The long tail of recovery
Seven months since surgery!
While the initial recovery from bottom surgery usually take about three months, full recovery takes much longer—often 12 to 18 months (with full nerve healing and sensation sometimes taking even longer). And while improvements can still be seen and felt week after week, they become less dramatic and more internal. I think the things that are most apparent are that dilation went from being absolutely traumatic during the first month to tedious to annoying to boring in a bad way to now boring in a good way. My mind has space to wander, think about my day, or anything else I’d like to pay attention to.
For the most part, the pain is now entirely gone—with only the periodic pinprick here or there that is more curious than all-encompassing. As someone who generally prides myself on my exceptional memory, something that is a little disconcerning is that I have almost no memory of the pain of those first months. I know that they happened, I know that they were terrible, but my memories of them are more like remembering a movie or book than my own experience. My therapist noted that this is pretty similar to how others sometimes entirely block out memories of the pain of childbirth.
I was originally going to do a six-month retrospective, but the month of March super duper sucked. And since the last four months are a bit more like iterative improvement than the first three, I thought I’d use a more standard roses/thorns/sprouts retro template rather than a project reflection.
🌹 Roses #
- I can go up and down a couple flights of stairs without pain or getting winded!
- I’m stable/able to walk/stand well enough to ride the subway again!
- No more waddle! My normal walking speed is getting back to a normal NYC gait. There still some waddle if I sit weirdly or if I’m super exhausted but that’s not terrible.
- Dilation isn’t getting that much harder as I move around more and get back to a normal daily routine.
- I can comfortably walk down the block to buy groceries or pick up takeout.
- I am now more flexible than I was pre-surgery. Daily yoga for the win!
- I just managed to sit at my desk for a whole day without totally falling apart after work.
- I now have enough energy to cook somewhat regularly.
- I’ve managed to regain the scary amount of weight I lost during the two months immediately surgery.
- I can take regular walks without getting totally winded either—which is great since my new neighborhood is exceptionally walkable.
- I now have enough strength to carry squirmy one year olds. Or large bags of rice. Or assemble new bookshelves.
- Orgasms keep getting better.
🥀 Thorns #
- Moving less than 6 months after surgery sucks
- Foam rolling my left leg is Not. Fun.
- Eating meal deliveries has my blood pressure sky high again and the meds aren’t working as well this time around.
- Being personally attacked by right wing wind media kinda sucks—it’s also pretty bad for the blood pressure.
- I’m still pretty tired after a long day of work/long week.
- Queef city.
🌱 Sprouts #
- My physical therapist has figured out what is going on with my left leg—the fascia is basically stuck to the underlying muscle, which is not supposed to happen. But she has me doing regular exercises to heal the nerve damage that happened during surgery—it involves a lot of foam rolling (see thorn).
- Starting anti-anxiety meds are helping me stay a bit more even-keeled with feeling like I’m still doing less than I would be if I were in top shape. (They also helped with a few of those thorns.)
- Surprisingly, physical therapy has helped me become much less ticklish than I used to be. Apparently, my life-long ticklishness was at least partially because I’ve been holding my core pretty tightly.
- I should be cleared for baths soon. I may have a few bath bombs ready.
Excitedly, my new vagina feels wholly mine—which is to say my brain is remapped itself and it takes a bit of concentration to remember how the nerves mapped to the old equipment. And I am feeling more joy and myself in my own body than I ever did before surgery. While I was able to ignore my dysphoria most of the time before surgery, I didn’t really think about my body or enjoy being in it. Now—even though the dysphoria has change—I am finding joy in my body and form. I am happy and proud to care for her. I am finding it much easier to love how beautiful I am.
With all the hate targeted at trans folks, I wished the stories that got told weren’t of the hate and the attacks and the fear but rather of trans joy of us discovering ourselves, loving ourselves, of finding and building community to care for one another. But right now the reality of the trans experience is that the sorrow is often so much louder than the euphoria.
Seven months down, a whole lifetime to go.