This time, I chose.

I’m having a surgery. I don’t know what number it is out of what I believe are over a dozen since I was 5. And I haven’t had one in almost 8 years. It’s the longest time I’ve had between each.

Those before this one were 95% not by choice except the one time I threw in a rhinoplasty since I was already going under for other reasons. My nose had always bothered me so why not. It was nothing in comparison.

Each surgery was doctor recommended and parent motivated. I was strung along this “adventure” as I struggled to grapple with why other kids didn’t have to miss school, have tutors, or a round-the-clock nanny.

This stringing along often made me feel like an object that needed fixing. Like one of those dolls or handbags that comes out of a factory with a production error. Except I’m a person and you can’t return me and get a refund. As cynical as that sounds, it’s the best way I can describe how I often felt.

Since what I had thought was my last surgery, a lot has happened. All those feelings of helplessness and resentment finally caught up with me and I began to drown in everything that I had once ignored. It’s as if my mind and body had gone into survival mode throughout my childhood in order to be able to deal with what was happening. And once it came to a halt – the reality of it all finally kicked in.

After about 15 years of consecutive surgeries, it took me 7 years to process what had happened and come to terms with who I was. It’s year 8 and I’m putting myself through it again.

I had just moved back to Mexico and gained a little weight after quitting smoking the past year. I noticed that the side of my face with the production error was feeling a little heavy. I notice that my left cheek looked like it was slightly hanging. That’s when I realized the reality of my future.

With no real bone structure on the left side of my face and nature doing its one job, I came to realize that gravity would not be so kind to me. The aging process can already be somewhat daunting but to think of one side of my face melting off more so than the other just freaked me the hell out.

While I had taken so long to get used to my face, it suddenly dawned on me that it wasn’t over. Now, my fears aren’t about surgery itself but what’s to come if I don’t get ahead of the curve. But there is also a new fear. One that I hadn’t felt before.

I used to worry about what would come out of the OR after the procedures. But now I worry how my head will react.

After 7 years of struggling with myself and then finally coming out for some air, I found myself quickly deciding what I wanted next. And while it is something I want, there is a tremendous fear that I’ll go back to that place where looking in the mirror only made me angry.

My mother keeps trying to remind me that I should keep my expectations in check. After the first consultation with this new doctor, I wasn’t very pleased by his reluctance to say much. Logically I understand why, but emotionally I was upset and disappointed. It was the first time we met a doctor, sat in his consultation room, and explained what I wanted because I wanted it.

By the second appointment, without my prompt, he explained my fears about gravity and nature taking its toll. He explained the possibilities of what could be done and I left thinking, “I knew it.”

Pleased with what he had explained, all that was left to do was wait and waiting is no easier than the rest of it.

A bit over a month a go I had a couple of strange weeks where I felt myself reverting back to old emotions and habits. I found myself drinking a bit too much and stealing cigarettes from family members. But I’m not 20 anymore. While I have started smoking again, I got myself a new therapist and decided that if I was going to this I wasn’t going to let my anxiety and PTSD get in the way of me being okay.

7 years of experience with depression and PTSD can come with learning a lot about yourself. It helps you know beforehand when you might trip again. It helps you know that you need to put your hands in front of you before you land. It helps you prevent any harmful damage because: 1) You know what that looks like, and 2) You don’t want it anymore.

As of now, the surgery is scheduled. The waiting will soon end and I will have to deal with whatever happens when it does. I’m excited, nervous, and anxious all at the same time. I’ve never had a surgery that directly deals with what I was born with because I wanted it. This time, I chose.

While I still have that voice in my head that fears what may happen at the end of this month, I am using every tool, every experience, and every ounce of self restraint to stay as calm as I can. Because if there is one thing I have learned from all of this, it’s that I do have a choice.

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My Great Conflict

When I was 15, I decided I wanted a tattoo. I didn’t know what to get. I knew I didn’t want something I could possibly get sick of. I didn’t want something cheesy, something devoid of meaning, nor something that could eventually lose all meaning. Some ten years later, it came to me.

