Stephen tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I rarely use a mirror to do my hair. It’s short, so I just leave it how it is, or put some wax on my hands and just rub them all over my head. That’s it.
‘I rarely know what I look like when I go out. I just get dressed and ask my wife, or my eldest daughter – they’re both honest with me!
‘Not using them doesn’t directly affect me; but using them does. It’s actually easier when I don’t use them. So, unless I absolutely have to, I won’t.
‘I envy people who can just use mirrors for aesthetic purposes – to just see how they look, and if they like it. Or want to change it.
‘When I look in a mirror, I see an unsuccessful, emotionally ugly person. I don’t see my physical features, I just look straight through them.
‘I see my failures as a son, husband, father, brother and friend. My inadequacies. How I’ve hurt people, how I’ve let them down. And how much I loathe and hate myself for doing all this.
‘It also has links to death anxiety too.’
Stephen says that looking in mirrors makes him panic about his mortality. It’s a reminder that he won’t always be able to look into a mirror and see himself – that he’ll eventually be gone.
‘Eventually it’ll be just darkness and oblivion’, he said.
‘It triggers lots of things in my head. I have a lot of invasive, uncontrollable thoughts, and when I look into a mirror, they are triggered.’
Stephen also hates having his photos taken, as he hates seeing himself on camera.
He adds: ‘I wish I could just look in a mirror and think “My hair looks ridiculous, I’ll change it!”‘
Stephen is currently not receiving any help for his phobia. He was in therapy for a couple of years and talked about it during some sessions, but he still lives with his phobia intensely.
He said: ‘The problem comes from deeply embedded feeling of low self-worth and self-esteem. And to an extent self-loathing as well.
‘I’ve formed these feelings and views of myself over decades. So, it might take that long for me to truly displace them. And to be honest, living without mirrors isn’t that bad once you get used to it!
‘I’ve had so many challenges – self harm and suicide, addictions, problems with sleep, eating and body image to mention a few. So, I’ve not really talked about it.
‘I’ve written a memoir about fatherhood and mental health called Mad, Sad, Dysfunctional Dad which will be published, I hope, at the end of April or early May and I talk about it a lot in there.
‘It shows in more detail how my daily routine and emotions can be affected my both using, and not using mirrors. And how debilitating it can be.
‘I’ve not met anyone who lives with this phobia and could not find anything on the internet in terms of number of people in the UK living with it.
‘I feel it’s met with maybe not disbelief, but a difficulty to empathise.
‘It’s very complex and I can how why people might find it difficult to get their head around, so to speak.
‘The more concerning aspect is the stigma that still exits around mental health and mental illness.
‘I think people are still scared of it, and a lot of this is down to a lack of understanding, misinformation and the way it is portrayed and sensationalised in the media, especially films and news coverage.’
Stephen see a way of battling his phobia, especially because he’s become so used to never using mirrors.
He said: ‘I’m not sure I’ll ever use mirrors on a daily basis again. But it’s like anything, you learn to live without something, and the more you do, the easier things become.’
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