I am the woman who passes a mirror and shifts her gaze away. I am the woman who wears oversized clothing to mask the extra 20 or 30 pounds of weight that don't register on my scale. I am the woman who takes the picture rather than appear in the photograph. I am the woman who has had her eyes done, face lifted, collagen and
I am the woman who has body dysmorphic disorder.
I was in my mid-20s when I intuited that I had a major body image problem, one that was undermining my life. Although I led an active social life, I tended to avoid serious relationships. I didn't have the courage to discuss this with any of my friends, for fear they wouldn't believe me.
In my late 20s, during a regular checkup, I mentioned all this to my doctor. He told me that my condition was real and had a name. It was a frightening thing for me to hear, but I was too ashamed to ask any questions about the cause or treatment. The World Wide Web and
All these years, I have managed to camouflage my symptoms — although the emotional uncertainty follows me about like a second shadow. When I put on my makeup, I do it one feature at a time so I do not have to consider my face in its entirety. Hairdressers lose me as a customer the moment they spin my chair so that I'm forced to look in the mirror. I shop for clothing in stores that have communal dressing rooms so that I can rely on feedback from others rather than acknowledge my own image.
My secret is that I really do not know what I look like; each attempt to sneak a glance reveals a different facade. When I flip through photo albums of people in my life, I can pick myself out, but I'm always bewildered to find that I appear pretty and slender. How could that be? And how sad to have deprived myself of the confidence I could have had.
Somehow I carved out a happy life and enjoyed successful careers in business and politics. I am blessed with a loving husband and family and many good friends, few of whom would either understand or believe me if I had the courage to confide in them.
Foolishly perhaps, I still carry this difficult burden alone and quietly wonder if I will ever recognize my reflection.
Karyn Foley is a real estate broker and former mayor of Calabasas. email@example.com.