No Regret, Only Joy

CW: body image, body dysmorphia

I am officially one week (and one day) post-op!

For those who didn’t read my last post, my insurance company gave me breast reduction surgery for Christmas! Recovery hasn’t been as tough as I expected, though it still has its ups and downs. Gravity is not my friend at the moment, but my bathroom mirror finally is!

First, I’m not going to gloss over the difficult moments. The first time I looked down at my new chest I cried. They still looked too big and they hurt like the devil. Yes, I could breathe easier (strange, but true) and my breasts were finally sitting where they were supposed to on my chest, but I still wasn’t excited yet. It wasn’t until yesterday—a full week post-op—that I looked at my bare chest in the mirror. And when I did, I couldn’t stop laughing.

I love my new boobs! They’re still swollen and bruised and taped up, and they will be for a while, but damn they look good. They finally match the image of myself in my head. It’s such a good feeling that I’ve felt high ever since. I already feel more confident, and more in love with my body.

That last part I didn’t expect. But I’m finally seeing my body in a brand new way. Some of my body dysmorphia has begun to fade, as well. When I look in the mirror, I can see a tall, thin girl. Before, I considered myself one of those “big-boned” tall girls. My breasts took up most of my abdomen and made me feel generally large. I don’t see that girl in the mirror as much anymore.

I was hesitant writing this down, but I’m gonna say it: my body is beautiful. I am so happy that I’m starting to see that.

If anyone has considered having this procedure done and has questions I might be able to answer, feel free to contact me. I couldn’t have done this without the r/Reduction subreddit, and I can’t imagine going through this alone.

I’m sure I’ll continue mentioning my recovery in the year to come, but for now I am just giddy and in love with my new boobs. I am ringing in the new year with a body I now enjoy looking at in the mirror. And that’s a big friggin’ deal.

Merry Christmas to Me!

I’m gonna get super real in this one. Are you ready?

Ever since puberty hit and my boobs just kept growing I’ve felt as though they didn’t belong to me. The image of myself in my mind didn’t match with what I saw in the mirror. For roughly 10 years, I’ve wanted a reduction. In fact, when I was in high school, I wrote my parents a letter that I left on their bed asking for surgery, too ashamed to even ask them face-to-face. (This followed my initial diagnosis of my autoimmune disease, so my parents rightly decided that surgery wasn’t the best option for me then.) I’ve always strived to be honest on my blog, plus it’s often where I do my processing. It felt important to write this post. So here goes:

My insurance company has approved my breast reduction surgery, and my surgeon is fitting me in next week. I’m about to have smaller boobs!

A lot of thought, time and energy went into this decision, but so did many years of feeling detached from a part of myself. For most of my life I’ve gotten the comments “I had no idea your boobs were so big!” and “I would kill for your rack!” and “If it’s any consolation, you hide them really well,” from roommates and friends and even some medical professionals. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to hide my boobs! I want to be proud of them, to wear clothes that make me feel sexy and confident and like me. And now I’m finally getting that chance.

No more needing to bind my breasts to access certain styles or comfort. Besides, binding my breasts has been SO uncomfortable and never gives me what I really want. I have multiple Pinterest boards full of clothes/styles I never thought I’d be able to wear because of my breasts. It feels incredible knowing that I’m actually going to have the chance to find a style that is truly authentic and fits who I am and how I want to express myself. Not only that, but this surgery will alleviate chronic pain I’ve dealt with my entire life, and hopefully improve my posture. But the biggest, most important part of all this is that I am getting the chance to feel like a part of my body that I’ve felt shame for my entire life actually belongs to me.

This feels scary to write here largely because it still feels too good to be true. I still have to take a COVID test and hope that my surgeon doesn’t get called into an emergency before my scheduled procedure. Plus, because of insurance, I can only make this work if I do it before the end of the year. So in a way, I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. But on the other end of that spectrum, I need to keep reminding myself of the positives in order to speak into the fear that I’m also feeling. My therapist had me make a list of reminders to post around my house to look at before surgery (while I’m still super anxious) and post-op (when pain or limited mobility might make things tough), and the list is already a full page long (and still growing!). I’m getting the chance to change so many things that I’ve been unhappy with for most of my life, and I am so grateful.

Yeah, I’m terrified of having this surgery. And it’s a little scary writing about it here. But, as a dear friend reminded me, all of this is bringing me more in alignment with my authentic self and that can only bring positives. I’m choosing to do a scary and difficult thing in service of who I truly am. My outside will finally match my inside.

My job is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing myself. This (paraphrased) quote from Untamed has been helping me a lot through this process. Especially because I tend to care too much about what others think, so much so that I can derail my own life to make others feel more comfortable. But I’ve spent the last 10 years praying that this day would come. I’ve researched, talked to my doctors and surgeon, processed with my therapist, and even had conversations with my boobs in the mirror. It felt as though the universe handed me this gift just in time for Christmas. I know I’ve made the right decision.

I’m ready to feel more confident in my body, more aligned with my femininity, and be more expressive with the androgyny I’ve been waiting to fully explore. Let this post serve as my reminder, for when the fear tries to creep in or recovery gets tough, that I’m ready for this. I’ve always been ready.

Caught in Black and White

Last night, a friend of mine sent me a folder of photos from a portrait shoot we did last week. I needed a new headshot for LinkedIn and asked my good friend, who happens to be a great photographer, to take them for me. Normally I hate being on the other side of the camera, but my previous LinkedIn photo was taken back in 2016 and I looked quite a bit different then. I let myself have fun during the shoot; I focused on my friend and allowed my weirdness to take over.

When I saw the photos last night, I cringed. Not because the photos themselves were bad—they were beautiful, in fact—but because I immediately saw the flaws in myself. I couldn’t even look at them longer than a few seconds because I didn’t see myself as a whole, I saw myself as small pieces to be picked apart.

I immediately began judging myself for judging myself. All I kept thinking was that I had made so much progress in the realm of body positivity, yet had failed epically in a crucial opportunity for self-love. Suddenly, I saw this small struggle as the demise of my capability to love myself. Yikes!

Not long after, I was able to pull away from the situation and look at it from a different angle. Not even a week ago, my therapist and I discussed my penchant for All or Nothing thinking. This mindset, also known as Black and White thinking, falls under the “Cognitive Distortion” category, and can trap you into feeling like things are either staunchly one way or the other, without anything existing in between. Examples include, but are not limited to, “If I don’t finish this task by tonight, I am a failure,” “I tried something new and made a mistake, so I will never be good at it,” and “I’m feeling frustrated with the people I work with, but they did a task correctly today, so everything is fine.” Double yikes!

Aha, but this is when dialectics come into play!

Thinking dialectically means acknowledging two things being true at the same time. For people who struggle with mental illness and/or eating disorders, this can be difficult. It’s easy to think that if you relapse it hurtles you backwards in your recovery, or even worse, it negates any and all of your progress. Let me set things straight: hiccups in recovery do not erase the progress you’ve made.

I’ll say it again, just to drive it home…You can struggle and be making progress. These two things can (and will) exist at the same time.

Last night, I experienced struggle. I looked at my 2-D face on the screen and couldn’t see the amazing qualities I’ve been discovering about myself lately. Picking apart my looks is my default mode right now. But I know now that it won’t always be. I am learning and growing and coming into my power. And part of that growth and stepping into who I was always meant to be means that I will stumble now and again.

I can stumble and be strong.