By Kim Acrylic
Author Of "SUICIDE JUNKIE"
For those of you who may not know who Stephen Woodside is.
He wrote the unforgettable book on body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
Punk Globe: What inspired you to sit down and write all your traumatic experiences and share them with the world?
SW~ I've always written. I used to stick
with fiction but it never felt cathartic enough. I guess that was why I
did it -- as an emotional release. I didn't really think much about
getting it published until later. It was just a way to get it out of
Punk Globe: Well I'm glad you did cos not many books are written from the male point of view on BDD.
SW~ I didn't realize how important my book
was. Once I had finished it I realized it was the best thing I had ever
written and thought that getting it published would be an amazing
thing. I didn't realize it was the first book to speak about BDD from
the sufferer’s point of view until much later. It's still the only one
written by a male. I didn't purposely concentrate on the BDD parts
either- just told it how it was.
Punk Globe: When did you start showing symptoms of BDD?
SW~ I was fifteen. I had always had a
depressive tendency but I was free from feelings about my looks until
then. Once I became aware that looks were important, as you do at that
age, I realized that mine were far from perfect. I put my mother's make
up on to hide my skin.
Punk Globe: You
clearly made several suicide attempts hence the title Suicide Junkie.
Did you really wanna die all those times or did you do what so many of
us do and show that you needed help?
SW~ A bit of both. With ODs and wrist
slitting there is always a chance you will survive and get looked
after. I kind of realized that it would bring on change. Death or help --
both were acceptable to me. I did, however, take a hell of a lot of
pills. I did believe that they would kill me at the time.
Punk Globe: What was the most traumatic and scariest moment in all of this for you?
SW~ When I stole tablets from my sister's
house to take in overdose and told the doctor I couldn't sleep in order
to get sleeping pills, put them all in a glass by my bed and shut
myself away for a week before taking the OD. That week was the worst
thing I have ever been through and the OD was horrible. It left me
asleep for two days and I woke not knowing what day it was and feeling
like hell. Every suicide attempt is horrible to cope with but I guess
that was a real emotional break down. It scared me in to getting help.
Punk Globe: Any thing you would want to say to other guys and girls who have BDD?
SW~ It can be beaten. I was at the lowest
point that anyone can get to. I was suffering BDD about as severely as
I can imagine and yet here I am. I survived and things are better.
Speak up about it -- tell the world and then it isn't such a dark secret
anymore. People might not understand but it is still better than
suffering in silence. My silence was my worst enemy. I had no insight
in to my illness -- not being aware that there was anything called BDD.
Knowing you are suffering something that others have been through is a
Punk Globe: You went through a phase of having bad women in your life in your harder days, since then you got married, how is that for you?
SW~ My wife has been there for me through
my slow but steady recovery. She must have the patience of a saint and
a heart of gold. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her.
Punk Globe: And I hear you have a child now as well?
SW~ Yes -- a little boy. He makes life seem
that much more important and is a constant source of joy. I have him to
think about now -- I can't be so impulsive. I have to try and live with
the concept that suicide isn't an option but I still struggle with
Punk Globe: Going
through all that you did in your life did you EVER for one second think
you would be interviewed, married with a child and...dare I say happy?
SW~ I thought I was doomed to be someone
that died by their own hand. I still feel like that sometimes. But I
was in such a bad way that I couldn't imagine a happy future for
myself. Every day was a struggle and I didn't even think as much as a
week ahead -- believing that I would be dead. Suicide was all I could
Punk Globe: What would you say to someone who really wants to kill themselves because of how they look?
SW~ When you have BDD you imagine everyone
is looking at your appearance but they really aren't and if they are,
so what? People don't look at that one bit of you that you have been
staring at for hours, they see the whole you- the way you stand, the
voice and words you speak with.. appearance is just part of it. And
what is the worst thing that could happen? They could think you are
ugly... so what? Do you really care if this one person thinks you are
ugly? I do know it is easy to say and not so easy to practice. I still
have attacks of BDD where it all comes back to me and I remember how
awful it is and was but that is how I break away from it, simply saying
Punk Globe: So besides Suicide Junkie, any other books available by you?
