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Emotions Post Reconstructive Plastic Surgery After WLS

I’m behind on blogs and there are so many I need to write. Since this is the most prevalent in my mind, it will get written first.

As usual, I will be sharing the full experience of this fourth bout of reconstructive plastic surgery with you once I am fully healed and can write about it from bringing to end. What I want to talk about today is the emotional and mental aspect of this part of the weight loss journey.

dd7222daa7986c2ad775cc3885e20b34Rarely a day passes without someone somewhere in the weight loss community talking about loose skin, how much they hate it, how ugly it makes them feel, and how much they wish they could get rid of it. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t one of them, in fact, I think I was one of the worst. I honestly think there was a point where I was dangerously close to this place where no matter how much I cut off my body it would never be good enough [ See: My Body Issues vs My Support System Them Zero Us One ] and I would never achieve the vision I had in my head of what I wanted to see in the mirror.

Thankfully, I found an amazing surgeon who has been able to do for me exactly what I needed him to do. Even before the swelling goes down, I can tell looking in the mirror that this time things are different and that this time around, my body looks more like the body I feel I have put the last 2 years and 9 months into creating. – ( This is how I feel most of the time – until the irrational emotions kick in. )

I’ve been very honest and open about my journey, my mindset, and how I put myself in a very unhealthy place when I started to associate cutting the skin off of my body with cutting my abusers out of my life.

I’ve been open and forthright when it comes to telling you that there is a big difference between reconstructive plastic surgery and cosmetic plastic surgery and that having realistic expectations of what your body is going to be like after these surgeries is of the utmost importance. This is also an area where I had to learn from mistakes, because the over-compulsive-virgo-perfectionst in me, struggles to realize that I will never have a perfect body, that I will never look like a Barbie doll and that my body will always have some part of it that remembers it once weighed 420 lb..

Reconstructive Plastic Surgery is by far the hardest thing I have ever put my body through both physically and mentally. It is NOT easy. It is the single most painful experience I have ever had in my life. I can still honestly say that I have no buyers remorse, though there were a few times in the first few days following this last surgery when the pain levels were so high that I am pretty sure the sentiments “I wish I hadn’t done this.” and “Why did I do this to myself?” were expressed multiple times.

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Me trying to put on a very big smile despite the pain and discomfort.

The answer was clear for me though, I did it because it was what I needed to do for me mentally. It was what I needed to do for me emotionally. I had to get my body to a place that when I looked in the mirror I saw the woman I had worked so hard to become and not a remnant of the abuse that I had endured through my life that had pushed me into unhealthy addictions, relationships with food, destroying my body and committing suicide with a fork and spoon. The problem here, is that even going into this last surgery, I thought the surgery would change this for me somehow. When the reality is, whatever remnants of abuse I see when I look in the mirror, are in my head; I am the only person that sees my body now as some sort of taunting of my past. Nobody else looks at me and goes “Oh look at Pandora, her left arm is bigger than her right arm and she would never look like that if she hadn’t weighed 420 lb. and she would never have weighed 420 lb. if she had not been a horribly abused little girl.” – Nope nobody would say that if they looked at me today, only I negatively empower myself with those automatic negative thoughts when I look in the mirror. This my dear friends and fellow Slender Seekers is a break though moment for me. Because it really is one of the first times that I have been able to separate my negative thoughts about my body image from my body and say; “This is something that is wrong in my head,” verses “This is something that is wrong with my body.”

c022d749a8f8154307dd8875189def22I cannot honestly say that I believe reconstructive plastic surgery is the right answer for everyone. I think a lot of factors have to be considered. How close to your goal weight are you? Because the further away from it you are, the less likely you are to be happy with your results in the end and the more likely you are to have to have more surgeries. I also think you have to ask yourself why you want it, what it is going to change for you, and if you want it enough to endure the massive amount of pain that it puts you through.

I can honestly say, that I wish Reconstructive Plastic Surgeons asked you to see a mental health specialist before having reconstructive plastic surgery. It is something that I personally would highly suggest, because I think that when it comes to reconstructive plastics we start to reach into a whole new emotional part of the weight loss journey.

