A concussion wasn't the only downside to Melissa Gilbert's 2012 run on Dancing With the Stars.
The former Little House on the Prairie actress has revealed in an alternately hilarious and touching post on her website that her experience on the reality show — in which she and partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy powered through minor injuries to finish in fifth place — negatively affected the self-image issues she'd struggled with since her late teens. The piece, entitled "A Tale of Two Titties," explained how the dancing competition, motherhood, and other factors affected her recent decision to have her breast implants removed and, at age 50, accept her body.
"I had spent most of my life pressured to look a certain way and I believed the hype," wrote Gilbert, who married actor Timothy Busfield in 2013. "The height of this obsession with my outward appearance culminated with my appearance on the dancing show. It was all about spray tan and glitter and glamor and what other people think and being skinny, way too skinny!! Yuck!!"
"I stayed in that head space for several months after that. Then I had a rude awakening. A 300 pound patio cover collapsed on my head. It was like the universe smacking me in the head and screaming,'WAKE UP MELISSA!!!!' Wake up I did. It was like a light switch going on. The shallowness of my existence at that point brought me to my knees. I had to change. I had to look inward and address my issues (this looking inward is a constant process by the way). It was time for me to change. I had to focus on what was real and true. I'd lost myself somehow."
Gilbert's self-consciousness about her body began when she was a young TV star. She described wearing padded bras on the last few seasons of Little House, which ended in 1983. When she starred in a TV version of Splendor in the Grass in 1981, Gilbert noted she was once again outfitted in a padded bra, but also a girdle, a corset, and painted-on cleavage. The actress now says her natural breasts were right for her body-type — "Perfect A cups" — but she didn't feel that way then, especially after breastfeeding her first child, son Dakota, in 1989.
"I was left feeling a bit uncomfortable about my breasts but it was so worth it to have my beautiful, healthy son," she wrote. "And then my husband at the time, referred to my boobs as……and I quote…. 'Socks full of marbles with knots at the top.'"
"A few years later we got divorced," continued Gilbert, whose ex-husbands include Bo Brinkman and fellow actor Bruce Boxleitner. "Not only because of the sock comment. Although the sock comment was symptomatic of all that was wrong between us. And there I was, single and feeling enormously insecure about my breasts. Then and there, without doing any research, I made the decision, to get my breasts augmented. Not too big, just enough to fill up the 'socks.'"
After another pregnancy — her son Michael was born in 1995 — and reading about how implants should be replaced periodically, Gilbert decided to replace her implants and get a breast lift in 2004. She liked the results of the procedure at first, but eventually was overcome with worry.
"I couldn't shake the idea that my implants had a shelf life," she shared candidly. "They would have to have them replaced every 10-15 years for the rest of my life. It was possible that at 80 years old I might have to get new implants! Huh?? I also began thinking a lot about the silicone in my body and what might go wrong."
Dancing With the Stars and her so-called smack from the universe convinced her to lose the implants for good. The lengthy essay, which she posted on Dec. 31, explained that she planned to have the procedure this week.
"The bottom line…or top line.. is that; A. I am concerned for my health and 2. I don't like the way they look or feel. Frankly, I'd like to be able to take a Zumba class without the fear that I'll end up with two black eyes," she joked.
Gilbert tweeted Tuesday that she was "in recovery. Surgery went great."
In her blog, Gilbert noted that while her acceptance of her body is ongoing, she's "truly happy" with where she is now in her feelings about her body. She even offered some inspirational advice for others. "Aging is a gift not a curse. Love yourself. You are perfectly beautiful. You are enough."
Not wanting to get too sentimental, Gilbert signed the post, "Tits McGee."
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