Thursday, 9 May 2013

When is a lie not a lie? When it's actually the truth I don't want to admit to.

So, one of the most common 'lies' that I find myself using is 'I can't go out I'm too ill' or some variation of it. I use it when I don't feel up to leaving the house. Often I claim to have a headache or an upset tummy. Over time this sort of excuse starts to really annoy your friends, particularly when it's a regular occurrence. Being honest about why it happens would probably make my life a lot easier but it's hard to do so because I'm normally a huge mess of anxious at the point I'm making excuses and too scared of being rejected or ignored the rest of the time.

The truth is that I actually do feel physically ill a lot of the time. Years and years of not eating properly has caused me some rather unpleasant and uncomfortable bowel issues, which are aggravated by stress. Likewise I get really bad migraines, which are also brought on by stress. So in all fairness it's not entirely a lie. The truth is bigger than that though, the truth is that it's not my headache or upset tummy stopping me leaving the house.

Here's a fun fact: I love going out, particularly dancing. I adore getting dressed up and getting my groove on. Really. Yet I don't do it very often any more. Why? Because of how I look. Seriously. I've never been happy with my looks, but since I stopped starving myself I've somewhat predictably gained weight. Which means I'm physically healthier but my body image is dire. What I have to remind myself is that it's been worse, when I was thinner. Therefore being thin won't fix this.

On a good day, it'll take me an hour or so to get ready. I'll have to change my outfit at least once and triple check my hair/make-up before being ready to go out. Once I'm ready I will want to leave immediately, just to stop myself become fixated with my own reflection whilst I find all the flaws which make me feel too awful to be seen. If we're not going straight to the club but doing something else first, chances are I will head home after the first activity. Going straight to the club is always better for me, because once I'm dancing I find it much easier to stop thinking about how I look. Weird but true.

On a bad day I will spend all day getting ready. I'll change outfits several times, becoming increasingly distressed with each outfit change. At some point I will stick on some old, comfy clothes and try to focus on hair and make-up instead. If I can get those right, then it's possible I'll be calm enough to start the search for an outfit again. Most of the time what actually happens is I end up bawling myself hoarse whilst failing to get my make-up right (probably because I'm crying), tearing my hair out/cutting it off because it hates me and refusing to leave my room, never mind the house.

This is actually an improvement. What used to happen on a good day involved getting drunk to combat the anxiety. On a bad day I'd end up drinking, cutting myself and/or taking an overdose. Otherwise, things were pretty much the same.

I'd like to say it's only when going out dancing or for a big event that this appearance related anxiety hits me, but it isn't. Some days I can't bring myself to head out to the shops. I've lost jobs because I couldn't bring myself to go in. And since I find it harder to use the phone than I do to leave the house I rarely phone in sick.

All of this probably makes me sound really vain. I'm not. I'm just as anxious about saying or doing something wrong. In fact, a fear of being wrong is pretty much behind all of this. Anyway, the point is that the reason I can't go out is that I'm too ill - but it's my mental rather than physical health which is to blame. So why do I lie about it? Why is it so damn hard to talk about mental health?

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