I’ve never been a big person, even as a baby I was slender, and I’ve never had body image issues, not until I was in my mid 20s anyways. I have always been athletic, playing soccer for about 15 years, running cross country, playing basketball, and even attempting field hockey (I wasn’t very good). I don’t think body image really mattered to me because I was never focused on it, and I guess I never really had to worry about it because I was always running somewhere.
However, over the course of almost two years, my state of mind was altered.
You see, there is this thing called BDD, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder. It’s a body image and mental disorder in which a person is preoccupied with an imagined physical defect or a minor defect that others often cannot see. Over some time and some pretty bad situations, I developed this disorder and it now affects me in on a daily basis. I am learning and teaching myself to ignore it.
I didn’t always have this disorder. Growing up I was lucky, since I played sports I was more interested in playing the game, hanging out with my friends, and just having fun. I never cared about my weight because I didn’t have to. In high school, a lot of girls started caring about what they looked like; they were also the ones who had cable and watched MTV. We didn’t have cable growing up, not until both my brother and I were out of the house and in college did my parents even entertain the idea. So I didn’t have the negative and unrealistic TV commercials or TV personalities / characters to even want to base what I looked like after.
Superficial things have never mattered to me. In fact, I was 16 when my cousin straightened my hair for the first time, and 17 or 18 when I started wearing “real” makeup. I just didn’t care about those things, and I was lucky I grew up being able to be a kid and focus on the things that did matter; family, friends, and being a decent human being.
It wasn’t until my senior year in college did I start wanting to work out, and it wasn’t because I thought I needed it, it was just because I wanted to. Well, that and I sucked wind any time I did any type of physical activity.
After I graduated in 2011, I took a job as an Assistant Store Manager for Abercrombie and Fitch, Co. I lost weight working there, but that was because I basically ran around the store for nine hours five days a week. But I still never had any body issues. I moved to Northern Virginia in May 2012 to start my career, then in March 2013 my dad passed away; my entire life began to change.
I developed Adult Onset Inattentive-Type Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but didn’t know it. It is pretty rare that adults develop ADHD, especially since I had no sign of ADD or ADHD growing up. However, it can be triggered by a significant life event, like losing a parent. I started having issues with staying on topic, paying attention at work, I became more obsessive compulsive, and the anger issues I had as a child surfaced and worsened.
In mid 2013, I decided I wanted to start running to get out of my funk and out of my head. And besides, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” (always have loved this quote from Legally Blonde). Sadly, I ended up stepping in a hole while I was running and tearing some ligaments in my ankle, pretty much the worst sprained ankle you could think of. No more running. Five month later I had surgery to correct the damage that had been done.
By late 2013 I had learned to deal with all of these new issues and my ankle. That’s when I was told that I was this thing called skinny fat. I had heard the definition before but had never considered myself to be such a thing. I have a big butt and wide hips (thanks to the genes on my mom’s side), but a small upper body; pear shaped somewhat. But I had never been called skinny fat, actually I had always thought I looked pretty decent and had excellent self-confidence.
I was consistently told that I wasn’t skinny enough, I didn’t have enough muscle, and that I wasn’t attractive. Way to kill the self-confidence I had gained in myself over 26 years of life; it was stripped away over the course of a little more than a year. I began to poke and prod my body, squeezing the fat, sucking in my stomach to make it look more flat, starving myself, and pushing way too hard in the gym. I became depressed, my anxiety shot through the roof, and all those issues I had developed became much, much worse.
In Spring of 2014, I was accepted into grad school, and started classes that May. I thought that maybe this would help me focus and give me a purpose again, which it did in some ways. In others, it was worse. By August I was severely depressed; thoughts of suicide crossed my mind. The only comfort I had was my family and my dog, Reagan, who I had just rescued in March.
I joined the softball team at work, mainly to make new friends, but it ended up being one of the best things I could have done for myself. I was happy to get out of the apartment a couple times a week to be with like-minded people. Reagan and I moved into a house in Fairfax soon after, and I started to come out of my depression. I met Christmas Abbott, who I had always admired for her work ethic, self-confidence, and her appearance (including the tattoos). I started focusing on my eating habits (with Christmas’ help after taking her nutrition seminar and buying her book, The Badass Body Diet), working out in moderation and not over doing it. I started to see my body change, gaining muscle, and building my self-confidence again.
In early 2015 I started seeing a therapist, and I was officially diagnosed with Adult-Onset Inattentive ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Although I was put on medication to help control the ADHD (which in turn helped the OCD), just being able to talk to someone every other week and be given clinical advice, techniques, and treatment, pulled me out of the funk.
I continued seeing my therapist, watched what I was eating, and maintained my routine of working out five days a week without over doing it. I was unstoppable. I started training to compete in a few obstacle races as well (Spartan and Savage); I may not have been the fastest, but I killed those obstacles, and the confidence I had in myself continued to grow.
I started running again in August 2016. Back at square one. I could barely run two minutes without stopping, but I kept at it, and a year later I am now running 11 miles without walking. I’d say that’s one hell of an accomplishment in and of itself. My goal right now is to complete the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) this coming fall. I have hit a few speed bumps along the way, but I am pushing hard, but not over doing it, and recognizing when I need to pump the breaks as not to injure myself.
Today, I am happy. I don’t know many people who could go through what I went though, recognize that I needed help, and then be able to pull myself (with help of course) out of it, but I did. BDD still affects me every single day. I started a new training program to help prepare me for the MCM, which occupies a good majority of my time; it’s like having a second full-time job. My plan has me in the gym strength training five days a week, and out hitting the pavement four days a week (a total of six days a week since I run on three of the days I strength train and cross train).
I still have a hard time looking in mirrors. I constantly judge myself, but I do not starve myself anymore, and there is no more poking and prodding. The confidence I have in myself will never go away again, I won’t let it. I have come to love myself, despite all of my quirks.
It took some time for me to realize it, but I became my own Badass and my own role model. I know I can conquer everything put in my path!
The moral of my own story, is don’t let people dictate who you are. Words are just words, even though they may sting at times. But letting someone dictate who you are as a person is not okay. One thing I have learned is those people who are unhappy with who they are, will pick on others and tear them down. Those people are called bullies; and those bullies can not only do harm physically, but mentally. But don’t let them. Be strong. Be confident. And don’t let those bullies determine who you are.
Be Your Own Badass