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What It’s Like to Live With Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Rachel Wayne

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“You need longer hair to balance out that huge nose.”

“I’m worried you can’t bear children ’cause your hips are so narrow.”

“Your boobs are so small, do men really like them?”

All real quotes from men and women I’ve encountered, sadly.

I have never fit into the mold of an acceptable female body type (if that exists). For decades, I was incredibly skinny, to the point that classmates asked if I was anorexic. Then, I gained a lot of muscle, and eventually a bit of weight due to the pandemic.

I was not happy with the result. I was chubby, to the point that I had no clothes that fit. Yet I was apparently superficial and fatphobic for wanting my body back.

That was a temporary hurdle. What was truly damning was that my entire worth has been dictated by my slimness OR curviness. Wherever I achieved points for being thin, I’d lost them among men who wanted a curvaceous creature. Wherever I gained respect for “body positivity,” I’d sacrificed the option to lose weight without being “fatphobic. “

The conflicting feedback has contributed to my body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which for years has told me how disgusting I am. No matter how I tried to re-conceive them, my physical defects seemed enormous to me: the horrid symptom of BDD that made me weep in the mirror.

The Funhouse Mirror Body

Many body-positivity activists shame BDD sufferers because we allegedly feel “fat” when we look in the mirror. I understand that fear: fatphobia is alive and well, and too many people associate curviness with unhealthiness.

For me, at least, my concern over my body shape isn’t that I’m “fat.” It’s that I’m disproportionate. I would love to be deliciously curvy, with an ample bosom that matches my ass and a delightfully jiggly belly that quivers when I dance.

And indeed, BDD is much more complex — and damning — than a simple fear of being fat. When we look in the mirror, we don’t see fatness or thinness. We see monstrous atrocities as opposed to “regular” human bodies. For years, I have gazed at my reflection to witness someone who seems inhuman, a horrific, mutilated blob rather than anyone…

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Rachel Wayne

Artist/anthropologist/activist writing about art, media, culture, health, science, enterprise, and where they all meet. Join my list: http://eepurl.com/gD53QP