How to support your loved one who has Body Dysmorphic Disorder

As you have read about my journey with my eating disorder and Body Dysmorphic Disorder you are probably wondering what you can do to help support a friend or loved one who may be struggling with this. Even though I am not a medical professional or therapist here are 5 tips that have helped me in my own journey.

  1. Encourage seeking proper medical and mental health care. Even though I am struggling with facing my fears of getting medical care I know all to well that medical and mental health care go hand in hand. It is important to be sure all providers be on the same page.
  2. Once a proper medical diagnosis is made, try to educate yourself on the disorder(s) your loved one has. This can help you understand what they are going through and what kind of options your loved one may have in terms of treatment.
  3. Make sure your loved one understands and follows their own care plan. Be aware that sometimes slipups can happen but remind them to get back on track so they can be healthier and happier. An example of this, was when I was trying the no white food diet. It was hard for me to stick to the diet because there were so many restrictions. I would cheat a lot. My family and friends were encouraging. They helped me get back on the diet. After giving it a fair chance though I found out the diet was not for me.
  4. Be careful what you post on social media! This is one of the tips that really touches my heart. Not only can words be hurtful, but images can too. Recently, someone in my family posted a photo of Miss Piggy with the words, “I have an eating disorder…I’m about to eat dis order of fries, dis order of wings & dis order of nuggets.” Someone you know, love and care about could be struggling with an eating disorder and they are working hard to get healthy again. Posts like this one can cause them to have a relapse. Instead of posting negative posts be positive and supportive. You never know who is going through a hard time.
  5. Encourage healthy eating and exercise. This tip has helped me a lot when it comes to my Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I find that exercising helps me have more energy and I feel a lot less depressed and anxious. When it comes to healthy eating, I find this also improves my mood and energy levels. Keeping a healthy weight has helped me not worry about what I look like.

Remember if you are working towards a healthier body image remember these three statements: You can do this. You are worth it. You deserve to be happy and healthy.

Leave a comment if you are supporting someone or if you are going through this.

 

How my eating disorder fed off my Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) (Part 5)

As I looked into the mirror, in my university bathroom, one day, I noticed that I had several spots of acne. I closed my eyes and remembered, how my mother used to pop my pimples, and say, “Okay, Pizza face. Do not let me pop those pimples and let them get worse.”  Since I hit puberty, I had a bad complexion. My mother and I tried countless products from Clean and Clear to Oxy. None of them worked for me. Once I got my period my hormones made this worse. When my mother called me names it only hurt my self-confidence.  Then my mind drifted to my grandma’s words, “Your mother was so beautiful and had gorgeous skin. You did not get those skin problems from her. It must have come from your father’s side of the family.”

As I wiped sweat from my oily face, I decided to walk back over to the university health center to see if anything could be done about my complexion. That same day I explained to the nurse, “I need something to help clear up my face. I would like some recommendations that are over the counter since I don’t have insurance.” The nurse took a quick look at my face then asked, “Do they ever hurt or bleed?” I knotted yes. She quickly pulled out her prescription pad and said, “I know of this great kit that will help with that. Take this prescription and try it for two weeks then come back for a follow up.”

My mind drifted back to when I was a young 16-year-old. As I was sitting on the exam table, waiting for the doctor to come in to see about my eczema. My grandma reminded me, once again, about my mother’s beauty and how ugly I looked. She begged me to ask the doctor to help me clear up my complexion. At first, I did not want to ask the doctor, but then I caved. We tried three different medicines. The first one caused me to have black teeth. The cause of this was because I had an allergic reaction. The second medicine my grandma did not like because it took time to work and there was a smell to it. The third and final medicine looked like thick cake batter. So, after trying all three I told the doctor that I wanted to give up. Come to find out it was a wise choice because a few weeks later I lost my health insurance.

I hoped that this time the medicine, from the nurse at my university, would work. Two weeks later I returned to the nurse for my follow up appointment. “I couldn’t open the bottle. Because my hands were too weak because of my Cerebral Palsy.” I explained. “Amanda, next time ask the pharmacist to open it for you or put it into another container. Come back and see me in a month.”

I shook my head and left. I continued to try to apply the medicine like it was prescribed, but still I felt I was losing the battle.  The truth of the matter was I was tired of trying to fix the problem. Once I graduated from The University of West Florida my acne and the words of my family still was haunting me. It was not until years later that I found an over the counter product that worked. The more I use the product the more confident I felt. Now as I look into the bathroom mirror today and I think about the words of my family— Yeah, sometimes I still visit those memories, but I am learning to let them go and feel confident in my own skin.

