Get Well

How I Bounced Back After Major Surgery

by Sydney Lehmann

Recently, I underwent a pretty major surgery — a breast reduction. After years of immense back pain during mundane activities, cuts on my shoulders from the weight of my bra straps, and extreme insecurity in regards to my chest, I decided to look into the options at hand. First, I tried to get off my birth control pills, and switch to other forms of contraception in hopes that my breasts would shrink naturally, but after two failed IUDs, I was back on the pill and my chest only got bigger. Second, I tried losing weight, but after shedding some pounds, my breasts didn’t shrink an inch. After all that, I decided to pick up my phone and make a consolation appointment with a plastic surgeon. Upon examination, it quickly became apparent that my only option of having a smaller chest was surgery. So I booked the surgery for four months later and now, I am writing this with a major weight lifted off my chest! (Pun definitely intended.)

But how did I make it from consultation to surgery, through recovery, and come out the other side while staying calm, cool, and collected? I have a few tips and tricks up my sleeve for before, during, and after surgery and recovery to make it easy and enjoyable (well, as enjoyable as it can be).

Meditate All Day, Every Day

In the weeks leading up to my surgery, I was a puddle of anxiety. Playing out every possible way the surgery could go poorly, worrying I was making the wrong decision, and even fearing I would hate the final product. So I turned to meditation. I used the Calm app and saw a noticeable difference in my attitude towards the surgery and my body. I currently keep up with the practice, noticing meditation is helpful for every aspect of life, not just for a looming surgery.

Make That Skin Glow 

During my recovery, I was unable to exercise (duh) or really exert any major energy, getting up to walk to the bathroom felt like a marathon some days and left me feeling a little gross. But as soon as I could move my hands to my face, you better believe I was indulging in face masks, sheet masks, and all the skin-care goodies I’ve been saving for a day like this. Focusing on my skin made me feel somewhat in control of my body for the days I was super lethargic. Before D-Day, I was purchasing a sheet mask a week. These little treats leading up to my procedure made me eager to lay on the couch and soak up the glow, and boy, did my skin glow for weeks to come.

Say Positive Affirmations 

Recently in a college course, I learned about the importance of expressing gratitude in your daily life. I used this practice to express gratitude in ways that benefitted my recovery process. Every day during my recovery — and still to this day — I would open up my Five Minute Journal app on my phone and jot down what I was grateful for. During my surgery and recovery, I expressed immense gratitude for my body and its ability to be strong and recover quickly. Now months after my reduction, I express gratitude for my scars and show them some much-needed love.

“Don’t forget to remind yourself that your new scars are beautiful and are now a part of the story your body tells.”

Binge Your Favorite Shows

I can’t lie… I watched an embarrassing amount of movies and shows. When I was feeling groggy from the pain and the medication, I turned to my feel-good shows and movies, which were incredibly healing. I mean, laughter has been used to distract from pain as early as the 13th century by surgeons. So if there’s any time to watch Parks and Recreation for the sixth time around or put on your favorite childhood movie without feeling judged, then this is it. 

Nap It Out

Every time I caught myself dozing off in the middle of the day, I knew just to lean into it and let it happen. Sleep was for sure the best medicine and I never let myself feel guilty for snoozing the day away. According to WebMD, when you sleep, your brain releases hormones that encourage tissue repair and make more white blood cells to attack bacteria. So close those eyes and catch some Zzzs. Your body needs it.

Be Kind to Yourself 

It sounds easy, but let me tell you, it’s not. Take the time you need to get back into your normal routines. I was unable to exercise for awhile, and every day, I would beat myself up about it, but as soon as I realized I just needed to let my body heal, I was happier and the process of recovery seemed faster and easier. Don’t forget to remind yourself that your new scars are beautiful and are now a part of the story your body tells — heck, indulge and buy a lace bralette to celebrate your new friends! But most importantly, be kind to yourself throughout the whole process, it only makes recovery all that much easier.

I am in no way saying these tips will help everyone, but on days where I was feeling down, in pain, and hopeless, these were my go-to fixes. Don’t forget to show yourself some love every day of the process and thank your body for being so strong and powerful.

Had major surgery? What were some of the ways you recovered through the pain? Send us a DM to  @thechilltimes, to let us know.

Feature image via @malloryonthemoon

[Editor’s Note: Since we’re not know-it-alls, always make sure to consult with a doctor before trying anything new. We’re here to guide and provide information that could potentially help, but each person is different so do what’s right for you!]

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