I remember my first few days post-op gastric bypass. I remember the emotional roller coaster that I endured in that first 12 months of my honeymoon phase. I remember all the emotional set backs I battled. My father having a stroke, me going back to smoking cigarettes and struggling to quit again, my Father passing away, the intense relationship changes I was going through in my marriage, being on crutches for 8 weeks after learning I was an extreme dumper. It was like life suddenly said “Oh look Pandora is doing something to try to get her life back, let’s see what we can throw in her way.”

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Me trying to play “Super Pandora” with my nephew wrapped up in compression gear and trying not to let the emotional breakdown in my mind seep through in my face.

This journey with reconstructive plastic surgery has been no different. The last 17 months of my life have been just as much of an emotional roller coaster as the early post-operative part of my gastric bypass was and my body has changed just as drastically in those 17 months as it has in the first 16 where I was shedding 260 lb. at star speed. In those 17 months I’ve gone through even more relationship issues, cut myself off from my entire blood related family, watched my mother try to commit suicide and go in and out of mental health counseling, and then last October I got involved with the Weight Loss Surgery community online more intensely, and boy let me tell you, that alone is more of an emotional roller coaster than I am sometimes sure we even realize.  I’ve worked on a complete career change that has intimidated the heck out of me on levels that include being intimidated by “learning” for the first time in nearly 20 years, and for the last 7 months I’ve pretty much been home in my own environment for all of 7 days as I bounce from place to place dealing with the different crisis that life has handed me.

This is my 4th round of reconstructive plastic surgeries and I can think of a ton of other things I COULD do… another breast lift, an outer thigh lift to make them look better, butt implants so that I could actually have a butt instead of suffering from the “No Ass At All Syndrome” that my 360 Upper Body lift left me with, a face lift to get rid of the rooster chin I hate when I see from a certain angle… I could go on and on.

But the reality is, if I did, I would probably still always find something to be unhappy with when I look at my body in the mirror. People who love me ask me often, “Why can’t you see how amazing you look and how far you have come?” – I wish, I honestly do that I had the answer to that question. I think that I am working towards it. I am using the right tools, talking to the right people and getting a little bit of help from some mental health professionals when it comes to trying to address my body image issues.

What I can say, is that it isn’t that I don’t realize how good I look. I see the progress. I see how much better I look now than I did when I had all that skin hanging off me. But I see my flaws and my mind focuses on them more than it does the positive. I suffer from over compulsive disorder. For me personally it is very easy for me to look in the mirror and go “My right breast is larger than my left breast” and have it become something that consistently bothers me. It is very easy for me to look in the mirror and see my arms and say “My arms are asymmetrical,” and have it become something that I obsess over.  The next time I am standing in front of the mirror naked, instead of looking at the amazing flat stomach my surgeon gave me, or appreciating how there isn’t skin dangling from my forearms anymore, my eyes are instantly drawn to the flaws I see.

I can cover those flaws up and play the out of sight out of mine game. I can tell myself how great my breasts look in a bra and how the difference is hardly noticeable, I can wear clothes that highlight features I am happy with and draw attention away from ones I don’t like. How many times did you all see me add a shrug to a sleeveless dress to cover the arms I hated so much?

But covering my flaws wasn’t ever my goal. My goal was to be able to stand in front of the mirror buck ass naked, and not only like what I see, but have the confidence to know that if someone else was looking at me, they were going to like what they saw too. I mean we don’t talk about sex a lot in this community, but hey, let’s go there for a second…

I remember when I weighed 350 lb., hated the way my breasts sagged out of a bra and was so afraid of someone seeing me naked that I literally wore a t-shirt during sex. Sure you could touch me anywhere you wanted too, as long as it was covered up and the lights were out.  Then there was the me having sex after losing 260 lbs. Same thing, I wanted the lights out, I wanted to not be seen, and oh Gawd, I wanted the sound of skin to skin contact to be between me and my partner not me and my loose skin as I tried to move in a sexual rhythm to theirs.

So post reconstructive plastic surgery, what I wanted most, was a body that made me want to leave the lights on, that made me want to let someone look at me, that empowered me to feel sexy, to want to wear lingerie and feel confident in doing those things.

I can hear what several of you are thinking already, I’ve heard it said to me more than once…

“If someone loves you, these things won’t matter to them.”

“You have to love yourself despite your flaws and learn to be happy with who you are.”

“Nobody is perfect.”

“Everyone has one breast that is different from the other, your breasts are sisters not twins.”

