Life Mental Health Awareness Submissions

My Struggle with BDD and Anxiety – Shivangi Pandey

I remember doing my first “cleanse”; and by cleanse I mean one of those boxes that are filled with pills the size of nickels, and bottles of multi colored liquid that look like dish soap. Both of these had to be consumed three times a day, every day, for the duration of the cleanse.  The box also lists the ingredients with the potential side effects in font so small,  you would need Sherlock’s magnifying glass and a Medical student to help you translate. Now the front of the box, that’s how they got you. It had a woman in a sports bra, a flat stomach, and a very big smile inviting you to start your journey to shed 10 pounds, and have the same waist line in just 10 days! The catch? You had to be at least 16 years of age in order to purchase it. I remember stealing my sister’s heels, and drawing on a ridiculous amount of eye liner just to go to the “nutrition” store, in hopes that I would not get busted for being 13.

I was 13 years old when  I started hating my body. I was 13 years old when I first spent my allowance money to ingest toxic products in hopes of having a “nice body.” And unfortunately, this was not the last of my excursions to the nutrition store. When one cleanse didn’t work, I tried another. I spent my teenage years trying the Lemonade Master Cleanse Detox, juice cleanses, green tea detoxes, and that diet where you go as long as you can without eating, because you dislike your body so much. I spent my teenage years depriving my body of the nourishment it needed. While I don’t fall for these fads anymore, that feeling of insecurity in my own skin that led me to go down the rabbit hole, is still alive and well. I have been an athlete my whole life. I either got my exercise from playing sports, or I would always make it to the gym. “Omg stop you’re so skinny” is something I would often hear from others when expressing my concerns regarding my physical aspects. And while it felt good to hear, I couldn’t get too attached, because my vision of my body is so distorted. Everytime I look in the mirror, I see everything that’s wrong. I will go through multiple outfits just to settle on the most basic clothes, because they make me look “skinny”, and that’s on good days. On bad days, I will bail on my own birthday, turn down concerts that I would love to go to, and have sleep for supper by 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night, because I’m too embarrassed of my body and don’t want to be seen in public.  

I recall hearing the acronym BDD in conversation, not knowing what it meant. After hearing it enough, I  decided to look into it and there came up ‘Body Dysmorphic Disorder.’ After reading a lot of articles and definitions, I stumbled upon a quiz. While waiting for my quiz results I felt saddened by the questions that I had just answered ‘yes’ to, but I also felt a small portion of relief that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. From a very young age it has been decided for us as to what a ‘bikini body’ or our ‘dream body’ should look like. Although some of the qualifications may have changed, we are still being reminded of what we should be and what we are not. While social media and mass media are big factors in all of this, what bothers me the most is the lack of support around one another. I have been excluded from events in the past, because I wasn’t “hot” enough. I have been excluded from events because I became a “gym rat” and became “too skinny.” I have had rumours made up about getting breast implants, because I have a bigger bust than some. I have watched others constantly stare and give disapproving looks to my friends who have cellulite or stretch marks. I have been told I’m too “plain” and “boring” because I didn’t keep up with the trend of getting fillers. It makes me sad that we promote celebrities who have all these traits, and continue to build them up; but we ourselves are so insecure and let our insecurities drive tearing people down in our own circle. I’m sick of competing with each other, when I’m already being made to compete with celebrities like Cardi and Kylie, all while competing with myself! 

Statistics say that nearly 10 million people in the United States alone suffer from BDD. It is extremely common, it’s experienced in different ways, and is one of the bigger contributing factors to my anxiety and depression.  At the beginning of this piece, I was 13 years old. I am now 24. This is not a “How I overcame BDD” piece, because I still haven’t. But this is still a success story. I am no longer buying boxed cleanses, I am no longer depriving my body of food and nutrition, I am trying to consciously limit comparing myself to what I see on Instagram, and I am trying to live less through Instagram and Snapchat filters. But most of all, I am trying to be more supportive to the people around me who are battling their own insecurities. When my friend finally fits into her goal jeans, while mine are getting tighter, I will not let my insecurities take away from celebrating her or turn our friendship into a competition. I will try and be the person that I need, to others.

I wrote this in hopes that anyone else that has identified with any portion of my story, recognizes that they are not alone, or learns something new that can benefit their journey. Life can be hard, be kind to one another, and be kind to yourself. 

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