A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.
Monday probably isn’t the best day to share feelings, it’s the start of the week, the sky is grey outside, I sense rain coming on…but I’d like to get this post out of the way because I’m going to chat about mental health post surgery and I start work later this week so want to do it while I have the head space to write openly.
The whole process of getting to surgery, having it and recovery has been a bit of a rollercoaster emotions wise, so when I was thinking about expectations beforehand, I expected to have some difficult feelings surface. For anyone who has read my blog over the years, you all know that I struggle with my mental health a lot. I knew this would be an amazing time for me, but I knew it wouldn’t be without its problems.
I was surprised at how good my mental health was for the first few weeks. I think I was so relieved and happy I’d finally had surgery that I felt a bit invincible. Pain wasn’t bringing me down as much as I expected, I was feeling pretty awesome!
As my recovery time went on, I started to struggle with a few things. The first thing was anxiety going out in public. I didn’t really expect this but going from having a massive chest I couldn’t conceal to a flat one, I didn’t know how I would be read in public. I went from being consistently misgendered to suddenly have folk in shops and restaurants referring to me as Sir or looking confused. Of course it’s been great that I’m misgendered a lot less but I think it was hard to get used to it when the change was so sudden. A lot of people have a more gradual transition into this, which can be distressing in itself. This was something I hadn’t quite prepared for and I spent a lot of time avoiding the outside world.
Showing affection to my boyfriend in public is now something that gives me a lot of anxiety. Getting strange looks from people if we hold hands or kiss. Deciding a certain area doesn’t feel safe to hold hands. I worry about it a lot, but also it’s just quite sad that this is the way it is sometimes.
After the first 5 or so weeks of recovery I’ve had some really low moments. I think a lot of this has been my lack of routine, frustration at feeling so wiped all the time and the isolation from spending most of my time sleeping or resting inside the house.
I tried to get a little bit of routine, such as leaving the house for short walks, giving myself 1 thing to do during the day, attempting to get up early. I think pushing myself to do some of these things has definitely helped, but I’ve struggled a lot with my sleeping pattern, being up until the early hours of the morning, sleeping through a lot of the following day and then having guilt about it.
The most helpful thing during this time has been having a supportive partner who has been super patient and lovely to me. I’ve got some really nice support groups online that have been a lifesaver and made me feel a lot less isolated. Self care has also been really important. I’ve had a lot of cake the last month or so, a lot of mac n cheese, I’ve drowned everything in Siracha. I have gained weight but I’m trying not to feel bad about it because my big squidgey belly is beautiful and I deserve nice things at the moment.
I feel like the last week or so my mental health has started to improve, which is good as in a few days I’m due to start back at work on a phased return. I am anxious about it, but I feel a little more prepared. I’ve also been able to have a proper think about where I’m at and what’s best for me, requesting a second week of reduced hours instead of just one. I would have been in denial about this a few weeks ago, so this is a good sign.
I expect a lot more feelings with surface once I’m back at work. Returning after so long away is always overwhelming, even if folk are happy to see me, it will be emotional. Also having a job that involves working with the public will bring on new challenges with how I’m feeling about myself and my body right now. There are even new colleagues who have started working at my shop since I’ve been gone, so I have new people to meet with my new flat chest. Weeeiirrrdd!
I think that’s all I can manage to write right now, but that’s the jist of what my head has been like the last few weeks. Thanks for reading lovely people and I’ll catch you all with something a little cheerier tomorrow!