Q: I had upper and lower jaw surgery (turbinates removal & genioplasty as well) about 2 1/2 weeks ago. Like most people, I did this surgery for purposes of function and not appearance. I loved my appearance - I loved how dainty I thought I looked.
While I don't think my reaction a week post-op is much indication of how I will feel forever...after most of the swelling had gone down and I could tell what I would look like, I was devastated. I didn't recognize myself. I had this dysmorphic type of reaction to the results of my surgery and I couldn't stop staring at what I saw as the destruction of my appearance. Even 2 1/2 weeks out, the steroids have worn off, I'm not on meds, I'm getting normal sleep, I'm not in much pain at all....yet my reaction to the alteration of my appearance still stays.
Have you received emails from other people that have had this reaction? Do you know how they overcame it?
A: I'm so sorry you're going through such a hard time. Your email made me want to reach out and hug you.
My surgery wasn't nearly as extensive as yours, so I can't speak to the dysmorphic reaction to your reflection from personal experience; however, I have read on message boards about other people who have had similar reactions to yours.
And, really, who can blame you? We all identify with our outer appearance - you've lived within this skull and skin your entire life and then one day, suddenly, you look in the mirror and don't recognize the person staring back at you? That is a huge shock to the senses, psyche, and identity. How are you supposed to just accept that you look completely different in just 2 1/2 weeks?
Let yourself mourn your old appearance. It's okay to feel sad because you have lost something that was a big part of who you are. But at the same time, try to find things that you like about your new appearance. Take a good look. Check out your profile. (I know I always hated mine because my weak chin made my nose look bigger. Now, it's more in proportion, which I like a lot.) Make a list of what you like and focus on that as much as you can. Because the reality is that this is what you look like now, so you need to find ways to look at yourself in the mirror and like what you see, after the surgery.
I think time will help, focusing on the positive will help, and then if you still feel that things aren't where you would like them to be, talking to a therapist would be the next step.
When I'm frustrated and upset about the fact that I still don't feel like myself these days (I'm struggling with a lot of fatigue, even after my post-surgery anemia has gotten better), my boyfriend always says to me, "You're pretty hard on yourself, you know." It makes me realize that I do put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect, to be healthy, to be this super achiever and that sometimes, I just need to be good to myself and say, "It's okay if it's not happening as fast as I want. I'll get there" and just give myself a break for once.
Two and a half weeks is not that long. Even if everything seems to be going swimmingly, you've had major, major surgery where they took a bone saw to your face and rearranged your bones. That affects your body and your mind and your spirit in a big way. So, don't pressure yourself to be totally healed and accepting of everything just yet.
Just be good to yourself. I hope everything goes well for you.
*To ask Bella a question about her jaw surgery, email her at smilingbella at gmail dot com or leave a comment on this post. Go ahead: ask away!!