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Post-Op: What I Learned After Having Major Surgery

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If you have ever had a major surgery, then you are probably very familiar with the recovery process. The recovery process can consist of weeks of physical therapy and many medications. After surgery, you are given instructions to take home and figure out what to do and what not to do for your healing. Most of the recovery process is to help you physically. But, after learning to live with a new routine every day, I quickly realized that emotionally and mentally I had entered into unfamiliar territory – with no instructions.

Five years ago I had open heart surgery. I was born with mitral valve prolapse with regurgitation. I was diagnosed my freshman year of high school. My heart condition is one that unfortunately gets progressively worse with time. By the time my sophomore year of college rolled around, I was told that I need open heart surgery. After surgery, I stayed in the hospital for a week. When I was able to go home I soon realized that my life had made a complete 180. I was able to recover quite fast physically, but mentally I had hit several road blocks.

Here are two things that I learned during post-operation:

1. It is OK to not be OK.

After you have had major surgery, you are expected to be “OK now.” This cannot be any further from the truth. Sure, you might be fine physically, but emotionally you are not OK. Your body just went through one of the most strenuous operations possible. You are having to rewire and adjust your brain to living with something that has always been there and is not there now or vice versa. You are also expected not to complain, because let’s face it – you have been given the miracle of a new life. By no means should be diminished or forgotten, but you are going to complain. Whether your complaints are of physical pain or emotional pain, it is OK. This brings me to one of my favorite quotes by actress Sophia Bush. “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”

2. You are stronger than you think.

Some days during the recovery process you think, will this ever end? Will my life go back to the way it was? It will. Maybe not right now, but it will get better. I remember going back to college after I had my surgery and questioning everything. Did I make the right choice by going back? Honestly, I was nowhere in the right state of mind once I got there. I laid in my bed every day and cried for the rest of the semester. I knew from that moment I had to leave, but I was so conflicted because I knew that once I left I would not go back. Eventually, it got better. I was able to finish that year and also graduate from college within four years. I was able to get my degree, even when I didn’t see a way – it happened. You are much stronger than you think you are. Do not give up, because the reward is worth the triumph.

To everyone living through post-op, you have lived through the impossible and the unimaginable. You are a survivor. Shout it from the rooftops! You are a warrior.

Getty Image by LightFieldStudios

Originally published: March 28, 2018
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