My Perspective on Facial Surgery

Face surgery is now scheduled for December 22nd. I called this afternoon to tell my mom so that plans could be made to have dad come visit for the surgery. Not that I want my dad in the room for surgery, but I know I’m going to need a little extra TLC afterwards. After last week’s visit to the surgeon, it’s quite clear that my dormant PTSD can still be activated under the right (or wrong) conditions.

On the phone with my mom I began crying. “I’m excited about the surgery but it is sort of for everyone else.” My mom spoke for both herself and my dad. “We aren’t pressuring, just trying to encourage you” Which is exactly what it has been from everyone. Probably not everyone, but the idea that my face needs ‘fixed’ does seem to be a general consensus. While I know those thoughts are very well-intentioned, I’m going to provide an alternate perspective.

Kennett and I are used to the scar in a lot of ways. I see it every few hours when I go to the bathroom and look in the mirror. And I do look at myself, but that is because I’m vain, not because I’m examining the scar. Typically I’m deciding if I think I’m pretty or not. The conclusion I make each day depends on how confident I feel. I’ll put on makeup if I go to work but I also try to dress nicer for work. I’m more likely to powder on blush than blend concealer over my scar.

It seems that others are of the opinion that surgery is a step in the right direction for me to heal. Me? I think suggestions of surgery are based on others’ beliefs that if it will help them heal, it must offer me relief too. True, if I have surgery, evidence of the crash disappears for those who interact with me. The healing process for me isn’t the same as people may think. What is traumatizing to me? Not looking in the mirror, but the white car that almost turned into me at the intersection of Iris and Broadway earlier this fall, seeing on my computer that another two cyclists were hit an hour north of me in Fort Collins, or that politicians are considering reneging on funding in Colorado for bike lanes. I hear of other cities around the world who are banning cars within city limits and I feel hopeful. More hopeful than I’ll ever feel from having this scar fixed.

Let’s not joke, while others may not label my surgery as cosmetic, that’s exactly what it is. It won’t make cycling safer and it won’t make me faster (I’d definitely do surgery if I suddenly got as fast on my bike as I once was).

When a person’s face is altered, it takes a lot of emotional energy to adjust to the new look. It can happen even when someone simply covers your face with enough makeup to make the entirety of it a big pimple should you not immediately scrub your face after the wedding, party, or photo session is over. Even if the surgery is elective such as a nose job, it takes a bit of time for such a person to adjust. Guess what? I’ve adjusted already. I know what my face looks like and I’m used to it. When I go back under the knife, I’m going to have a whole new adjustment period. It won’t even immediately be a positive change. I’ll be back to having stitches like Frankenstein. Just in time for Christmas – so instead of wearing makeup for a holiday when other dress up, I’ll have a lot of antibiotic cream smeared across black stitches. Wow – now I really sound vain.

Another detail that some may miss – my face won’t ever go back to what it was before. I’ve heard I should get surgery so I don’t start identifying with my scar. Others may no longer see it, but I always will. I’ll know because I’ve seen the pictures — all of them. As I may have already discussed on this blog, I have a favorite photo taken just a month or two before the crash. I loved my smile in the photo. I also recently saw the photos from my first few hours in the emergency room so, should you desire to feel sick, I can tell you how far my lip was ripped back. Looking at those photos, I also saw my facial bones and teeth exposed in a way that no horror movie could recreate.

I’ve also seen enough photos from the past year to know that it won’t ever go back to normal. My biggest concern is that missing smile. Yet, I’ve been told that it is either nerve damage or more likely that the muscles in my face are paralyzed. Plus, my skin on that side of my face is thicker. It impedes my lip from extending across my face the way it does on the other side of my cheek when I grin. At least I still have a lot of joy in my life and a myriad of things to smile about.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful that people are looking out for my best interests. I am excited for the surgery — I think. I am not so stoked to put my running shoes, swim cap, and helmet in the closet for several weeks post-surgery.

After surgery I may need more emotional support than I’ve asked for in the past six months. More importantly, I’ll need some distractions, so feel free to ask me for helping doing tasks. Actually I still have pain meds that I fully intend to use, so ask me to help with chores a few days afterwards. Maybe December 26th. Everyone has better things to think about on Christmas, even me.


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