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  1. The Mental Nazis and being friends with one's face

    'Facing' The World, and Skin Cancer... by Donna Williams *)


    I believe there are 'boy mothers' and 'girl mothers'. The 'boy mothers' can relate easily to boys without feeling of threat or competition, without jealousy. The 'girl mothers' like the emotional sharing thing of having daughters and find the boys too self owning, too distant, too practical and logical. Some are all rounders and relate equally to both genders. Some find they have a boy who is more like a girl or a girl who is more like a boy. Anyway, mothers are people and they're all different and we get what we get, so do they.

    I had a 'boy mother' but even if I'd had a 'girl mother' then as someone who was afraid of entanglement and intimacy, very tentative with real felt trust, I'd never have fitted a girl mother either. But with a 'boy mother', especially if there are any pathological jealousy dramas in the house, being a daughter never sits right and its easy to grow up feeling unworthy and ugly, Autistic or not. I'm one of those people.

    It took me a long time to feel worthy, both as an Autie in a non-Autie world, but also as a girl of a 'boy mother' and later as a female, as a woman, as a sexual being in my 30s, with my phases of asexual, straight, gay, bisexual. As a child I loved my reflection as the only person who understood and accepted me completely but as an adult, now aware of the media driven pursuit of 'beauty', 'perfection', 'agelessness', and progressively well known and referred to by strangers as 'pretty', I had in fact intense 'ugly days' where I couldn't stand to look at my face as it made me cry.

    I never thought of it as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (though I have a relative who would come close to that and don't we all have hints, even episodes of many things). I saw it more as part of a mood bender crossed with PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ) that would have its 'episodes' of ' mental Nazis ' in which I was persecuted from within, silently, in the solitude of what was often a comfortable Social Phobia (because I am so creative being alone its more comfortable for me than many).

    But fact is, I liked my face, my dimples, my smile, my light colored eyes, my curly hair and also my nose.
    I have a fabulous nose, one of those funny rounded noses that look cute on cartoons. Then one day I got a pimple on the left nostril and it didn't pop, it bled, and it didn't go away. I waited for four months, after all, it was nothing to worry about, it wasn't like it was a mole or dark brown or anything. Finally, the tiny crater in it got bigger and bled every day so I went to the doctor feeling very silly and he put my nose to sleep with a needle and took a biopsy of this spot, which means he cut a small sample away. The results came back, it was a nodular Basal Cell cancer. Off to the plastic surgeon and it was decided it would risk eating into my facial muscles and I could lose my smile so it needed to be cut out as it was a nodular one which means its bigger underneath than on the surface. But it was nothing to worry too much about. Basal Cell cancers don't kill people, they just eat their faces and cause disfigurement and plastic surgeons do wonderful work.

    I went home and looked at my face, my very pale freckled skin and my sad nose that wasn't happy like it used to be. I was told I'd have one smaller nostril after surgery and that meant a lack of Symmetry. That would be a challenge to someone with OCD and a fixation on balance to panic proportions. Something else to work on. And would I want to go out even less I pondered in relation to Social Phobia I already danced with on a daily, weekly basis? And would those ugly days be even worse when I felt my new face was no longer photo worthy for journalists who asked for a picture or my husband Chris who would want one to remember 'me'? I came to terms with it all, remembering the Buddhists believe that pain comes from attachment to things that are transient, like pretty noses. Besides, it was just one area and it'd only be seen if I was front on. Then I found another spot, more subtle. It had been hiding under the frame of my glasses on the bridge of my nose and I thought they'd caused it. So I left my glasses off for a week and walked about grumpy in a fragmented 2D world without depth. And that spot didn't go. So I resigned myself to the fact I may be like my childhood friend who has ended up with six so far, that those of us with the genetics to be prone to these often get more than one, and that it was ok, and that I would still be me, that the me is who I am THROUGH my face, not my face itself.

    It is hard to be a public person and to be one with skin cancer is no easier. But if being a public person with skin cancer allows me to declare that I am as attractive and loveable no matter how much my face changes for whatever reason that it changes, then let this be a blessing, not a curse. Nobody dies of Basal Cell cancers. Dignity can die, self confidence can die, but that is not a cancer of the skin, its a cancer of the mind, the soul, and it is treatable if you want it to be, if you don't make mountains out of molehills, or Basal Cell cancers for that matter. If you close those women's magazines that build only self hatred and judgemental voyeurism, if you see real, flawed, beautiful people all around you in the street, not see the world through a TV screen of flawless 20 somethings, then this cancer of the mind is treatable. And flaws are part of the balance of life which draw our attention to other things, things that matter more and what we cannot change, we can adapt to, even grow to appreciate.

    for information on Basal Cell cancer...

    http://www.skincancer.org/basal/index.php
    http://www.skinsite.com/info_why_do_i_need_surgery.htm

    Warmly,

    Donna Williams *)
    www.donnawilliams.net

    The challenges of my nose make me realise how much more important my smile is. If ever I lost that though, I'd still draw you one :-)
    Donna Williams *)
    www.donnawilliams.net

  2. #2

    The Mental Nazis and being friends with one's face

    Hi Donna,

    Thank you for the links regarding basal cell.

    Are you in therapy? How do you are dealing with your feelings? Donna...your post was well written but I wonder if you experience anger or self hatred? I hope that you are able to work through these difficult feelings and issues you are confronted with. I hope you continue to share here and if you aren't in therapy that you are able to find a therapist. Best wishes,

  3. #3

    Anxiety, image and being a woman in todays society

    Donna,

    I hope things are going better for you with adapting to this very difficult journey with face surgeries and Basal Cell cancer.

    I feel honored to be able to tell you in person (well, sorta in person) what a wonderful book you wrote. Nobody, Nowhere had a strong influence on my understanding of the children I worked with who had autism.

    I want to thank you for that.

    Warm regards
    Judy

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