Surgery Made Me An A-hole

First off, I’m doing GREAT nine days after autologous (fancy term for my surgeon using my own fat and tissue to build a new boob) breast reconstruction! The procedure went very well, and the graft took. My amazing surgeon, Dr. Galen Perdikis (and his team, including the surgeon who assisted with the microvascular attachment work), took muscle and tissue from my right thigh and made a very nice left breast by grafting it under the skin he saved following my mastectomy back in May. The official medical lingo for this type of reconstruction is diagonal upper gracilis (DUG) flap reconstruction. I’ll blog more about the specifics and the experience later, but right now, I want to talk about something else.

I want to talk about a bit of an epiphany I had.

Disclaimer – I have NO scientific or medical data to back me up on this, partly because I couldn’t FIND IT on Google or PubMed. This could be a search strategy issue (the closest thing I did find was Post Intensive Care Syndrome, PICS), and I hope it is, because I’ll be super disappointed if no one has studied the phenomenon I’m experiencing right this very moment—a phenomenon that I’ve decided to call Wounded Animal Asshole Syndrome, or WAAS.

This should TOTALLY be included in the DSM. And I fully expect credit for it.

Here’s the deal. The first time I left the house on my own after surgery, which was yesterday, I was, for lack of a better word, a RAGING asshole. Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I can be a Grade A asshole on any given day under the right set of circumstances, but this was something else. Something visceral and deeply animalistic. I was angry, suspicious, and viewed every other human around me as a potential threat. Like a wounded animal, I gave off a heavy dose of don’t-fuck-with-me vibes that fell just short of low, guttural growls.

By the time I reached the Breast Center for my appointment, I was a little worried about the safety of those around me.

Photo by Aleksandr Burzinskij on Pexels.com

Then, it hit me. I am—quite literally—a wounded animal. Yes, I volunteered to undergo the procedure that left me with the healing surgical incisions I was subconsciously guarding. Yes, my rational mind knew that the arguably weird man in Walgreens wasn’t out to snatch me and throw me in his trunk. And yet, I was experiencing the same level of heightened awareness and suspicion of strangers around me that I felt shortly after the birth of each of my children—a time during which I was still sore, bleeding, and physically vulnerable.

That fed into the horrible postpartum depression (PPD) episodes I experienced, but that’s a story for another time…

I have no idea if this is a common thing or a me thing (I suspect it’s a common thing because I’m not special, no matter what my mom told me growing up), but it is both fascinating and disturbing. It happened again today when I took my son to the zoo and we encountered a crowd at the entrance. In addition to generalized COVID anxiety (note: the Nashville Zoo is SUPER cautious, mandates masks, and limits the number of daily visitors like a responsible organization), I was freaked the fuck out and felt the urge to turn in a circle and hiss to keep people away from me and my cub, er, I mean, son. It was weird. It doesn’t happen when I’m out with my mate (husband) or when I’m in in a small herd (of socially distanced friends)—only when I’m alone or with a child (who is almost as tall as me, which makes it weirder).

The only reason I can think of for this bizarre behavior is that it is a throwback from ancestral human days when we were running from cave lions, saber toothed cats, and wooly rhinos. Hide pain, conceal wounds, show no weakness, and act so aggressive that the big scary predator won’t bother with you and will instead seek an easier meal.

Maybe it’s a manifestation of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but honestly, I’ve been managing that very nicely with medication and therapy—or so I thought.

Anyone else out there have this? Drop me a note in the comments. We’ll call it an informal survey.

4 thoughts on “Surgery Made Me An A-hole

  1. I understand these feelings completely. I felt like this when I went through breast cancer and felt no one understood. I have also felt this way while going through COVID and all of the health problems I have been dealing with. I have been a bitch to Eddie at times, to medical professionals, and friends. I feel like I have to protect myself

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    1. You have been through your fair share of (insert poop emoji) and it’s amazing to me that you’re doing so well. I’m so glad you’re on the mend and getting back to the things you love. Eddie, your friends, and your healthcare team will be fine. Sometimes you just have to let it out. This isn’t a club either of us ever wanted to join, but since I had to, I’m glad I have you as a role model 🙂

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  2. Being out in the real world alone the first few times post-surgery was scary. I felt like the weakest of the herd. It was like those predators around me could sniff me out like an orphaned calf surrounded by lionesses. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t fight. I could hardly stand upright (DIEP reconstruction). I just did my best to be the invisible 50+-year-old woman I could be and sideways scurry to my desitination

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    1. OMG, YES! I feel exactly the same way – like the pack is going to go for me because I’m the weakest and they’re going to cut me off from the rest of the herd and eat me!

      Are you all recovered? I’d love to hear about DIEP flaps since that wasn’t an option for me (I had a tummy tuck when I thought I was “done” with cancer then got residual disease and we had to take tissue from the thigh).

      Oh, and thank you for stopping by and commenting. I LOVE interaction! Kudos to you, survivor sister!

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