Going under the knife, again––and not for reasons you may think.

At barely twenty-one years old, I was ignorant to the fallout imminent by my many thoughtless actions. I did not yet have enough life experience to know how the consequences of my impulsive behavior would play out.

Such was the case when I walked into a Utah plastic surgeon’s office, and charged $4500 on a credit card. I agreed to have him cut into my breasts, exposing the muscles under which silicone bags were implanted that ballooned once filled with saline.

I chose to go under the knife to squelch insecurity about my chest. I believed my A cup size was grossly out of proportion with that of my bum. At 5’9, and 118 pounds, I was battling a nagging case of body dysmorphia. Being waifey thin, there is no room in the rear for anything other than bone.

Post a successful credit card transaction, I was handed a wooden clipboard that clenched a small stack of papers in its teeth. Under the influence of two Valium given to me upon arrival, I was asked to sign in agreement to the terms and conditions of the procedure, including any and all potential side effects––even death.

I signed the papers.

Like many girls I knew at the time, I felt larger breasts would somehow increase my self-confidence. I felt they would make me feel more womanly, and more in control of my body.

These, among other tales I told myself at that age, were lies of grandeur. Rather than gain, I completely lost control of my body in ways the next ten plus years would demonstrate.

Only a lunatic, or someone trying to cut back on spending would elect not to go general with anesthesia during a breast augmentation. So, leave it to me, under local anesthesia only, to lay vulnerable on the operating table, while nurses scrubbed my chest, neck, and underarms with iodine. They raked along my skin with such force I was certain my moles and freckles would no longer be there when the bandages came off.

Arrested to only the mild sedation of laughing gas, I felt my body rock back and forth from the surgeon and his crew tugging at my chest cavity. I felt them push, pull, snip, and stitch, and then eventually bandage me up. There was a large operating mirror overhead, and every once in a while I would glance up, recognizing only the blue sheet that covered me, and blood.

If the physical trauma that ensued that day was not enough to have my body wrestle with me over the next decade, I am certain the psychological damage of staying awake during the operation was.

It started with chronic fatigue. Within only a few months post-op I was no longer up with the birds to run The Avenues of Salt Lake City as I had before. By 5PM, I fought to stay awake, usually having a cocktail or three to stay buzzingly engaged in activities of the night.

Coffee and Diet Coke became must-haves. I would welcome the morning with a triple shot nonfat latté from Starbucks, drank four to six cups of coffee, and two to three Diet Cokes throughout the day, and then booze in the evening. This medley of liquid stimulants and alcohol left me chronically dehydrated––perpetuating exhaustion.

To stay energized for work, and to keep up with my social calendar, Yellow Jackets––an ephedra and caffeine capsule that I purchased from a nearby 7-Eleven, became ‘Tina’s little helpers’.

At age twenty-two, hip, shoulder, back, and knee pain ensued, making my life a living hell. In the middle of the night, I would be awakened with such mad throbbing in my shoulder, that returning to sleep was impossible until I threw back two or three Ibuprofen to “take the edge off”.

With my body screaming at me all the time, my head resembling a maraca of untamable emotions, and me reaching for non-supportive soothers of alcohol, and drugs, spiraling into a fierce state of depression was easy. In the course of each new day’s challenges, I buried myself deeper beneath frustration, and hopelessness.

At that time, I was not yet tuned into the intelligent guidance of my heart. That returning home to self, to let intuition do the leading, did not occur until 2010.

I had just moved back to Portland from San Diego, where I had been living since late 2002. I was far from feeling good. My relationship was unraveling, we were in over our heads with a mortgage greater than we could afford, I was now further away from friends, and it was cold and wet. I was an emotional basket case, which was exacerbated by the difficulty of moving. Each day presented a struggle to rise, and to get myself to yoga––the only activity I could do since the fragility of my feet, ankles, knees, and hips kept me from being active in more physical ways.

I did however get myself there nearly every single day. As my home life was unsettling, the yoga studio was the only place I could find solace. It was where pain ended, and healing began. I barely remember the flows of class. I would get so entranced in moving meditation, completely dissolving attachment to anything and everything around me. While moving from one posture to another, I was journeying in my heart to a time and place where comfort, ease, peace of mind, and okayness were new normals.

This is also the time I began to cultivate a consistent meditation practice. I had sat in stillness before, while being guided by some bodiless voice, but this time it was different. I really wanted to connect with the promptings of my heart. I really wanted to self-heal. I had a non-negotiable commitment to change the way I felt and, AND I finally had more tools that I had picked up during meditation instruction workshops. Transcending time and space became everything, and not a day since has unfolded without it.

We become what we routinely do.

And so, day after day, going to an imaginary place in my mind that was everything my present reality was not, a brighter future was made. The chapter on my relationship eventually came to an end. Movement became easier. My mindset was recalibrated. New friendships and fiercely supportive connections were made. And through a long and tiresome journey, physical healing evolved.

I saw many practitioners and healers during this time, and with each bit of their outward guidance coming in, I moved closer and closer to my heart. I began to trust myself more than others. I began to reclaim the power of healing that is innate in each of us. I began to believe I could, with enough sensory awareness, listening ever so acutely to the promptings of my inner intelligence, make myself whole again.

One of the very first awarenesses that came to me was that the saline balloons I had implanted twelve years prior needed to come out. My consciousness received mega-phone messages that the foreign objects were largely responsible for my chronic fatigue, hormone imbalance, bone fragility, lack of immunity, amenorrhea, compromised gut health, and inflammation.

I was moved to research the side effects of breast implants, and uncovered countless tales of others who had experienced many of the same health challenges. There were others like me, who eventually arrived at a place of believing they would be better off without them. I will be better off without them.

This May, the implants are coming out, and this time I will undergo anesthesia from a place of self-appreciation, rather than self-lack. I will lie vulnerably on the surgeon’s table to honor the natural frame I was born with, rather than trying to shape it into something it was never meant to be. I will allow myself to be scrubbed with iodine until my freckles come off because I am whole without the implants. I will be going under the knife this time because I love my body. Not because I don’t.

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