And that's exactly what I feel I need to do right now.
My birthday is in one week and I will turn 26. Twenty-six! This number is scary. I am starting to realize how the older I get, the more things that happened in my childhood and teenage years I'm starting to forget. Sadly, it's mostly the fun and happy memories. The bad ones of course stick around.
One of them is, how about 10 years ago, around the time of my birthday, I got a call from my father who I hadn't met in two years by that time already, we had only been writing and calling occasionally. On that day, he called me in tears, to apologize for being such a failure as a father.
For me, this was the end of the world. I did not understand what was going on. I never thought about him as a failure. I knew he was sick, I knew he had no job, I knew he could do better than that, but I did not see him as a failure in life nor did I not appreciate his role in mine. But it was at that time that I found out that in the 16 years of my life, he probably never really paid alimony, it was always my grand aunt who did. He was not just "sick" when he had to go to hospitals, and his "physical therapy" was not that. He went to hospitals for withdrawal. He was an alcoholic. And it destroyed his whole fucking life.
Maybe I always had a hunch that something was going on, something that "the adults" didn't want to explain to me. I don't wanna blame anyone for not telling me, I only blame myself for not getting it before. It was all too obvious once I realized what was going on.
For the next 9 years, I barely talked to my father, and his last letter is still unopened on my desk. He died in May last year, his body battered and completely broken from alcohol abuse and chain smoking. And I cannot bring myself to open this latter, I am just too scared.
What if there are accusations?
What if he just accuses himself of being a failure again?
Or, perhaps worst of all, what if it reads as if he was still his old self, the dad I knew when I was a kid?
All of the above, I couldn't take it. So I did not open the letter, perhaps I never will.
And at the same time, I think of him almost every day. I cannot forget him and his impact on my life. I wrote about this before, when he died, how I think that he was not a bad person, but he just wasn't strong enough to fight his demons.
Unfortunately, I seem to have inherited some of these demons, though they affect me very differently.
Mine just make me realize, every freaking time I look into the mirror, how much I look just like him. It makes me realize, I look almost nothing like my beautiful mother, or my cousin, or my grandma, or any other person on my mother's family's side. People tell me sometimes I look like them, but usually only after they met us in context. I don't believe them. I just can't.
I look into the mirror, and all I see is my father's face.
Without the mustache of course. That at least.
But the nose, the chin, the stupid smile. I loved my father's laugh and smile, but I hate my own, I hate it with a passion. It's all the same. The eyes, the eye brows.
Only my eye color is my own. Noone in my family has the same eye color as me. And if you believe in what people say - that the eyes are a mirror to the soul - I guess it means that nobody will ever be able to fully understand what is going on inside my head. Nobody will understand these demons.
And it's quite logical I guess. Self-image and the image others have of you will always differ. The question is, what do you do if it differs so drastically that you cannot believe any compliment you hear? That you remember every single time somebody told you you're ugly, on purpose or inadvertently?
I remember when I was in middle school, before the Dysmorphophobia started, we read these stupid teenage magazines with photo comics and advice on how to survive your tween problems. In some context, there was advice on how to combat bullying. It suggested, when you are bullied for your weight, you could reply "Well, I'm fat but you're ugly. I can lose weight, but what about you?"
I found that terrible. I thought, "And what about being bullied for your face? What do you do then?" Coincidentally, my bully throughout middle school was overweight. And soon I realized whenever somebody mentioned my face or said that I'm ugly. And the stupid "advice" got stuck in my head and I kept thinking, there's nothing I can do about it, I will never "outgrow" it like some baby fat or be able to go on a diet to fix this, I will never become beautiful or even just pretty. I am stuck with this fucking face. It was probably one of the ground stones for all that came afterwards.
Feeling ugly is one thing. But looking at your face in the mirror, being reminded of a person you once loved a lot, and realizing you hate your face for looking so much like that person, even though you don't actually hate that person - it's insane. It's very uncomfortable because it comes with the attached guilt of thinking that you would never think that person was ugly, just that you are ugly when you look like them. Like I said, it's insane, and it doesn't really make any sense I guess, probably not when you don't know how it feels.
It's kinda in line with how I feel about being bullied.
After all these years, I can forgive them for what they did, but I cannot forgive myself for having become the person they turned me into. If that makes any sense.