“Everyone has a little asymmetry to their body, one side of our body is not a perfect clone of the other.”

“Nobody notices these little things but you.”

And you know what… those statements are all probably 100% true and accurate. But that doesn’t mean my brain can rationally accept them, or rationally apply them to my situation.

We talk often about how it takes awhile for our minds to catch up with our bodies where the weight loss is concerned. So many of us lose weight so quickly after weight loss surgery and we look in the mirror and we still see ourselves as “big” or “fat”. We talk about how we have this misconception that we are a lot bigger than we are, we see ourselves different from others see us.

I don’t think reconstructive plastic surgery is any different. I’ve done four very large-scale surgeries in a 17 month time frame and they haven’t been spaced very far apart. My first was 02-12, next was 08-12, next was 11-12 and then 07-13 — and after each surgery, we were already planning the next one.

The weight loss journey as a whole is an extremely emotional one. Whether we are in the pre-op phase, early post-op phase, the honeymoon phase, or the maintenance phase, there are always big emotions involved. I haven’t even reached my three-year surgiversary yet and I have gone through them all.

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There are times when I feel like perhaps I rushed forward too quickly. I had just reached Onederland at my one year surgiversary and weighed 195 lb. when my surgeon said I could go ahead and consult with a plastic surgeon because my honeymoon phase was over and I had lost the weight I was going to lose. Just four months and another 20 lb. later I was having my first round of reconstructive plastic surgery. Then it was nothing but cut, heal, cut, heal, travel, cut, heal, travel, cut. So I spent 16 months losing my weight, and 17 months doing reconstructive plastic surgery immediately after doing so.

If you asked me “Pandora, if you had to pick the part of your journey that you saw the most changes in your body, was it the weight loss or the reconstructive plastics part?” My answer would be by far, the reconstructive plastics part and because of that, for me personally, this last 17 months has been one of the most emotional roller coasters of my life.

Someone asked me not too long ago “So when does the knife get put down for good?” – my response was “Hopefully after this surgery.” – My IM box was flooded by people in our community that were concerned about me when talks about transfer addictions to plastic surgery began to surface right around the time that I announced I was having my final surgery. Some of my dearest friends were concerned that I’d just always keep cutting on myself because nothing would ever be good enough.

78e5937ba1ef644bfe671872cf388409My feelings on these things change daily right now. I am through with reconstructive plastic surgery. I can honestly say, I won’t be doing any more big surgeries. There are some minor touch ups that need to be addressed after my body is done healing from this last surgery, that is completely normal. I will do those. But I am done enduring this sort of pain. I am done being out of commission from exercise; my major coping skill. I am done being cut in 3-4 directions or 8 different locations at a time and I am ready to close this chapter of my life and move on to the next one.

Since I haven’t begun but an outline of that chapter, I am not sure what all it entails just yet, but I do know for sure, that it doesn’t include any more rest and recovery days unless they come in the form of two days off of a marathon training program.

The next chapter of my life involves moving on with my new career and making that my primary focus. The next chapter of my life involves figuring out how to stop letting my past taunt me in the mirror and detaching my associating with my abusers with my body, because really, the Pandora that abused her body because everyone else always had is someone I left behind a long time ago, and now that I realize that is what I am doing to myself mentally each time I look in the mirror and search for my flaws I realize that emotionally I am letting them win again, and that is something I promised myself I would never do. The next chapter of my life includes some very serious and very deep cognitive work, which I can’t honestly promise I will be sharing and I will be talking more about this in the weeks and months to come.

We have a lot to talk about my friends, I have a lot of things to process with through with you now that I can sit and write comfortably so stay tuned lot’s more to come.

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I ran a Half Marathon Daddy Happy Fathers Day

Today is Father’s Day and I’m struggling with missing my Dad terribly. I miss my Dad everyday but I think there are some days when it is worse than others. Father’s Day, the anniversary of the day he passed away, and his Birthday.

IMG_5302Yesterday, I ran a 5K in honor of my Father at the Dadfest 5K in Frisco Texas. I finished in just under 37 minutes and then doubled back to where my friends were ( they were walking it instead of running or jogging it ) and finished again with them at just a little under an hour. ( 00:59:24.748 )My total distance yesterday was 4.75mi with a 13.07 min/mi pace.

