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Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, elephant journals weekly advice column, where no question is out of bounds!
To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected] or private message me on Facebook.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I am brokenhearted over losing a friend.
We go back over twenty years—he actually introduced me to my husband, and they are friends as well.
He always had a terrible drinking problem, but has been sober now for over four years. Obviously, we are really happy for him, but he seems to want to cut us out of his life. He’ll speak with us on the phone or text, but won’t ever see us and never initiates contact. If we manage to make plans, he always cancels them.
I have heard from other mutual friends that his behavior has become really strange. He was always a bit eccentric, something I loved about him, but this is different.
He has gotten a facelift, hair extensions, takes HGH (human growth hormones) and steroids and has dated a string of really young girls—girls my daughter’s age. He seems obsessed with youth, and told one of our friends that he can’t hang out with him because he’ll “make him look old.”
We have tried really hard to be supportive and nonjudgmental, and really are willing to accept whatever this is he is going through, but are frustrated that he has shut the door on us. We’ve all been through so much together.
I love him and I hate to think I’ll never see him again.
When our relationships to our friends change it can be bewildering and painful, especially in the case of long and deep friendships.
It sounds like your friend has gone through a dramatic transformation. After addressing a “serious drinking problem” he is now sober and seemingly obsessed with the idea of youth. For whatever reason, you and your husband don’t fit into the new life he is trying to create for himself.
Though this is obviously hurtful, I would urge you not to take it personally. Recovering addicts often feel the need to completely restructure their lives to ensure their sobriety—perhaps this is what is going on here. Another possibility is that your friend is re-directing his addiction to the pursuit of youth. Either way, it has nothing to do with you.
You are on the right track by trying to be supportive and nonjudgmental, but you need to take it a step further—you need to let your friend go.
Give him the room he needs to explore this new iteration of himself. Hold kind thoughts for him in your heart. Resolve to be there for him if he ever reaches out—and resolve to forgive him if he doesn’t.
Even if you do resume your friendship, it will be completely different than it used to be. Allow yourself to mourn the loss of what you had and be open to whatever may come.
I have read some of your articles about body dysmorphia. I see a lot of myself in your words—but is this a real thing, and if it is, what can I do about it?
I know I’m a normal weight based on my BMI (I calculated it myself online) but I always feel fat. It seems like the worse mood I’m in, the fatter I feel. I’ve noticed that if things are going well for me on any given day I’ll look in the mirror and feel okay, but if things are not going well when I see myself I look so disgusting it makes me sick.
I can’t stand looking at pictures of myself, but I take a lot of selfies (which I then delete).
I feel really disoriented in my own body.
I hate when people touch me because they might feel my back fat or something and I pretty much always wear baggy clothes because it makes it easier to just not think about everything. Everyone tells me I should try and look better—wear better clothes, not just sweats and things—but I don’t have the energy. I don’t even want to try because then it looks like you’re trying.
I don’t have an eating disorder, but I try and eat well—I’m a vegetarian, and I’m trying to learn how to cook so I don’t eat so much processed stuff. But honestly, I wish I could starve myself. I would feel so much better about myself if I was smaller, but I just can’t do it. When I don’t eat I feel like I’m going to go crazy.
I can’t admit any of this to anyone, they would think I’m so stupid. I have a good life other than this. What is my problem? Why can’t I just be happy?
Here is the official definition of body dysmorphia from the Mayo Clinic:
“Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw in your appearance—a flaw that is either minor or imagined. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful that you don’t want to be seen by anyone.
When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, often for many hours a day. Your perceived flaw causes you significant distress, and your obsession impacts your ability to function in your daily life. You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures or excessively exercise to try to “fix” your perceived flaw, but you’re never satisfied. Body dysmorphic disorder is also known as dysmorphophobia, the fear of having a deformity.”
Based on this definition, which I believe to be accurate, you can lose the question mark at the end of your question.
As a fellow sufferer, you have my infinite compassion.
The most common treatments for BDD are medication; specifically antidepressants, cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy—but many times people with BDD don’t seek treatment because like you, they often wonder is what they have is “real.”
The most important thing I’d recommend is to talk to your primary care physician without downplaying how this is affecting your life. Follow up on your doctor’s suggestions for treatment and be patient—this is not a one-size-fits-all malady. It may take many different approaches and a long time to start feeling better, but it is possible.
On a personal note, as you mentioned I have written a great deal about BDD. I credit that writing and my personal yoga practice as having been the most helpful ways to handle this issue.
You might try keeping a journal dedicated to your feelings about your body just to have a place to vent and acknowledge your pain.
Also, yoga is a proven natural antidepressant (as is all exercise taken in moderation). See if you can find a gentle physical practice where you can rejoice in what your body is instead of obsessing about what you wish it was.
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Author: Caroline Beaton
Editor: Emily Bartran
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