When I was a young boy my dad would recall the story of my birth whenever all the family met up. He’d say I was so hairy I resembled a monkey rather than a human being. He suffered from social anxiety so I don’t blame him for repeating the story, but I remember feeling anxious each time he did.
The concept that my body was ugly and unacceptable was so ingrained I wasn’t aware I had a problem until I read Suicide Junkie, by S Westwood, about body dysmorphic disorder. I was 26 and had never shown my body to anyone. For 15 years I had, in secret, removed hair by shaving, plucking, cutting, waxing and laser removal. I had a girlfriend in my teens, but avoided being naked. At university, my ritualistic hair removal continued, and the prospect of flirting made me anxious because of the potential of it leading to sex. I dreaded telling anyone, in case they didn’t believe me or thought my problem was silly.