So you had your surgery, swelling has subsided well, your bite is perfect. But you feel your whole face has changed and you don't recognise your nose, smile etc. Even if people tell you that you look better, you feel like the face staring at you from the mirror is not yours…Is it common to feel this way?
Dysphoria, or mood change, after orthognathic surgery or any plastic surgery procedure is not unusual, and there are many elements that favour its appearance:
- Recovery makes us vulnerable: our bodies are healing after a traumatising experience, so it’s normal to feel a little down
- Medication makes you feel strange and numb-headed.
- You have a lot of time in your hands during post-op period, which (and quite understandably) you’ll spend looking at old pictures and comparing them with the ever-changing face in the mirror
- It’s a long time before you can enjoy the final results, and in the meantime, your face keeps changing, so that increases the feeling of strangeness when looking at yourself.
You are not alone, in fact the majority of patients undergo the same phases before coming to terms with their new self:
1- In the first days after surgery: “What have I done?” discomfort and swelling combined make many people regret their decision, but fortunately this stage doesn’t last longer tan 2-3 days.
Our advise for those hard moments:
·Watch your favourite shows/films
· Play simple games that don’t require much thinking
· If you feel overwhelmed, practice some breathing exercises
· Think about the changes that you aimed for, and how they are closer every day (perhaps plan a makeover for when the swelling subsides?)
2- After some days or weeks since your surgery: “I don’t look like me!” as swelling subsides and the results of the surgery are more and more visible, you might start feeling like your face is not your own; that’s completely normal after a major surgery such as orthognathic surgery, but keep in mind that it’s only you that feels that way (as you have such an intimate knowledge of your face) . Whereas you feel that people know you had surgery from 1km away, the rest of people might notice just a small change in the way you look, if any.
To help this:
· Remember why you decided to have surgery in the first place
·Write down your feelings, it will help you soothe your emotions, and you’ll be surprised later!
· Remember that every change takes time to get used to: even when you make small changes such as a new hairstyle, much more so with surgery!
3- From 1 to 3 months after surgery: “Have I made a mistake?” during this period of time, the most visible swelling has disappeared, but you don’t look quite like yourself (more like a puffed up version of you) perhaps with a creepy smile and lack of facial expression. Many people tend to think that this is their final result, so it’s no wonder that it is precisely during this stage that people feel more discontented with their results.
·It’s important to know that your results in this stage are not your final results: Be patient: your features will become less puffy and your lines more lean.
·Do not despair! It’s temporary: you’ll only know if you like your final results when you are able to see your final results
· It is always good to have a confident to talk to: it might be a family member, a close friend, a therapist, or even your pet!
· If you feel really anxious, you can turn to natural anxiolytics, such as valerian, linden, melissa or lavender, to help you relax.
· Make a little plan to reward yourself after the struggles of recover: a holiday, a weekend getaway, a day of spa, or a shopping day!
4- 3 to 6 months after surgery: “It’s ok…I guess” at this stage you can eat and do whatever you like, so no hardships in that area, on the other hand, you have started to reconcile with the face in the mirror, although you might not be completely happy with your results… guess what?? You’re still swollen! Swelling at this stage is minimal, but it still distorts your features and makes your face look burlier than it should.
· Your close to the end! Just think that it will only get better, and the awkwardness of today will give way to those facial expressions that make you be you.
· Don’t get obsessed with small things: accept that results will never be completely perfect or completely symmetric: all faces are asymmetric in a lesser or greater measure
· Normally, post-op orthodontic treatment finishes during this stage too, adding to the effect of the surgery
5- 6 months to 1 year “It was totally worth it and I’d do it again!” at this stage, 93% of patients who underwent orthognathic surgery say that they would do it again and they are highly satisfied with their results. In over 25 years of experience, we’ve seen a lot of patients go through this rollercoaster or emotions, but a vast majority of them end up loving their results.
In short: Give-it-time! Think ahead, although recovery might be hard, be reassured by the fact that orthognathic surgery is one of the cosmetic procedures with higher satisfaction rates, and surely you will be too!