The will power is in you: How getting implants (sort of) cured my bulimia

IMG_4871I’m going to preface this piece by acknowledging that women with breast implants are perceived as a certain kind of person: Superficial, at least somewhat wealthy (on some male’s accord), frivolous, unintelligent, insecure (and yet in our minds, we imagine them as arrogant?), slutty, etc. individuals who spend their money senselessly and allocate their energies even moreso on “the wrong things.” Girls who belong in some pigeonhole media role shopping and being generally irritating within a very limited vocabulary. Girls who want to show their bodies off to the world for social media likes, or to make other women want to skin themselves alive in body shame.

I’m tall, blonde, and drive an unreasonably nice car for my age. And yes, my parents handed over $8000 to a renowned plastic surgeon in Toronto’s Yorkville district for my breast augmentation nine months ago. Yeah, I like to shop and am fashion-conscious, and one could probably argue that I’m irritating, and in ways superficial… but I also collect old editions of Victorian literature. I work at a literary magazine, specialized in English literature and journalism in university, and am a self-proclaimed word nerd. I have tattoos, most counterintuitively a coffin and a typewriter (because hey, death, and books!). I also spent six months living in a day treatment program for eating disorders at a hospital after attempting, almost successfully, to take my life when I was 17 because the burden of my body dysmorphia was just too much to bear that day. Is having an eating disorder (and a brain) congruous with the concept of a girl who gets breast implants? Possibly. Or maybe we’re not supposed to be that self-aware, self-loathing, and fucked up. But, I’d like to think myself a confounding contradiction in too many ways to count.

Bulimia and eating disordered thoughts/mannerisms have served as my shadow for half of my life, normalized in my mind as “just something most girls do.” Everyone is caught in the perpetual struggle to lose weight, I said. Most women I know skip meals, exercise for unreasonable amounts of time every day, or throw up their food in the name of weight management, I said. It’s disgusting, but in reality, very common. Breast augmentation surgery is also disgusting, really. And also common- the second most popular plastic surgery procedure worldwide behind the nose job.

In the weeks leading up to my decision to get implants – which I had been ambivalent about and grappled with for years of my life – I had to reconcile with myself the idea that I would likely have to relinquish my eating disorder to be in prime health for an optimal recovery (and for eligibility for surgery, of course). Was that even feasible for me? Something I had been half attempting to rid myself of and half indulging in for my entire teenage and adult life? After my surgery was booked and the deposit made, I didn’t really have a choice. My hypochondriasis and fear of complications outweighed (lol) my more desperate attempts to lose weight. And my hatred for my breasts was more overbearing that my hatred for the rest of my body. This was something I could have fixed, instantly, with no struggle.

People have trouble quitting things, generally. Cigarettes, heroin, junk food… it’s not supposed to be easy. But imagine my own shock and surprise when I, the girl who had completely lost control of her relationship with food long ago, quite simply changed my habits, ironically losing 10 pounds in the week before my surgery by *shudder* eating healthy and *larger shudder* working out almost daily (take that for a diet plan!). And I made myself a rule that for the month prior, I wouldn’t throw up, and for the first time since I can remember, I was actually possessed of the discipline to stick to that imperative, no-nonsense. Sure, it was out of immense, borderline irrational fear and paranoia, but it was still a milestone for me, and something I never thought I’d see myself capable of doing. This change was no longer something I personally “had” to do for myself. It was something I legitimately HAD to do, and I no longer had an out or an excuse.

And the weeks after? The healing process wasn’t all that arduous (I’ll explain that all in another post for people interested in the surgery), but it’s quite a conflict of interest to want to force yourself to throw up your meals while you’re bruised, stitched up, medicated, and trying to heal. It’s hard to stuff yourself full of garbage food at that point too, which is often the precursor to purging. So I refrained. And so went my little experiment in EDs and mental health.

I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t relapsed, so to speak – forcibly thrown up some nine times a day, or eaten shitty, or starved myself – since, or say that this whole premise isn’t completely fucked up (because it is). I’m also not going to suggest undergoing some sort of medical procedure for which you must mandate a healthy lifestyle to rid yourself of a problem like I had. I guess the point is that I discovered in myself a will power I’d denied I had, and hated myself for not having, for years, and it’s something I keep with me now. Though it may be in the tiniest drawer locked up in the back of my thick, messed-up skull, it’s still there, this realization I hadn’t known previously. I suppose in part due to an (albeit slight) increase in self-confidence as a result of the surgery, I have been able to stop myself, to catch myself, and give in to those shitty habits less frequently; which is saying something given how out of control that whole situation once was for me. I feel as if when forced, we are all able to regain that control, or realize that it’s always been there, despite feeling that we’ve lost it. I feel as if when forced, we are able to see our strength. I try to reconcile this concept, and my own experiences with it (as I’ve had similar health scares induced by paranoia and solaced by some sort of change in habit), when I struggle now, because yes, I’m still weak and yes, I still struggle. But I haven’t lost all hope in myself completely yet, and that’s pretty alright.

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