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The Bionic Woman

Like all cute girls, I’m used to being looked at. Stared at, leered at, the whole thing. You just kinda come to expect it from guys, and all their awkward gawking eventually recedes into the background.

So yeah, I’m used to pretty girl stares. I’m not used to ones of the “Ewww you’re busted” variety. It’s been a week now, and I’m still not used to it.

Backstory. You know I’ve had debilitating migraines my whole life, and recently they’ve become monstrous. Hospitalized-every-other-week monstrous. And nothing helps. Soooo…I was approved for this crazy surgery available to only the most hopeless pain patients. The doc implants these tiny, electro-vibrating thingies in your head, and the stimulation distracts the brain from pain waves. So you don’t feel the pain! And you can control how vibrate-y the implants get — wait for it — WITH A REMOTE CONTROL. It’s like programming a massage chair. I’m looking at my doctor like, You’re suggesting I become bionic? Madwoman! But then, after thinking it over for roughly two seconds, I gave the world’s biggest #KanyeShrug and decided I had nothing to lose.

The Bionic Woman.

But before the actual implant surgery, you have to suffer through a week-long trial run to see if the procedure will even work. Since it’s only for a week, the doc slides the thin, vibrating “neuro-transmitters” under your skin at the temples and back of the head — but instead of also burying the connecting wires and generator inside your body (it’s just a trial, no need for major surgery), SHE LEAVES THEM OUT. So basically, you’re looking at a woman with blood-encrusted wires taped down to the sides of her face, all of which connect to a fist-sized generator perched on one shoulder, held in place with a mountain of gauze. It’s medieval. After the procedure, I had the following conversation with my doctor:

Me: You didn’t tell me I’d look like a Transformer.

Doc: It’s all for the greater good.

Me: You also didn’t tell me you’d shave a chunk of my hair in the back. I’m transitioning, I need to be able to rock a topknot.

Doc: Transitioning?

Me: Sigh.

Doc: It’s very important that the wires remain dry. No showers, no sweating.

Me: It’s 100 degrees.

Doc: Think cool thoughts.

For the past week, I’ve been walking around like this. People openly stare. Children point. I had an old lady waddle past me, gawking, and once she was a block away, she looked back again. My Hungarian barista boyfriend eyed me blankly at the coffee shop, searching for the English words to ask me what the hell happened. He came up with this: “You face, honey. It looks so…hurting. My, my. Car accident?” It’s a deep thing, to be stared at with pity and confusion. My whole body language changed this week. I walk with my head down, not meeting anyone’s eyes, trying to make myself invisible. I try to hide in plain sight. And then there’s the constant buzzing…so isolating, so maddening…

On the subway yesterday, a Steve Buscemi lookalike stared at me with obvious disgust. Instinctively, my hands flew up to the sides of my face to hide the wires, and I cast my eyes downwards. I felt hideous. And then something shifted. I thought of my heroine, Liz Taylor. She, too, suffered chronic pain. She, too, was constantly shuttled in and out of hospitals (though she rocked furs on stretchers, not “I Love Pink” sweatpants).Β  And she was a bad bitch. She was ballsy, she was formidable, and she accepted her 1960 Best Actress Oscar proudly rocking a slab of gauze over her throat, to cover the scar from her recent tracheotomy.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleo, rocking le tracheotomy scar.

Empowered, I stared “Boardwalk Empire” in the eye, and thought, You’re not half as strong as me. You couldn’t survive a day in my body. You couldn’t have survived the fucking procedure. I had a migraine and they wouldn’t put me under until it subsided — so I laid on the hospital bed for six hours, writhing, weeping, sweating, vomiting, and when a distracted nurse gave me a sloppy shot of morphine and it leaked into my arm tissue, it felt like pools of fire and I screamed. And when they finally put me under, I had the suicide dream where I’m driving a wood-paneled stationwagon out of an 80’s supermarket parking lot and I take my hands off the wheel — but this time, I didn’t die, I woke myself up. “Get up, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together,” Liz once said. And that’s what I did, because I’m strong as shit and I’m Lina Bobina’s mommy and I have a whole lotta life to take care of and I won’t let this thing win. You, Steve Buscemi? You would’ve died.

Eff outta here.

