I’m a week into recovery and all I want is to be able to sleep laying on my stomach. Not for another 3 weeks… (okay, that’s not *all* I want, but it’s a start… also stretching my arms above my head, oh do I miss that, too!)
Most of the days since surgery have been pretty easy, with a couple exceptions for cranky moments and hard things. I’m super grateful to everyone who brought or bought me foods, especially in the first few days. Having food show up without me having to think much about it was so great and really really useful. And the folks who came over to care for me have been absolutely the best. Your company made the days go faster. You have helped me feel loved and cared for and knowing I could ask for something if I needed it has been so helpful. I still have a few more meals and a few more folks signed up, and I’m super grateful to you, too, and everyone who has read my posts in here and commented support. Lots of gratitude.
Wednesday, Stian helped me shower (yay! Finally!) and we removed the pad and bandage around my chest for likely the last time. I was told at the post-op appointment that I could remove the bandage once it stopped draining, and the bandage we removed yesterday was basically clean. I had previously only really had two chances to see my new chest, when changing the bandage. The last day and a half or so has been a strange and new version of surgery recovery, and also the most emotional so far.
With the bandage off, the physical reality of surgery has hit me. I’ve read about post-surgery depression, which happens with all types of surgery not just trans ones, and so I expected some of that given that my brain is used to depressed places. Expecting it and experiencing it, of course, are different. I’ve had all the emotions around surgery and I’m sure I’m not done. All the pre-surgery questions have come back, not surprisingly. I’m trying really hard to keep my ever-critical Virgo-rising eye from now obsessing over how my new chest looks because I know how it is now is not how it will be. I’m barely a week into healing and I haven’t even seen the areola shape yet as I still have the steri strips on the incisions. Still, though, my brain is a fun overly critical anxious and depressed place, so I’ve been going all the worst places.
At the urging of one of my main care team folks, I read a few different narratives of post top surgery depression that I could find yesterday, and my care person today is someone who has had top surgery, so I’m planning on chatting with him about it. It has been useful to remind myself this is normal, that it is okay, that I won’t feel this way forever, but it is still challenging. I hoped that all the doubt and uncertainty would go away with surgery and that I would love looking down at my new chest and feel so satisfied and content with it. Even though I also knew that wasn’t going to happen right away and that there would be a period of adjustment and likely depression, part of me still hoped I could bypass that somehow. I hoped everything would click into place the way I felt after my first shot of T. Though, I must have forgotten my slow process with that, as well, and the months long break I took about six months in and the struggle and uncertainty there because of how right it feels now.
I am not binary, and that also makes all medical transition more complicated (I think… which is also not to say it isn’t complicated for binary trans folks as well). My genderqueerness means there is no ideal chest, exactly, except for the one I choose. It does not need to look like a “man’s chest” (though, also, there are billions of right ways for a chest to be a man’s chest and tons of variation there, so wtf does that mean, anyway? But also, you know what I mean) nor a “woman’s chest,” (see previous parenthetical statement) and indeed it is neither of those things. It’s mine. It is a genderqueer chest by nature of being on the genderqueer body of a genderqueer person.
The physical reality is still hitting me, and it will likely keep coming. I must build a new relationship with my new chest. I can’t assume the old ways we were together still hold. We have to find new ways of being together, as in the aftermath of any traumatic experience (which surgery certainly, literally, is). And some of that process will be grieving. And some of that process will be gender euphoria. And some of that process will be pleasurable. And some of the process will be terrible. All of the process will be slow.