If you don't follow me on social media then you probably have no idea that I just went through a huge transformation! I finally had the bridge of my nose reconstructed after it collapsed when I was 15 as a result of my autoimmune/vascular disease. It took 11 years for it to happen, but it was well worth the wait. When the bridge of my nose collapsed I thought my life was over. I thought I had no future to look forward to because I couldn't see past my own appearance. Who would ever love me if I was deformed? Typical 15 year old girl, I guess. Man I'm happy I was wrong. If only I learned sooner that life and happiness isn't all about the way you look. My priorities were...what most teenage girls priorities are.
Maybe it's silly that having a nose job changed my life, but it did. When I was 15 my dad died in a drunk driving accident which was traumatizing enough. About five months after that I was diagnosed with a very rare, very fatal disease. In the midst of fighting for survival (thats an entirely larger story that I'd love to tell you all one day) the bridge of my nose collapsed. As I sit here typing this I'm thinking to myself how dumb it is that I let my nose bother me when I was lucky to even be alive, but it was a constant reminder of what happened when I got sick. What this disease took from me. I wanted to feel whole and I didn't. It was a big deal to me.
Having a facial deformity brought the meanest bullies out of whatever basement they were dwelling in. It was rough for a long time. People were quick to point fingers and whisper thinking I couldn't hear or see them. Some people tried to hide their thoughts and tried to be kind when they were curious and for the most part I understood that just because someone was curious doesn't mean they were a jerk. Some people didn't hold back any thoughts or insults and until I grew some thicker skin, every insult hurt me to my core. When I looked in the mirror I saw every name someone called me. I saw everything other people told me I was. A freak. A pig. People called me Voldemort and Michael Jackson, some people even went as far as calling me a coke head and thats why my nose was the way it was...(disclaimer: I was not addicted to cocaine.) Eventually I heard the same things so often that I learned to expect it. It was a really sad way to go through life. after awhile I just started assuming people only saw my deformity and that was probably the most damaging thing about it all. I stopped loving myself and I stopped believing other people could love me. I had let my deformity define me.
When you spend weeks not wanting to look in the mirror because of the way other people make you see yourself, thats not okay. I had to learn how to try to focus on other things that I loved about myself and play on those strengths. But it never changed the fact that I didn't see myself when I looked in the mirror. I didn't feel whole. I didn't want to interact with other people because I didn't accept what happened to me and I didn't feel like people would every really accept me. Hiding away from the world was a lot easier. Isolating myself became normal for me. It makes me sad when I think about how lonely I was. At the time I thought being lonely was better than hurtful interactions with other people. But isolating myself to avoid bullying also removed the possibility of making true connections with other people. When you're feeling insecure or depressed the best thing you can do is look to the people closest to you to help you through it, but how can you do that when you've isolated yourself from meaningful relationships? I let my intrusive thoughts control my life. I really regret not reaching out to people instead of hiding my emotions out of shame. I spent all my time repressing my feelings and none of it processing my feelings in a healthy way. Eventually all that shit was going to unload and I had no idea what to do when it did. Thank god for therapy ;-)
Isolation was the only time I didn't have to hear the comments or see the looks and whispers in public. When I was 21, a complete stranger in a bar bathroom saw me and literally gasped. "What happened to your face?" was the first thing I heard this woman say to me. She continued to try to shove her plastic surgeons business card in my hand telling me how beautiful I could be. That was a comment that got to me a lot. I could be beautiful, but apparently I wasn't already. Thats what I heard... "you could be beautiful, but you're not." It hurts my heart remembering how easy it was for one interaction with one asshole to unravel all the hard work I was constantly putting in to try and accept and love myself, flaws and all. It felt like I was living in a house of cards. My self love was fragile and unstable. Some days I was okay with myself, but for the most part I hated my face. I would take self portraits and model for friends in the hopes that I would get at least one picture that would make me feel good about myself. I was using photography as a way to find my own way to self love.