How my eating disorder fed off my Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) (Part 4)

“Amanda, time to get up and walk Noodles,” my Grandpa said as he awakened me one Saturday morning. I grumbled as I got out of bed and grabbed Noodles’s leash; I slipped into a pair of shorts and  threw  on a T-shirt.  Then, Noodles and I went for a walk.  The truth of the matter was  that both Noodles  and I were overweight. I hated taking Noodles for a walk in the hot Florida sun because my eyes suffered from photophobia due to my Nystagmus.

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Photo of Noodles and I lying in the grass.                Photo credit goes to Mrs. Karen

Despite this problem, I knew that Noodles and I needed to walk so our health wouldn’t worsen. Besides exercising, I also knew that our poor eating habits had to change. For example, not only did we needed to cut back on giving Noodles so many treats, but I also needed to stop eating so many cheeseburgers and French fries at the college cafeteria.  One of the reasons why I was overeating was due to the stress of college. As a result of my poor dietary habits, I could barely fit into my clothes, and my energy level decreased.

One weekend, while visiting my grandparents, I said to Grandpa, “I am struggling with picking out healthy food at the cafeteria. All I want to eat are cheeseburgers, fries and soda.”  My Grandpa, who had eaten lunch with me at the cafeteria before, said, “I remember they offer a salad bar there. Try to eat a salad with your lunch and dinner. Limit the number of times you get a cheeseburger meal and try to get out to go for a walk between classes.”

When I returned to college the following Monday, my friend suggested that we walk to church  to get some exercise. On our way there, to attend Bible study, she handed me an orange and said, “Here, I know you have been trying to change your diet. I brought you an orange to try.”  I tasted it, and even though I used to like oranges, this one did not appeal to me, just like most other healthy food.  After I threw the orange in the trash, my friend said, “Don’t worry we’ll find some kind of fruit you like.”

Eventually, I forced myself to try more fruit. But other than bananas, no other fruit appealed to me.

Over the next year, Noodles and I made a lot of progress with our diets and exercise routines and lost the weight we needed.

How my eating disorder fed off my Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) (Part 3)

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been shooting my YouTube videos because I am currently in a BDD episode. For those of you who may not know, the Mayo Clinic defines BDD as a mental health condition with symptoms that are either minor and non-harming or flaws that are made up. These flaws can be so distressing for people suffering from this condition that they often spend most of their time looking at their bodies in disgust, or they focus on finding treatments for their problems.

For example, my current BDD episode was triggered when I went to the orthodontist to get new retainers and the technician told me my teeth had shifted slightly. The technician said that teeth naturally shift and that I still had a pretty smile. But later that afternoon when I looked in the mirror, I saw the crooked teeth I had as a teenager before I had braces.

It also reminded me of the days when I was in middle school when my classmates and I would dance in a large circle at recess. One day they made fun of me by calling me “monster and dirty” because my teeth were stained and crooked. They continued to tease me by saying, “Amanda has dirty teeth and never goes to the dentist.” Their taunts made me feel very self-conscious about my teeth. The truth of the matter was my mother was too poor at that time to afford to take me to the dentist.

It’s not just my smile, however, that brings on a BDD flare; it’s also my weight. Even though I only weigh 115 pounds on average, I still see myself as fat. I see chubby cheeks, chubby arms and a rounded belly that sticks out  from behind my top.

One way people with BDD fix this flaw, according to the Mayo Clinic, is to buy bigger clothes.

When I am in a BDD episode like this, I don’t like to leave the house because I am afraid people will think I’m ugly.

But when I do go out, my friends sometimes take me clothes shopping. I tend to buy clothes that are a size larger than  what I normally wear.  After picking something out, my friends say, “Amanda, you’re not that big. Your pants look way too baggy on you. Stop buying baggy clothes.”

My friends often beg me to buy leggings that are tight so that they will show off my figure.  When I come out of the dressing room, I often say, “This doesn’t fit. It’s too tight.” Then, my friends will say, “Well, shoot, you’re so small. I thought you could fit into that.” Then, I go back and pick out baggy clothes. This is one of the classic symptoms to help fix the flaw, according to the Mayo Clinic.

So for now, as I attempt to get back to shooting YouTube videos, all I see in the viewfinder is the flaws of  a person with crooked teeth, chubby cheeks, chubby arms, and a fat stomach protruding from baggy clothes staring back at me. Until I stop believing those lies, and start shooting YouTube videos again, I won’t be able to see the healthy and beautiful person that people say I am.

