{The Mental Struggles of Major Surgery and How to Adjust}

It’s been a little over three weeks since my shoulder surgery and to be completely honest, I’ve been extremely discouraged. Countless amounts of people warned me that the recovery for shoulder surgery is long and painstakingly difficult but for some reason I didn’t think it would be this hard for me. I know its only been three weeks but I thought I would be making more progress than I actually am. Not only is the pain and immobility a major issue, no one tells you about the mental effects of a surgery like this. For me, that has been one of the hardest parts. I know this is something most people don’t have to go through but I wanted to write this in hopes that it might help someone else going through the same thing.

After 9 days, I went to my surgeon for my post-op appointment to see how my shoulder was progressing and to get a new set of exercises to start doing each day. I had been having some major pain in my upper arm underneath my shoulder in which the doctor told me I have a large fluid pocket built up. After that diagnosis, the surgeon informed me that my incisions were healing as they should be and started examining the movement of my arm. No, thank you. That seemed impossible considering I haven’t been able to move it much at all.

After that appointment I was down for the count for the next 2 days. Besides my shoulder being tight and in pain, this fluid pocket is literal hell and it hurts with any minuscule movement. My arm is currently like a lump of deadweight that is refusing to do anything, especially straighten out.

Surgeries like this really suck… Once you’re in the clear to start doing more exercises and get PT going, you’re literally rebuilding and teaching your muscles how to perform simple functions again. When I really think of how far this surgery set me back I get so discouraged. I think, well after three weeks I should be able to do this and this again… WRONG. I am definitely making amazing progress and can do more tasks that I was able to a week ago but I’m still not able to put my hair in a pony tail… I’m not even kidding, that has to be one of the worst parts of it… Grayson will put my hair up at night but in the morning it is all messy, greasy and in my face and I’m stuck like that all day until he gets home to help me.

Like I said above, the mental effect of surgery is probably one of the worst. Not only are you in severe pain but you are limited at doing things you would easily do on a day-to-day basis, and then the depression and mental anguish start to set in. So many people have told me that this surgery is going to make me take a break and relax. but this is not relaxing and surprisingly I don’t feel like I have that much free time where I feel up to doing anything.

Trying to talk to friends or family who haven’t experienced a recovery like this don’t seem to truly understand what I’m going through or really how to help in an effective way. It’s always the same thing, you’ll be better in no time, just rest, take a pain pill, you’re doing great, its only been a few weeks… 

DTKAustin shares her experience with having major shoulder surgery and the mental effects it has on your body.

Here are some tips that have helped me get through this tough time – 

STAY ACTIVE AND DO WHAT YOU CAN – This is one of the hardest parts considering that’s all you want to do but you can’t physically get yourself out of bed, get dressed and still have enough energy to walk around or go outside. You can do it. Get out of bed. It seems so easy, but it IS an effort. Get up, get in the bath or shower and feel refreshed! I try and do my small exercises a couple times a day so my shoulder doesn’t lock up from scar tissue build up. Mobility is the key to almost any recovery even though its the last thing you want to do. At least once a day I’ll get out of the house whether it is to go get coffee or go to lunch with a friend, and that has dramatically helped my sanity. I’ve also tried doing some squats and lunges to get my heart rate up so I don’t feel like such a fat ass sitting on the couch all day long. The doctor told me the gym was probably a bad idea this close after surgery with open/healing incisions and the fact that if I fell on the treadmill or elliptical I would be starting all over again.

STAY POSITIVE – Being positive is probably my biggest downfall at this point. After my surgery I was feeling great for the amount of work that they did on my shoulder. I could get around, I was able to eat, and I was weaning myself off the pain pills and feeling really good about where I was. Then, the fluid pocket emerged and I felt like I was moving backwards, like I had made 0 progress the past 2 weeks. This would be my current state. Frustration. My mentality the last few days is that everyday is exactly the same as the last and every week is going to be the same as that. Extremely depressing.

The pain is still pretty intense… But would I rather deal with the anguish of being in pain or the anguish of being on pain pills and REALLY not feeling like myself? I stopped taking my pain pills a week after surgery and have been taking a couple Advil and Tylenol as needed. I’m still in my brace/sling for 10 weeks but I’m able to start PT in a couple more weeks which I’m really looking forward to.

