A recent question on my rhinoplasty blog post about the “other side” of rhinoplasty (the emotional and mental) made me decide to share with you what I personally experienced. There are plenty of people all over the internet sharing what to expect physically, but there doesn’t really seem to be much on what to expect mentally. So, I’m going to take you back on my journey with me—this time however, I am going to cover it from inside my mind.
During the week after my surgery I wasn’t really concerned with my appearance. Perhaps it was because I had the nose cast and it covered a good amount of my face. The day that the cast was removed was when I realized it really takes mental strength to recover from rhinoplasty. I still remember having the cast removed, walking up to the mirror and thinking, “Oh, gosh. What did I do?!”
The girls at the doctor’s office were telling me how great my nose looked, and I remember thinking, “Are you kidding? I look freaky.” Of course, it’s easier to understand about swelling when you see people with rhinoplasty on a daily basis, but I had never had a rhinoplasty so I was just freaking out inside.
My friend had driven me to the appointment because I felt too weird to drive after being on Vicodin for a week—not to mention I don’t think I was legally allowed to drive. When we got back to the car I pulled down the visor mirror and stared at my frightening appearance. I turned to my friend, “I look like an old baby. Look at this, I have jowls! Why aren’t you freaking out??” And I’ll never forget his response—which actually really helped me more than he knows. He said, “I’m not freaking out because you are going to be fine. The swelling will go away, and you’ll get used to having a different nose.”
He dropped me off at my house, I waved bye, unlocked the front door and was dreading having to be teased by my family. It was right then that I realized I needed to be able to laugh at myself. I thought, “This is a temporary situation, and in a few years when all the change has happened, I’ll look back and see how silly I was being”—so I went in. And we did, we all had a good laugh.
Here let’s have another:
When I took this picture I thought I would never show it to anyone. But now I show it to everyone because I have come a long way and I can see the comedy in this.
Later on that day, I remember sitting in my room looking in the mirror and feeling pretty freaked out about my decision to have surgery. Then I remembered what my friend had told me. I had to tell myself, “Of course you look ridiculous right now, your body just experienced a lot of trauma. It is expected and normal to be swollen and bruised.”
My thoughts drifted back to an experience I had when I was younger, and I tried to play a prank on a friend. I had turned off all the lights and ran full speed down the hall, in an attempt to hide and scare her. But I ran full speed into the corner of a wall! I, of course, tumbled backwards and fell. She came out and turned on the lights (go figure) and found me holding my face, lying flat on my back on the floor. I got up, went to a mirror, removed my hand, and it looked like someone had put a golf ball under my eyebrow—I seriously looked like Quasimodo. It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen, and therefore the funniest. We laughed for 15 minutes straight.
I looked ridiculous but eventually the golf ball swelling went away, and I returned to my normal-looking self. So, I knew that I had to face the same thing here. I would be fine. The swelling will be gone, the bruises will go away, and I’d soon look back on the experience with the details fading away. I needed to be like that younger version of myself. I needed to take a step back, keep calm, and find the comedy in the situation.
That was on Saturday, and I didn’t look at myself again until Monday because I didn’t want to obsess over it. But of course, in-spite of all that it was a little depressing being swollen and “ugly”.
Monday night I had class and I had to figure out what I was going to do about me, the old looking baby. Washing and doing my hair, along with putting on makeup, made a BIG difference. I felt way better already. I could still tell that my face was swollen but I knew that people who had never seen me before wouldn’t know any different. It’s hard facing the public when you think you look terrible, so it’s important to stay positive.
A few days later I was sitting in front of my bedroom mirror and looking at a face staring back at me that I did not recognize. I almost felt sad in a way. I was so used to my other nose—and even though I hated it, it was my nose. I guess I just didn’t expect to have a completely new-looking nose. Additionally, it seemed like my entire face had changed. My eyes seemed rounder and less almond like they used to be. I obviously still had swelling in my face, so everything looked really round—all the nice angles I had before were gone. It’s hard coming to terms with a “new appearance”, and nobody really warned me about that.
I had to constantly remind myself that I had a long way to go. All the research that I did prior to the rhinoplasty had taught me that it takes at least a year for most of the swelling to go away, and up to two years for the rest. That is a long time to wait, but I had wanted a rhinoplasty for longer than that and I could wait again. I just needed to be patient and not obsess over my current appearance. That takes a lot of will power. You have to be in control of your thoughts. It really helps if you stay away from mirrors, and keep yourself busy.
As I mentioned in my rhinoplasty journey post, the swelling in my face stayed for at least a month. So yes I had days where I felt ugly and weird, but I just kept reminding myself that I was still healing and this was not the final result. I also found it helpful to intentionally point out something I did like.