I thought about therapy once, even tried it. We never got to the point where we could talk about this. I remember I talked about my father once, briefly, and told the shrink that he was an alcoholic. That I don't drink and have a real aversion to alcohol. That I do not give money to beggars who have a bottle standing next to them. That I do not understand them. And she said, "But don't you feel pity for them?"
Another little piece of my world shattered that moment, because I thought - no, I'm not sure if I can feel pity for them. Just like I didn't feel pity for my father. Nobody forced him to drink. Nobody but the demons in his head, who must have made it seem that it's the only way out of his misery. But they were lying, of course. Instead it paved the way to his personal hell, little chance of return.
I have no pity for that. If you chose to dull your feelings - whatever they may be - with addictive substances, your choice. I feel no pity for you if you give in and go down with your demons. There are other choices you can make. Especially if you have a family and friends. But I think, for my father, when he started a family with my mother, it was actually already to late for him. His choice was made long before that. And maybe he thought he could un-do it, find his way back and be happy, be normal. But he didn't, he couldn't, and it tore him apart, just like it broke my mother's heart and mine.
The thing is, I don't even know what would calm my demons down. Drinking is not an option, nor is any other addictive drug for the aforementioned reasons. So what is left?
When I was younger, I used to punish myself by not eating. Borderline anorexic behavior helped me get through the day because I kept thinking "At least I am not fat, so they can only bully me for my face". The last time I was happy about my weight was after I had a stomach flu for a week and was hit by mono a couple of days later. I came out of this experience weighing about 46kg and I felt free of the demons for the last time in a while. People probably saw how shitty I looked and that was the reason they treated me a bit nicer, so less bullying equaled less demons equaled less self hate, but in my head it was more like less weight equals less demons equals less self hate. A weird situation. I was never truly anorexic, didn't have the self control to pull that one of - luckily. But I was always at the border between anorexia, orthorexia and I-don't-give-a-fuck-orexia where I just binge ate whatever I could. I guess what I'm trying to say is, to this day, I cannot eat without feeling guilty, and I feel a sick kind of enjoyment of starving myself just a little bit.
But obviously, not eating is not gonna help me achieve anything. Neither did the therapy. Neither does the fact that people tell me I look okay, perhaps even pretty. I cannot hear you over the sound of my demons shrieking profanities at me.
I cannot blame my father for all this - like I said, the BDD started before I even knew the truth about him. But I feel like that day, about 10 years ago, really pushed me off the edge. It's only since then that I became so obsessed with my face, with the way I look, in real life or in photos. It's since then that I started to collect information on all kinds of plastic surgery that I could get. I always thought: well, 10 years from now, when you have a job and money, you can do this! You can have these surgeries and feel better about yourself!
Now these 10 years have passed. I have a job. I have some money. I could go an spend it on plastic surgery and hope it solves all my problems. Though for that purpose, it's probably not enough money and likely never will be.
For now, I'm taking baby steps. Less invasive procedures that hopefully will help me too. For example, I have a realistic chance at getting me teeth fixed, perhaps even within the next 1-2 years. On Monday, I will discuss getting braces at the dental clinic that's also trying to fix my jaw. Finally a chance to fix what has been fucked up for almost my entirely life, from the moment I lost my baby teeth. So please, keep your fingers crossed for me that they will agree that I can get braces now and don't have to wait a year.
Because the second thing, besides being reminded of my father, my birthdays remind me of getting older. Despite knowing that a face it not just something you outgrow or can diet away if you're unhappy with it, I always had this little, tiny piece of hope left, that one day I would be a bit more pretty. Perhaps my cheekbones would come out more. Perhaps if I lost some weight my face would become a bit more narrow, just a tiny but. But now I'm about to turn 26 and I look at older pictures of myself and realize that it's too late. It's over - the time when I was perhaps remotely pretty in my own eyes was when I was 22 or perhaps 24. It's only going downhill again from there - wrinkles, weight gain, resting-bitch-face-syndrome... And this is the really depressing thing - to know that you were always hoping for something to get better with time, and then one day look back and realize that the best time has already past you and you couldn't even appreciate it while it lasted because you were still having the delusional hope that it would get even better than that.
So happy fucking birthday to me, the ugly duckling that never did and never will grow into a swan.
Well - like I said, sometimes I'm very happy I kept this blog around, simply because I can write about my thoughts. Right now, I hope it will help me to get this "out of my system" so I can focus on more important things like my job.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. And don't give in to your demons, whatever they might be telling you.