Sleeping is still an effort. I am still sleeping sitting straight up, on my back. Sometimes I can roll slightly on my left side and get comfortable but I have to prop my arm up to where it won’t move around.

Being alone and in pain is a mind f&*$. I’ve currently never felt more alone in my life…

The thought of not being able to do basic, daily tasks is demoralizing! I’m just glad I can wipe my own ass at this point! But really, I have to plan out my day on when Grayson will be back just to get stuff done that used to take me 5 minutes… Such as getting dressed on my own… I still can’t get a shirt over my head. I wanted to look really cute for lunch one day and I spent TWO hours getting ready. I showered alone, washed my hair, got it dried somehow, half ass put my makeup on with my left hand and then I got stuck trying to put a top on. I literally thought I was going to have to cut myself out of the shirt because I couldn’t move. Or how about going to the UPS store to ship packages. Well, I can’t carry them all, I can’t put them all in a bag, and no, I don’t want to ask the UPS man for help because I want to do it myself!!

I’m SICK of people helping me! Everywhere I go, everything I do, can I help you with that… NO! Please, just let me try to do it on my own. And if I can’t I will most likely throw a fit and want to cry and then ask for help.

This experience has made me so fragile and weak that I want to cry at everything. I get so frustrated and down on myself that all I want to do is have a pitty party and go cry in the closet or in the bath. I’ll be watching TV and a stupid insurance or car commercial comes on and it seriously makes me want to just break down. I mean, WHO AM I??? I don’t cry at stuff like this! I’m like a hormonal pregnant person who’s not pregnant!

I can’t work. If you know me, you know how hard this is. Yes, I have a blog and most people think that’s all I do for work but I own my own company and actually have a very demanding job that takes a lot of physical and mental awareness. I’ve had to turn down so many jobs because of this surgery and I am beyond grateful for the agencies that are waiting for me to recover so they can use me. The blog is also hard to maintain as well… I’m not able to change clothes to go shoot any new content so I haven’t been able to take on any new collaborations besides the one’s that I previously shot for, thankfully!

Find a friend or therapist because they will keep you sane. Staying positive is something that I am working hard on every single day. I have such an amazing husband who helps me out 24/7 with whatever I need and one of my best friends went through the exact same issues when she shattered her leg in a skiing accident. I am so grateful to have a friend that truly understands what I am going through and she has given me some helpful advice on how to get through this hard time. She has been a life saver and I owe her so much for all of the help she has given me. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without the empathy from someone else who has been through the same recovery.

BE REALISTIC – This would not be me… I thought I would have progressed further than I have and even though people told me that this would take months and months to recover, that’s just not the case. PLUS, everyone is 100% different. Take it slow and take your time. Every time I talk to the surgeon I have more and more questions. When can I get out of my sling? When can I start PT? When can I get back to the gym? I have no idea when I will be back to normal and realizing that is the hardest part. It is teaching me to take my life day-by-day and not get discouraged because this is all to be expected. This recovery is SLOW and difficult.

Overall, don’t let your thoughts become your worst enemy. Pain WILL wear down your ability to stay positive and you start thinking you won’t get better. Try and continuously think positive thoughts. Mind over matter is true in these types of cases so use it to your advantage!

67 Comments

  1. Jeffrey Dorrell
    February 9, 2017 / 2:24 am

    I so know what you are going through. I, too, was told that my recovery would be difficult and painful. I, too, failed to grasp the full extent of those limitations. I celebrated the tiniest milestones: the first time I could reach the soap dish in the shower, the first time I could wash my hair with my right hand, the first time I could hold a coffee cup and lift it to my mouth, the first time I could thread a belt through the loops on the back of a pair of pants (over a year for that one). It has now been four years, and I am still reaching new milestones. Just the other day, I was able to sleep laying my head on my right forearm for the first time. There is no one who can appreciate how difficult this is without having gone through it. Patience is not my long suit, but I learned a lot of it. I simply had no choice.

  2. Kendahl
    February 9, 2017 / 2:26 am

    Hi! I love your blog, and I am sorry recovery has been tough. It’s mentally & physically just awful. I have had two shoulder surgeries (I’m 24) and the recovery is so tough (and long, like months on months). I felt so much of what you’ve talked about. I promise, despite the process being SO slow it does get better! Its’ amazing what a victory it is to be able to touch your head. It’s slow, but you can do it. 🙂 Good luck!!!

