Bober, also an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says: "Sometimes it's important to let you get feedback from someone else and come from your own head. Often when we can also see ourselves through other people's eyes, we get another and often useful perspective. "
My treatment times began as conversations about my breasts – how I felt lost, my confidence (or lack of it) and other breast-related chat. Meanwhile everything else dared me. I knew I needed to reveal my cleansing to get the most out of our sessions. In the end I understood my therapist and through our conversations I realized how much my bulimia had affected my life. I was hit hard by this realization.
Although my intention when I first step foot in my therapist's office was to deal with the loss of my breasts, my sessions slowly broke my eating disorder in sharper focus. I saw that every time I cleaned, it was an attempt to free myself from the hateful thoughts that flooded my brain after a meal. After my BRCA1 mutation diagnosis, I used my bulimia as a reminder that although I may not be able to control what would happen to my breasts, I could check something, even though I also hurt myself. During cleansing, I was the one who made the destruction; not a genetic mutation, not a surgeon – just me.
Healing My Body, Healing Myself
Then I had my double mastectomy. I woke up after six hours of testing with new silicone implants where my breasts used to be. Although I was incredibly grateful that the surgery had gone well, I feared my psyche now more than ever. I was worried about possible consequences – would I lose even more of my self-esteem?
Before surgery, most of my body was unforgettable and rude. My breasts were one of the only aspects of my body that I do not hate. I praised each of their curves and loved how soft they always were. I admired how they were a perfect combination of meat and fat that fits nicely in the palm of your hand.
After double mastectomy, I was caught in a dangerous whirlwind of self-defense. My confidence was low all the time, and my desire to live a good and healthy life plagued me as a phantom pain in my new breasts – so I continued to see my therapist for support.
I ask Joseph about the physical and emotional path that a preventive mastectomy may have on a person and she explains that both are difficult. But she thinks we often do not pay enough attention to the emotional aspect in particular. "Some patients need support, whether talking to a psychologist or joining a support group with other high-risk patients," she says.
As much as I sometimes opposed, I had to meet my demons because of my double mastectomy. If I did not have surgery, I could never have helped or tell anyone about my eating disorder. The unknowns are scary.
While it has been difficult to reconcile my new body with my eating disorder, mastectomy gave me some comfort. Apparently it is not uncommon. "I will say that too many mutation carriers who have seen family members die from breast cancer, mastectomy can also be a relief," says Joseph. "They are tired of entering image processing, biopsies and much more. Everyone is different."
While my fight with body image is far from, I will probably never fight this disease that my family members did. Instead, I can now focus on overcoming my negative body image and learn that my value is not in my chest alone, as Bober says.