Acid hoax perpetrator seeing self clearly for first timeon March 20, 2013 @ 11:23 am (Updated: 7:54 am - 3/21/13 )
Bethany Storro tells KIRO Radio's Luke Burbank that the day she applied acid to her face, she thought having no face at all would be better than wearing the face she saw in the mirror.
"I saw a distorted image," says Storro. "I would see this horrific image in the mirror. It was just terrifying. I didn't even want to go on anymore because I thought I looked like that."
Storro bought the drain cleaner she used to burn her face at your typical hardware store. A warning from a store clerk regarding the dangers of the product just reinforced her plans to use it to erase her face, she says.
"I remember her saying, 'You've got to be careful with this stuff. It's very harmful and it can burn,'" says Storro. "I remember when she said that I was a little bit happy inside."
Storro planned to drink and suck in the vapors of the cleaner, as well as apply it to her skin. She witnessed its strength before the real act by dipping in a couple of Q-Tips.
"That Q-Tip just dissolved in front of my face. It was very, very strong."
Drinking the drain cleaner turned out to be too much, but Storro believed the application of the substance to her skin could also kill her. She set up in a park bathroom to end her life. As she applied the harsh chemicals she says it was a flood of mixed feelings, concern for her parents and also a bit of a rush thinking about feeling the pain.
"I was kind of happy. I was really scared how it was going to feel," says Storro. "But I thought this would make me free of this mental illness I was going through."
The pain after applying drain cleaner was unreal, Storro says.
"It's just sizzling through your skin. It's melting. It hurt so bad that it kind of felt good to me to feel it."
As she continued to apply it, she found the pain unbearable. She knew she needed to get help. She wanted to go home, but her parents were out of town. She got in the car and drove to a nearby public place, pulling into an area near a Starbucks. Calling out for help, Storro says soon there were people all around her trying to help and asking her questions.
"It's just natural instinct for someone when they see that, that, 'Oh my gosh somebody hurt her,'" says Storro. "In that instant, when somebody had screamed out, 'Did somebody do this?' I had said, 'Yes.'"
As more and more people became involved in the situation, Storro says it was harder and harder to change the story. The media propelled it to a national audience. Looking at her parents too, she says, made it feel impossible.
"I almost told my parents right there [in the hospital] and then I saw the look in their face when they saw my face," says Storro. "I'm like how could I sit there and say, 'No I did this to myself,' and explain to them this whole story that I've been struggling for many years."
As time passed, Storro says the story snowballed, and she had to come up with lie after lie. There were dozens of times she says she wanted to tell the truth.
"I had so many sleepless nights. I had so many bad thoughts that my family would abandon me. I would always say things like 'tomorrow I will tell the truth. I'm just going to do this.'"
The truth finally came out when the police went to her home while she and her mother were out of area on a trip to get away from it all up in Seattle. Upon arriving home, she saw police officers, and witnessed her father with his head in his hands. She immediately knew he knew the truth.
"My dad met us face to face. It was the first time anyone's ever asked me through the whole thing 'Did you do this to yourself?' And he goes, 'Please, just please tell me, be honest.' All I said was, 'I did. Yes.'"
Storro eventually pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a public official and was sentenced to community service and ordered to continue mental health treatment.
Through her treatment, Storro learned she suffered from body dysmorphic disorder, a disorder where a person can't stop thinking about flaws in their appearance. The flaws that they focus on are often minor or imaginary. The diagnosis, Storro says, was a relief.
"It was the first time that I heard there was a name for what I was going through. It was such a relief that there was an actual name and it exists and it wasn't just me."
It took awhile, but Storro says she finally came to see herself clearly. Looking at old pictures, she finally saw what the rest of the world saw and then regretted what she'd done to herself.
"I had to accept what I did to myself. It was really hard, seeing myself in the mirror and what I'd done," says Storro. "I see reality now when I look in the mirror."
Storro has since written a book about her experience. She co-wrote the book, "Facing the Truth," with Portland burn survivor Mona Krueger. The book is available in bookstores now, and Storro tells Burbank proceeds from the book will go to charity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.