Being Happier Through...Botox?
I never thought I'd admit this publicly, but I have had Botox injections before. Yes, I am only 33. And no, I don't have some kind of dysmorphic disorder, and I'm not completely obsessed with every wrinkle or line on my face. I don't adore the process of aging, but whaddya gonna do, you know?
But I will admit to a certain amount of vanity, and the truth is, I got really upset when I noticed this rather deep line between my eyebrows. It's not so much from aging as it is from frowning. I frown a LOT. I work at a computer all day, and when I have to concentrate, or when I'm nervous, or when I'm angry or sad, I frown. I frown when I sleep, I've been told. I'm a frowner.
I won't lie; I'm not a super happy person. I'm grumpy a lot of the time, and I have been since I was very young. My family is not a miserable family, although depression does tend to run in the Slavic side. My childhood was relatively happy, but I'm not what you would call "joyful." I'm not depressed, but I definitely come from a long line of women who aren't particularly fond of perkiness. During college, I went through a period of rather extreme depression, and while I found that medication helped at the time, it's not a long-term solution for me. I've come to accept that I've never been, and will never be, a bright and cheery kind of person.
Also, I get angry easily. Most of my mornings start with me glaring at myself in the bathroom mirror for about five minutes. Most of the time, though, I don't realize that I am frowning — I do it all the time, while writing, talking on the phone, watching a movie, and I don't even realize that it's happening until I've been doing it for about an hour and my forehead starts to ache.
About a year ago, the presence of that rather deep line between my brows got the better of me, and I paid a very nice nurse at a local surgeon's office approximately $140 dollars to inject toxins into my face. Honestly, I was terrified that I would end up looking like those stretch-faced, zombie women on TV, unable to express the most basic emotion through facial muscles. My nurse assured me that she had Botox, and she looked, at age 40, really great — not frozen and zombified. I took the plunge.
Aside from the cost, my only complaint about the treatment was that I had a pretty bad headache for about a week. Once that disappeared, though, and the muscles started to relax, I was happy to see that the line between my brows pretty much disappeared. And yes, the muscles couldn't move, so I couldn't furrow my brow. I could still raise my eyebrows and narrow my eyes, and obviously my cheeks and mouth weren't affected, so I could FROWN, but not furrow. I simply couldn't activate the muscles that would draw my brows together.
Then I noticed something: I felt a lot less angry. Whenever I would find myself getting frustrated at something (usually at work), just as I could feel my face pulling into a frown, I would realize that it just couldn't be done. I couldn't frown. And without the ability to do that, I didn't stay angry very long. Momentary irritation tended to fizzle, and while it's true that my job wasn't any easier, I just didn't get as upset about it. I even mentioned it to a coworker, who assured me that I was (1) crazy and (2) trying to justify having spent $140 on Botox. I told my parents, both medical professionals, about the effect on my mood, and they both sighed heavily and wondered what they had ever done to raise a daughter who couldn't love her own face.
Well, who's having the last laugh now? That would be me (yes, I can still laugh), after finding that my experience of having botox improve my mood is not only common, but that it has a scientific explanation. Facial feedback hypothesis, which has previously told us that smiling can actually make us feel happier even when we naturally aren't, can also explain why someone who is unable to frown fully doesn't maintain a steady state of anger. It turns out that it's not just your moods that affect your facial expressions, but your facial expressions that affect your moods. Thus, someone who forces themselves to smile when they feel down can significantly improve their own mood, and someone who stops frowning when upset can stem the tide of anger or depression.
Botox, it seems, can make you happier. Or at least, Botox can make you less unhappy.
I'm not going to pretend that the over-application of Botox doesn't freak me out. Between aging Hollywood madams on TV and physicians wives elbowing me aside at the shoe department at Nordstrom, I agree that a totally Botoxified face is a terror to behold. But in small amounts, I have to say, it really has been a godsend.
My $140 worth of Botox lasted longer than expected — approximately 6 months (I was told to expect 3). Twenty-three dollars a month for an improved mood is worth it to me.
No word yet on whether total facial paralysis limits all kinds of emotions, although I imagine limiting one's ability to smile might make them less happy?