  3. Julia
    February 9, 2017 / 2:30 am

    Hey there!
    I am a recent transplant to Austin and love your blog! Your recovery story is inspiring and I think you’re such a trooper. Hang in there and know it’s ok to have those breakdowns and let the angst out. Thank you for sharing your

  4. Julia
    February 9, 2017 / 2:31 am

    Story!

  5. Laura Clymore
    February 9, 2017 / 2:32 am

    You are so strong girl. I’ve never had the surgery, but I’ve been the PT working with the patients who’ve endured what you’re going through right now. It is 100% mental. Your BODY will heal. You’re young and healthy, your body will do it’s job and heal…slowly. It’s the mental aspect that is more debilitating. Just know you’re doing better than you think you are. I wish I could give you rainbows. But the ugly truth is, shoulder surgery, especially one as extensive as yours, just sucks. Keep doing what you’re doing; find joy in little milestones. Get creative with your post op wardrobe-lots of slip on maxis maybe? And what about photo shoots for shoes or accessories? You could still do those, IF you felt up to it of course, and your shoulder wouldn’t be a part of the shot. Either way, {que cliche phrase} hang in there. You WILL heal. You WILL regain your independence. Praying for you in the upcoming weeks. Prepare yourself for PT-it’s going to hurt. Again, I wish I had more rainbows lol. Sorry. But it will help you get better so stay tough and positive! And LET PEOPLE HELP YOU! Lol. It doesn’t make you weak. It just means you had a ridiculously awful should surgery and need some assitance for a short while. ☺️ Prayers and positive vibes headed your way!

    • Jennifer Jensen
      December 6, 2018 / 6:43 am

      I’m appreciate your blog Ashley. I’m headed for shoulder surgery next week and searching the web for how to prepare. Your advice on the mental struggles, as well as physical set backs; and then reading Laura (PT’s) reply is really helpful. I am not looking forward to surgery, but I am looking forward to getting my function back, without pain. I know it will be months before that is the case, but right now, waiting for surgery feels like weeks of waisted time that could be spent on the road to recovery. Thank you again. I hope you have regained full function without pain.

      • December 6, 2018 / 2:20 pm

        Good luck with your surgery! Let me know if you have any questions or need any advice in the meantime!

  6. February 9, 2017 / 4:59 am

    loved this honest post and hope you’ll find joy and laughter in the little things, like being able to wipe your own ass =)
    sending lots of warm wishes your way! <3

  7. February 9, 2017 / 5:15 am

    I have no idea what you’re going through. I had a gum graft surgery this year and thought it was the worst thing ever: but it wasn’t nearly as brutal a recovery as this. But I’m commenting because HOLY SH*T your writing has truly become amazing. Maybe memoir is your genre Wish I had more post op advice but it sucks. There’s no way around that. You’ll come out stronger, no doubt. But that doesn’t numb the pain. All my best.

  8. February 9, 2017 / 5:24 am

    Hi! I had a painful hernia repair surgery, and pain killers don’t work on me, so the recovery was excruciating. And the alone, isolated feeling is so utterly depressing! I won’t go into my details, but I know what you’re going through. Anyway, I looked forward to the dog walker coming daily so I would have someone to talk to in the kitchen for a few minutes every day. I know you don’t want help, but I would love to come do your hair in a nice ponytail for you and teach you some easy steps to do makeup with your left hand. I could also help with cute hair ideas that will be easy for you to do on your own. Just let me know and I’ll be there. Hang in there!!

    • February 9, 2017 / 7:26 pm

      Yes, that would be amazing!! Just let me know when you have time because I’ll always be available! 🙂

  9. Grayson Goff
    February 9, 2017 / 2:09 pm

    Please don’t die on me while I’m away!

  10. Laura
    February 9, 2017 / 3:14 pm

    Grayson’s comment made me LOL!
    You are such a strong and wonderful woman; I know how hard it must be to feel so limited right now. I know it’s been awhile, but if you need a friendly face to stop in and fix your ponytail, I gotcha! (Even if you’re in pajamaramas and haven’t showered. Heck, I’ll come over in my own jammies!)
    Stay strong – you got this!!!

    • February 9, 2017 / 7:27 pm

      Haha, thank you Laura!! I miss you!! It’s been way too long and we definitely need to change that!!

