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Perception vs. reality


Is it me...or is it...memorex?

I have what’s commonly known as “body dysmorphia.” Well, I don’t know how commonly known it actually is. It’s really called “Body Dysmorphic Disorder.” I looked it up. Here’s what it said, “Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is sometimes referred to as dysmorphic syndrome. It is a psychological disorder in which the affected person is excessively concerned about and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her body image.” Does this not apply to everyone?

But wait, there’s more:
“It is estimated that 1–2% of the world’s population meet all the diagnostic criteria for BDD” Is that all? I find that hard to believe!!! Every woman I know over 40 has this. Seriously, I’m not making light of this because I really do have it.

I am and always have been convinced that I am HUGE. I’m not joking. When I look in the mirror, I see a fat woman looking back at me. Now over the years, with a tremendous amount of drugs and counseling, I have come to understand that my perception of myself is not the same as reality. I also understand (although this part is harder for me to believe) that if I surveyed 100 people who knew me, few if any would describe me as portly.

This is a challenging disorder to cope with. Shopping, for instance, is impossible. I spend all this time picking out size 16 capris and extra large tank tops, and then I put them on and think “Wow, I look pretty hot.” Then I get home and my husband is like, “What were you thinking? You look like a small child who just raided her mommy’s closet.”

I know what you’re thinking; Freud could definitely interpret that into some kind of wistful maternal longing based on a lack of nurturing from my childhood. But I’m not gonna go there. Anyway, I usually try to take someone with me when I shop these days. It’s kind of like that great moment in “A Beautiful Mind” when Russel Crowe (who has these visual halucinations) asks one of his students if the man who just approached him to offer him a Nobel prize actually exists.
I’ve tried asking salespeople if the billowy blouse I’m unsure of is actually my size. But they’re so eager to sell anything that I’ve yet to meet someone who answers me honestly.

Over the years my husband has gently nudged me towards developing a more fitted wardrobe. I’ve been afflicted with BDD as long as I can remember. In fact, I recall wearing most of my 6’3” father’s clothing throughout much of high school years. I told everyone it was my ode to Annie Hall. But retrospectively I think I honestly believed those clothes were the only ones that I could squeeze my 5’8” scrawny frame into. It’s actually kind of sad when I think about it.

The other day I was talking to this friend of mine who has personality dysmorphia. She honestly sees herself as reliable, reflective, altruistic and uniquely sensitive. She is, in fact, a thoughtless, self-obsessed flake who spends her life ruminating over inane dramas that truly don’t even exist. I realized that body dysmorphia maybe isn’t all that bad. It’s kind of like that famous saying; “I cried because I had no shoes. Until I met a man who had no feet.” Wow, do you think he really had no feet? Or could he possibly have been suffering from BDD?

In any event, I should probably get a new friend.

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About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Seattle, WA with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

2 responses to “Perception vs. reality

  1. Faithful Reader ⋅

    This is one of those times when I felt empathy for someone, only to wind up feeling disappointed. This is a terrible thing to say about someone that is your friend, regardless of what they may have done to earn your disrespect. I wish you wouldn’t waste your excellent writing talents on something so passive-aggressive and so hurtful.

  2. Your honesty makes me laugh.

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