Lessons Learned From My Abs Of Plastic
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Health and Wellness

Lessons Learned From My Abs Of Plastic

Most middle schoolers worry about acne, outfits and romance. Add a back brace into the equation and you have quite the combination!

Lessons Learned From My Abs Of Plastic

Philosopher Francis Bacon once wrote, “in order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” Sure, griping about difficulties is often cathartic, but allowing yourself to be consumed by the bad in life blinds you to everything positive illuminated in contrast! Throughout my less-than-stellar middle school, however, applying this wise adage to my perspective was a daily struggle. All credit goes to my lovely former companion of four years, the back brace!

A pediatrician diagnosed my scoliosis in third grade. What started out as a minor curvature only continued to worsen. Three years later, I was given an ultimatum: wear a back brace every day or face complications in the future.

For anyone confused, allow me to educate you. The brace is a corrective device custom-made to cover the entire torso. Typically, it fastens and tightens in the back with three rough Velcro straps. When worn properly, the brace feels akin to a small elephant sitting on your ribcage and abdomen. Okay, maybe that’s a tad dramatic, but you get the idea. Now, imagine sitting through six-to-eight hours of class per day, attempting to exert intellectual energy and maintain focus while enduring the crushing pressure and constant chafing. Indeed, the brace became a second skin, the element around which my daily routine was structured. I treated it like another appendage and embellished it, somewhat ironically, with a delicate rose tattoo (the only tattoo I’ll ever get)! If I couldn't escape the brace altogether, I decided, I could at least make it aesthetically more bearable.

The next obstacles in the process of adaptation were social and recreational limitations. The brace decimated my ability to participate in musical productions. As a self-proclaimed “theater kid” who bragged of aspirations to grace the Broadway stage someday, this new restriction was a devastating blow to my already crippled self-esteem. Singing requires diaphragmatic breath, while the suffocating squeeze of my brace allowed only shallow chest breaths. The rigid structure rendered me unable to dance without looking like a Frankenstein-esque creature. Shopping at the mall was also a trying ordeal. While my friends ruffled through aisles of miniskirts and tube tops, I was forced to inspect the maternity sections for oversized, dowdy pieces to disguise the brace. Gone were the days of skinny jeans and clingy shirts. Old Katherine, lover of Abercrombie and Aeropostale, was hidden beneath baggy layers of sweats.

Reflecting on the brace rekindles difficult memories, as it was an embarrassing and miserable handicap. However, my stint with “abs of plastic,” as my friends termed the brace, was actually kind of fun. It was only when I mustered up the courage to “embrace the brace” that the dynamic of my life shifted. I went from a socially petrified creature to a class celebrity who was proud of her ability to perform superhuman feats with her solid stomach. I even became an expert prankster! During a dull Latin class, for example, I knocked on my brace and convinced the teacher to open the door for a “visitor." I narrowly avoided a trip to the Head of School’s office and vowed to make my future pranks subtler.

I’m sure you might think I’m crazy to engage in any kind of brace-related nostalgia. Why in God’s name would I think fondly of an irritating plastic shell that made me look 20 pounds heavier? Truth be told, even though it’s a hell of a lot harder to uncover the “silver lining," it’s ultimately healthier than partaking in a vicious cycle of negativity. Yeah, I had abs of plastic. Maybe I looked strange and lumpy and was constantly covered in red abrasions. But I wore that brace like a boss! And lord knows I’ll never have a stomach as solid again in my life.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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