A: Please allow me to be very direct. Your problem is not your stretch marks, it is self-hatred. We all have flaws, both inside and out. Some folks hate their nose, some might not like the way they laugh, some people have lost a limb or breast to an accident or illness, some people suffer from mental illness, and some folks have stretch marks. My point is that none of us are perfect. Almost everyone I have ever met, both clinically and personally, has no problem coming up with a list of things they would like to change about themselves.
What matters in terms of self-esteem, is also being able to list the things we like about ourselves and developing the ability to put more weight on those things. Have you ever heard the story of a Cherokee legend in which an elder is teaching his grandson about the struggle between good and evil inside us all? He uses an analogy of a good white wolf and a bad black wolf and basically states that the one we feed is the one that will live. Here’s a link to another interesting interpretation, stating that we need to accept both (or all) parts of ourselves.
My point is that you can spend the rest of your life focusing on the parts of yourself that you don’t like, or you can spend your time focusing on what you do like. And as corny as it sounds I believe in the sage advice that “in order for someone else to love us, we must first learn to love ourself.”
You have allowed this issues to have way too much power in your life for too long. You blame your stretch marks for your depression, self-harm behaviors, substance abuse issues, unemployment, and social isolation. You don’t mention if you have ever sought professional help for any of these issues. If you haven’t, it is time. If you have and haven’t gotten the results you wanted, then I’d suggest finding a different therapist and/or psychiatrist who specializes in body image issues and depression. If you are still suicidal, please call a Crisis Hotline or go to the emergency room for evaluation. The issues you mention are serious and should not be taken lightly. Please get help now.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts