By Denise Bennett
One moment you are happy as a clam, and the next moment you are crying. It’s all a part of the post-surgical experience. I don’t really know the science behind why and I don’t think that’s really what most women care about in the moment. All you want to know is that what you are experiencing is within the range of normal. It is.
Here are some of the explanations I have heard. Fat stores estrogen. Liposuction disrupts the fat cells and releases estrogen into our bodies that would have otherwise remained contained in the fat cells. This makes sense, since surgeons do warn in their pre-op instructions that if you are not post-menopausal, your next menstrual cycle may be more intense than is generally normal for you. Surgeries that change the appearance of our body seem to make us more susceptible to varied emotions. Many of us do not realize that this is a very emotional process. Some women experience a rollercoaster of emotions, similar to PMS, post-partum depression or menopause. Also keep in mind that the effects of pain medications, anesthesia, and even some supplements can affect your mental chemistry.
This is not unique to lipedema or liposuction. It is not unusual for patients, in general, to undergo minor to significant emotional “ups and downs” after any type of surgery. All surgical procedures carry a significant amount of stress, both physical and emotional. It is not unusual to experience post-operative depression that generally resolves itself after a few weeks.
From my own experience, I feel that the explanation is a combination of the two, plus something unique to women who, like myself, have struggled with a lot of emotions surrounding what we view as a disfigurement of our body. Unlike most disfigurements, ours has been blamed on us. If we had been born with a unusually large nose, or a birthmark, we would not blame ourselves. Let me repeat that. We have felt disfigured or out of control of our bodies, perhaps for a very long time. We have felt shame. Our legs, arms or hips seem to grow of their own accord; we gain weight while eating a healthy diet and staying active; we crave foods that for us, seem to pack on pounds that are out of proportion with the calories we consume. Most likely, we have been ignored by the medical community when we asked for help, or were shamed by them, or family members, or even by ourselves. There is a lot of emotion behind our discovery of Lipedema and our decision to have surgery.
Then add to that, the wait. The process of getting a diagnosis, finding a physician, following all the protocols to file with our insurance, the knowledge that in most instances we will be denied insurance coverage, the struggle to raise the necessary funds to pay for surgery, and then waiting out the actual dates from the time we have a consultation to the day we schedule our surgery, all contribute to emotional upheaval.
Finally, the countdown to actual surgery begins. During this time I struggled with spending long-saved money on myself. Right? I felt selfish at the same time as I felt the biggest relief of my life that this was even possible. Again, a rollercoaster of emotions.
After surgery, the very first glance at my legs brought tremendous emotion. They were bandaged, they were bloody, they were bruised, and quite frankly they looked a mess… an absolutely, gorgeous mess. Tears of joy, of relief and of amazement, ran out of the corners of my eyes. A few days later, I was ranting about something so meaningless that I can’t even tell you what it was, only that I was swearing like a sailor and felt as if I was having a genuine out of body experience. A couple days after that I was lying in bed, tears filling up my ears as I grieved over the loss of my mom, 10 years before. I felt out of control, only this time it was my emotions that were betraying me, not my body. I think there’s something to that.
In advance, I had warned everyone that this was possibly one of the side effects of the surgeries. Everyone seemed to understand. Problem was I had failed to acknowledge to myself that this was really a possibility, and it caught me off guard. Thankfully, I got off the rollercoaster of emotions after only a few trips. I hope you do too. But, if you find yourself unable to safely pull into the station and get off, contact your physician. They will be able to help you.
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