Publish on: Nov 27, 2018

Snow in New York is something magical.  Small diamonds lingering on cold pavement, crushed beneath black boots. Nighttime shadows playing tricks on my mind.   Consuming darkness lit only by dim street lights and the glitter underfoot.  I like the unknown, especially now.  Because I’m okay.  Things are where they are to get me where I’m going.

It was always wintertime when I had my surgeries.  Five surgeries, followed by swollen lips and deep insecurity.  I don’t talk about it because it happened, but I feel like I could use the experiences to empower certain people.

I wasn’t this confident person my whole life.  There were years of low self-esteem and self-hatred.  I’m not writing this for a pity party, I don’t need that.  What I desire is that others who are struggling with similar issues can grow from my own story.  That someone can look at me now and read this knowing that growth is a process and it takes time and lots of patience.

My lower jaw stopped growing when I was young because of two falls that occurred.  One was when I was two at a grocery store and then another was when I was four and I fell off the chair that I was standing on.  At 10 an ex-orthodontist decided that pulling four baby and six adult teeth would fix the problem.  He was convinced that my jaw would grow as a result.  However, the problem still persisted and now my mouth is smaller than it should be.

I was diagnosed with TMJ when I was 12 and the surgeries followed like dominoes.  One after the other.  Each one is more complicated, but easier than the last.  I didn’t take pain meds for any of them and I like to think that I developed a strong pain tolerance as a result.

The first two surgeries were the most difficult.  I returned to school with my mouth still wired shut and it, to put it bluntly, sucked.  Twelve is difficult in the first place, so having a swollen face on top of braces and glasses, didn’t help matters.  I was made fun of pretty badly.  As an adult, I understand that bullying also comes from a place of insecurity, but as a kid, it was a pretty shitty experience.

I don’t talk about the scars, which is another insecurity that I’m still working through.  It’s difficult to even write about it.  This is bizarre considering that people probably know about it and those that definitely know about it still love me.  For a long time,  I felt that physical appearance was a direct result of how much people would or wouldn’t like me.  I definitely still believe that at some level.  Like I mentioned above, growth is a process.

In high school, I would regularly get phone calls at 2 am.  The callers would tell me how unattractive the scars were, that no one liked me, etc.  I’m still convinced that the people calling were my “best friends” at the time.  I’m still dealing with stories that stem from that period of my life.

The fourth surgery involved prosthetics being put in to enhance my jawline since it had stopped developing when I was young.  The right side grew too large and I became self-conscious about it so I decided that I need one last surgery. So on December 1st, 2017 in Grand Rapids I had it shaved it down.

The original plan was to move to LA in November.  I tell people that I didn’t move straight away so that I could visit Naomi in Hawaii and stay one extra month for the holidays, and this is partially true.  However, the whole truth is that I felt incomplete so I stayed.  I wanted to feel “pretty”.  At the time the plan was to pursue acting, and in my mind, I wasn’t attractive enough yet.

Prior to the last surgery, I was super close to getting a major TMJ replacement surgery in Dallas that would have left me in Rochester for another two years.  The surgeon wanted to replace my jaw bone with metal prosthetics.  He then wanted to bring my jaw forward even more which would have shortened my face and changed my whole appearance.  I opted out of it and instead chose to love myself despite the limitations I felt I had.  Moving to LA was my number one priority and the thought of putting metal plates in my face to replace actual jaw bone freaked me the hell out.

I still have insecurities, but I used the pain that I felt in a positive way.  Instead of turning hard, I became softer.  Instead of hating the world, I love it for everything that it’s provided me.  I didn’t understand at the time why I was experiencing the medical issues that I was.  The fact that I’ve dealt with health problems from the moment I was born leads me to believe that I’m to use my story to empower others.

It’s the only outcome that makes any sense to me.

I’m going to elaborate on this story more because I lost a lot of weight and gained many unhealthy eating habits as a result of the surgeries.  I wish I had known what I know now because it would have helped me immensely.  I’m going to tell you about it in a later post.

Snow in Los Angeles is something magical because it doesn’t exist here.  The only small diamonds that linger are from the small Christmas lights that decorate the streets.  I love Christmas without the snow because I don’t like being cold, but I miss having a white holiday season.  I love this time of year and I love who I’m becoming.

I feel an empowering sense of purpose lately, and I’m fueling the fire so that the light never goes out.


Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

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  1. Through great adversity comes great strength. The forged steel blade is strong due to the extremes it experienced. God is working in you Kelsey. Can’t wait to see where you are heading.

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