I have included the photo of me aged 4 because this is when I first started experiencing anxiety, trauma and depression about my appearance / hospitalisation /bullying. It represents pain, profound sadness and a wasted life...
BDD sufferers see an exaggerated and distorted image of their 'fault' / a particular feature: I see my face as ugly, deformed and unacceptable - very like Picasso's 'Weeping Woman' (above).
Imagine living your life when you see yourself as grotesque, ugly and flawed? Life is painful and problematic.
BDD symptoms and behaviours are compulsive (it is an OCD condition). For me this presents as for example, constant rumination, checking appearance, comparing appearance to others, extreme self consciousness, shame, self disgust, extensive camouflaging, hyper-vigilance and many avoidance behaviours. These occur every minute of the day: it's absolutely exhausting and debilitating.
The Complex PTSD leaves me with unmanageable triggers, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, misophonia, migraine, nightmares / night terrors and active suicidal thoughts.
The Anhedonia Depression leads me to staying in bed, trying to sleep (but this is non restorative sleep) to block out life (the closest thing to being dead as the diagnosing Psychiatrist put it), utter hopelessness, the inability to gain joy or pleasure from anything and suicidal thoughts.
For 10,000 people to donate just £5 each to enable me to access specialist treatment in the private sector.
And....please spread the word / share the link!!!
Your donations will pay for full and appropriate residential treatment following the NICE Guidelines at a Centre of Excellence under Prof. David Veale.
The cost of residential treatment is approx £4000 per week. I will require a minimum of 12 weeks treatment (as recommended in my NHS assessment for BDD in 2015).
Therefore my aim is to raise a total of £50000.
My name is Vanessa Cox and I am 51 years old. I presently live in Worcester but I'm originally from Watford and have moved around a lot. I attended Watford Grammar School, Cassio College and St Albans Art College for my Foundation but went on to read for an academic degree at Manchester University. I did my PGCE at Manchester Met. Throughout I have struggled with my mental health and have had a series of breakdowns which have checkered my career and led me to making poor / wrong career choices.
I have worked in many jobs from age 13 (anything to pay my way / the rent) but my profession is Secondary School Teaching working with challenging young people in difficult schools. I have been involved with voluntarily work with vulnerable people and charities most of my life.
When I'm well enough I like to go Lido swimming, see or listen to the Opera, bake cakes, bread and and make jam. I am interested in politics, social issues, art, travel, fashion (particularly vintage fashion and trawling charity shops), film (Scandinavian Noir and classic 1940's / 50's films) and sport (I still support, now from a distance, Watford FC!).
"I am so well acquainted with despair that I know not how to hope" Thomas Dekker 1604.
I have experienced severe mental health problems from childhood. From birth I was rejected and bullied by family members, led by my Father's cruel behaviour and extreme favouritism towards my 'perfect' siblings. I wasn't wanted because of being born with a cleft lip and palate and was 'burden' due to the repeated operations I needed. My family and others in my life have told me that I am a 'nuisance, 'a disappointment', 'ugly', 'thick' and "shouldn't have been born". I have been blamed, to this day, for everything that went wrong in my family, used, abused and excluded. I grew up on a very rough council estate in extreme poverty.
Linked to this poor start in life (the 'deficit' as one BDD Specialist put it), I have really struggled and had a life time of upset, trauma and cruelty: vicious severe repeated torment & bullying at school, work, socially and in housing (I have moved house more than 30 times), physical ill health, homelessness, poverty, neglect, isolation, abandonment, repeated operations & procedures to my nose, lip, palate, teeth, jaw (ongoing) and have experienced and witnessed several life threatening incidents of violence / ill health. Despite first asking aged 13, I have not received the right support for these psychological difficulties. It's no surprise that I feel "fundamentally flawed in every way" (Dr Eileen Bradbury Cleft Psychologist) and have such chronic poor mental health.
To this day many people are unnecessarily cruel, name call and are dismissive of my ill health. I seem to be an easy target despite showing them kindness, support and compassion.
Despite the above somehow I have managed to achieve in education, training and at work. Unfortunately I have not been able to reap any benefit from this due to my crippling mental health problems, low self worth and adverse socio-economic circumstances. I really wanted a career in Art, Fashion or Dance and to move abroad - and I've had lots of golden opportunities do to these but that was unable to take them for all the above reasons.
1. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (https://bddfoundation.org/)
2. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/complex-ptsd/.
See Dr Deborah Lee's research at Berkshire PTSD Service, Reading.
4. Severe Migraine (15 to 20 days a month), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. The Specialists state that these are linked to the mental health conditions and they all adversely impact on each other.
"Vanessa's mental health has been mismanaged all her life.... all stops should now be pulled out for her in order that she receives the treatment she needs and deserves" NHS OCD Specialist Psychiatrist 2015.
"Vanessa is at 'clinical cut off' (extreme severity / breakdown) for both depression and anxiety...... She operates on a very high cognitive level and therefore is very good at hiding her symptoms. This leads her to being misunderstood, dismissed and mistreated". Cleft Lip & Palate Unit Psychologist 2014 / Complex PTSD Assessment 2019.
I have been repeatedly assessed for 8 years now (exhausting and traumatic in itself). The separate NHS Specialist Teams confirm the diagnoses but fail to treat me until "the other conditions are treated". They seem 'overwhelmed' by the 'complexity' of my diagnoses and health, which is very unhelpful to me. Now of course there are horrendously long waiting lists in Mental Health just for Assessments, never mind potential treatment. I am left on my own with no treatment or support, in a state of limbo with my health rapidly deteriorating.
The Future & Legacy
I want to work again. People do recover from these conditions with the right treatment! I would like to train as a Specialist CBT Practitioner to treat patients with BDD, facial appearance issues and anxiety disorders or as an Art Therapist. I do not want anyone else to go through what I have been through. So your donation will help me and in the long term, help others.
I appreciate your giving me your precious time and reading the above.
My best wishes and sincerest thanks for your help and compassion.