The good news about this crazy vibrating shit? It’s working. IT’S WOORRRKING!!!!!! I haven’t felt this great in aaages!!!Β  So I get the wires removed today and the real-thing surgery next month. I’ll keep you posted, SYB Babes πŸ™‚

xo, Tia

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  1. July 23, 2012 1:59 pm 

    Girl, sending prayers your way that this works so your pain is gone.

  2. Shenile
    July 23, 2012 2:03 pm 

    You are my hero. You were inspiring before, but you just leveled up, a la Mortal Kombat. I love you and I thank you for being transparent but still a fierce woman! Oh God, my emotions.

  3. essence
    July 23, 2012 2:03 pm 

    you don’t know me. But happy for you!…love you and your spirit…always have..always will.

  4. FelicityR
    July 23, 2012 2:03 pm 

    Yay for your new bionic-ness! I’m glad it’s working for ya πŸ™‚

  5. July 23, 2012 2:03 pm 

    Love this post. Glad it’s working! And believe me, Steve was probably saying, “I’d still hit…” πŸ˜‰ Stay strong.

  6. Frederique
    July 23, 2012 2:23 pm 

    I hope it works. Migraines are the worst. What does your daughter think about it?

  7. audrey
    July 23, 2012 2:26 pm 


    I’m a strong woman but you are my new inspiration!
    (and I still want you in my family :))


  8. July 23, 2012 2:33 pm 

    I’m speechless. Liz Taylor had nothing on you, soldier…you’re the new-age heroine.

  9. Hollis
    July 23, 2012 2:49 pm 

    Sending all my love your way, Tia!! Fabulous post!!!

  10. Phawn
    July 23, 2012 3:03 pm 

    It hurts in more ways than one to be beautiful, especially on the inside and out. Yes, you’re cute, but your strength, and the love for your child is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I hope all goes well with the surgery!

  11. Gladys
    July 23, 2012 3:32 pm 

    Praying that this helps out tremendously for you! Hugs and healing prayers!

  12. July 23, 2012 3:32 pm 

    I love you honey, and you’re one of the strongest women I know. I’m so lucky to call you my friend and I’m thinking of you! xo

  13. 1969
    July 23, 2012 3:55 pm 

    The big picture? IT WORKS. The pain will be controlled. You will regain your life and you will always be beautiful. Saying prayers for you!

  14. Dee Dee
    July 23, 2012 4:01 pm 

    You are SO brave and inspiring. Ignore everyone and their staring, this has nothing to do w/ them! Work it, Tia!

  15. Colleen
    July 23, 2012 4:43 pm 

    Im so happy youve found some relief, Tia. Im sending prayers and love your way that all goes well next week.

  16. arnisha
    July 23, 2012 5:12 pm 

    Sending prayers and well wishes your way.

  17. Melody
    July 23, 2012 5:18 pm 

    Good luck, Tia! Wishing you a speedy and complete recovery!

  18. July 23, 2012 5:25 pm 

    Migraines suck, mine are not as bad as yours but they still suck. Glad u found something that works for u!

  19. July 23, 2012 5:34 pm 

    You’re amazing. And your show of strength and badassery gets ALL the props for me! GO TIA!

  20. Sherry Blossom
    July 23, 2012 5:38 pm 

    I read this post and came to the same conclusion, same feeling, same sentiment……

    BAD ASS!!!

    you completely rock and you’re right “they” wouldn’t have been able to do it. The people who gawk, stare and judge would NEVER have been able to “survive”. Life throws us lemons and some of us make strong alcoholic drinks not lemonade ….LOL

    You have relief! Fantastic and wishing you a successful surgery!

    Oh and shoutout to the distracted nurse who made you feel the ring of fire….in your arm….some mistakes just shouldn’t be made!

    Thanks for sharing!

  21. July 23, 2012 7:09 pm 

    Yay!!! Sending prayers! Your resilience is inspiring!

  22. Bashful Beauty
    July 23, 2012 7:14 pm 

    Sooo happy for you! Prayers up!

  23. Jennwill
    July 23, 2012 7:34 pm 

    You look Beautiful! And don’t let anyone tell you any different. My mantra is “I am dumb fly” regardless! You too are dumb fly. You just are, no amount of wires, procedures or inattentive nurses (I may have punched a beezy over that one) can change that.

    Fantastic that you are feeling better and holding your head up high!


  24. Rashida B
    July 23, 2012 7:53 pm 

    Go ahead with your bad self! Wishing you all the best!

