Feeling Vulnerable Post-Surgery

Last updated: September 2022

I’ve written before about tips for dealing with the stress that surgery brings on. Things to help comfort, and make the procedure easier on yourself. But what about the trauma afterwards that surgery can bring? What about vulnerable feelings post-surgery?

I don’t think I’ve seen a whole lot of people talk about this and it’s something I want to touch on because it’s a real thing that happens. I think it’s become normalized and people just try to shoo the emotional pain away. Let’s open up the conversation.

Remembering my surgery

I don’t remember much from my actual sleep apnea surgery. I was about 16 years old. I remember being in the bed beforehand and waking up afterwards with a sore throat.

Years later, I had to have an upper endoscopy. They brought me into a room and, without telling me anything about what was to happen at all, shoved this big round thing in my mouth and tied it around my head. Then, they proceeded to ask me questions and expected me to answer while it was still in my mouth.

This was humiliating and a little traumatizing, to say the least. I realized later it was the point of entry for the scope to make it easier to put it down my throat. But it never occurred to the doctors how something like that could make someone feel who was already so scared.

That’s what got me thinking about today's topic: feeling vulnerable post-surgery.

Your feelings are valid

First and foremost whatever you end up feeling after surgery is ok and valid. If you feel nothing – great! Surgery is easy for you and that’s wonderful.

If you feel vulnerable, scared, angry, etc. – that’s ok too! I feel like the older I get the more surgery bothers me. I feel like my luck is going to run out 1 day and something is going to go wrong.

I feel fortunate that my sleep apnea surgery was so early on in my life. I think it helped a lot with my recovery time. Since I was so young, I think healing was easier. Also, I think it’s important to stay true to what you know.

If you have feelings post-op that are bothering you, don’t let other people explain them away with these statements: “Oh it’s over now you don’t have to worry about it anymore.” Or “You were asleep the whole time, why are you scared?”

Acknowledge your feelings

Being operated on, in any form, is already an invasive process. It makes sense that your body might hold on to some uneasiness from the experience.

Don’t try to explain away what you feel, acknowledge your feelings, and get through them in a healthy way.

Speak with your doctor beforehand

I’ve mentioned this in a separate article but speaking with the doctor who will be performing your surgery can help ease your worries. Realizing that they are a person too helps humanize them. And, you can ask any questions that you might have.

Considering a therapist

Over the years I have suffered a lot of trauma from medical procedures. I finally started seeing a therapist and talking it out with someone who can put things in a different perspective. My therapist helps validate what I’ve gone through. That has helped a lot.

Now, I don’t say all of this to put anyone off of surgery. I am very glad I got my sleep apnea procedure done. I think it has helped a lot. But there can be repercussions from having the body and mind go through something like that.

So be aware, do what you can to prepare, and know whatever happens afterwards: It’ll be ok.

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