Hi, my name is Kat Sewell and I have/had mental health problems? Not sure you can say body dysmorphia ever goes away but I’m definitely a lot better than I was 15 years ago. I mean, I can still spend hours pointlessly staring at myself in the mirror for no reason other than to beat myself up about very minute details nobody else gives a shit about. However, the difference these days is that I know it is pointless and I can walk away after a few minutes and not let it take over. There are far more important things to worry about and as my old flatmate Gillie used to say: “Nobody’s looking at you!”
I suffered in silence for many years about my body dysmorphia. I didn’t even know I had body dysmorphia for most of that time. I started around 7 years old being a “picky child” and not eating anything. Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s not a lot was known about childhood eating disorders so this was just seen as being difficult and misbehaving. Being punished for this behaviour led to me being very secretive and ultimately led to bulimia. I suffered in silence with eating disorders on and off for many years, I’d say from the age of 7ish all the way to 20, it would usually flare up when something big happened like moving schools. The fact I was so secretive about it made it a lot worse to deal with. I finally had some kind of epiphany that I should probably speak to someone and got help in my late teens. This was the best decision I have ever made in my whole life. I don’t care who it is, if you are depressed or have other shit going on speak to someone, anyone. A professional, a stranger, a loved one, a friend or an acquaintance. Anybody will do. I’m pretty sure if I’d spoken to someone sooner none of the crap I put myself through would have happened.
One positive from my experience was that as part of my recovery I learned to cook. Cooking from scratch allowed me to improve my relationship with food whilst reassuring me as to what was actually in what I was eating. As a result I now cook every day and as the years have gone on I have gotten deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole. I now make jams, chutneys, vinegars and oils with food I grow, find in local parks or in the clearance aisle. I bake, often adapting and making up my own recipes to suit my dairy intolerance. I also marry my love of beer and cooking often, finding new ways to combine the two. The knowledge about food and flavour combinations I have picked up along the way has definitely helped with my homebrewing and nurtured the experimental side within me. I have recently made some loquat and rosewater jam which, if I don’t scoff it all first, I’m likely to put into a saison (inspired by the Anspach & Hobday Maramalade Saison). I’ve added thyme and lemon verbena to a wit, dried Iranian limes to a gose and plan to add dashi to a stout. It doesn’t always work but the curiosity and enjoyment I gain from it are more than worth it. I genuinely feel at my most relaxed when I’m cooking.
Honestly, I probably wouldn’t be me without my mental health problems and, it’s a cliché, but I am stronger for it. It doesn’t have to have a stigma and it is totally normal. It’s more prevalent than you think. If you ever need to talk, I’m always here.