This morning when I woke up and saw all the “Happy Father’s Day” messages on Facebook I realized it was going to be a really hard day for me. I sat on the end of the bed sobbing my eyes out and feeling the pain of missing my Dad in my life as I composed a poem for him.

My Dad was so special to me. I looked up to him so much. He was really one of the most amazing men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. They don’t build men like my Father anymore and I can honestly say that I feel blessed to have known him, and even more so, to have been raised by him. My Father helped mold me into the woman I am today and I am eternally grateful for the thing that he taught me.

I wish that I could tell you how much I miss you so.

Or explain how hard I struggle with how I had to watch you go.

My life has changed so much since the day had to leave.

And it hurts sometime that you’re not here to see what I’ve achieved.

You taught me to be kind and you told me I was smart.

And said that anything worth doing, was worth doing with all my heart.

You taught me to love others even if they couldn’t love me.

You taught me to be strong and face my fears with dignity.

You taught me to give back and to be someone that cares.

You taught me to be loving and be someone that shares.

You taught me life’s a river and destiny a dance.

And told me to approach each moment as a chance.

And though it hurts that you’re not here to share the journey I’ve begun.

I know that I can find your guidance when I exercise and run.

I miss your hugs, I miss your smile but most I miss you voice.

And I know you wouldn’t have left me if life offered another choice.

I know that you would smile and tell me it’s okay.

And to go and do something else because it’s just another day.

But I had to say I love you, even though you can’t be near.

And let you know I feel your presence even though you can’t be here.

And since I know you’re listening, there’s just one more thing to say…

Thank you for being my Dad, and Happy Father’s Day.

IMG_5310After I wrote the poem I knew that the only way I was going to make it through the day was to spend some time running and feeling connected to my Father.

I set out to do my usual 5K, but today I was running out emotions and as I finished the first 3.1 miles a little voice inside me started to ask, I wonder if I could run a Half-Marathon today. I dismissed it at first, thinking shut up Pandora, that’s crazy, you haven’t trained for a half marathon. Then I thought, I did a 5K for Dad yesterday, maybe I could do a 10K today. I did a 10K, and then, I kept going. I pushed for a 15K next, thinking “Hey maybe I can run 9.3, I’ve never gone that far before.” I did a 15K, I got that 9.3 and then I kept going, and I got that 13.1 – Actually I got 13.2 as I ended up at my special little ending place in the middle of my friends community where I decided to make a video and share this very special non scale victory moment with you.

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Click the photo clip below to watch the video.

IMG_5313I struggled on Mile 11 to Mile 12 and I ended up walking that whole mile as I refueled with a Starbucks iced coffee and a banana. And the closer I got to the end of that half-marathon the more emotional it became for me. I reached out to a few dear friends at that point to try to distract myself from how hard those last two miles were and when Joy called me back I was hauling my eyes out in an emotional whirlwind of being proud of what I was about to accomplish and yet so sad at how much I was missing my Father. I was at 12.26 miles when Joy called me, and she stayed on the phone with me, listening to me and supporting me and cheering me on and reminding me how proud my Father would be of me until she had to go to meet with a client. When Joy hung up I was at just about 12.8 miles – I pushed hard at that point and I made it. Then I sat down, cried it out, and took a moment to catch my breath and gathered my thoughts for a moment before I made the above mentioned video.

After the video, I walked home, ( another .74 miles ) – I was sore and stiff and that three-quarters of a mile took me nearly twelve minutes.

Then I sat there down for a moment and looked at what I had accomplished.

13.20 Miles – 2:52:45 Average Pace 13:05

00.74 Miles – 0:11:39 Average Pace 15:46

Total – 13.94 Miles 3:04:24 

IMG_5315My Father is a huge part of my weight loss journey. Him coming to me and letting me know that he was concerned for my health was a hug part of my decision to have weight loss surgery. “Honey I love you fat or skinny, black or white, but I’m not going to be around too much longer and I need to know you are going to have a happy and healthy life.” Those words will stick with me forever and forever motivate me to maintain my 260 lb, weight loss.

This was an amazing day for me. It really was. I will be proud of this day for a very long time to come. But for right now, it’s time for me to get some sleep because morning will come early and I have something else I have to do to make my Dad proud tomorrow… classes at the Cooper Institute. Coaching Healthy Behaviors here I come.

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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