Body Dysmorphic Disorder - My Rhinoplasty Experience
Editor's note: Thank you to Lola for opening up about your reflective and insightful journey with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and explaining how CBT has helped you overcome the challenges associated with your mental health.
No matter where I was, what I was doing, or who I was talking to, all I could think about was my nose. At 24, I was already obsessed with it for years, straining to position myself at more flattering angles during conversations, applying excessive amounts of hairspray, backcombing, curling, straightening, re-curling, re-straightening, caking layers upon layers of makeup, all in attempt to disguise my nose. I decided I had enough after I had a conversation with a girl at a party, who told me it was the best decision she ever made. I then decided rhinoplasty would now be the answer to my problems. I definitely had many other physical insecurities, but my nose was high on the list. So I worked a minimum-wage job saved my ass off for 15 months, and spent almost every spare minute I had obsessively researching the shit out of it. It was my sole focus, the answer to my happiness, and no one could convince me otherwise (they really tried).
I landed in Belgium in June of 2015, met with my polite surgeon, discussed the precise details of how exactly he planned to break my face, and I subsequently handed him over €4,000 (~$6,000 CAD). I didn’t realize how hard my anxiety would spiral while lying on the operating table. I kept dawning on how this man was about to CHANGE MY FACE. What if he messed up the surgery? What if I hated it? What if he gave me a ridiculous, plastic-looking nose to the point of none of my friends would recognize me? I pleaded with him to try to not change it too much. It was all I could do. He reassured me, and before I knew it, I was knocked out, and the room faded to black.
What seemed like weeks later, I woke up confused with the most severe throbbing face-ache, and only able to move my eyes. I’ll never forget looking out the window at the most beautiful sunny day, not knowing whether I’d made the right decision or not. I just felt alone. I couldn’t help but think of a friend previously advising that, come my thirties, I could have sincere regret about doing this - by letting a physical insecurity push me this far. All I could do in that moment was cry.
I can only describe the next few days in the hotel room as completely agonizing – experiencing pain like I have never felt before. I couldn't lie down, sit up, or fall asleep for more than a couple of hours. No relief at all. It was purely down to the packing lodged right into my nose. Every hour waiting on the surgeon to remove that shit seemed so desperately slow. About 66 hours later he finally knocked on the door, ready to go with his giant and terrifying face-tweezers. I’m not too quick to complain, and I’d definitely consider myself someone with a high-threshold for pain, but this was without doubt the most discomforting and surreal few moments of my life. Yet at the same time, having it removed was incredibly relieving. An interesting combination of sensations. Each packing just looked way too gigantic and alien to have been pulled from my face. It was disturbing, and I wasn’t very mentally prepared for it. But sure, all in the name of beauty, am I right? -_-
After way too many stares in the airport and on the flight home, I finally landed back in Ireland. I felt a tremendous sense of emptiness during the ten days waiting to remove the splint, and see my new self. The moment did eventually roll around, and I was actually pleased. My side profile looked better, and to this day I don’t worry about that particular physicality anymore. Because I have suffered from BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) for such a long time, I do consider myself lucky being pleased with the results. A LOT of plastic surgery cases from BDD sufferers end in disappointment, and believe me, I have done my research. But (here’s the big but…), I did feel a sense of “…what now?”.
During the rhinoplasty consultation in Belgium, my plastic surgeon commented on the symmetry of my face, pointing out that my chin was slightly off-center. I thought nothing of it in the moment because I was so preoccupied with the following morning’s face-changing surgery. And now… These days I am obsessed with my chin and the (debatable) asymmetry of my face. Something I hadn’t even noticed before the surgery.
However, what has really made an actual, amazing and positive change in my life has been being treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), by a clinical psychologist. I was lucky enough to click right away and work with an incredible, amazing doctor who really helped me in every way possible. I’ll be forever grateful for how she helped me through something I never thought I'd tackle. I will discuss my CBT treatment in more detail in a different post, but I urge anyone suffering from BDD to seek out CBT if possible. Perhaps someone reading this is considering plastic surgery, and perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten the surgery if I had of sought out professional help first.
The surgery didn’t ultimately help my mental state. I am just as obsessive about my appearance as I was before, and this NEW issue of mine was NOT in existence before my nose surgery. Maybe CBT is something to consider before making such a drastic decision of plastic surgery.
Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re feeling isolated from the disorder. I know I have been.
Why is it important for you to share your story and experiences with mental health and illness?
I have been struggling with Body Dysmorphic Disorder for over 12 years now. I've attempted to connect with other people who may also be suffering from it but most attempts have ended in failure so far. It's more than a little disheartening. So I decided to make another attempt by sharing my story here and hopefully connect with like-minded people.
- Lola Lynch
More about Lola:
I am a technical theatre technician by trade. My interests include playing guitar, performing circus arts (juggling), helping & with connecting people.
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