 

 

How my eating disorder fed off of my Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) (Part 2)

As I sat in the busy cafeteria of my college, I chomped down my usual menu of a burgers, fries, and Dr. Pepper. Meanwhile, the cafeteria manager, who also was a friend of mine, sat down next to me at my table.  “Amanda,” she said, “I have been watching you eat the past couple of weeks, and I noticed that your diet consists of hamburgers, plates of fries and many cups of soda.” I nodded, as I shoved several French Fries in my mouth.  “I am worried about you,” She said, “You know that a healthy diet can be achieved even when you are eating on a meal plan.” As I swallowed my mouth full French fries and looked at the pile of plates stacked in front of me, I blushed with embarrassment and said, “I know what you mean, and I appreciate your concern. However, I just simply lost the taste for healthy food.” The manager then said, “Are you feeling okay? I noticed your voice sounds scratchy, and you look a little pale.” Then her cook called her away before I got a chance to answer.

The truth was I could feel myself getting sick with what I thought was a cold. For weeks I had been feeling tired. I thought that I just was being a busy college student and the semester was just weighing down on me.

A few weeks later I found myself sitting on the examination table as one of the school’s nurses wrote down a prescription for antibiotics for a sinus infection. A week later I felt like my old self. At the follow up appointment, the nurse said, “You need a blood draw to check for any sign of infection. While we are doing this blood draw we might as well do a full blood panel. And don’t eat anything after nine p.m. on the night prior to your appointment.”

The evening of my appointment the fear of fasting threw me into a binge. First, my friend and I stopped at Sonic and I ate a grilled cheese sandwich and drank a slushy. After that, we also attended church. For church dinner that night they offered a baked potato bar. I ate three large baked potatoes topped with sour cream, chili, and corn chips and washed them down with lemonade.

I survived the night with some tears and had my blood test done the following morning.

Then, two days later, as I waited for my results at the nurse’s office, I grabbed a copy of my school’s paper, The Corsair, off the newsstand. I opened to the article I had written, titled “Get your Barbeque on.” As I read about the downtown barbeque content, my stomach began to growl for breakfast.

The nurse called me back into an exam room. She pulled up my file on her computer and said, “I am concerned with these results because your triglycerides are on borderline high, and your weight is on the brink of being considered overweight.” As she reviewed my family’s history, she said, “I notice your mother’s health history; she had high blood pressure, high cholesterol….”

I did not hear the nurse talking after that, because I remembered the last time I told my mother I loved her. It was moments before she died from a heart attack, when I was just 16 years old.

“Amanda!” Are you listening?” the nurse said, as she interrupted me from my memory. I wiped away a tear and nodded. The nurse continued by saying, “Then lose the weight!”

The Pandemic and My Hurt Tooth

This Pandemic has been all over the news and I have been having some anxiety. One of the ways that I deal with anxiety is I clinch and grind my teeth at night.  On the 22 of March, I bit into my night guard hard. It hurt and I had a concern that I had broken my tooth.  I really didn’t want to increase my chances of catching the virus by visiting the dentist. I waited a few days to see if the pain would subside. It didn’t. I made the brave decision to go to the dentist.

On the 25, when I got to the office, there were only a few cars in the parking lot. My grandpa decided to wait in the car until I was ready to check out. When I approached the door there was a large sign that read: Knock to be let in. This was due to the pandemic.

Once I checked in at the front desk, I was given paperwork to fill out. I looked around at the small lobby. It was empty.  Because of my visual impairment I had to ask for assistance to help me fill out the paperwork.

As I was filling out the paperwork I was so scared; I was shaking because not only was I fearful of catching the  Corona virus, but I was also fearful of having to get extensive dental work that would be accompanied by a large bill. The dental hygienist was kind to me, as she explained what would happen during the procedure.

When the dentist came in, he appeared to be already dressed in his Covid-19 attire, which included a thick gown, gloves and a mask.

He seemed rushed to get on with the exam. He didn’t really introduce himself. He just quickly asked me to open my mouth, and then he looked with a mirror and a poky tool. He told me that my tooth wasn’t broken; however, I needed to see my orthodontist because my teeth shifted. To keep your teeth from further damage, I also needed a new night guard and a new retainer.

Since I also suffer from body image disorder, my heart sank because I felt ugly due to the change in my teeth.

That same day I tried to make an appointment to see my orthodontist. However, due to the pandemic, he would not be available for consultation until May. But I was able to see a technician at his office, who gave me a new retainer.  The technician didn’t really have any advice to give me to help with my clenching and grinding other than to get a new night guard from Walmart. This advice added to my anxiety because I wasn’t sure if it would work, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my orthodontist until May.

When I went to Walmart to buy another night guard, I noticed how the people moved quickly and seemed standoffish.  Interestingly enough, the shelfs in Walmart were filled of supplies even though the shelf’s in other stories in my area were empty due panic buying because of the pandemic.  I grabbed my guard, checkout and went home.

A few days later, I have learned that by not watching as much news on the pandemic the anxiety I have felt has gotten better.  I hope that the pain will go away even further were I will not have to see my orthodontist in May.  How are you coping with anxiety during this time?