Through The Wire is a song Kanye West wrote after a car accident back in 2002 where he subsequently had his jaw wired shut for a long period of time. In this song, he illustrated a comedic account of his difficult experience with the recovery following a reconstructive jaw surgery. It was the worst thing that could’ve happened to him, yet also the best thing as the song later became a hit debut single release paving his way to fame. It was a story of how life beat him down where everyone thought he could no longer rap, but he persisted nonetheless. And though I’m not Kanye West, nor do I rap for a living, I can relate to his experience as I recently had gone through a similar surgery. A double jaw surgery they call it, where an orthognathic surgeon would break the upper and lower jaw to re-position the jaw to a normal bite. In my case, I had a severe underbite with a shocking 15 mm gap between the top and lower teeth! The surgeon accounted 5 of every 6 patients do it for cosmetic reasons (even though they still get medically insured). I however needed it badly as such severity negatively affects various functions like breathing, eating, speech, and facial gestures. So for the past few months, I have been living through the wire.
Like Kanye, I had to go through a restricted diet while the jaw bones fully heal. The song accounts for his diet, which consists of Ensure nutrition drinks. Fortunately it was 2018, and I had Soylent instead.
What was it like to drink only Soylent everyday for 6 weeks?
I felt I was physically getting adequate energy, but was on the path to a slow and agonizing mental breakdown. For the first week after surgery, I had to drink Soylent out of a syringe with tubing. Only after the swelling had gone down a bit was I able to drink from a glass. Since then I went all in on Soylent 5 times a day. Those days I rest, binge watch TV, play video games, and spare a few minutes to walk in the park as the surgeon told me light physical activity is good to stimulate the recovery. That was my routine. I lost 10 pounds for the first week, and it plateaued after I started drinking normally. Imagine trying to pump 5 bottles of Soylent daily with a syringe and tubing, it’s not easy. So I had to cut down to just 3 bottles for the first week hence why I lost weight. On the bright side, I lost a lot of fat for the first week - down from 17% body fat to just 10%! And it stayed the same even after upping my Soylent intake to 5 times a day. In retrospect, Soylent did its job. I didn’t starve. In fact, everything felt going in the right direction.
Then came the Instagrams, the effin McDonalds commercials
You cannot watch TV all day long hoping you can get by without a McDonalds, Burger King, or Wendys commercial screaming at your face. The sight of a bacon double cheeseburger, bacon and cheese whopper, and those hot, thick, and crispy french fries, tormented me. Oh those melted cheese drooling on finely grilled beef patty squished between two arching buns that scream of freedom. It felt so close yet so distant, starring back at me on the TV as I sat there watching and chugging along my Soylent. Like any millennial, I was properly equipped with distraction. An overpriced smartphone with an Instagram and Facebook. As I scroll through the feeds, I began to realize my suffering didn’t end there. Oh look that’s a nice thanksgiving dinner you got going. The roasted turkey was crisp and golden brown. The mashed potatoes looked creamy and dreamy. The cranberry sauce was so pink and juicy, omg, it’s seducing me. Next feed. Someone had properly taken the time and effort to capture their dinner course. A perfect 45 degree angle shot of escargots in garlic butter meal, showing the table, and the bottom half of the person’s face sitting in front of her. At that moment I realized my routine was becoming unsustainable. So feeling well enough I decided that I should go out more to hang out with people. We went to a Sushi bar, one of the highest rated in Cambridge, MA. Of course, me being on a restricted diet, I had carried a small cooler bag filled with 4 Soylent bottles, 1 for dinner time and 3 for emergency. What would you like to order sir, the waitress asked. Oh I’m not eating, I replied back as I took out a bottle of Soylent from the cooler bag. She gave me an awkward look, and I thought about explaining my current predicament except there I realized I can’t even speak properly yet with my jaws still wired shut! The others were too busy with their phones or stuck their faces to the menu as if its written in ancient hieroglyphs. I was so anxious the restaurant was going to kick me out simply for bringing a drink from outside, which also happens to be my meal. The conversations always circle back to remarking how tough I am, and how people feel sorry that they are eating in front of me. The truth is, I was breaking down behind all that straight face. A deprived soul, a mind starving of the delicacies of life. I mean, how can you not be, when the person sitting in front of you is enjoying a warm steamy Belgian waffle with nuttella chocolate, strawberries, and whip cream, and you are there drinking your Soylent. If I continued down the path, I would go insane. So something had to change, and change it did. I ordered more Soylent - just different flavors.
Post liquid diet restriction
It has been 2 months now, and I have been eating soft foods. On my post op visit with the surgeon, he told me my progress has been remarkable. I had restored sensations in areas of the face where it commonly would take longer. People had asked the question, will I continue drinking Soylent? It’s hard to tell whether that may be true forever, but at least for now I became sort of nostalgic to it. Waking up every morning to see piles of those bottles scattered all over the table. Enduring the agony of the swelling while trying to slowly pour Soylent into your mouth through a tube by the volume. That was close to satisfaction. It would have been worse without it. I can’t imagine myself having to pour soup or blenderized food into that same tube. Yuck!
Living through the wire was the worst and best thing that could have happened to me. When you are deprived of the simplest things in life, the things we take for granted, you begin to realize the magnitude of how lucky you are in this universe. It compels you to move forward appreciating both the simple and finer things in life because the truth is they are not binary, you can have em both! Best of all, you have evidence that all it takes to succeed is to persist and with a little bit Soylent. Ok… maybe not a little… I drank a total of 210 bottles.