  11. Pam Dorrell
    February 9, 2017 / 3:55 pm

    Your post is great. You shared your ups and downs and provided advice to others which will help them deal with their own post-op struggles. I think this is mentally effecting you so much because you are such an independent person. You have always taken care of things yourself and not being able to do even the little things is depressing. Just keep doing the little things to brighten your day. But most importantly, please accept help from others. You can’t do this alone. People care about you and truly want to help. I wish I lived closer so I could come visit and help you with things. I love you! Mom

  12. Pam Dorrell
    February 9, 2017 / 4:03 pm

    Do the little things like taking Steven on a walk, going out for lunch, do some window shopping at the mall or Target (your favorite place -he he) just getting out of the house will help.

  13. February 9, 2017 / 4:11 pm

    Well written article….Sending prayers your way! xoxo

  14. February 9, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    Such a well written post! I’ve had to go through physical therapy before and know the struggle of rebuilding that muscle…it sucks and hurts. Keep on trucking because the light at the end of the tunnel will be here before you know it!

    xoxo,
    Kim

  15. Jessica
    February 9, 2017 / 4:57 pm

    Loved this post and your honesty for what you are going through. I wish I could give you more encouragement but just know there are lots of people who love you! You are doing GREAT!

  16. February 9, 2017 / 5:06 pm

    Sending all the positive vibes your way! Injuries and recovery can be so traumatic but you will get through it! Stay strong girl.

    xo Megan | pinebarrenbeauty.com

  17. February 9, 2017 / 5:45 pm

    I think it’s amazing and honorable that you are being so real about your struggles. I’m so sorry you are having a hard time and I know for a fact I would be too, if I went through this. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about you from following you for a short time, is that you’re a TOUGH woman!! I have thought that from the beginning and it’s always been a quality I’ve admired of you. I have no doubt that you will get through it and in the meantime, you are helping others by sharing your heart. The mental game is the worst. Probably worse than the physical pain, I would imagine. I’ll be praying for you, Ashley!

    – Mary
    http://www.MissMaryPowers.com

  18. February 9, 2017 / 7:36 pm

    sending you positive vibes babe! hope you have a speedy recovery!

  19. Shelby Back
    February 9, 2017 / 8:00 pm

    I can only imagine what you’re going through! Bravo for sharing your honest story & struggles! I’m sending well wishing your way!

    xo!
    Shelby
    http://www.glitterandgingham.com

  20. February 9, 2017 / 8:23 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your tips. I have never had surgery before but this was such a well-written and thoroughly explained post that I can fully empathize with what you are experiencing. You have an amazing outlook and even though I know it must be hard it’s great that you’re putting such a positive spin on your pain and using your platform to educate others about this little-known issue. Wishing you the best for a speedy recovery!

    Sincerely,

    Camille
    http://www.serialoutfitrepeater.com

  21. sarah lindner
    February 10, 2017 / 1:44 am

    Please don’t die on grayson while he is away 🙂
    xoxo
    Bear & Sarah

  22. February 10, 2017 / 3:00 am

    Ugh I so know what you’re going through because I’m experiencing it right now too! I had oral surgery pretty much the same time you had your shoulder surgery and I *still* can only have liquid foods and the bottom of my face is swollen and numb/painful (and I can hardly talk haha). I’ve tried to just ‘relax’ too, but honestly this is wayyyy harder than I ever thought it would be! I thought I’d be able to do a lot more things by now for sure, but it’s just so slow! I have a hard time getting anything done too and want to cry all the time! Hang in there girl!

    Lindsey

    • February 10, 2017 / 4:24 am

      Poor thing!! I hope you start feeling better soon!

  23. February 11, 2017 / 4:36 am

    I seriously cannot imagine – so glad you are okay though! <3

    xo, L
    livingincolorblog.com
    @livingincolorblog

  24. February 11, 2017 / 3:02 pm

    I’m a physical therapist so I loved to be able to hear your thoughts and hope to be even more understanding with my patients throughout their rehab process. Hang in there girlfriend.