  25. Che
    July 23, 2012 9:14 pm 

    I cannot imagine what you’re going through but your strength and courage in the face of such adversity is nothing less than an inspiration. Sending out prayers and vibes positivos.I hope that chick who dismissed you as a pretty girl reads this post.

  26. Lavendar
    July 23, 2012 10:48 pm 

    You are the baddest chick around! I’m praying for your successful procedure and quick recovery. Blessings hun!

  27. July 23, 2012 11:10 pm 

    SOOOOO glad it’s working. You deserve to live pain free! Sending love and hugs and all that! XO

  28. C.G.
    July 23, 2012 11:37 pm 


  29. LaDeja
    July 23, 2012 11:46 pm 

    You are correct, you are amazing!!! And many a’ men would not be able to deal with HALF the crap us women endure. Heck, I had a heart attack (Im only 24) and took it like a “g”.(I am fine btw) My husband has debilitating migraines as well, that procedure on him would mean fetal position calling for help every 5 mins. Love your strength and power!

  30. A*E*
    July 24, 2012 9:22 am 

    You are fabulous, awesome and inspiring! I’ve always loved your writing before and I’m so loving your raw openness this time around. Your posts always come right on time. Thank you for sharing. You are great!

  31. July 24, 2012 12:28 pm 

    You are making me cry over here, but I’m so glad you finally have found something that can help you manage the pain. You rock the new face jewelry and through some glitter on that thing and some dangling earrings! Sending you my love and keep on keeping on! xoxo

  32. Karen
    July 24, 2012 2:33 pm 

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Stay strong!

  33. July 24, 2012 3:53 pm 

    Tia, you are amazing. Keep going, girl, you can do this. xoxo

  34. LT
    July 24, 2012 9:05 pm 

    where do i sign up for this study!? i have wicked daily migraines! and i rock a bald fade (my hair/scalp hurt from the migraines anyway), so my hair beauty needs wouldn’t be so stark.
    very glad for you that neuro-stim works for you. good luck on the implant surgery.


  35. rose
    July 24, 2012 9:22 pm 

    YEAH!!!! and now a selection from our senior Choir

  36. July 25, 2012 2:49 pm 

    Fantastic post. U r no punk! As a longtime headache and sometimes migraine sufferer, I can at least partially relate. Your pain sounds truly next level. Im glad it’s working and good luck to you. All the best with this!

  37. Sarah
    July 25, 2012 6:58 pm 

    I’m going through the same thing. My permanent surgery is Aug 8th. I feel just like you have. It’s been hell and back. My doctor won’t do the leads upfront only on occipital nerves. Plz help how did you get your doctor to do leads by your temples?

    • twilliams
      July 25, 2012 10:19 pm 

      OMG YOU TOO?? My surgery is on the 6th! So crazy. Yeah, my doctor was really pushing for the occipital nerve thing (the most common way to do it), but it wouldn’t have helped me at all…mine don’t come from the back, I only get migraines in the front. I had a diva meltdown and she relented. Did you feel like it worked during your trial period? It’s crazy, the second they took them out I got a migraine. It really, really worked for me.

      Good luck, hon. I feel like we need to keep in touch!!

  38. jam824
    July 27, 2012 12:18 am 

    i love SYB’s return more and more.

    thanks for sharing this!
    your writing is amazing
    and anything that gets you better and back to normal is always worth it all. especially for lina bobina !:)

  39. DCGirl
    July 27, 2012 1:33 pm 

    I have been following you since the first incarnation of Shake Your Beauty and this was really brave of you to share. Not only may you have helped someone sharing your own struggle with the chronic pain and the associated treatment but there are others out there who maybe look different to others on a daily basis that it really helped to hear a great way of dealing with daily stares/questioning. I def plan to implement your Liz Taylor advise! Thanks so much and praying that the surgery will bring you permanent relief πŸ™‚

  40. July 30, 2012 11:22 am 

    Love you even more now, Tia! Glad to hear that it’s working πŸ™‚

  41. Janise Smalls
    October 2, 2012 7:41 pm 

    Hi Tia I have the same exact thing you have I just had surgery 4 weeks ago. and I would love to talk you. Please call me or email me asap. because I’m a hairstylist and makeup artist and i really think we should start a foundation for those who suffer in Pain Beautifully. lol 704-910-7564 I really hope to hear from you soon.
    Your sister in wires, lol

    Janise Smalls