Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Don't Take My Photograph ...

Why "Don't take my photograph"?  The title of my blog is take from the Newton Faulkner song, Uncomfortably Slow, which has as its chorus the lyrics:

So don't take my photograph
Cause I don't wanna know
How it looks to feel like this

These lines sum up perfectly my feelings about photographs of myself.  I absolutely hate having my photograph taken, for whatever purpose, at any time.  Just the thought of someone taking my photograph brings on feelings of anxiety and if my picture is taken unawares the result makes me feel physically ill.  I hate how I look and try to avoid mirrors as much as possible so why on earth would I want permanent reminders of how being me looks?

My feelings about my looks are partly rational; I'm not particularly good-looking, I'm overweight and I was bullied for years as a child so feelings of low self esteem and self worth are not unsurprising; and partly irrational; I'm not disfigured nor seriously ugly and I don't scare the horses or small children.  Sometimes, on a good day, I can look in the mirror and think I don't look too bad but on other days just a glance at my reflection can make my heart sink and my mood fall through the floor.

As long as I don't actually see what I look like, I can keep up some pretence of being a 'normal' person and can interact with others on an almost normal level, as long as the conversation stays away from anything that touches on self image.  It doesn't take much to tip me into feelings of despair and self-loathing though, if anyone mentions how they look, their weight, buying new clothes or any other topic that may remind me of how gross I feel I am.

Choosing new clothes is a nightmare, it's difficult to find clothes that fit and I have to look in the mirror, under un-flattering lights, in the fitting room.  Clothes shopping is definitely not something to even attempt on a bad day!  Choosing a new hairstyle or glasses brings different challenges.  Obviously I don't need to worry about whether glasses or a hairstyle will fit but I find it virtually impossible to know what would suit me as I hate how I look so how can I gauge if this style or that will make me look less unattractive?

This post reads like an attention-seeking self-pity fest but believe me, this is not my intention.  Usually I try to keep all these negative feelings private because I know just how pathetic they make me sound.  However, if I am to try to convey the complexities, depth and nuances of depression as an illness, I cannot hide even the most pathetically self indulgent aspects thereof.  Paradoxically, I can simultaneously believe and not believe all of these feelings about my outer self at the same time.  I can think that I don't look too bad at the same time as thinking I look awful.  I can cringe at how hideous I look whilst knowing on some level that I'm not that bad.  Trying to manage and balance these conflicting and contradictory thoughts takes a lot of effort, which can lead to withdrawal and yes, my ever-present friend, exhaustion.


  1. I remember how this feels, and how difficult it is to express without it seeming like an exaggerated version of the more common vane angst about appearance that's almost a social obligation among some groups of women (I don't mean to sound bitchy - I've been part of that too; I wrote about it a few years back and my self-image has improved a great deal even since then).

    I remember feeling that my appearance actually had the power to disgust people, that I might make people feel unwell (as the mirror did me), whilst at the same time knowing that there was nothing really wrong with the way I looked (nor, I hasten to add, have I ever come across someone whose regular appearance ever disgusted me - I've cringed at a few nasty fresh injuries, but never old scars or disfigurements).

    I don't know if it helps at all to hear that it's completely different now, that I can enjoy clothes and feel pretty good about the way I look (and love some things - my hair is great!). Perhaps it helps more just to say, yes, I know how this is and I'm very sorry that you're in this place at the moment.

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