MAY 7, 2014: Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up

Why Erik’s Walking in Sacramento on May 10th

Last year, Erik Duarte was inspired by the story of our son Nathaniel’s struggle with BDD in a blog the IOCDF posted on its website. He too has struggled with BDD. This year, he will be attending the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk in Sacramento on May 10th and will tell his story about overcoming BDD. I invited Erik to share his story on the “Walking with Nathaniel” website as this year’s first blog.

I was diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in August 2009 at the age of 18. I am not certain when the symptoms first began but I do remember when I was 13 asking my niece for at least several minutes non-stop if my ears were big. When I was in elementary school we were assigned a partner and we had to draw a picture of each other. When my partner was drawing my face, he mentioned that I had a large forehead. I didn’t notice that before but, after that comment, I spent a great deal of time looking in the mirror, examining my forehead, which I now knew was large, from every angle.

By the time I was a senior in high school, BDD had taken over my life, although I had no idea what was happening to me. I spent endless hours looking in the mirror trying to find just the right angle so my ears would look “normal.” When I wasn’t checking my appearance in the mirror I was researching otoplasty (ear-pinning, a type of cosmetic surgery). This behavior progressed to the point I would not leave the house and wore a beanie 24/7 to cover my ears, even in 110-degree heat. I removed it only to shower and inspect my ears. I was eventually diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and began treatment that never addressed the core issue, BDD.   

After many months of ineffective treatment (I went through three therapists and two psychiatrists) and very little improvement, I began treatment at the Anxiety Treatment Center in Sacramento with Dr. Robin Zasio and Tracy Roulet. The treatment included Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention. It was the most difficult thing I ever had to do—but I began to finally see progress—and the pay-off was huge. I was given the name of a psychiatrist who treats OCD and after many months, and several tweaks to my medication, we found what works for me. 

Almost five years later, I have completed a Veterinary Assistant course, became certified as a No Child Left Behind Paraprofessional so I can work with Special Education students, and am enrolled full-time in college working towards a degree in Health and Fitness. Just a few years ago I did not think any of this would ever be possible. But, with a correct diagnosis and proper treatment, I am proof that it is possible to live a happy and productive life.

Last year, I learned about the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk in Boston and read about Nathaniel Asselin, who battled BDD for many years. It is Nathaniel’s story that is the inspiration for the Walk. I remembered all too well those days when I felt I could not go on. I have created a team and we all will be “Walking With Nathaniel” in honor of his memory and to support the Asselin family in their efforts to bring awareness to and help raise funds for BDD programs and research. I am very excited to have the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk on the West Coast this year.   

My mantra during treatment was “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give up” and that is the message I want to share with everyone who attends the Walk in Sacramento.

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