Last year my health really improved and I figured, "why the fuck not? Lets try again!" I'd been through the process of trying to get this surgery done at least a hundred times before and was told "no" every time. But this time felt different for some reason. I managed to find a doctor ballsy enough to do such a risky surgery and things were actually looking possible for the first time in the 11 years I had been trying. A nose job isn't a risky procedure, but a nose job on someone like me is a completely different set of risks. It's only been done about 50 times in the entire world on people with my disease. It's that risky. For me there was more than the risks of an unsuccessful surgery. I have tracheal stenosis (my throat is very very narrow..like smaller than a straw narrow) so being intubated for 6 hours would put me at risk for damaging my trachea even more and needing an even larger surgery to fix that. The surgeons weren't even sure they would be able to intubate me because of this. A lot of doctors turned me away as soon as they heard "wegeners granulomatosis" and "tracheal stenosis" come out of my mouth. There's no way they wanted to try something so risky with such an unpredictable outcome. It could be rejected and immediately collapse again or it could have brought my disease out of remission, so I understand why they wouldn't want to take the risk. They could have been potentially putting my health at risk, I get that. No hard feelings. But that didn't stop me and the amount of determination I had to continue to search for a way to make this surgery happen was astounding. I never gave up no matter how many doctors told me they couldn't help me and in the end that determination (and a little bit of luck) changed my life. I wear confidence like a second skin all thanks to my surgeons, Dr. Kosins and Dr. Daniel. This was never just about a nose for me, not really. Both surgeons understood that and took on this challenging surgery all while being completely focused on my needs emotionally. They worked really hard to try and make this possible for me and were very open and honest about what they thought they could realistically do for me and what the risks were even though they knew I'd heard them all a million times. They were just as determined as I was go figure out a way to do this and I couldn't have imagined this process going smoother than it did. It has been a truly incredible experience and I am so grateful for everyone in that office that helped make this happen. It's not often you feel such warmth and kindness from people who don't know you, so working with everyone in Dr. Kosins office filled my heart with so much joy. I am so grateful for Dr. Kosins and Dr. Daniel's hard work, courage and generosity. I had one kick ass team on my side.
I've had my new sniffer for three months now and it has transformed my life. I don't wake up worried about looking in the mirror or what other peoples reactions to my appearance will be. Honestly I barely notice what other people are doing now. That sounds narcissistic as fuck, but because I'm not so hyper focused on worrying about what strangers are thinking about my nose I can actually just enjoy my day. Carefree, worry free, just...free. It's a huge weight off my shoulders not having to carry that anxiety around every day. I carry myself differently. I walk tall. I can smile with confidence and I laugh freely without covering my face. I don't walk with my head down, I actually say hi to people. I interact. Thats huge. I talk more because I feel less insecure. I've gained so much more than a new nose during this process. I gained the power to reclaim my life. My insecurity was holding me back from living and I didn't even realize how much until I gained this new confidence in myself. I am I version of myself that I have never known and it is a beautiful feeling. Confidence feels powerful. I don't feel like I'm being held back anymore. This confidence has woken something up in my spirit. I feel whole, finally.
I just might overflow :)
P.S. I want to give a special thank you to the people who have supported me through this entire process. I absolutely could not have done this without the love and support of my amazing boyfriend Pat and my little brother Dakoda. They're my rocks and they held my hand until they rolled me back into the OR. Pat, without your love, support, hugs, kisses and the shoulder you always let me cry into, I don't think I could have done this. You are my knight in shining armor and I cant thank you enough for just being there for me, always. I love you, dude. I'd also like to thank everyone who has shown me kindness, compassion and stuck up for me when I was being bullied. The people who reached out to me because they watched my life from the internet and were empathetic. Every single one of you beautiful souls who has stuck around to witness my journey through social media, you have no idea what you mean to me. You all helped me more than you can ever know and I am eternally grateful for your big hearts. For all the bullies there were, there were even more of you who showed me love. I hope I can return that kindness to all of you when you need it the most. Thank you, truly. <3