I’ve grown up with what I call “my great conflict”. A conflict between what is my physical self and what you could describe as my character or personality. Whenever I went to my therapist, whenever I had a moment alone late at night in my bedroom, or after long evenings whenever I drank so much wine I lost all inhibitions, I would ask myself, “Who would you have been with a different body?” I would then often cry, belittle and blame myself for feeling so pathetic.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this is not an unusual question or situation. I would bet that many have asked themselves a similar question. Who would I be if I could hear; if I could walk, If I could see, if I could lose weight, if I were taller, shorter, if I were a man, if I were a woman, if I had darker skin or lighter skin? So many things we are spectacular at being displeased with.

In my experience, this question has come up as a way of often rejecting who I am because of a physical attribute I so whole heartedly refuse to accept as part of me. It has meant questioning the strength of my character which would often seem to balance delicately on the fact that something had happened to me which was out of my control.

Am I me because my home life informed my behaviour and genetics predisposed me to have certain personality traits? Or am I me because these personal experiences I dislike and am tormented by, molded me into behaving in certain ways I struggle to come to terms with?

My former therapist, I believe like any other therapist, would say I was a mix of both. But the thing is, there was a lot of myself that I simply didn’t like which then prompted the question. I was so angry at what I hadn’t had control over that I therefore relinquished power of the one thing I actually did have control over, my choices. For the longest time I have been living with that oxymoron.

I quite often did things I knew I wasn’t pleased with. Things that put me in danger and hurt those around me. Things that I knew I would have to carry with me for the rest of my life. Things that allowed me to indulge in the anger I was experiencing over the one thing I felt I had been cheated with, my body.

Instead of dealing with what I was feeling, I decided that I was better off throwing my hands up in the air than actually working on what was really going on. Therefore my body was one thing, my mind was another. My body was an object and my principals, thoughts, and beliefs were something else entirely and I became really good at tricking myself into believing  I was separating them both.

There was a certain pride that came with feeling like I was able to detach myself in that way. It made me feel superior to all the other silly people that cling to their body as if their persons were based on what I considered to be the frailty of something that will eventually cease to exist. No. I was above the silliness of the physical world. I was my convictions and principles. I was what I spoke up about and defended and studied. I was not a mere mortal. I knew my body was a temporary vessel for what was the greater goal, leaving a mark that would live past the working brain and beating heart.

This duality became a coping mechanism. It became a way of detaching from the physical world and letting me get lost from the reality I was trying so hard to get away from. Like a drug addict, I needed ways of crawling out of my skin so I could forget that I actually couldn’t get away from who I was no matter how hard I tried.

More therapy, more crying, more yelling, a not so nice boyfriend, and long discussions with friends and family have ensued. And a tattoo. A circle on my ankle that is half filled and half unfilled. Half filled with everything my body had been through and half unfilled with everything I’d thought about the world and my place in it. The circle was my long life struggle to accept that I was one whole piece and I had no choice but to accept it no matter how many times I tried to get around the subject.

The tattoo was not about the end to my great conflict. It served as a self admittance that the conflict was even there to begin with. It served as a way of owning up to what I had been through, what I had put myself through, and what I was working towards. It continues to be a symbol of all of that as I keep working to make sure that the circle remains a circle.

For now, all I can say is that: while I wish much of what is real, wasn’t; I accept that it is and I am only a mere mortal.

 

 

 

 

Hablando de Apariencias

 

Este video lo grabe antes de mi último post. Quería explorar lo que sería hacer un vlog, pero al momento de prender la cámara me tuve que detener a mí misma. Cada vez que he tratado de hacer un proyecto donde me grabo a mí misma, no lo hago, termino en lágrimas. Se me olvida que no me veo como yo pienso que me veo y ese engaño puede ser doloroso. Es por eso que hice este video como manera de enfrentar ese miedo.

(Cabe decir hay muchísimos bloggeros famosos que te van a decir como deberías de sentirte o que hacer para vivir tu vida a como los demás esperan que lo hagas, no hagan caso. La vida es complicada, nadie saben que onda, y todos tratamos de hacer lo mejor que podemos)

My Face: When I look in the mirror

I’ve only written once about my personal experiences in terms of self-perception and body image. I dedicated it to my parents as an ode to them for what they’ve done for me. But this time around I thought I’d share a bit about what it actually feels to be me.

