I’m basically an 80 year old woman.
When I was 7 years old my parents and I noticed that I had bunions on both of my feet. It’s a hereditary thing that usually only becomes a problem in middle-aged or older women. But for me, a large portion of my youth has been sapped up by bunion-feet and all the pain and struggle that goes along with it. I know, not cute; just hand me some knitting needles and a rocking chair.
At the start of the year, I decided it was probably best to do something about my messed up feet, while I was still living in the safe and secure environment of my family home; lots of people to look after me during recovery.
All year, I have been dreading the surgery. I have been reading endless reviews and stories of mixed-experiences, some speaking of a fast and easy recovery, others sharing horror stories of pain and relentless side-effects. I entered the hospital knowing I could potentially come out with feet even worse than before. Being only 20, the idea of possibly having to live 60 more years with even more pain definitely wasn’t encouraging.
But all along, whilst these thoughts played on my mind, another fear cast its shadow over me.
I have never been good at recovery.
Last year, I had my wisdom teeth removed. For a week I was frustrated, aggressive and incredibly irritable. My hunger would call for sustenance but all I could eat were liquid foods, which would consequently make my empty tummy feel even worse. It was a never-ending cycle of misery.
At the start of this year, I had my teeth whitened. For 5 days, I had to eat only white foods. I like having beverages throughout the day; coffee, tea, hot chocolate, kombucha. Unfortunately, every beverage I like is strong in colour and the fact that I was without beverage left me feeling grumbly and very inconvenienced. Once again I was frustrated, aggressive and incredibly irritable.
Not one to usually suffer from being ‘hangry’, I assumed this must be my general response to any form of recovery that will inconvenience me in some way and thusly, I was very nervous about this surgery.
Obviously, being a nice person, I don’t like being frustrated, aggressive or incredibly irritable. I prefer to push on through my struggles and be that person you can rely on to just get over it and keep going without complaint. So I was afraid that once again, following this surgery, my Mr Hyde would reveal its ugly face.
But it didn’t.
On the day of surgery, I was completely calm. No nerves, no panic, no worries. My night in the hospital was a great time. The nurses who looked after me were lovely and I didn’t mind being bed bound in a hospital at all. When I was taken down to the radiology department to get an x-ray, the radiographer thought I was still high on anaesthetic because I sounded too happy and friendly when I greeted them. I wasn’t, I was just feeling very optimistic.
I expected my optimism to dry up when I got home. For the next two weeks I would have to walk as little as possible, keep both legs raised as often as possible and not leave the house. For the following 4 weeks after that, I would be able to walk but only in heavy, clunky post-op shoes that are difficult and tiring to walk in. You can see why I would be worried.
Yet somehow, something was different this time.
Every day, I wake up and lower myself onto the floor.
I drag myself over to the suitcase that I have to live out of for the next few weeks and grab my outfit for the day.
I put my clothes in a bag so that they are easy to carry and then I hang the bag around my neck so both hands are free.
I drag myself out of my room, up 14 stairs and across to my bathroom. This whole time, my noodle arms are carrying my entire weight.
I can’t use a shower yet so I have to do a ‘bird bath’ situation with a washer, a bucket of water and some liquid body wash. If I want to wash my hair, I have to get my mum’s help.
Then it’s the mission of getting to the table for breakfast and then making my way downstairs again, to start a full day of work.
And yet somehow, in all this, I haven’t once felt frustrated, aggressive or irritable; only an occasional mild inconvenience if my feet start hurting along the way.
I’ve narrowed this response down to one thing.
A different mindset.
Instead of simply being an annoying circumstance that I have to deal with for a short amount of time, my recovery has given me a disability that has altered every aspect of my daily routine. Instead of being an inconvenience, it has become a way of life and thus, I more easily adapt and learn to deal with it.
I am so grateful for this mindset. It has transformed an experience that could have otherwise been traumatic and overwhelmingly negative, to one that is fulfilling and almost empowering. Now that I know I can exist without two feet, just imagine what I can do when they’re fully functioning once again.
A good recovery is all about your mindset. See the issue as a short term inconvenience and you are going to feel nothing but inconvenienced. Acknowledge the issue as something you just have to deal with and work around and you will find a way to do so.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have a long way to go; I’m only 10 days into a six week recovery process. But I am over the hardest part and getting more mobile every day. So I think I’ve earned the right to feel optimistic.
I hope this will help to reassure anyone reading this who may be going through a similar surgery. I would love to hear your recovery stories too!