  25. February 11, 2017 / 4:31 pm

    I am so sorry you are going through this! In high school I broke both of my arms at the same time and had to have surgery on one arm, so I definitely can relate to what you are going through. It is tough to not be able to do normal stuff and feeling like you should be further along in your progress. It all just takes time but you are stronger than you think you are (mentally and physically) and will get through this! Sending positive thoughts your way! xo

  26. Ruthie
    February 15, 2017 / 6:07 am

    One of the things I have always loved about your blog is your realness. You are so transparent I love it. I could literally see everything in your day! You literally could write a book you’re such an excellent writer. But besides that I want to commend you for all that you’ve done and all that you’ve been through. I know that it might seem that you’re not doing that great but you’ve come very far in three weeks!!! I know some of the feelings that you felt of people always trying to help you and not being able to work. Not being able to take on collaborations… I can’t imagine but I do know that this is temporary and I want to encourage you to hang in there. These are amazing tips and again thank you so much for shedding light on the mental struggles because it’s real.

  27. Meghan
    July 1, 2017 / 11:23 am

    Oh man was this a great post. I am currently in a sling, recovering from shoulder surgery. The mental struggle is real! I have 7 kids at home and even though I prepared meals ahead of time and had everything lined up-it’s been SO hard AND the pony tail thing! Yes! Thank you for the smile this morning. It feels nice to know there are others out there who understand.

    • July 2, 2017 / 3:21 am

      I am SO glad my post helped a little! I really needed an outlet to express how I felt because there was literally no one that understood what I was going through. Keep your head up! It DOES get better but it is SLOW AS HELL!! Just be religious with PT when you are able to go and you will get your hair up in no time!! That was literally my ONLY goal with PT. ha! 🙂

  28. Catherine Dowhan
    August 2, 2017 / 2:22 am

    Saw your blog, needed it tonight! I’m at ten weeks, total shoulder replacement. Three times a week PT in morning and moving around in pool most afternoons. At 73 I walk two plus miles a day, physically healthy., weight fine, used to being very independent! My progress seems so slow but I know I am making progress but am still so sore, love ice pack in evenings. I needed a boast in mental patience….thank you,

    • August 2, 2017 / 4:44 pm

      Hey Catherine – Keep your head up! It does get better but it also takes so much time which is a bummer. I am about 7 months out and still have some trouble with mine but am 95% recovered. Stick with PT and you will start seeing progress faster and faster! I’ll be thinking about you!!

  29. Coco
    October 9, 2017 / 8:25 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am about to have a reverse total shoulder replacement in 5 weeks and I am very worried about how I am going to sleep as I have such a difficult time right now and cannot sleep on my back. I’m only 52 and am in agony so this is my last resort.

    • October 9, 2017 / 10:42 pm

      Ugh, keep your head up! It is definitely not fun at all but hopefully you’ll be good as new afterwards. Sleep honestly wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be but the pain pills helped. There are some gummies by Olly that are for Sleep that I have been taking and they have been working wonders!

  30. November 6, 2017 / 3:17 am

    I had surgery Sept 12th on my shoulder. On Sept. 19th, I was adjusting my “nest” (propped up pillows) in bed and fell. Not sure if I tried to catch myself or landed on it. I’m here to say that it hurt like a mother bear. I’ve been doing PT for 5 weeks. Each visit I see a little more improvement so something must be going my way. As much as I’d like to think I can do things on my own, I quickly learned that pulling a bag of dog food off the shelf at the store, was not one of them. Asking for help was hard but I figured that’s what the man at the store is getting paid for. When he sees me now he asks if I need help. We’re buddys now. I still have an achiness in my shoulder. I can hardly wait for that to go away, however some days are better than others. People are sick of me talking about my surgery. I’m sick of myself!! I want to be able to hug someone without it killing me. I’d like to be able to eat my food with my right hand. Oh and wiping my butt??? That’ll be awesome when I can use the proper hand : ) Sorry for rambling on. I know how you feel and it kinda sucks. I just keep telling myself “baby steps” …. Hang in

    • November 6, 2017 / 1:49 pm

      Ugh, I 100% feel your pain. Literally. I don’t think people, including myself, knew what this type of surgery would entail and how difficult simple tasks would be! Like wiping your butt!! Seriously, awful. I’d have to take a shower or bath every single time I’d go to the bathroom!! Which was another pain of having to try and do that on my own! You’ll get there!! It’s been about 11 months since my surgery and I am still dealing with recovery but I am 1000000x better than before!

