As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the courage to ask an employee for fitting help. I kept them mostly hidden, but to say that my breasts made me miserable growing up would be an enormous understatement. It's a pretty standard story for women who developed quickly, but there is something different about my decades-long relationship with my breasts that I will always carry with me, despite the fact that I had a breast reduction.
When I was 13, I was sexually assaulted. The defense attorney of the adult who molested me tried to build a case around the insinuation that what his client did to me was my fault, because I occasionally wore V-neck shirts and underwire bras. Unsurprisingly, my young mind processed that as one thing: Blame your boobs, and ultimately, yourself. “What if I didn’t have this body?" my mind used to obsessively wonder. "Would nothing have happened to me? Is this why he picked me?”
To add another layer of confusion to what I was feeling, I was also contending with people telling me I was "lucky" to have big boobs. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve heard the sentiment, "You’ll appreciate them when you’re older.” To be honest, the hope that one day I would appreciate them kept me going: I had to believe it to keep from being completely and utterly distraught. I struggled through this paradox for years, fighting as hard as I could for it to one day be true.
By the time I was in my 20s, I was truly exhausted from that fight. I didn't want to let what happened to me influence my self-perception, to really accept that it wasn't my body's fault. I wanted so much to like my boobs in spite of what happened to me, in spite of all of my struggles as a teenager — simply as a "f*ck you" to everything that I went through. Over those years, I went from one end of the spectrum to the other: On one end, my breasts were a dark secret that sometimes felt to blame for my trauma — ultimately one that I didn't really want to blame. On the other end, I was trying to embrace my body because people told me to; to try and like something that everyone told me I should.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2016, as I struggled to swim in Hawaii without a tit popping out of my swimsuit every two seconds, totally miserable and choking back tears of frustration, that I realized what I actually wanted. The idea of getting a breast reduction had always been something I had vaguely threatened to do — especially when I stared at them braless in the mirror for too long, or found myself clutching them for dear life while attempting to go on a jog. Usually I would quickly brush the idea off and instead flood my mind with reasons not to. Until then, any time that feeling of “ugh, I hate my boobs” came up, I’d quash it as quickly and as vehemently as I could.
"I should accept my body," I told myself. "Recovery would be too hard. What if they ended up looking worse?"
All the feelings I'd had from childhood about my boobs, and everything that everyone had said to me was swirling around in my brain, my own thoughts contradicting themselves. But on that little beach in Maui, I realized that there was no point in fighting for self-acceptance if the self you are accepting is one you aren't comfortable with. No, my boobs weren't to blame for my childhood, and yes, some people learn to love their big boobs — but for me, they weren't something I wanted to deal with any more. As soon as I got home from my trip, I called my doctor. Without hesitation she referred me to a local plastic surgeon.
From that point forward, the entire process ended up being so much easier than I expected it to be. My first appointment with the surgeon was no longer than 15 minutes. As I sat there, shifting atop the crinkly paper covering the hospital bed, we chatted very briefly about my experiences with back pain (check), difficulty exercising (check), and uncomfortable bras (check). I qualified for the surgery and set it up, feeling confident at every step of the process.
When I woke up after my surgery, I had intense pain radiating from my chest. In a moment of weakness, I wondered if I had made a huge mistake. But, slowly, I started to remember how worth it all of the pain would be, even if in that moment it felt like someone had dropped an actual bus on my titties. In a matter of a week, the pain was already manageable enough that I no longer needed to take any medication. A couple weeks after that and all of the gnarly bruising started to subside and the stitches were dissolving.
It's nearly a year later, and my boobs are fully healed. I still have the scars to show for what I went through (they travel along the length of each breast, then up and around the nipples — in case you were wondering), but I've found myself not really minding them. They are a testament to my experience and to a decision I made for myself. Now, I'm wearing bathing suits that actually fit my body. I'm exercising without constant pain. I'm more confident and comfortable — and I think it shows.
I know that my breasts weren't the reason I was sexually assaulted. I know that well-intentioned people thought that I'd love them one day. But most importantly, I know that in spite of it all, it was still OK for me to reduce them to a size I feel comfortable with. There was a moment, in fact, on the day of my surgery, that will always remind me of that. As I hurried up the two flights of stairs to check in, I found myself clutching my boobs to keep them from painfully bouncing around, as I always would, when I realized this would be the last time I would ever have to do that. That would be the last time I'd have to carry this weight — this physical and emotional burden — that I had been holding on to for far, far too long.