Nose Surgery: On The First Day of Christmas, My Surgeon Gave To Me...…a septoplasty in a pear tree.

Well, minus the whole “pear tree” thing. I like like how “septoplasty” sort of fits into that song.

I’m finally getting into the Christmas spirit — which is unfortunate, really, given that Christmas was overdays ago.

I had a hard time with Christmas this year, and I blame it on some ill-timed nasal surgery. Lesson for anyone else considering surgery to correct a deviated nasal septum: don’t get it done on December 19th if you want to avoid being a miserable wreck for Christmas.

For anyone with an anxiety disorder, surgery can be a special kind of hell. There are plenty of common anxiety and panic triggers involved with any kind of surgical procedure, like…

  • Hospitals. Even the hospital setting alone can be jarring. All those beeps and buzzers and gowns and gahhhhhhh.Hospitals remind me of sickness and death.
  • Needles. The worst is the IV catheter that they stick into your wrist. It’s not a once-and-done thing — it stays there. It stays inside of you. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
  • Anesthesia. For those of us who fear passing out, going under anesthesia can be very scary. Because, well, after all…that’s precisely what happens when the anesthesiologist puts us under. It’s a controlled numbing of our consciousness, and every step of it is beyond our control. Unlike during panic, we can’t stop all the woozy with a few slow breaths.
  • The post-op experience. I’d expected to be off in la-la-land upon waking up in the recovery room. And, for about sixty seconds, I was — yet, simultaneously, I was dizzy and nauseous (two more panic triggers of mine). They shot me up with some Zofran for the nausea, but as soon as I fully realized where I was and what my body had just undergone, I got a bad case of the panicky shakes. (And, as I later found out from a nurse, they’d used cocaine — yes, cocaine — inside of my nostrils to both numb the local area and to restrict bleeding. Coke, people. I’m afraid to take Sudafed, yet they’re stuffing my nose with cocaine.)

Now, for any of my fellow panickers who are also considering a septoplasty, keep the following nose-specific anxiety triggers in mind:

  • Blood. There will be blood. Under the advice of my therapist, I avoided Googling “septoplasty” before the procedure. I’m sort of glad I didn’t realize what I was getting into, but, then again…I’m sort of upset that I wasn’t able to mentally prepare myself for the level of discomfort that I’d have to endure for 24 hours while my nose was packed with, well, tampons. Seriously. Nasal tampons. To stop all the blood. Well, to stop most of the blood — after wearing them for a few hours, a little blood will begin to flow through them. And if blood scares you…buy red tissues, if such a thing exists.
  • Mouth breathing. Every CBT practitioner I’ve ever seen has espoused the wonders of slow breathing. I’ve practiced it for years and I can finally breathe diaphragmatically — but only through my nose. If I breathe out of my mouth, I feel that uncomfortable sense of air hunger. Perhaps this goes without saying, but when you’ve got lady products stuffed up in your nostrils, you will be breathing out of your mouth. And it might get uncomfortable.
  • Pain. I don’t handle pain very well. Perhaps you don’t either. I think a lot of us anxious-types erroneously interpret everyday pains as symptoms of a greater problem — a weird ache in the chest becomes a heart attack. A strange headache becomes a brain tumor. A pain in the throat becomes cancer. We’re so capable of WebMD’ing ourselves without even touching the damn internet. So, when the inevitable nose and head pain kicks in when the hospital-grade meds wear off, it’s quite easy to catastrophize.
  • Pain meds. Yuck. I hate painkillers. They make me nauseous and woozy and uncomfortable. Several times this past week, I had to make some very difficult decisions: pain, or nausea? If pain, then weariness and sadness. If nausea, then fear and shaking. There’s never really a winning solution.

So far, recovery’s been a bit hellish. But I’ve learned a lot during the past week and a half — so much, in fact, that later this week I’ll be blogging about my most niche topic yet: how to deal with a septoplasty when you’ve got an anxiety disorder. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Reminder: a year and a half ago, I could barely survive a trip to the grocery store. Now, I survived nasal surgery that’s supposed to improve the quality of my life over time.

And if I can survive getting a chunk of my septum surgically removed, so can you.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ben Sollis Photography


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