By S Westwood
AS FEATURED IN 'FULL HOUSE' MAGAZINE AND ON 'THIS MORNING!'
Key Themes: suicidal thoughts, abuse, obsessive phobia, body dysmorphic disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder
As a survivor of at least five suicide attempts and a habit to self-harm, the author of this autobiographical novel fights with an obsessive phobia. The author thinks that his skin is hideously ugly, this develops into a personality disorder that leads to the edge of despair. He is diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder and severe depression but it is not for a further ten years that his silence regarding his appearance is broken and he is finally diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. In the knowledge that his skin problem is a mental disorder rather than a physical deformity the correct medication is, at last, prescribed and the road to recovery begins. This is a strong and emotional but ultimately positive book which will do much to create greater understanding of these widely misunderstood ailments.
About the Author
S. Westwood grew up in Great Wymondley, a small village near Hitchin in Hertfordshire. He studied at the Thomas Alleyne school in Stevenage and then went on to study at the NH College in Letchworth. Now thirty-one and a full time writer S.Westwood is married to artist Ashley and lives in Letchworth with their chihuahua Tequila. The couple recently lost their daughter Lydia Angel who was born asleep. She is sorely missed. S.Westwood has had mental health problems since childhood and has been diagnosed with having borderline personality disorder, body dysmorphic disorder and severe depression. Now working to improve understanding of these largely unknown illnesses; S.Westwood hopes that his writing will connect with fellow sufferers
My childhood was not bad on the face of things. I was not abused. I was not neglected. Our family was not particularly impoverished, though certainly not well off. I remember many things fondly and still love many of those things that the child Stephen held dear. I may have grown out of wanting to be a cowboy but there are films I went to see at the cinema when I was a child that I have since bought on DVD and watch regularly. I think that is true for a lot of people. What we loved as a child shapes our personality and you can definitely tell what sort of person someone is simply by whether they do or do not like ‘Labyrinth’. Why should we, as ‘grown ups’ lose the magic of innocence? Many of us still hold on to those feelings and by watching those films or listening to the music we grew up with we can recall those chaste emotions. Things look better in a mask of nostalgia. I may have cried and been taken out of the cinema when I watched Star Wars for the first time but at least I can boast that I saw all three films of the holy trilogy on the big screen. Adam Ant may have lost his looks and gone a little insane, but he will always be cool to me and the Muppet show will always be the most perfect family entertainment.
Babies are born with eyes about 75% the size they will eventually be in adulthood and that’s why they look so disproportional. I was born with huge crystal blue eyes and they are my most distinct feature to this day. Girls tend to say that they are attractive where as guys think they are plain weird and that I should blink more often; I am a ‘guy’. My white blond hair grew out to brown and has since been dyed black. I have tried to stay away from my natural hair colour for a good fourteen years. I haven’t been well for longer…but I was a baby once with all his life ahead of him, beauty on his side, so what went wrong? It must have been something in my upbringing. There must have been something while I was growing up that changed this trouble free child into the wreck I became, but it’s nothing obvious. We have to delve deep.
I was the second child. My sister Jane is four years my senior. I was born as her play thing. I was born so that I could be a companion for her. Is that not why people have more than one child? I guess most kids are born out of selfish reasons. I was not asked whether I wanted to be born and I know why babies cry. When they slapped me into life it was taken as a personal insult, but was I already the person I was going to be? How much of it is down to our genes and how much is taught? Twins grow up to be individuals despite having the same upbringing and the same biological make up. What the hell is it that makes us, us? Why the hell did I become so messed up?
There was nothing in the first few years that could possibly be to blame. My mother was still married to my father and my grandparents were alive on both sides of the family. Admittedly my parents should never have been together but I doubt that I could see it at such a young age. I remember going on holidays with both parents. I remember my dad making a sand sculpture of a speed boat and remember him saving me when I nearly fell down the side of a hill and down through someone’s thatched roof. That was my first brush with death. Perhaps I liked it.
…But I was a happy kid as far as I know. I got on with my sister, most of the time. There was one occasion when she strangled me against the wall until I went purple but I don’t hold that against her. I have looked through the photographs of me as a child and I seem perfectly happy in all of them. I suppose pictures are not the best evidence though. People don’t take photographs of pain, of unhappiness, of disappointment. There are photographs of my birthdays taking new toys out of their colourful wrappings. A bendy Kermit the frog, a big blue car, a weeble circus. Of course I am smiling in all of them. You get told to smile even if you really don’t want to. Those toys are almost gone from memory now and would probably be gone completely if it wasn't for the photographs. If only I still had them I could make a fortune on eBay. …But we tend to not remember much from our early years. I often wonder though, when we are toddlers, do we remember being babies? As babies do we remember being in the womb? Why is it that all of that is lost? Why has it all become a mystery when we all go through it? It seems that to forget must mean that it was not important, yet that is not true. If you are abused in your early years the affects, if not the memories, f**k you up for life.
Well, I was not abused. I was looked after, bought presents, baked cakes, taken on holidays. I was a normal kid. The only thing that might be a factor in my downslide is the relationship between my mother and father. It was rocky. There were arguments. I don’t even know what the arguments were about but I remember them yelling at each other. I would lie in bed listening to the theme music of M*A*S*H and then the shouting would begin. I think they actually booked themselves in for a nine thirty argument each night. They probably thought that I would be asleep but their yelling was a nightly lullaby for me. Did I know that they did not love each other? Did I suspect that daddy would soon be leaving us? They split up and the arguments ended.
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