the 23 day-post-op blues

I was warned of it, and assumed it would happen immediately after surgery, with me plugged into an IV, bleeding from the mouth and unable to talk, but when I sailed through the first week and a half of healing, I thought I had gotten lucky and missed the post-op blues. Everything I had read (which had been a lot, probably bordering on obsession) said that the first three days were bad, but if you could make it through the first week after surgery, it was smooth sailing. Well here I am at a little more than three weeks after, and I’m in a slump.

The origin of the slump is probably due to two things: rate of visible healing and pain level. The first couple weeks I could see changes in my face every day. Swelling was going down, bruising was lightening up; just the incredible relief of having a surgery I’ve dreaded for years be done with was a high I rode for a while. Due to narcotics and nerve damage, my pain level was surprisingly low.

Now it feels like I’ve taken a step back. I ran out of painkillers around day 10 and started on just ibuprofen, which felt like a kick in the face at first. I’m also slowly, oh so slowly gaining feeling in my face back, and shit hurts like hell. Unfortunately, the majority of feeling is returning first inside my mouth, meaning the gums that have stitches all tied up in them. I bought some Orajel stuff to squeeze on that suture line, but it’s a constant dull throb, especially now that I’m talking more. I’ve gotten the all-ok from my surgeon, and nothing looks infected (I got a good peek at the stitches tonight and nearly fainted); it just hurts. My surgeon also took out my splint (yay) but gave me some mighty powerful elastics to wear instead (boo). They’re rubbing on my gums and making my teeth sore.

Only being half-done with my liquid diet is also a disheartening and monotonous thought.

I went back to work last night for the first time after surgery. In preparation, the night previous I watched Me Before You and cried and cried and threw myself a pity party. I’ve got to face it–my body is ready to go back to work. I’ve been out shopping WAY too much in the last week, which is how I know. But my mind isn’t there yet. Considering how I feel about my job, that’s not too surprising, but, I mean, I was REALLY dreading returning.

One good thing in this post of bad is that I haven’t been losing too much weight. Being 5’10” and 127ish pounds normally, I was worried that I would turn into Jack Skellington on a liquid diet. But, I got the chance to weigh myself the other day and I’m only down to 121 pounds, which is about half of what I had expected I’d lose.

To wrap up, things just feel glummy and gloomy right now. I’m going to leave you with some progress pictures and one I snuck at the surgeon’s office of my mouth x-ray three days post-op that made me queasy.

 

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jaw surgery–before

In two days I will have a Mandibular Bilateral Sagittal Split Osteotomy and Genioplasty Advancement. In other words, jaw surgery. When I originally found out I would need this surgery three years ago, the orthodontist thought I would also have to have my top jaw surgically corrected and possibly segmented into three pieces to widen my bite. Thank God my orthodontist here is a miracle-worker and has resolved my open bite and cross bite without surgical intervention. So the problems I have left are my lower jaw and chin.

HOW: The surgeon will make two diagonal cuts through my jaw on both sides in order to pull it forward 12 millimeters and screw it in place. That may not sound like a lot, but it is when you’re dealing with facial proportions and jaw placement. Secondly, he’ll cut through the tip of my chin and move that forward too, screwing it in place to give my face better proportion after the movement of my lower jaw.

jaw

The places marked in red will be cut and moved.

WHY: I’ve addressed this in previous posts, but I’ve had a cross bite, open bite, and significant overbite since puberty (for about 17 years now). I had two expanders and braces as a high schooler, but none of my bite issues were corrected. At first, just the open bite bothered me, but I was pain-free. As time passed, I started having increased muscle tension and discomfort, especially on the left side of my jaw and down my neck. I also chew farther back on my teeth than I should, meaning my molars are wearing down faster than they should. My open bite and overbite also affect how I speak, giving me a little lisp and making me thrust my jaw forward to enunciate, which is exhausting, especially when I’m teaching linguistics, when accuracy and being able to talk at length is vital.

I’m adding some before pictures to show some of the issues I’ve mentioned and to be able to compare them to after (assuming I make it).

Left to right: the day I got braces for the second time, teeth 10 months later right before surgery, profile from both sides before surgery

Did I mention I’m extremely nervous? Current list of worries:

  1. Being aware but paralyzed during surgery
  2. Throwing up after just getting my jaw broken
  3. Getting a blood clot
  4. Having to wear a splint in my mouth when I go back to work and not being able to talk
  5. Not having my jaw rubberbanded or wired shut, so my freshly-detached jaw is just flying free
  6. Waking up with an incredibly swollen, different face than I went to sleep with
  7. Having to swallow medication immediately after surgery (not a pill swallower to begin with)
  8. falling into a deep depression
  9. crying immediately after surgery and having difficulty breathing

Obviously some of these fears are more justified than others, but in my anxiety-ridden mind, they’re all equally devastating prospects. I picked up a journal I’ve dubbed my jaw journal, and on the front it says “It’s Gonna Be Okay” with inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout the pages. I thought this would be a good, uplifting exercise, focusing on positivity, but I just don’t think I’m cut out for it. Most quotes have my cross-outs or scribbles on them, like “fuck optimists” or “bullshit,” then my own version of uplifting quotes written in place of the originals. For instance,”If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.” Seeing as I live in Phoenix, I obviously don’t agree with that pithy sentiment. I replaced it with, “It’s the same sort of cold comfort when we look up into a clear sky and see that we are mere specks in the enormous universe. Our actions here on earth contribute, no doubt, to the evolution of civilization, but in such a minor and minuscule way that there is freedom in knowing that what you do doesn’t really matter, can’t matter, in the scheme of things.” That’s from Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend, which you should read, by the way.

So I guess, in a way, my journal idea is working, just not the way this journal intended. I’ve been brainstorming ways to wrap my mind around this, deal with the fear and pain, and with not eating food for six weeks. I think good books, journaling, sunshine, and watching good shows will go a long way. Everyone says watching comedies improves your mood, but I’ve found that watching the most fucked-up things I can find (stories about kidnappings, murders, the deep web, torture, craniofacial surgery way more severe than mine, stalkers etc.) helps me put things in perspective and take my mind off my comparatively-petty problems. Whatever works, right?

So, with my fridge stocked with liquids and my credit card charged with any and all things from Target I thought might make this process more comfortable, away we go.