I struggled with body issues my whole life. I developed early, and by age 8 I was wearing a bra. Instead of taking pride in my advanced body, I was ashamed and told friends it was an undershirt. Nevertheless, I stood out among friends. I don’t know what I would have done if social media was around. Being teased at school was hard enough. By the time I was 16, my breasts had grown to a 36-DD.
Boys at school teased me and made grabbing motions at my chest. Men stared, sometimes making comments. One time, a guy asked me if I wanted to play two hands touch while motioning to squeeze my breasts. Other times, I would turn around and boys would pretend like they were knocked to the floor. Even my family would talk about them, all the time. At 16, I was so depressed. I hated my body, especially my breasts. I imagined ripping them off. My upper back was tense and sore, and the straps from my bra made indents in my shoulders.
Ever since my mom’s best friend told me about her breast reduction, I fantasized about plastic surgery. I finally made the decision after looking at photos of myself in a bathing suit on a family trip to Cuba. I thought, I’m 16, will they ever stop growing? I never stopped to think how it would effect me later, or if there was an easier way, like eating healthier and working out. I just wanted the pain from the teasing to go away.
My solution, I sought plastic surgery, with my mom’s support. I live in Canada so Healthcare covered it due to potential for severe back problems. Surgery day came. The doctor marked me up with permanent marker. Have you ever seen the Sex and the City episode where Samantha consults a plastic surgeon? She sort of looks like clown in the mirror. That’s how I felt.
I opted for more T-shaped, scars. I wanted the option of breastfeeding future children. The option with less scaring is more likely to cut more milk ducts. More scaring, and they can work around milk ducts. In the operating room I was strapped to a table, arms spread out as if I were being crucified. Recovery was slow, but only painful for a few weeks. Sometimes I still feel pinching pain, but it’s not too bad.
After surgery, I was content. No more gawking at my breasts. I could run, play, wear nice bras, and not buy a shirt one size too big. Yay, the buttons wouldn’t pop. The scars didn’t bother me much, I knew, hoped, they would fade. And for a few years, this solution seemed to be enough. I was confident in my choice.
Unfortunately, after all of that, I still didn’t know how to be healthy, mentally and physically. I still hated myself. I still ate McDonald's. I still had depression that I had never acknowledged. Five years later, I gained 45 pounds. At 21, I weighed 190 pounds. Despite the fact that I'd undergone plastic surgery to change my body, I didn't feel any better inside.
Over the next few years, I yo-yo dieted and exercised. I lost 60 pounds with diet and exercise, felt amazingly beautiful, then a breakup would happen, a fight with family, stress at work, and I would sink into a dark hole. During these periods, I ate, drank and tried antidepressants, whatever made me feel numb. So, I sought an alternative. Yoga classes balanced my emotions. I felt peaceful and uplifted. Sometimes, I cried during Shavasana. I finally started to let the pain bubble to the surface, helping it wash away.
Meditation, Yoga, self-massage, eating healthy, surrounding myself with only positive people, images, and books has been my life raft. I clung to these things when there was a part of me that wanted to drown. Studying yoga, learning to let go, acceptance, was my way to transform. Smiling through difficult poses. Training my brain to relax when learning to sit quietly with my monkey mind, observing thoughts objectively, without judgment.
Today, I weigh 130 pounds, wear a size six, and gain muscle easily. I’ll never wear a size two which had been a goal of mine since I was old enough to know what that meant, but I am healthy on the inside and out and I have great appreciation for that. I’d like to think that I have no regrets, but, I won’t lie, there is some small part of me that wishes I hadn’t. That part would have practiced self-care. There are times when I feel like a part of me is missing. I see the faded scars, and shed a tear because I was too impatient to be something I wasn’t. The new me is grateful for my experience. It has taught me to be strong, have compassion and patience, to do no harm.
Through my experience and evolution, I teach others to do the same. I wish I could tell my 16-year-old self these things, but if I could, I wouldn’t be where I am today, teaching others, like you, how to accept every part of yourself.