I had my first official CBT session on Tuesday and ohmygosh I am so excited about it. I seriously didn’t think that I would enjoy going to therapy, but I’m already looking forward to next week.
Let me back up for a second. I mentioned previously that I started taking medication for my BDD a few months ago. It has worked wonders in certain ways; my mood is more regulated, I have more energy and I feel more like myself (as opposed to a depressed, self-deprecating version of myself). I also have less anxiety about my BDD. In other words, the medication allows me to go about my every day life and actually accomplish things instead of just existing. While I am able to manage my life, I spend most of the day recognizing how others respond to the way I look, and I am constantly aware of my appearance. Also, my BDD compulsions themselves (which I’m sure I’ll discuss in detail at some point) have shown little improvement. CBT is the final push towards recovery.
I was extremely nervous about therapy, as I have had sub-par experiences with it in the past, but this time is completely different. I am seeing a BDD specialist, so I don’t have to explain to him what I am going through – he already understands. This makes all the difference. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have someone nod when I say things, instead of staring blankly back at me or furrowing their eyebrows in confusion. He. Actually. Freaking. Gets it!
Even though we went over some information I already knew (such as the basics of BDD and why I react so poorly to my appearance in the mirror) my therapist explained things in a way that helped me understand further. For example, when I look in the mirror I see a myriad of imperfections on my face. To me, my skin is my worst feature. I think it’s blotchy, scarred, broken out, dirty and discolored. Simply put, I hate looking at it. This is not really news.
However, instead of rehashing this list of flaws, my therapist and I discussed exactly how I look at myself in the mirror. This was something new for me. I tend to get really, really close to the mirror and inspect every pore on my face. You think I’m kidding. I wish I were kidding. It takes a seriously long time for me to get out of my house in the morning. After describing my “facial inspection process” he pointed to the wall across from me and said, “tell me what you see.” The rest of the conversation went something like this:
Him: Between the door and the painting.
Me: Um, a bulletin board?
Him: No, No, right there.
Me: Where do you mean?
Him: Right here. Here.
Me: Um, wall? A part of the wall?
Me: A…white…wall? Some white wall! WALL?!
It was like a really bad comedy act, but I got the general answer he was looking for. Then he brought me up close to the wall so that my nose was practically touching it. In other words, I was as close to the wall as I would have been to the mirror had I been examining my face. That close up, I could see that the wall was bumpy and uneven. There were large dents in the surface, scuff marks and random tiny ink blots. It wasn’t just a white wall anymore, but rather a used, old surface dotted with imperfections. I think you can see the comparison to how I look at myself in the mirror. That close, nothing looks perfect.
Now, this does not mean that the miracle solution for BDD is “take two steps back from the mirror” (otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have figured it out before the experimental medication and roller coaster therapy sessions), but it is an analogous situation. Other people see me like I see the white wall from afar. I look at it, I take in its major features and I make a judgment. It’s a wall, it’s white. Done. People look at me and say “cute” or “pretty ” or [insert positive or negative reaction here] and move on. Their assessment has been made.
I, on the other hand, view myself as a close-up. I look at my face and see every single thing that could possibly be considered a flaw automatically magnified a thousand times by my BDD. Since I am “close to the mirror”, there’s no way I can miss the “blemishes” on my face. The wall analogy clearly shows the disconnect between what I see and what others see when looking at my face. This is something that, without proper help, is out of my control.
Well, now I’m getting help. So hopefully it will soon be under my control and I can start seeing myself the way I really look. Yay!
It’s going to take a while, and I’m sure the sessions will become less fun and more anxiety producing as they go on, but I am absolutely determined to move forward with my life. I finally feel like this is the right time – there is no turning back. Can’t wait to give you more updates next week!