Category Archives: Alcoholism, Bipolar Disorder, and Body Image

A DIFFERENT TAKE ON BEAUTY (From Ugly Duckling To Confused Swan)

I was born in 1973, born five minutes after me was my fraternal twin sister. There is a picture of us only a few weeks old where it appears she is trying to punch me in the face. That should’ve been a good indicator of things to come.

Although we were not identical, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins still were confused about who was who. When we were born we weighed a little under 5 pounds each and stayed in the hospital until we gained enough weight to leave. Except one of us never stopped gaining. Starting at an early age that’s how relatives would tell us apart. They didn’t care if I heard them or not. “D is the fat one and Deb is the skinny one” is what I constantly had to listen to. As I became older I would scream in my head “Are you f*cking stupid? One of us is blond and the other is a red head! If you don’t know the difference after 15 years than don’t bother!”. There were honestly times I wanted to physically hurt one of them. I would be playing with cousins and one would get hurt. I would automatically get blamed because I was “big” and must have “squished” one of them.

I tried to be invisible. It was easier that way. If I drew attention to myself that would be asking for punishment, humiliation, or ridicule. I wore baggy clothes and hid my face behind my hair for many years.

I always had a love for make up, hair products, perfume, clothes, but I was limited in what I could do. There was little clothing available at that time for 16 year old girls who were a size 18. Most clothing was marketed for much older women or what little I thought was nice was extremely expensive.

By the time I was a Senior in High School my Bipolar Episodes (Not Diagnosed Yet) were in full swing. I would have feelings of wanting to belong so badly I thought the world would end. I wanted a guy to actually see me for once. I wanted to be wanted. Smoke and Mirrors became my best friends.

Not many are born knowing how to apply make up correctly or blow dry hair just right. I had to learn in order to wear my “mask” of confidence that was boosted with alcohol. When I was all made up and had a new outfit on I actually felt a little good about myself. Add the alcohol in and I was hot. That can only last so long. 20 years to be exact.

When I was diagnosed as Bipolar and stopped drinking I also stopped socializing. I did start to lose some weight. The Doctor told me I would at first because of the medication and because I have Celiac Disease. A year went by and I was down almost 130 pounds. My family was worried. Well most of them. I now weighed less than my twin sister and she wasn’t taking it well.

I wasn’t doing well either. I had this new body in the mirror, a completely different face, I had changed my hair color as well. I wasn’t sure how to dress for this body. My sister refused to go clothes shopping with me. I would sit in a dressing room quietly crying because I was confused about whether I was wearing a shirt or a dress. Did I have a camel toe or was it suppose to fit that way? Some of the clothing should’ve come with directions. I finally had to ask women in the dressing rooms to help me. I was embarrassed. I was angry that after all the years of bullying and pain my sister would hold this against me.

When I received a compliment I didn’t know what to do with it. When someone found out I had lost a lot of weight I felt like I had to tell them it wasn’t through diet and exercise because it would be wrong to let them think that.

When I started to notice dents in my temples and indentations in my cheeks I became concerned. My Hematologist told me I had “Muscle Wasting Disease” which happens with Autoimmune Disorders. What we didn’t know was that my Kidneys had been Failing. I wouldn’t find out until it was almost too late.

Bipolar Disorder, Alcoholism, Obesity, and even being too thin all carry Stigma. The things I’ve hadthonf73axv said and done to me because of one or the other I still can’t forget. I used “Beauty Tools” to try to hide the real me even when I lost weight. I never leave the house without a mask. But sometimes they serve a purpose.

While in Cosmetology School and working in Salons I would do hair for women who couldn’t afford it. Women who hadn’t had their hair done in years or ever. I can’t tell you how many had tears rolling down their faces when I was finished. As they stood up their posture would be different than when they first came in. Their eyes brighter and their smiles confident. I know it’s only hair but sometimes it’s the human interaction and having a chance to relax and feel good about yourself that can make a difference. It’s those times I enjoyed the most.


You’re So Vain

Recently I was told that I am vain. I almost laughed out loud. I didn’t bother defending myself. The person making the accusation wouldn’t have understood my way of thinking. She hasn’t in 43 years. The only thing it would have done is cause another argument.

Growing up the only person I remember saying I was pretty was my mother. Even she would add “But you would be so much prettier if you would just lose some weight”. When I started drinking and going to parties sometimes a guy would make a comment to me. I remember a popular guy in high school saying I looked good one night. My response was to turn around and look behind me to see who he was talking to. Over time as my drinking became worse, and so did the company I kept, that changed. The more I drank, the cockier I became. Alcohol on most occasions didn’t act like a depressant on me it acted like a stimulant. My brain chemistry was different. I would start at 5 p.m. and keep going until 4 a.m. or so. I did a lot of damage to myself not to mention others.

Sober, I never found anything positive in the mirror. The numbers on the scale kept going up and up until I reached 270. When medications and illness caused me to rapidly lose 135 pounds I didn’t see anything different in the mirror. Without guidance from anyone on how to dress for this new shape I found my own style and was unsure what looked right. No one would go shopping with me. My sister was now heavier than me and wasn’t dealing well with it. I was having to ask strangers and dressing room attendants if pants or shirts were the right fit. It was sometimes embarrassing.

Then came comments of the opposite nature. “You’re too thin, you look sick”. Ummm, I was and still am sick so maybe that’s why. It never ends. Even now if I am in a public place I don’t think about how I look or about bending over to put air in my tire until some idiot makes a gross comment. Even then it takes a few minutes for me realize they are talking to me. I fuss with my hair and make up constantly because that was the only thing I had control over when I was 270 pounds. I could at least make those things look good. Now it’s a nervous habit. I’m not comfortable in my own body and I’m not sure I ever will be.

There were too many years of torment physically and verbally that no matter what I do, who I talk to, just won’t go away. It’s a horrible thing to admit but the only the times I had confidence, even if it wasn’t real, is when I drank. It gets harder and harder to leave the house. It’s become too much effort just to go to the grocery store.

The peanut gallery keeps telling me there are plenty of things I can do on my own. I don’t need other people to do things with. I know that. I WANT other people to do things with. I have an extremely hard time making friends. If one more person tells me to “join a group” I might slap them. Let them join some of the “groups” they keep pushing me to join. They wouldn’t last a day. I’ve tried many of them over the years. Each one leaving me feeling more alone and more scared about how I will be in the future.

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