My experiences may seem in one way unique but I believe they transcend specificity and may have an affect on anyone that has, at any point, looked at themselves in the mirror and asked: is that really what I look like?

Everyday, I wake up, drink two cups of coffee while I watch the news, put on my gym clothes, and enjoy an hour of working out. Working out no only makes me happy, but confident. It’s something I’ve been working on for a while. As a self-admitted low self esteem girl, working out has done wonders for me.

I like my body. I eat well and feel good (despite my smoking) .

But while I am able to mold one thing, there’s another I cannot.

As a way to practice my guitar skills (or lack there of) I like to film myself and play it back. It allows me to see what I am doing wrong both on the guitar and vocally.

As I was just doing it now, I realized why I had not done it in a while.

Forget the guitar, forget the bad singing; I don’t like what I see. Who is that person? I don’t recognize her.

Out of my experiences from having had so much surgery and physical change, there is one thing that has had, and may always have, a strange and unfamiliar effect on me.

My face.

My face is not equilateral. This is due to my hemifacial microsomia.   This means that one side looks one way,  and the other looks another way. Anyone that knows me, knows this. I’m used to it. It’s part of me. It’s broken me. Made me. Completed me.

But what no one knows is that, because of it, reflections actually switch on me.

And that FUCKING sucks.

You know that thing where if your shirt says something, it switches when reflected on a mirror?

That, to me, is my face.

Imagine being used to your face looking one way; as reflected on a mirror. You’ve practiced talking, moving, even singing, in front of it. But then, you see yourself on a camera, or a photo, and the reflection has switched on you.

You don’t move like yourself. Your smile is crooked.  Your eyes are lopsided. One side of your face is stiff. And you can’t match the voice to the person presented. Everything seems out of place.

Well, that’s what happens to me.

When I look in the mirror; I see one thing. But when filmed or photographed, I see another.

What I’ve practiced and looked at for my 26 years of life becomes a deception when I am able to see through another’s eyes.

It’s not that I don’t like being filmed or photographed. It’s that the person that will live in that documentation is not recognizable to me. It’s about changing the whole composition of my face and how I perceive it. It’s about more than a trick of the camera. It’s a trick on myself.

I’ll admit something.

I work hard on my self  presentation. I do what I can to make my body look good. I use my style savvy to look confident and exceptional. I use my brain as a way to distract others from my insecurities. I love clothes as a form of self expression and use them to make myself look as good as I am able to feel.

But these are also masks. Masks to push back the fear of that reflection. The reflection I am so scared of confronting now and again. One I don’t recognize. One that reminds me that what I see, may not necessarily be what others see. It’s not a simple “love yourself” issue. It’s a trick of the brain that haunts me now and again whenever I see my self reflection.

But, hopefully, one I’ll eventually accept.

 

 

Our Face: My Parents and Me

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Since my last post, I decided I wanted to start bringing in a more personal side of myself to this blog. Since that decision, I have had a hard time deciding how to do it. It involves somewhat unique experiences that have permeated so many areas of my life that choosing where or how to start has been overwhelming. But I have to start somewhere so I’ll start with the toughest part. I’ll begin with the people that made me, my parents. The reason I want to talk publicly about them is because we all have complex relationships with our parents, and that’s okay. Mine has been somewhat unique in that it has in part been based on my own circumstances of having been born with facial deformities. I want to share some of that relationship because the experiences I’ve had of being born that way, are not only mine, but theirs as well. I bring them into this, not only as a way of sharing with you my experiences under the knife, but as a way of expressing that I know my struggles are not my own and that they are constantly there with me.

After having been going to therapy in NY for a while, my parents started questioning the reasons behind it. They questioned the effectiveness since I’d been going for a couple of years and saw no end. In order to ease them on the idea, I invited my mother to come along with me to a session in one of her trips to NY. After having struggled to explain why it was a good thing I was going, my mother confessed something during our session that changed everything for me. She said “We’ve actually been waiting for it.” Meaning, she and my father had been waiting for the day my experiences under the knife would get to me. This not only made me cry, it calmed me.

