother ad nauseam.
eg: Mother: M you look pretty today. Me: I do? Mother:. Pretty ugly that is, ha ha ha!
She was proved correct when bullies at school pointed out the same defects and joined the chorus of my mother’s “constructive criticism.” By the way, there is no criticism that is constructive if you are screaming, name calling or swearing. Maybe we shouldn’t criticise anyone at all. I don’t.
Back to the poetry slam which was my recent encounter with my appearance. My dedicated partner J says I looked fine, and my best friend agreed but when the computer froze on my open mouth, I felt the self-hatred that had formerly tried to destroy my life well up again. The good thing is after the 15th viewing I was able to see past the inside mirror and childhood tapes; and could only see the vision of a woman who overcame trauma and abuse and came out on top.I am now able to see my inside which is beautiful in a spiritual way, more important than mere looks.
If you want to check out our poetry slam it’s on Utube and my fb page. I welcome comments on my poetry or the slam, but please don’t ask me to look in a mirror. I’m just not ready yet.