She looks at herself at her tainted reflection
and is taken aback by her bland complexion.
She hates what she sees and longs to change
to look normal and pretty instead of quite strange
they will say she is shallow and seems to be vain
as she rarely reveals when she is in pain
for her hurt is hidden and her anger disguised
her fading self belief rests in her sunken eyes
She finds fault and flaws in her entire face
ridiculing each feature to debase and disgrace
a horror to see what the world can see
in the broken mirror looking back at me.
*Photo – dreamstime.com
I have always said that my father did not physically abuse me. However, after delving further into the term “physical abuse” and all that it stands for, I am shocked to see that my claim is not true. He was physically abusive. I just don’t have any visible scars. In my quest to research the different aspects and consequences of abuse, I have fallen on new information. I have always believed that physical abuse was to be violent. The person on the receiving end would have scars and visuals to prove their abuse.
Research has led me to realise that there are many other appearances of this kind of abuse. My abuser was extremely threatening. If he did not get his way or I was disobedient, his threatening behaviour would follow. His deep, bellowing voice would resonate through the house or in public and the way in which he ordered me closer and breathed down my neck, talking at me through gritted teeth, all added to his aggressive demeanour. His physical stance and how he towered over me, making sure he had all the power as I cowered into the shadows. The way he would lure me into believing I was safe, even making a joke or choosing a lighter topic of conversation first before launching into his fit of rage and sudden burst of apocalyptic anger. The constant threats of harm against me that he made, telling me that I needed a punch – that it would “sort” me out or to go and kill myself to make his life easier. I never thought of it as physical abuse at the time but telling your own child to commit suicide must be classed as that. Oh and it’s abhorrent too.
His reckless driving and aggressive behaviour in the car all adds up to physical abuse. He put my life at risk every day I spent in that car with him. Every day I anticipated his anger and waited for another explosion. He deliberately chose the car as a place to shout and rant at me as I (in his words) had “no escape”. I wanted to release my seatbelt and fling myself out onto the open road many a time. The thought seemed better than enduring his continuous barrage of contempt.
A key part of physical abuse that I never recognised was how my abuser prevented me from seeking medical help or care. If I needed a doctor, he had to know the reasons why. When I refused, he exploded. The moment that stands out the most is the day of my massive Asthma attack in 2009* where my father refused point blank to call an Ambulance in the night for me, implying that I was seeking attention and being dramatic. The other option was that he drive me to a hospital at 1.am. He refused that too. He never felt worry for me, or fear for my life.
The way he would sharply raise his hand to my face holding it suspended, mid air, inches from my skin – surely that was physical? Yes, he never released it and let it slap my across my cheek but how can what he was doing be classified as anything else?
My father was an abusive man.
In every way.
* See post Notes.
I have to be honest, I lack knowledge in this subject and would never have classed myself as suffering from it. Well, not until recently. Within the last two years, due a significant weight gain (related to stress), I have been feeling extremely low about the way I look, anxious even. Walking past a mirror or reflective surface only panics me. It instantly disgusts me.
I am regularly told “it’s all in your head” or scolded for being self-absorbed. Others compliment me, attempting to reassure my fault-finding. I’ve had people drop casual comments that I should start dieting then I might feel better. In actuality that makes me feel a thousand times worse when all I do is diet then binge and diet then binge. Any sign of stress sends me into this destructive path.
I have read other bloggers talk about BDD but would never admit that I too suffer from many of the symptoms. I am scared that friends, family and acquaintances will judge me; that they will think I am attention seeking or fishing for compliments. It’s not that I need to hear I’m beautiful, I just cannot stand the way I look. When I see myself in the mirror I feel sick. I see a stranger staring back at me.
In the explanation for BDD on the NHS website, they say that sufferers regularly find fault in their bodies especially the facial area. I hate my face. I hate it. I think it’s vile. I hate my unsymmetrical face. I hate my twisted nose, my teeth, my double chin. I feel disgusting every day. That’s not to say that I love everything else about myself – I don’t.
I love fashion. I try to make it work but the confident days are ruined when I accidentally see my reflection in a shop window. What seemed like a good choice in the morning becomes a bad decision; one that I berate myself for making for the rest of the day. A decision that leaves me feeling self conscious and extremely aware of how awful I look.
I do not dare say this out loud and am currently too frightened to seek professional help. I feel as though I may be laughed at. After all, people see me as I want them to see me: confident and self-assured.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.