  31. Heidi
    November 9, 2017 / 12:56 am

    Hi,
    I don’t know if you read this/& or see it? But i’m 24 & have just had a total reverse shoulder replacement with various complications.
    I too thought ohhhh it’ll be fine, get on with it/get over it. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when not only my shoulder was hurting but my hip too (as they decided to take bone graft from my hip to use in my shoulder). Then a week after that I find out I have quite a severe infection in my bones & I have to take 8 antibiotics a day for the next 3 months.
    I wanted to just say to you that your blog made for such good reason & has helped me to understand that i’m not the only person in the world having to deal with this.
    It’s weird because if I was to write a blog, I would write exactly this!
    So thank you, you’re incredible & I hope you have recovered well,
    Heidi

    • November 9, 2017 / 1:17 am

      Oh my gosh, I am SO sorry you are having to go through that. I can’t even imagine how you must be feeling. I’m here for you if you need to talk or need anything at all! Keep your head up; it WILL get better. I am still having pain in my shoulder and its been 8 months BUT it is slowly getting better, thankfully!!

  32. Megan
    November 13, 2017 / 6:07 am

    Just curious…what shoulder surgery did you have? I’m scheduled to have surgery on my right shoulder for a tear in my labrum in a couple weeks (right before my 30th birthday….ugh) and I’m pretty terrified. I’m an ICU nurse so I’m having to take a few weeks off work (really probably 6 weeks but I’m in total denial about that because I’m not really sure what I’m going to do) and I’ve never had surgery before. Any other tips or advice or any other suggestions? Hope you are feeling much better and you are recovering well.

    • November 13, 2017 / 5:07 pm

      I had the same thing! Torn labrum, they thought I had a torn rotator cuff in addition and then I had 3 screws put in because my shoulder kept falling out of socket. Thinking back, after 6 weeks I was doing OK but I wasn’t near able to use my arm like I was before the surgery. PT took about 4 weeks to get me back to the point I could actually put my hair up again. Mine might have been longer because of the screws in there but I definitely recommend resting as much as you can and definitely don’t overdo it because it will set you back. Start PT as soon as you are allowed and hit it hard! Go everyday if you can and tell them you have goals to meet for work and most will work to meet those goals. It’s a tough surgery but you are going to do awesome!

      • Anny Schomburg
        December 27, 2017 / 2:29 am

        OMG, so you had a SLAP tear? I have that and subscapularis tear and supraspinatis tear. My bicep tendon is out of the grove and will need to be screwed back into the bone. I am scheduled for surgery in 4 weeks. Scared, very scared. I just want to get on with life. Thanks for all your honest writing.

        • December 27, 2017 / 2:34 am

          UGH, I HATE to hear that! I feel like the screws make it tougher to recover from because you have to get your arm to loosen back up to how it was before. PT was my savior and I am doing pretty well these days! It’s almost been a year and I feel so much better. Keep your head up!! Be glad you are getting it done sooner than later! Just be patient with recovery… As you can see, it effing sucks! Feel free to write if you need some encouragement!

  33. Lori
    December 15, 2017 / 10:46 am

    8 weeks post-surgery on rotator cuff and my biggest challenge right now is mental. I’ve worked multiple jobs and raised a large family (just two teens at home yet) and dreamed for years of how wonderful it would be some day to have downtime. So now I’m home in shoulder surgery recovery and finally have time to do all the things I’ve dreamed of- long walks in the woods, long bike rides, kayaking, crafting, sewing, weaving, cleaning closets and the basement, etc. Well, snow and ice are pretty much banning me from any outside activities-can’t risk a fall. And with very limited use of one arm and post-surgery hand swelling, along wih no lifting, I struggle with simple things like using scissors. It’s so frustrating to finally have time to do stuff, but physically not be able to do it. I read, listen to music, do puzzles, play computer games. It’s easy to wallow in “I can’t “, but it doesn’t make the days any easier, so I try to focus on any good little thing like, “I rode a stationary bike today.” “I opened a jar by myself!” or “I managed an over-the-head shirt today.” Physical therapists say I’m strong, I’m healthy and I am ahead in range of motion recovery.I just have to be patient. It’s all about attitude right now and fighting the physical and mental battles. Taking one day at a time, set small goals to attain and take it slow to accomplish them, and focus on the long-term goal of pain-free, full-use of arm by April, and keep on keeping on…..

    • December 15, 2017 / 5:03 pm

      The mental struggles are definitely the worst part of having a surgery like this. The little accomplishments kept me sane but it is so hard to essentially be alone with your thoughts for that long. Keep your head up! It does get better and it will feel AMAZING to be able to get back to normal, daily tasks. I definitely took quite a few of them for granted.

