Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Middle School Nightmare

Yes, that's me, my brace & Michael.
A recurring dream I have is waking up and being told my scoliosis wasn't corrected and I would have to keep wearing my back brace until further notice. Here is the back brace I had to wear for 3 years. the one on the left is the closest one to mine:

 My curvature was an "S" curve which literally looked like the letter "S" in the x-rays. It was a few degrees away from having major surgery where they inserted 2 steel rods on either side of your spine, cranked them until they straightened your vertebrae. You were then placed in a body cast for 6 months. 

I suppose my parents were relieved when they heard I would NOT need this surgery. I, on the other hand, secretly wished I was a candidate. It sure beat the alternative: wearing the "Milwaukee Brace" to correct the curves. I was sentenced to wear it 23 hours a day, 7 days a week for all of 7th & 8th grade. As I entered 9th grade, my first year at high school, my sentenced was reduced to 12 hours a day, which meant I did not have to wear it to school. To add to this nightmare, my orthodontist insisted I wear my headgear during the day since sleeping with it was impossible. You could not image the scene as I walked in that first day. I looked a bit like this girl and just as pissed:
I have tried to explain my experience to people and made jokes about how embarrassed I was, and how people asked if I had been hit by a truck. In combination with my severe acne and braces on my teeth, I was a real hot mess. I only recently realized how much wearing this brace changed how it shaped me (literally) into who I am now. Wearing the brace during the most formative, fragile, emotional, pubescent, social years was a real doozey. It very much changed my perception of boys and how boys would view me. Every insecurity a teen goes through in middle school was magnified for me as I bought up every turtle neck I could find at JCPenny. It was about as cute portrayed in Hollywood:
I can relate most to this photo. This entire scene just about sums it up. 
Oh yes, many everyday functions were a struggle on display for all your school mates to enjoy.
Lisa Kudrow some how made it look cool. I lacked her confidence completely.
A quote from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion:
"You know, even though I had to wear that stupid back brace and you were kind of fat, 
we were still totally cutting edge.
Being the scrapbooker I am, I tried to find some photos for proof of me actually wearing the thing. I could not find one- until I dug though some boxes at my mom's house. I was obviously sensitive to having my picture taken in it- I knew I looked like Frankenstein and wanted no evidence left behind. Luckily, here are a few shots of those days:

Through this experience, my mother was an angel. She was my support power-house. Her pain I can only understand now that I am mother. She would pull me out of school to make the hour drive to Albany to see spinal specialists. Standing in front of numerous male doctors in just my underwear and this brace, they sketched on my skin with markers, made adjustments, called other doctors in for collaborative discussions, it was torture for me, but more so for her. After my appointments, she took me to the fanciest restaurant we could find and treat me to a lunch I doubted we could afford. We bonded in a very special way during those lunches, as she held back tears and tried to talk about anything else. She would have done anything to take away the fact I had to wear it- she would have worn it herself for me if she could. I totally get that now. I just wanted to share with you a bit of my past. I find writing some of my experiences on this blog now before I forget will someday give my kids a better sense of who I am. Wearing my brace was such a big part of my teen years. Looking back, I can see so many teachable moments surrounding it to share with them. 


  1. This brace must suck, but it looks pretty cool. Please tell us more about it.

  2. Me too, three years form eleven to fourteen. It's true, it shaped who we are now, not only our backs. Actually I wonder how we make it through all this crap without a psichic support. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for sharing this information! I am very lucky to get this tips from you, we are a Chinese leading orthodontic material manufacturer located in the capital of Zhejiang Province, P.R. China. Our products are Mini Implants Manufacturers, Orthodontic manufacturer, self ligating brackets, ceramic self-ligating brackets.


  4. a good brace. ist helps very good.