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Abby, 21, shares her experience of body dysmorphia, puberty, and always feeling like the odd-one-out while growing up.
I’ve had a very up and down relationship with weight loss over the years, and tried a lot of really unhealthy ways of losing weight. These tend to work in the short-term and you do lose weight, but they are not at all healthy or sustainable in the long run. I did this because I suffer with BDD (Body Dysmorphia Disorder).
For me, BDD means that my perception of myself is warped – so I don’t see myself how other people see me. My self-image changes daily, from selfies I take, group photos I see myself in, or just looking at myself in a mirror. I find it hard to know what I look like.
I think this stems from my upbringing in a predominantly white area. I was surrounded by pretty, skinny, blonde, white girls, and that’s all I knew from the age of 5. I was so different from them in terms of my skin, my weight, my hair. It didn’t make sense and I grew up thinking that I wasn’t normal.
I went through a really dark time when I was younger where I wanted to drastically change my skin colour and tried dangerous methods to do this. Looking back, I can see how messed up that was. I think that with everything I went through growing up, I had an image of what I wanted to be and what I looked like in the mirror, nothing added up and it just turned into this massive issue of me not understanding myself or my place within society.
Puberty was also a really challenging time for me, as I gained a lot of weight and was always known as the chubby, spotty, dark-skinned kid.
That was the opposite of what I wanted to be at the time, so I really struggled with that. I got my first period when I was ten, which is quite young, so I didn’t understand why my body was rapidly changing, and what that fully meant. In my experience as a cis-woman, puberty brings a lot of pain and bodily changes into your life, and that’s not spoken about enough.
It wasn’t until I left school and spoke to the people who I used to want to be like about how I felt that I realised I wasn’t alone. So many of them told me ‘I felt the exact same’.
It was weird to hear because in my head I was the only one who felt that way, I was the different one. But when you understand that a lot of girls are in the same position as you, then you can support and talk to each other. That’s why I think it’s really important to talk about your feelings and troubles with other people if you’re not feeling good about your body. Although it’s hard, try and push yourself to share those feelings with people you trust because a lot of the time they will be able to help you.
I still have BDD, but it’s no longer at the forefront of my mind. Losing weight is not my priority because I’m focusing on the fitness and health aspect. It’s a journey and I’m not at the end yet, but right now I can say I feel so much happier than I did a year ago. My mindset is completely different, I’m so much more positive and I can see clearer.
Don’t feel like you need to fit a certain mold because you are your own person and that is special.
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