Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Who am I after Jaw Surgery?

It’s always great when things go right but I have always expected the worse. I suppose this pessimistic view comes from years of experiencing constant failures and let downs. I do not want this to be a woe me moment or even a poor Steffie moment. I want this to be an authentic view of the world through my eyes. The eyes of someone who doctors would say has depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and body dysmorphia.

As many of you know I have undergone quite a transformation over the past 6 years. A rollercoaster of emotions, fears and loss. Loss of people close to me, loss of my job, my career, my house, my friendships, my family, my old face and my identity. I speak to a lot of people online, girls and boys, old and young and we all have the same fear going into this operation. What if after all of this I don’t like my new face? What happens if the reflection in the mirror isn’t what we hoped to see?

The sad truth of the matter is, there are lots of people who go through with this surgery with the explicit intent of making their face look better. Yes, that would be a great bonus to finally be aesthetically pleasing to people for once in your life but I really feel that this should not be the primary focus when having the operation. I say this from experience. You will never be 100% happy with your reflection because you are looking for the negatives. While I post up selfies in a vain attempt to make the world like and accept me, I see clear as day the bump in my nose, the way it slightly bends to one side, I see the asymmetry of my jaw line and how long and masculine my chin looks. And no I don't need some helpful person to point that out to me thank you! I dream to look like the tanned perfectly petite models with long eyelashes and flawless figures but I know I am far from that.

Why do we all want to aspire to the norm? Surely the thing that makes our species so amazing is how unique we are? The different skin colours, the hair types, eye colours, the shape of our bodies, our height and even our jawlines. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just accept ourselves for who we are? There is so much more to beauty than a pretty face but society makes us forget that. Instead we all just get in line and try to clone ourselves.  To make matters worse we are a cruel bunch and there are many people out there who would line up to tell you exactly what is wrong with you. In the age of social media we have nowhere to hide. Even if you don’t post pictures yourself, you can bet at some party or event somewhere your picture would have been taken and it will be online somewhere. Why is it so important for us to fit it? To be normal and not to embrace our oddities. Our wonky nose, our one bent tooth, our weak jawline? Maybe after we fix all the flaws we are still unhappy and miserable? I always consider Michael Jackson and the self-hatred he must have had for himself to what to change his face completely? Why do we torture ourselves?

Most of us have been told from a very young age that there is something wrong with our face or our bite and we need to get it fixed when we are older. As we grow up and develop we become more conscious of our differences and all other manner of insecurities start to surface. As a young impressionable teenager we have magazines, Instagram profiles and television thrown at us. Shoving down our necks how we should live, what we should wear, how we should behave and what we should look like. Anyone who doesn’t fall into line and at least aspire to meet perfection is a weirdo or a misfit. A total social outcast rebelling against the natural order of things. Living in modern society is difficult and if you are already damaged/deformed you are not going to make matters worse by trying to be an individual or trying to draw attention to yourself. We want to fade into the background or slowly drift along the stream with all the other ducks and not be singled out or ridiculed. I spent a lot of my teenage years doing this and trying to fit in that I never really had the opportunity to find out who I really was. I never gave myself the opportunity to express my opinion or explore what I liked.

I visiting the hospital not long ago. I am in pain every day of my life and struggle to function on the pain and nerve medications. I get frustrated because my brain is slower and I cannot communicate as well as I once could. I cannot maintain concentration or retain large amounts of information like I once did. I struggle to grip things and I cannot lift, sit, stand or walk for any period of time without feeling a huge amount of pain. I get tired easily and my neck and face cease up. It gets worse in the winter. As soon as the temperature drops a couple of degrees my muscles spasm up and I am left in huge amounts of pain. I try to control it with heat packs and layers of clothes but I struggle when it comes to showering and drying off.

I constantly blame myself for my imperfections and illness and sabotage my happiness because I don’t particularly like myself. I often question if it is all worth it and what contribution a deformed and defective woman could add to the world. I have night terrors and I suffer from panic attacks. I rarely go out alone and if I do, I am on such high alert that I use my quota of adrenalin and am completely exhausted. People who do not have these fears or anxieties will never understand what that feeling is, but I know many of my spoonies will comprehend. It’s not even the pain that gets me down the most, it is the inability to do things for myself. To be a normal functioning human being. I have contemplated suicide on a few occasions but the only thing that holds me back is that I don’t want to be selfish and hurt my mum. Otherwise I would have given up a long time ago.

Anyway I have gone way off track. At the hospital appointment my psychologist and I were talking about my core beliefs and why I feel the way I do and she asked me; “so who is Stefanie? And what does this person like? What brings her happiness and enjoyment?”. Dead silence came over the room and it was then that I realised, I can’t love or like a person I don’t even know. Who the hell am i? and what do I like?

I have spent my life being a people pleaser and doing things that I thought would make people happy. I went to university because I thought that would make my dad love me. I thought that I would get a little more respect at my workplace. I started working in HR and Auditing because I wanted to have enough money to look after my mum and brother and to make my dad proud. I worked 3 jobs as well as full time university because I wanted to look after my family and please my boyfriend at the time. I used to go out for meals and shopping with my friend because she was unwell and had nothing else to do. Even though I was in pain and had very little money. I also went to the pubs and clubs because I wanted to make her happy even though I completely hated going to a place where drunk people could point out my face and make rude comments.  So when in amongst all that people pleasing was I happy? And when did I have time to grow and develop as an individual?

A lot of people have told me to be more selfish but I still find this hard because of the guilt I feel when I say no. This isn’t because it is something I should be doing, but it is because I don’t value myself enough to believe that I deserve anything good.

4 years on from surgery and I was given my final chance to get the genioplasty from the NHS. I never wanted my operation to be about my looks so I said no. But thinking back to it now, it is probably another way for me to keep bullying myself and believing I don’t deserve to be free of this issue. I am wise enough to know that a million operations will not fix the issues I have with my face or my looks. And I am also wise enough to know that I need to start looking after myself and discovering who I really am, away from family, colleagues or friends. So how do I plan to find myself and my identity?

Silly as I sounds I started a Pinterest board in secret and I started looking online for things I liked. I went and got some holiday brochures and newspapers and I started to put together some ideas about things I like. I moved away from the blog for a while and made some adjustments in my life. I made a choice to be more loving to myself and to treat myself right. I started to paint my nails and wear a little bit of make up to make myself feel better. I looked for a new massage therapist and I started reading again. I really got out of my comfort zone and taught myself how to create a WordPress website. I set up as a self-employed freelance PA and met some new people. I wrote letters to the people who had hurt me and I burned them in a bucket in the back garden. I forgave people who had wronged me and I removed negative people and users from my life. Then I distanced myself from everyone in my family apart from mum and Fraser.  My brain really did not want to do any of this. The fear and self-sabotage made me feel tense and uncomfortable every single day. But I tried to push through it. There were tears and days where I couldn’t pick myself up or function and there were days where I felt like I was really making progress.

Things will never be 100% on the health or pain front but I hope that in time I will gather more confidence in myself and rid myself of the anxiety I feel every day.  I suppose what I am trying to say is “be you” and be who you want to be. Don’t feel like you have to fade into the background or please anyone else. You are living your life and everyone is unique, special and beautiful in their own way. Don’t feel disheartened or like your imperfect because good people don’t see that. They see your beauty both inside and out. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and move towards loving yourself, flaws and all. You will be much happier for it. The answer is never going to appear at the end of a surgeon’s knife. The answer is YOU!

Lots of love