I know it's been a while since my last update about my Facial Feminization and Breast Augmentation surgeries. I apologize for not writing this sooner but I have been going through a lot (which I will get into here)! I underwent both of these procedures just over a month ago and it to say that it was difficult would be a disservice to the reality of what I experienced. Many people don't actually realize what a trying process undergoing cosmetic surgery can be. You don't simply go under the knife and wake up with immediate results. It's not at all glamorous like many films and television shows may deceptively imply. For me, the surgery was a brutal, traumatizing, and profoundly life-changing experience.
(A reminder: what I looked like before)
The night before my surgery, I was a nervous wreck. I simply couldn't shake off my anxiety no matter how hard I tried. I was hopelessly drifting in and out of sleep while thinking about the thousands of potentially negative outcomes that could result. I was actually contemplating calling off the surgery entirely but I knew that in my heart, it's what I needed to feel complete and whole.
The morning of surgery, I woke up and immediately felt the urge to call my best friend, Shayna. I was so immensely terrified that I actually felt nauseous. Shayna has always been the one person in my life who has been able to calm me down in these types of situations and, thankfully, she reassured me that I was in the best possible hands. When I got off of the phone with her, I felt much calmer but I was still unnerved by the fact that my life was about to change. Hopefully for the better, but possibly for the worse if there were complications or negative results.
My parents accompanied me to the surgery facility and I was relieved by how optimistic and calm they were. It was really comforting. I'm certain that they were scared out of their minds but they didn't show it at all. For that, I am eternally grateful. They made what was a very daunting process just a little more tolerable for me. And the whole experience has actually brought me much closer to them.
At the surgical center, I met with my recovery nurse and anesthesiologist who were both sympathetic to how young and scared I was. Most patients who undergo these procedures are much older and are more equipped to handle their pre-operative anxiety. In hindsight, as much as I had researched and mentally readied myself, I don't think I was prepared at all. The nurse, out of obligation, went through all of the risks and possibilities that could occur and I essentially signed my life away. I was accepting that death or permanent deformity could arise, and that if these were to happen, I brought it upon myself. At this moment, I wanted nothing more than for the surgery to be over with. Waiting was by far the hardest part.
I was called into the operating room and my legs were shaking uncontrollably while I walked in. As I laid down on the operating table, shivering and petrified, I literally burst into tears. Why was I doing this to myself? Was it really worth it? Deep down, I knew it would be. The nurse stroked my arm to calm me down and the anesthesiologist said that he would inject me with something to alleviate my anxiety. I kept sobbing and sobbing until, suddenly, I felt a surge of tranquility overcome my body and mind. It was at this point that I began to ramble like a drunk person. And before I knew it, my anesthesiologist began to count backwards from 10. I remember nothing else other than waking up in excruciating, throbbing pain.
The first two nights of my recovery were by far the worst. I was in so much physical discomfort that I wondered if I would ever feel normal and happy again. To paint a picture: my face was completely bandaged up, swollen, bleeding, bruised, and riddled with staples, stitches, and screws that served to hold my surgeon's work in place. My breast implants were stretching my taut skin and tight pectoral muscles in a remarkably agonizing fashion. In summation, my body was in complete shock from all of the trauma I had endured. I couldn't talk or open my eyes. At a certain point, I was sure that I was going to die.
By the fourth day, I felt so much better. I could talk and move around. Thankfully, I was starting to feel human again. But even though the physical pain was beginning to subside, the emotional recovery was just starting. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can prepare you to look in the mirror and see someone that is completely and utterly unrecognizable. I'm not even referring to the aesthetic differences resulting from surgery. I'm referring to staring at a reflection that is a battered and brutalized version of yourself. You begin to wonder if you will look normal again. You begin to wonder if you were botched. Coping with the trauma of the surgery was a lot for me to handle and I am the first to say that I did not deal with it well. I went through a very dark time after surgery and I'm only beginning to come out of it. It took the help of my parents, friends, psychiatrist, and surgeon for me to move on from it. I was so traumatized post-surgery that I had to take anti-depressants and anxiolytics in order to get back to a healthy mentality. And I'm now finding out that going through what is called post-op depression is exceedingly common. It is my hope that more surgeons educate and inform their patients about not only the physical results that come with surgery but the psychological ones as well. For me, chronicling my surgery and writing about it (see my first three diary entries) has been very cathartic.
Now that five weeks have passed since my operation, I am happy to say that I love the results (for the most part) and do not regret going through with it as I initially did. Time has certainly provided me with some much-needed perspective. I am thankful to have had the amazing opportunity to undergo these surgeries and I consider myself truly fortunate and privileged. I already feel more comfortable in my skin than I felt before and have so far been completely perceived as female when moving through the world.
Like I said before, this entire experience was life changing. Perhaps the most important thing it revealed to me was that those who you think will be there for you during your darkest times may disappoint you and others will surprise you with their support. I found out which people in my life were patient and empathetic enough to really be there for me and which ones only wanted to stand with me when I was easy to be around. I am now working on improving myself (personally, professionally, and artistically) and moving forward as Serena 2.0. No matter how far I've come, I am still and will always be a work in progress.