SW~ I have a book of short prose coming
out this year. It is already available to download as an ebook from
Chipmunkapublishing. co. uk:
I used to write a lot while suffering depression and everything else...
often fables with deeper meanings. I wish I could writ more now but
maybe I'm too happy?!
Punk Globe: Would you consider yourself recovered or still struggling?
SW~ Recovered from BDD about 80% -- still
struggling with borderline personality though a hell of a lot better
now I am living a stable life. I know I could easily be tipped -- that
worries me a lot.
Punk Globe: Whats a typical day like for Stephen Westwood these days?
SW~ Well I'm at college mostly but I am
considering giving it up as I'm not as well as I hoped. The stress of
getting stuff done is not doing me any favors. My dream isn't really
academic I just want to help people. I am happy just to answer a few
emails every now and then and perhaps get to writing more. My morning
rituals are shortened- I can get ready in about 15 minutes which is
certainly better than the hours it took me in my BDD days. I slip into
it now and again but usually I'm OK. When I'm not at college I'm with
my wife and son- we're pretty much tied to each other. I like to try
and get out the house once a day even if it is just walking my son into
town for a bit. I don't do much really but that's how I like it. I
swear I'm never going to another night club in my life -- I hate all
that, but I do enjoy the odd gig.
Punk Globe: Have you done any book signings?
SW~ I have done one book signing that went
really well. I did it locally. It would be nice to do more. I do give
talks on training days about mental health and I gauge how well it went
by how many books I sell. Sometimes I sign them but I don't offer as I
Punk Globe: What bands do you listen to these days?
SW~ I have a vast range depending on my
mood. As my mood is normally low I listen to a lot of Morrissey and the
Smiths! I don't know why but I never feel like listening to bands to
lift my spirits... I prefer to feed it which might be half my problem!
I love Tori Amos but also love punk like the Distillers and Alkaline
Trio. Eclectic, really.
Punk Globe: What or who is your greatest influence?
SW~ My own despair is my biggest
influence. I can't write happy, which is a shame. If I could be any
other writer I'd be Oscar Wilde, who happens to be very dead -- perhaps
Punk Globe: I must say you're one of mine for sure!
SW~ Thank you!
Punk Globe: Since the release of Suicide Junkie what has changed for you?
SW~ My life has found direction and
purpose. I now know what I'm supposed to be doing, spreading awareness
of BDD and helping those who write to me. Unfortunately it hasn't
Punk Globe: What writers do you read?
SW~ I have read most of Anne Rice's books.
She doesn't write supernatural stuff now which is a shame. My favorite
book of all time is The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides -- it's
beautiful and melancholy. I've not read anything else by him, perhaps I
should. I tend to go by covers and titles -- things I think I will
Punk Globe: Poetry or novels?
SW~ Forgive me but I have to say novels.
It is seeing a book on a shelf knowing that if you pick it up a whole
new world will open for you. I like losing days to a good book.
Punk Globe: You and I hang out for a day, what do we do?
SW~ Let’s go to a pub that plays decent music get slowly drunk on beer and talk about people.
Punk Globe: Any websites or books you would recommend for people with BDD or suicidal thoughts?
SW~ The Broken Mirror, by Katherine
Phillips is the BDD bible. It helped me a lot to realize that I wasn't
on my own. BDD central is a great website as it has a friendly forum
where you can talk about BDD with people who understand. I write on
there occasionally. It is hard to recommend anything for suicidal
thoughts as when you are in that state you don't really want to read
anything. But if you can try and do and read and watch and listen to
the things you have passion for it might put the passion back in your
Punk Globe: How much do you feel the media and society has to do with people developing BDD?
SW~ I don't think they cause it- it is a
deep set mental illness. Bullying doesn't help, the media doesn't help.
If you are becoming ill mentally things can trigger episodes but I
believe it is mainly clinical -- if it wasn't pills wouldn't work -- and
they do. It's a tough one. In a different environment would I still
have contracted BDD? I don't know but I think I am sensitive to mental
illness, that I was always likely to have something wrong.
Punk Globe: What are your thoughts on people still letting that one prejudice that's still OK, Being overweight be well, OK to make fun of?
