REAL BOTOX ILLNESS STORY: "I WAS ONLY HUMAN."
A little over a year ago, I was only human.
It was only human of me, at 29 on the edge of 30, at engaged on the edge of married, at not-yet-promoted on the edge of a new title, at insecure on the edge of finally feeling comfortable with myself— to look for the quick fix to make all these edges... all these “wrinkles” seem not so scary.
It was only human to look at the sparkling Lalaland-infused media, with perfect smiles, perfect noses, and perfect foreheads, and say to myself, “I want some of that, too.”
It was only human to casually mention the idea to a few friends and coworkers, ignorant to the same truths I was, and trust their advice to “start young” and “treat myself.”
It was only human to read the top few reviews online, and think, “This looks pretty harmless. This looks pretty good.”
And of course, just human again, to read all the doctor’s written warnings, trusting her, and all her degrees. I had never done anything like this before, and she seemed to know what she was doing.
27 Units, and a few shots later, I started feeling a little less human.
Within a few hours, the things that made me human, started to fall apart.
I was losing things that mattered to me. Things that I never thought about mattering, because I had never known life without them. Things that I didn’t know I was losing until it was too late.
I was a little less able to think straight.
A little less able to speak normally.
A little less able to swallow normally.
A little less able to breathe.
A little less able to listen without high pitched noises interrupting the conversation.
To control my trips to the bathroom.
To stand up straight.
To see clearly.
And that was just the first few hours of losing my humanity.
On the subway ride home, I started to feel out of place. Detached. Is this how Spiderman felt when he was bit? Is this a cruel joke of some kind of Real Housewives Super Power? What is this feeling? Why doesn’t it feel human?
That night I crawled into bed. Heart racing. Panicked. In a fog. I took a Benadryl. I woke up at 3am, covered in cold sweat and shivering. Was that sweat the last pure thing that ever left my pores? Before the toxin came into my bloodstream, infecting every nerve, every vessel? Possibly, forever?
The next day, the battle for my humanity started. I just wanted to feel “only human” again. I wanted to be myself. To speak. To swallow. To breathe.
Speak. Swallow. Breathe.
In just weeks, nothing looked familiar. Where two bright green eyes once were, there were now dark alien saucers staring back at me. My skin was dry, yellow, and twitching, as if something was slithering underneath. My thick brown hair, untamable and wild, was now limp, neutered and falling out in clumps. My long nails now stubby, brittle paws. My smile now empty and soulless.
Despite my Catholic upbringing, I am not religious. I never really felt qualified to understand it all. To define why we exist. Or what’s really up there. Or in here. But when your soul is ripped away from you, you start to wonder.
What is in a soul? If I don’t feel joy, compassion, empathy, or other human emotions, do I no longer have one? Am I just a bag of meat and bones, a parasitic organism depleting the world, and everyone around me? Is that actually what made me human?
And yet, it is only human to survive.
To preserver, to question, to make it to the count of ten, even if that’s all you can do. People have been through worse. Somehow, I worry, someone out there knows something much worse than this. And they survived. So can I.
So I look for answers. I look for others. And I find a few. We treat ourselves as lab rats, experimenting with the rare research we can find. Charcoal. Copper. Milk Thistle. Probiotics. Water. Basic things. Too simple things? I try these and a hundred other things. Our doctors gave up on us a long time ago. But we didn’t give up on ourselves.
A little over a year went by, and I can finally smile again. I can feel again. I can breathe again. I went over the edges, numb, scared, and alone. But I made it through.
A little over a year later, and I don’t know if I will ever get all of myself back again. It is too soon to judge exactly how much I have lost.
And yet, a little over a year later, I have never felt so grateful for my mortality.