After the month mark the “roundness” really started to disappear, but then I saw a flipped up nose. It felt like one bad turn after another. I talked to the doctor about that, and he assured me that this was just the swelling—and he was right. Around the fourth month, my nose started to look a lot less “piggy” or flipped up. It was then that I really really liked the new shape that it was taking on. I kept looking at my before pictures and thinking, “Even though my nose is not perfect now, it definitely looks a hundred times better than it did before.”
Then around the six month mark I started to see a resemblance of my “old nose”. It was a little depressing and made me feel a little freaked out. It wasn’t like the hump was growing back (that would be really freaky) but the tip was starting to look similar to the way it was before. And to top it off, the swelling was so uneven my nose almost looked a little crooked. Talk about depressing.
I realized then: at first I hated how I had a “new nose”, and now when my “old nose” made a subtle appearance I hated that. I had to laugh at myself, and remind myself that I still had at least six months to go. From then and all the way to the one year mark my nose was not at its best, and I honestly didn’t love it. What really helped me was to keep looking at my old pictures and seeing what a difference this nose was making. Even if my nose had imperfections, my overall appearance had improved by my standards—and that’s what counts. During the journey, I had to teach myself to not be a perfectionist (still working on that but I am much better) and enjoy the “good side” of things.
We are our own worst critics. We pick ourselves apart, compare ourselves to others, and let negative emotions control our minds. Eleanor Roosvelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And that includes you—don’t allow yourself to make yourself feel bad. Rhinoplasty can really do a number in your head if you let it. You have to accept change. You have to look for the positive, and maybe most importantly you have to let go of perfection and accept yourself.
I am currently at two years and six months, and even now my nose is different from how it was a year ago. Before I chose my doctor I had looked at A LOT of doctors, and like I’ve already said: when you make the decision make sure you like the doctor’s work—I liked my doctor’s. Even though doctors say they don’t cookie-cut, they do. They still use similar techniques, they still design from their perspective, and take on what is beauty. Some doctors do really deep flippy noses, others do really straight, and still there are other doctors delivering all types of different looking noses.
I personally think this really explains the phenomenon of two people going to the same doctor and one loving the results and the other not loving the results. I chose Dr. Grigoryants because in my opinion, he leaves a little resemblance of the old nose, and he gives a nice slight curve from the bridge to the tip of the nose—in addition to the fact that he was personable, honest, knowledgeable, and experienced in rhinoplasty.
I seriously implore anyone who hasn’t had rhinoplasty not to go to a doctor and ask for a specific nose. If you want a straight nose, then you need to go to a doctor who consistently does that. If you want a supra tip, go to a doctor who does supra tips. Trust me, if you are looking through a portfolio and thinking, “These noses look too flippy” you are in the wrong office. I don’t care what the doctor promises you, there is a very good chance you end up looking like the patients in his/her book—so like his or her work.
Having said that, you need to know what you want and what looks best for you. Go have different consultations—ask the doctors what they would like to do and take it into consideration. Don’t have surgery and blame a straight nose guy for giving you a straight nose; honestly, that is your fault. You wouldn’t go to Pablo Picasso and ask for a duplicate of the Sistine Chapel would you? Gosh, I hope not.
Now, for those of you who have had rhinoplasty, patience is your biggest friend. Healing takes A LOT of time. Let me say that again: healing takes A LOT of time. Definitely 1-2 years at the very least. I still feel like I have a tiny bit of swelling inside my nose, and my nose still does that whole swollen in the morning thing. Everyone experiences different stages at different times, so don’t worry. Just be patient.
If your nose is still on your face, you can breathe, and it’s far from “jacked up” then you’re in good shape. My nose is not perfect. There are little things about it that occasionally bugs me, and there are still unknowns that I sometimes get freaked out about (like what if my nose gets really skinny or the tip goes crooked with time)—but I can say even with the imperfections, I like my nose way better than I did before.
I think sometimes we get stuck fixating on small details instead of looking at a bigger picture. So zoom out, and take a good look because I’m sure you’re beautiful.
How I coped with the “depression” of rhinoplasty:
- Don’t obsess over it. I can’t say it enough, you have to be patient.
- Focus on the positive. There are going to be things you don’t like. That’s ok. It’s when you only see the things that you dislike that you mentally/emotionally take a hit.
- Look at the BIG picture. And old pictures. Look at what a difference the rhinoplasty has made for your overall appearance.
- Accept yourself. We are all beautiful in our own ways. Those who believe they are beautiful will be, and those who don’t, won’t. If you allow yourself to love your new look, you will be happy. If you tell yourself how much you hate it, you will be miserable. It is simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple, yes.
- Take care of yourself and find balance. You have to give your mind positive thoughts. You have to give your body nutrients, exercise, and water. You have to nurture your soul. When we lead balanced lives it is easier to be happy and fulfilled. So take care of yourself and find the balance.
Hang in there things do and will get better!