I'm currently sat on my bed with my laptop propped up on my lap. It's 12:30am and I am lost for words on where to even begin this post! This day, last year was by far the biggest, scariest and most rewarding day of my entire life thus far - at this very hour last year, I was lying in bed sick with nerves - counting down the mere hours until I left for the hospital. Who knew 12 months could go by so quickly?
Many of you are aware that I underwent major double-jaw surgery on March 5th 2013. I developed a severe underbite as a young teen and I had it corrected through elective surgery. Throughout 2013, I made various Youtube videos and blog posts discussing pre and post surgery - click here to have a gander through all if you wish (I advise reading them prior to this, as I won't be going into much detail about last year's recovering here).
It's an entire year since the surgery and only NOW am I beginning to feel like myself; I think I've said that at least 2-3 times in previous posts but I was so unaware of the constant changes throughout the year - I actually mean it now! The photo collage above is a general timeline from when I had my underbite, hours after my surgery, weeks after, months after and now. I'm going to make this post as straight-forward and simple for you all by breaking down the main points and experiences I've discussed previously in the posts and videos.
Swelling: Swelling is an odd one - after around 5/6 months I didn't even notice I was swollen anymore, only in retrospect do I see how swollen I still was in 2013. In all honesty, the majority of my swelling - especially around my jawline - only disappeared in November/ December. You can see from the photos above how my face has changed over the 12 months: my cheekbones are more prominent, my jawline is more defined and my lips aren't as thin (my lips practically shrunk altogether when I was extremely swollen). I'm still slightly swollen around the left-hand side of my jaw due to nerve-damage (I'll get on that in a second) but it's only really noticeable to me.
Nerve-damage: Unfortunately during my surgery, a nerve was severed on the left-hand side of my face - directly to the side of my chin and bottom lip. Patients who undergo this surgery are told countless times how likely it is that such a thing could and can occur - be aware of that. 70% of my entire face was numb last year. I only regained feeling back around my left eye-socket, cheek, nose and top lip in late Summer. Half of my bottom lip and the left-hand side of my chin are still numb now. However, I saw my surgeon for a check-up a month or two ago and we did some tests; I can differentiate between temperatures and direction, which is a hopeful sign that the feeling may return eventually. I get the pins and needles feeling every once in a while, daily. I won't say "I've gotten used to it, I don't even notice it anymore" because I would be completely lying. It upsets me on a daily basis that I have this complication - I dribble due to lack of control of my bottom lip, it feels like I constantly have something alien attached to my face (think of the feeling when you have a facemask on, you're aware of it being on) and it makes me very paranoid whilst eating in company. In saying that, I'd rather go through this than still have an underbite. It's something I've had to suck up and deal with. Maybe the feeling will come back over the next few years, I am praying it will. My gums were also completely numb up until a few weeks ago (literally) - I only regained the feeling back in my top gums in late January/ early February. The pins and needles feeling started to occur and within days I had more or less complete feeling back. There are still certain areas that are numb inside of my mouth but it doesn't bother me.
|Before with underbite | post-surgery month one | post-surgery 12 months on (now).|
Eating & drinking: Eating and drinking is completely normal for me these days. I only got 100% back to normality diet-wise in September-ish; I found it quite hard to eat, chew and digest certain foods until then (tough meat, crisps, chips). Out of habit, I tend to still cut up pieces of food for easier eating as I can only open my mouth the width of 3/4 fingers (I'll elaborate further on).
Stretching & pain: If you read my previous posts last year, you'll know that I found the stretching exercises very difficult during recovery. I can currently open my mouth just about the width of 3 fingers, fitting my baby finger in on a good day. Prior to the surgery, I was able to put my whole fist in my mouth (shoutout to Karen Smith) so I know it's not at its full potential. However, I don't push myself to stretch when it feels sore and uncomfortable. It doesn't affect me on a massive scale, I just have to be wary with certain food (rolls and burgers can be a pain in the ass to try and eat sometimes). Pain-wise, over the last 2/ 3 months my jaw joints tend to ache or stiffen up. If this happens, I just massage the areas with my fingers in circular motions. Nothing too major!
Teeth & bite: My underbite will forever haunt me; that's something I've had to accept. On a daily basis, I terrify myself into thinking my surgery has rejected and that my jaws are moving back to their original position. My bite has changed over the months of recovery - I'm not overly paranoid - my top jaw just about fits over my bottom jaw. I'm genuinely terrified that my bite will yet again be incorrect and that I'll have to go in for another surgery but hopefully this is just paranoia. Every single day, my teeth and jaw move; it's very difficult to explain on this but I can feel with my tongue that certain teeth move. Not dramatically, but they do. I wear my retainers daily (along with having permanent wires being glued directly on to my teeth) so my teeth are still straight but I know they haven't "settled" yet. I have an appointment next month with my orthodontist and I will tell her of all my worries about my bite. (Don't let this scare you - I've just terrified myself into thinking the worst!)
All in all, I don't regret a thing. I'm at a loss for words trying to put all of my emotions and thoughts from the last 12 months into this post. It's an experience that I'm still not over - physically and mentally - and I find myself getting highly emotional and almost overwhelmed looking back on it all. My confidence has obviously soared since the surgery but unfortunately the likes of BDD and anxiety aren't cured with a scalpel and I still have a long way to go in terms of learning to love myself. I am so proud of myself for going through what I did and it's surreal to think of what I went through before, during and after. Looking "normal" was something I had to get used to for quite sometime, to my surprise - I wasn't used to people NOT staring at me because I looked different.
I just want people to know that this surgery, regardless of how life-changing it is, isn't the be all and end all to happiness and self-confidence. It certainly contributes to it but it takes time to achieve such a positive state of mind. I wish anyone going through this all the best and I highly advise you read back on my previous posts and watch my videos for further information - preparation, diet, advice etc. Thank you so much for all of your support during my journey.