  34. Kathy
    December 18, 2017 / 4:40 pm

    So happy to read your blog and know that someone else is experiencing the same feelings. I had back surgery three months ago and now I need another surgery.

    • December 18, 2017 / 9:49 pm

      Ugh, I am so sorry to hear that. Surgery is never fun and the mental anguish is the absolute worst. You’re not alone and it WILL get better. Slowly but surely! Keep your head up!

  35. Tracy Wright
    February 23, 2018 / 6:05 am

    I swear, you could’ve been writing about me! I too had shoulder surgery threes ago (I know your post was from a year ago, but still–that caught my attention right away). And I too greatly underestimated the seriousness and severity of this surgery. I’d fallen the first part of January and thats when I ripped up the rotator cuff and a bicep tendon, and all I could think of was, ‘the surgery HAS to be better than this awful pain’. I was quite unprepared for the intensity of the pain after the nerve block wore off – which was the day after the procedure, because the catheter tubing came out. To make things worse, I have always had a bad reaction to codeine and of course all the good pain meds have codeine, right? But along with my doctor, we decided that sometimes you just have to take the good with the bad, so I would take it and at the same time, a Benadryl to offset an itchy scalp. Funny enough, I have now built up a tolerance to it and don’t really have the side affects that I used to.

    Reading some of the comments here, I feel better, only in that I’m not a freak; there are others experiencing pretty much the same thing I am–and, that this WAS a major surgery and it takes time to come back from it. It’s a year later for you and I hope you are doing well. I’m trying to stay positive and celebrate the small victories and am already looking ahead, ready to say, “wow, that was hard, but I did it!”. (p.s., I’ve lived in Austin all of my life and now live in Dripping Springs, just west of Austin. It’s a great area!)

    • February 24, 2018 / 3:30 pm

      Oh my gosh, my husband grew up in Dripping Springs so we are out there ALL the time. In regards to your surgery – Keep your head up. I don’t think most people understand how major shoulder surgery is. It is one of the hardest to recover from mentally and physically! I finally started feeling like myself once I was able to do simple tasks on my own, sleep on that shoulder and actually put my hair up in a pony-tail! It’s a long process but I promise, you will get through it and be a stronger person than you were before. Even though mine has been a year, I still vividly remember everything so if you ever need someone to vent to or talk, please let me know! Sending you lots of positive thoughts!

  36. Hazel Mason
    March 13, 2018 / 3:23 pm

    I am 5 weeks into a total arthoplasty shoulder replacement surgery. I was warned of recovery as well,but it’s slower than I thought. It’s healing great,but It still is very painful and a very slow process. Most people are very supportive except my sister who I live with. We have lived together for years,in January she got engaged and ask me to move out,5 weeks before my surgery. Well needless to say that didn’t happen before surgery,I was in tremendous pain. February 6 2018 I had surgery,six weeks not driving,wearing sling in car and out in public and next week I see my surgeon for check up, physical therapy has been going well. The depression sucks and being alone so much sucks. She continues to ask why I haven’t gone back to work,why aren’t I just driving anyway. Have you found a place,are you on a waiting list anywhere,when are you going to pack,when are you leaving…I want to scream at the top of my lungs,”GIVE ME A F*CKING BREAK!!!!

    • March 15, 2018 / 7:15 pm

      I completely get you!! Just take it slow! I came to the realization that no one else TRULY understands unless they have been in the same place as we have; which isn’t many people! Keep your head up! 😉