SW~ For some reason mental illness is
still OK to make fun of as well... comedians often mention suicide
light heartedly and I find it in really bad taste. I don't think they
should be censored though -- just wish they wouldn't do it. 'Fat' jokes
are as old as the hills and it must really grate on people who actually
do have weight issues. We are all equal but I don't see us ever being
treated as such.
Punk Globe: Whats
your thoughts on Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan being the "Sex
Symbols"(waif thin) in most of America and do you think that leads to
girls and guys having the wrong idea for body images?
SW~ I don't have anything against people
in the public eye being thin -- but why do ALL our celebrities have to be
thin? It really gives us a distorted view of society. 'perfection' will
always be sought but it depends what we think of as perfection. Why is
waif thin thought of as perfection these days? Its a dangerous trend
that leaves most 'normal' people feeling like crap.
Punk Globe: So you used to be in a punk band a long time ago, tell us about that...
SW~ Back in my youth! It was a long time
ago. I have a tape of our last gig and it was Halloween 1995. It was
the best gig we ever did and I wanted to go out on a high. Truth is
being in a band is hard work and I had other priorities. It was a great
outlet for my creativity -- I always have to have something creative
going on. I was drummer, singer and song writer. We sang songs about
Hammer Horror movies and stuff like that. We were called the Immortals,
though I call us the Fiends in my book... creative license. I haven't
played much since then. I am going to try and convert my tape into MP3
and put the band up on My Space -- we never did a professional studio
demo which I really regret.
Punk Globe: So you going to stick to writing or is there a possibility for a Stephen Westwood band in the future?
SW~ I still have a kit but am planning to
sell it as I don't see myself doing that again. I will definitely
encourage my little boy to play an instrument and just live my dreams
through him!! My dreams of rock stardom were not strong enough for me
to really go for it -- I'm a writer, and that suits me fine.
Punk Globe: OR are there any other surprising that your creating in your head at the moment?
SW~ Someone suggested that I make Suicide
Junkie into a play... I didn't think much of the comment at the time
but since then I have thought about what a good idea that would be.. I
can see it. I've never tried to write a script before but I just
Punk Globe: What truly frightens you?
SW~ My illness. Feeling suicidal and looking at my wife and son with a mind twisted in depression and guilt.
Punk Globe: Have you had any weird or great fan experiences after your book was released?
SW~ I'd love to have some... I get
recognized sometimes (from my TV appearances) which is weird. I've had
people travel a long way to see me and I've had one person say that I
saved their lives. That meant the world to me.. I always said that if I
help one person it would be worth while..
Punk Globe: What IS beautiful in your eyes?
SW~ My son... so innocent (even when he's
naughty) but I have learnt to value life more with him around. I think
babies are amazing so I had one tattooed (its an angel foetus from a
Sigur Ros album cover) Everyone is beautiful in some way... I truly
believe that. People shouldn't judge so quickly.
Punk Globe: How was it for you getting your photo taken for the book cover and other related stuff?
SW~ I couldn't have done it a few years
back. I would never have got to the photo shoot. Strangely enough
though, I have always felt I looked better in photos than I did in life
or in the mirror. I always believed that the photos lied as they
couldn't show up the details that I saw when I looked at myself. It
sounds stupid now, it sounds crazy, but I was, a little.
Punk Globe: Whats one thing you would change about your life right now?
SW~ I would like the power to enjoy things without my depression tainting everything. I'd like to be OK with being happy.
Punk Globe: Tell people why they should read Suicide Junkie?
SW~ Its a bloody good book.
Punk Globe: Anything you want to say to Punk Globe readers?
SW~ I hope some of you do decide to read
my book. As a writer being read is the most important thing and the
hardest to achieve. I try my best to reach out to the right people and
hope that they might lend their copy to the next person and so on...
Promoting yourself isn't easy and I sometimes wish I could tell the
world my book exists. I know my book doesn't offer a magic wand for
getting better but if you're looking for something to empathize with
when you're feeling like crap perhaps my book will make you feel less
alone. Perhaps my depictions of suicide will put someone off going
ahead with it. It is an awful thing to do and the hardest thing to live
through. Perhaps my recovery will inspire people and push them to
getting help. Perhaps you will read it and just be glad it happened to
me instead of you. For what ever reason- I hope you read it.
Punk Globe: Thanks so much for your time and I'm SO glad you're alive to inspire me.
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