Harvey Austin
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Healing Classic Series...Number 12spacer gif

by Harvey H. Austin, MD

"We undergo cosmetic surgery to improve our appearance physically in order to feel better about ourselves emotionally."
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BEFOREspacer gif
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AFTERspacer gif
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spacer gifThey say people get crazy around three things - money, sex, and politics. We would add a fourth — healing after cosmetic surgery.

Most people heal fine

spacer gif Here's the sane part: most of our patients tell us there is little pain after facial cosmetic surgery. They say, "I was surprised because I had no pain last night — just discomfort." If the worst pain they ever had was a 10, they tell us their facial rejuvenation ranked 1 or a 2.

Generally, our patients breeze through the post-op period, get their stitches out, make themselves up and look good pretty quickly. And most feel good pretty quickly.

 But not everyone.

Some have a harder time than others

spacer gifSome do have pain. They might tell us, "My ears hurt — I can't sleep on them." "My neck feels so tight — I'm afraid to move it". Or, "My face feels so fragile — I'm afraid it might burst if I touch it."

spacer gifWhen we examine them, their healing is normal and right on track. They are having normal amounts of firmness, bruising, tightness, hardness and redness. But things are not going the way they expected and they are afraid.

spacer gifFor perhaps a quarter of our patients, and you might be one of them, their sense of well-being gets replaced by fear and anxiety. It may show up as irritability or being afraid to smile or touch your face. Worry may disturb your sleep. You might constantly peer into the mirror. You, like a few, may even become certain that something is terribly wrong.

spacer gifWe understand some of the upset but not all of it. Over the past 18 years we have noticed some pattern to the "unsettledness" and think it's normal for cosmetic surgery patients to have some of it.

spacer gifHere's our understanding of some of the ingredients:

Cosmetic surgery has both physical results and emotional results.

spacer gifWe undergo cosmetic surgery to improve our appearance physically in order to feel better about ourselves emotionally. The emotional aspects of cosmetic surgery are inseparable from its physical aspects - just as the back of your hand is inseparable from the palm. Distinguishable, yes. Separable, no. So too there is emotionality accompanying the physical changes of the healing period. It's built-in.

Discomfort?…or pain?

spacer gifIt all depends. Normal healing varies a lot from one person to another - both in its rapidity and in its intensity. We also have different thresholds when we perceive pain; some feel pain where others feel only discomfort. We also hear enormous variation as to what pain or discomfort means — the same pain for some is a minor nuisance, for others it feels life-threatening. Further, the normal discomfort of healing may, over time, be experienced as pain, especially when fear presides.

Courage fades during healing.

spacer gifIt took such courage for you to overcome fear and ask us — a stranger, no matter how well-qualified — to perform surgery on your most precious possession, your face. But, afterwards, when your face is swollen and bruised, courage fades and fear slides back in. The fear, for some, lasts throughout the healing phase.

Identity becomes an issue for some.

spacer gifSome say they can't recognize themselves in the mirror at first. This can be deeply shaking to the child-within, especially if you think your face is really who you are. We recommend not looking in mirrors for the first couple of weeks.

The sense of "temporary" is lost.

spacer gifThere is a fear that your face will always look like this.

Expectations get in the way.

spacer gifYour speed of healing and its intensity are often inherited. Yet one of the truisms of our practice is that everyone expects to heal faster than average. Well, it just doesn't work that way. Half heal faster than average — so half must heal slower than average. The problem is, the slower half all feel "it shouldn't be this way" and "this must mean there's something wrong."

Trust the process. It works

spacer gifTake care of yourself. Take your pain medication to be comfortable. Be gentle and kind and spacious with yourself. Give up your expectation of what should be happening - and that you should be healing faster than you are. Avoid mirrors.

spacer gifAnd… Trust The Process

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Harvey W. Austin, MD
Box 1470
Berlin MD 21811

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