My mother went on to explain to my therapist that when I was born, my mother told my father that they were going to do anything and everything they had to do to make me feel as normal as possible. That turned into over a dozen of reconstructive surgeries (I don’t actually remember the number now) from ages 5 to 20, travelling miles within the US, meeting some of the US’s most important doctors, weeks or months away from school, having had my mouth wired shut for two months, looking funny with weird apparatuses on my head, awkward interactions with curious strangers, and a lot of confusion about myself. I’ll be honest about something; there was also a lot of anger. Mostly towards my parents.

When I was younger I saw them as the culprit for my experiences. I blamed them not only for who I was but what was, as I saw it, being done to me. We now laugh at some of my childhood behaviour. We talk about how I would hide my mother’s keys to make her late for work or how I would say I hated green eyes (she has green eyes). But by the time I started opening up to my therapist in NY about my experiences in the surgical room, I also began talking about it a little more with my parents. When I was depressed, they were to blame, but when I felt better, they were and are my heroes.

I was often angered by the idea that they wouldn’t let me feel bad about myself. They were there and were supposed to be the ones to understand. But also, they were there. It hadn’t occurred to me how scary it was for them. Of the few memories I have (I’ve blocked out a lot), one of the more intense ones is having woken up from surgery, confused, not being able to move or properly see, and having my father shakenly hold my hand while we both sobbed. Another one is them attempting to blindly screw in a surgical screw in my jaw while a laid on their lap in pain. Another is them watching me frantically squish a fry into my wired-shut mouth out of frustration and hunger. By my twenties these were not my memories anymore but theirs. Mine now involve my experiences with having low self-esteem which continue to affect my everyday behaviour, theirs are the actual events that happened to me. I had dismissed this part.

I often become so self involved in my problems that I dismiss the reasons why they can’t deal with that fact that I have had problems. They dedicated so much of their money, time, and sanity to making me feel as beautiful and normal as possible that I can now understand their struggle. I could say that I am now happy and grateful but it’s still complicated. What I can say is that this journey of mine has made me think twice about how I deal with my situation. Yes, it happened to ME. But it also happened to them. And that is a complex relationship. For more that I have wanted them to accept everything I feel, I also have to accept what they feel. That has been the biggest lesson of having my face. When I started going to therapy, I was angered at the fact that after a while they started disapproving of it. My parents struggle to understand why I have had issues accepting myself but having had that session with my mother made me realize that they struggled too. At 24 I finally got to hear a little bit of their side of the story. It wasn’t easy either. The year after, I found myself rebelling in different ways and, I can now begrudgingly admit, attempting to get their attention through it. It made me feel petty and childish but it was based on this complex relationship I reference. It’s weird to look back at my behaviour and feelings in the past and admit to myself that much of it depended on my relationship to my parents. But this is because what happened to me also happened to them.

Some days I still struggle with myself. But that’s okay too; it’s been a long journey. But I also have to accept that the reason my parent’s struggle with this is because they love me that much. It’s been a journey of accepting that they did everything they could in order to see me be as happy as I can possibly be, while accepting that it came with a price. My parents are my heroes because they make no excuses (I have plenty for us all). While it was difficult for them to put me through the ordeal of surgery, they did it because they love me, period.

Most people in my life don’t know this side of my story. But it is the most important one. I’ve always made it about my emotional struggles and the mistakes I’ve made. But that is for me to overcome. The important part is that I can now step back a bit more everyday and see my experiences as shared experiences. It is not only about me, but about everyone that was with me during those experiences, particularly my parents. I haven’t made it easy on them and that is a fact they’ll appreciate me admitting. Unfortunately it was because they love me that much. I needed someone to blame and so I blamed the people that were there. The people that held my hand. The people that played with me in hotel rooms and called me beautiful. I needed to blame someone and so I blamed the people closest to me. For that I will always be sorry. But it was also because I love them that much.