The Girl in The Shop Mirror & Dissociative Disorder – by Pixie Dreadful
Content warning: dissociative disorder, self-harm
The girl in the shop mirror twirled around in the new nude-silk-lined, black-lace dress. The skirt had a sewn-in petticoat and it swung naturally from her small hips. The black satin bow tied at her waist like a present. Her breasts looked small and sad. Must wear this dress with a Victoria’s Secret extra-padded, push-up bra! Save up for some matching lace, kitten heels, accessorize with pearls and a hair piece and cubic zirconia – which shine like real diamonds, almost.
The girl in the mirror’s eyes lit up with pleasure from the dress, her lips smiling as her hips twirled. Her hair, while dark roots were visible, was still long and a wavy, cotton candy-to-magenta, ombre-pink-fuschia fantasy. She imagined her hair and the dress and the accessories waltzing away on a magical breeze where other outfits awaited. A symphony of fashion.
There were no people, no judgements, no worry. Just a ballroom dance of silk and taffeta, ‘50s poodle, felt skirts with ‘80s Doc Martins, flashy prom dresses glinting with sequins tangoing with studded leather jackets and red-plaid-printed jeans. New Rocks doing the mambo mambo with lacy kitten coquettish heels. Blue mohawks hovering above the leather; blonde, curled Marilyn hair over lace, or perhaps the reverse? Champagne bubbling like laughter, bottles pouring into champagne flutes flitting around the symphony, circling the gathering like a shield. Protection.
The girl in the shop mirror slowly slipped away as the person before them changed back into their David Bowie, form-fitting top and black skinny jeans. They looked tired, suddenly. They noticed the yellow around their eyes, the blemishes on pale grey skin. Where did the girl in the mirror go? She wouldn’t care. But she was retreating down the dark tunnel of memory…. Quick! Write quick now before she retreats so far into memory that you wonder – was she a dream? Did she ever really exist at all?
People love the girl in the shop mirror. She is not famous – not even close – but she is doing better for herself, and people she cares about love her. She loves them too.
But do they really? the angry voices whisper. What do they love? Do they love the stylist’s work on the hair, taken from a favourite YouTuber? Do they love the coat – purchased overseas when the person was surrounded by friends, when you tried so hard to be her? Do they love the dress? Do they love the image of the girl in the shop mirror, long hair and shining eyes and lips curled into a smile?
You also love the image. How can one not fall in love with one’s own creation? Especially when this is the body you were born with, the gender you were born into. The silhouette that all the fashion magazines tout as being the most desirable, fitting into the smallest-size dress that can be sold right off the mannequin.
Facebook memories: A girl with her friends four years ago.
Friends commented on the photo, complimenting the long blonde hair, pearl Chanel necklace, little black form-fitting satin dress, flashy white teeth bared.
The person notices the angry red bumps on the girl’s upper bicep, lumps of flesh still raw from abusing the woman they never truly believed to be real. They see the pain behind the turquoise irises, the deer-in-headlights look that captivated as a model but was just a shield for a human waiting to be hunted.
I am not The Girl in the Shop Mirror
I may not be a Woman
I don’t feel like This Woman
Who the fuck am I?
And how can anyone love someone who doesn’t love themself? Who can’t live up to their perfectly crafted image?
I used to want to be physically stunning and perfect and completely dead inside. Mummified like those ancient Egyptian coffins at the Met. Or the marble Greek statues with blue blossoming veins, or bruises, on the severed-at-the-elbow busts of fractured deities or noblewomen. Preserved throughout time because, just maybe, their cracks made them even more eerily beautiful.
And then, in what was believed to be long-barren soil, a seed sprouted. Perhaps a few. And they became life, small and delicate but green and alive.
The Girl in the Mirror would use Dermablend to hide her imperfections.
The seedlings are screaming to wear previous battle scars with pride.
The Girl in the Mirror can get ugly, and violent when she is not dancing.
The seedlings just want sunlight, water, and to dance without having to follow any particular choreography.
But what of the people who love the Girl in the Shop Mirror? Will they mourn? Will their love for her die when she does?
The seedlings are trembling, afraid to fully sprout.
Terrified they will not survive the ecosystem.
Behind “The Girl in the Shop Mirror”
This piece was inspired by my personal experience with DDD, also known as Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder. US/UK studies say that DDD significantly affects up to two percent of the population, which equates to 1.3 million people in the UK. One study suggests that up to 50 percent of adults in the US will experience a brief episode of depersonalization in their lifetime. DDD is the sensation of being a detached observer of oneself. People who struggle with DDD often feel they have changed and that the world has become hazy, dreamlike, surreal, and lacking in depth. It can be a highly disturbing and disorienting experience.
Chronic depersonalization refers to Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder, which is classified by the DSM-5 as a dissociative disorder. Although depersonalization and derealization can happen to anyone who is subject to temporary stress or anxiety, chronic depersonalization is more related to people who have experienced a severe trauma or prolonged anxiety and stress.
DDD is also a prominent symptom in other, non-dissociative disorders, such as clinical depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoid personality disorder, hypothyroidism, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, migraines and sleep deprivation.
Personally, having lived with a lovely cocktail of mental health issues for some time – including Cyclothymia, General Anxiety Disorder, DDD and PTSD – I’ve found Cognitive Behavioural Therapy extremely beneficial in helping to navigate the complex labyrinth of my mind. For anyone who feels that they, too, are grappling with the concept of reality, I would suggest booking an appointment with your local GP or doctor in the States.
And remember: You are never alone.
Mental Health Helplines:
- NHS mental health helplines
- Free MH helplines – where to go when you’re having a mental health crisis