Over the past few months, I’ve gone back and forth on whether I want to share this. And, if I did, how would I go about it and what if _________? I came to the conclusion that I would be doing my experiences a disservice by keeping it to myself. If I can help one person by sharing – it’s worth my apprehension and discomfort. And I’ve shared with people I’ve met along the way and have been encouraged by doing so. This is arguably the most personal blog post I’ve written and it wasn’t easy to put it all down in words. But, better late than never; here’s the story of my most overdue apology.
Who am I apologizing to and why?
The intro to this blog begs the question, who am I apologizing to? And, the short answer is me (and my body). Today there is an all too common narrative around a woman’s appearance correlating directly to her worthiness. This is something I always knew about but wasn’t prepared for when it impacted me.
A little bit of background
Back in college, when I was around 20 years old, my focus was on so many of the wrong things. At this vulnerable age, my personality, circumstances, and history were the perfect combination of factors for a disaster.
I was friends with beautiful girls of all shapes and sizes but would find myself comparing only to the thinnest and most sought after of them. I was also friends with many handsome boys that saw me only as their ‘bro’. And instead of attributing that to my ability to be a friend to all, I lied to myself. I told myself that I was too fat, too pale, too everything that caused them not to give me the same kind of attention.
Eventually, I allowed myself to succumb to extreme body dysmorphia and sprinted blindly down a path of disordered eating. At the lowest part of all this, I decided I HAD to get breast implants. I was finally skinny and getting more attention than I bargained for – so I had to make up for the last thing I was lacking.
In hindsight, I wish I could give myself a hug, and quite honestly, knock some sense into myself. But, losing weight resulted in so much attention from both the guys and girls I was around. So, I took that as confirmation that I was doing something right.
The First Five Years
After two years of research and one canceled surgery due to cold feet, I finally went through with it. At first, after a brutal recovery, everything was exactly the way I wanted. I had zero regrets and gained the confidence I was looking for.
Unfortunately, I gained a newer set of insecurities. Stares from strangers lingered a little longer and I started to understand what it felt like to feel like a fraud. *
* Not everyone feels this way when they get implants, but it was my unique experience. And, it took a toll over the years. The grass is always greener, isn’t it? And, thank God, I’ve come to realize, there is no better version of myself than the one He created.
Slowly, But Surely, Things Changed (as they do)
Shortly before I turned 26, things started to change for my health. My vitamin levels were all over the map and my energy was lower than ever. Then, most shockingly, I started to lose A LOT of hair.
I knew there were Facebook groups and information started to come out about Breast Implant Illness (BII). But, I ignored it until I couldn’t anymore. The hair was getting to be a problem I had to address and I started to experience major brain fog and memory loss. The latter issues are the furthest thing from who I truly am; I don’t forget anything (a blessing and a curse, for sure). After joining the Facebook group, I was shocked to learn what others had been dealing with. Their posts and willingness to share made me realize that so much of what I was going through could be connected to the implants.
Here is a screenshot of the most common symptoms of BII – I highlighted those that I was experiencing.
This is an extremely high-level overview of my symptoms and their progression. There were episodes of passing out, spontaneously throwing up, and days where I wouldn’t sleep. I had visited countless different doctors for their opinions and they all attributed it to stress (I wasn’t about to accept that).
A combination of all this forced me to face the music, join the Facebook group, and build up the nerve to tell my family and friends that I was getting these toxic implants out – all while planning a wedding. This was probably the hardest part of it all; bring on the shame, guilt, and frustration more than I’ve ever felt before.
Present Day Position
I’ve said it before, and I want to be clear; everyone’s experience with this is very different. It will vary based on things like age, pre-existing conditions, the severity of symptoms, and pure luck. For me, surgery and recovery were shockingly easy. I think I have high pain tolerance compared to people I know, but the implant surgery was by far the most awful pain and recovery I’ve ever experienced. So, I expected the worst.
As soon as I woke up from surgery I was instantly happy. I came out smiling and making conversation better than I have in months (I’ve been avoiding it because of word recall issues). Side effects from anesthesia definitely contributed, but this isn’t normal. In the days following, while I was at home and being cared for, I had more energy than I ever remember having. This has me so excited because, at 26, I have truly been feeling isolated in how I feel on a daily basis.
In the first week, I had several follow up appointments. I was really happy when I learned my surgeon would see me the day after surgery. During those visits, I was on an emotional roller coaster dealing with discomfort and my new found (healing/traumatized) figure. We’re told to be patient since most women see positive changes in their appearance in time. But, it’s hard. After all, I got the implants in the first place because I wasn’t happy with how I looked. Now, I looked ‘worse’ than before.
By week two, I had nearly zero discomfort and I was feeling more confident and happy with my results by the day. During my 2-week post-op appointment, my surgeon was very happy with the superficial results. But most importantly, he said he noticed a difference in my presence/attitude, face, and hair. Losing my hair as fast as I was pushed me to get the surgery and it’s something I discussed with my surgeon during our first appointment. So for him and others to notice a positive difference gave me so much validation.
He also asked me to come back for a 3-month post-op appointment to see how my appearance changed, but also to discuss any more improvements I’ve seen. This may seem like no big deal, but it is. Many plastic surgeons dismiss BII and discredit patients that bring concerns to their office. I met with two of them before finding my surgeon. He seems to recognize, more than when I first met with him, there is a correlation between implants and a decline in women’s health when their body rejects them. It meant so much to me that he wants to take more time to have conversations about this and build a record – something that will make a difference to the growing number of patients that come into the office with the same problem.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope part of my story sticks with you. Whether that be to remind you to work toward better loving yourself, or to help you spread the word to someone who may need to hear it one day.
For those who are more visual – I’ve included some videos and more photos below. First, you can see a nervous, struggling me before my final pre-op appointment. Then, you can see a relieved, happy, excited me after a post-op appointment. I hope these before and afters help to better drive home the points I’m trying to make through words.
Pre Op Appointment: Rambling & Nervous
Post Op Appointment: Relieved & Optimistic
To close, I want to thank my family, friends, fiance, and coworkers. Not everyone going through this has the support I did (and do). So, I encourage you to be a support to others whenever you can. It has been a key differentiator in how I’ve handled this experience in the most positive way.
And, if you owe yourself a similar apology, I pray you have the courage to take the first step. It takes a lot of time, effort, and strength. But it’s worth it and you deserve it.