  37. Kate
    October 27, 2018 / 1:07 am

    I am scheduled for rotator cuff surgery 7 weeks from now. I’m terrified. I’ve had a tear in my right rotator cuff for years, and have gotten away with cortishots and PT. Surgery was never an option, due to responsibilities in caring for my elderly parents until they passed away, an adult child who is very ill, working as a home care nurse, my husband who has had 3 major surgeries and cardiac event, and one crazy poodle who has knocked me down, yanked my arm, and is very needy. We actually had a great summer, and I stupidly reinjured my right shoulder AND my left one, kayaking upstream against the current. I knew right away that I was in trouble. So, it’s been confirmed that I have a large tear in the right shoulder, and a tear of unknown size on the left. Swell. So I have decided to take care of myself finally, and my husband is very willing to care for me. I doubt he has a clue what’s involved. I’m pretty sure what I’m getting into, but am scared to death. I’ve never needed to be cared for…I take care of others.
    So…practical?’s…did you use a recliner? I sleep on my stomach…kiss those days goodbye. Or my side. But really haven’t slept well for a long time without pharmaceutical help. Toileting…I’m considering having a bidet installed. I will not be having my husband or anyone wipe my fanny. Nurses are the worst. A bra…I am unfortunately well endowed, and will need something when I have to go out for PT. When I’m home, the girls can hang out. Clothes…what shirts can I wear??? Cooking. My husband is supposed to be on a plant based diet. I really don’t see him chopping and slicing veggies…or me being able to stand it. It’s a learning process that we are still very new to. Depression. Holy crap. Maybe I should start an antidepressant now, as it takes weeks to get into your system. Driving? I’m guessing that takes awhile. Riding in a car? I’m hoping that doesn’t take too long…
    Thanks for your feedback. I’m anticipating awfulness.

    • October 27, 2018 / 2:22 am

      Oh gosh, I feel for you! Here are answers to your questions –
      Depending on when you are having the surgeries I would HIGHLY recommend practicing things with your opposite hand/arm. I presume you won’t be having these at the same time?
      I also sleep on my stomach and side so sleeping was a major issue for me. I ordered a massive wedge that would prop myself up so I could sleep on my back slightly sitting up. When I would be relaxing on the couch I would use the wedge and a gazillion pillows to make myself a barrier so I was always propped up with pillow arm rests. I thought about getting a recliner but honestly did really well without it. I started trying to sleep on my side but it was so painful so that took a couple months before I was able to do that. I was somewhat able to sleep on my side with the wedge when I slept in my metal brace because my shoulder was so immobile.
      As for wiping.. I am a lefty when it comes to wiping so I was ok on that front. I would try and practice with the other arm for a while because EVERYTHING is so freaking hard. The simple task of pulling your pants up is a nightmare, or brushing your teeth with the other hand. Putting your makeup on or even trying to wash your body and hair is nearly impossible. Just realize you’re going to look and feel like complete shit for months. I remember the first day I was able to actually get ready and it took me over 3 hours and I was exhausted, but I felt so accomplished and amazing.
      Bras were interesting… They were impossible. I couldn’t pull anything over my head for over a couple of months so sports bras were impossible. By the time I went into PT I was able to put a bra on or maneuver a sports bra over my head. I wasn’t able to start PT for 6-8 weeks from what I remember.
      Shirts – I went and bought button down shirts that were 3-4 sizes too big. I would live in them. It was rare that I needed to change them by myself unless I was trying to shower on my own but I wouldn’t recommend it at first because it is really tough. Try and sleep in the large button downs. It sounds uncomfortable but honestly, you’re going to be sleeping in a brace with your ice packs on so comfort is out the window.
      I had some friends bring us food. I would recommend reaching out to anyone and everyone you can possible stand to help with food or order in. That’s what we did. I would definitely suggest eating a lot of veggies and fiber so you can poop. I currently poop 1-2 times a day and when I had surgery it took me over 4 days and I was dying. I was taking laxatives and fiber just to get me to go. I wasn’t even taking all of my pain meds either and I was still backed up. That was probably the most uncomfortable part!
      I was severely depressed feeling when all of this was going on. It wasn’t immediate but it set it when you realize you’re all alone and can’t do anything for yourself. I just sat there and cried half the time. It wasn’t fun. Just try and have people come visit you and help you.
      Driving really isn’t that bad. I was out after a couple of weeks running short errands. Putting on a seatbelt is hard and putting the car in drive and park is a challenge but it wasn’t too bad. Riding in a car was uncomfortable for a while but it just felt good to be in the car and out of the house!!
      I hope some of these questions helped you! I wish I could say the surgery was a breeze for me, but with everything that was wrong plus having 3 screws put in, I wasn’t a happy camper. I’m hoping it is a much smoother recovery for you!! Feel free to ask anything else!

      • Kate
        October 28, 2018 / 2:06 am

        Thanks so much for your reply…I appreciate that you tell it like it is. And you’re funny as hell. I have started practicing a few things using my left hand… eating scrambled eggs was tricky this morning. Maybe I’ll lose some weight because I won’t be able to get at anything! I am seriously thinking about the bidet…and wearing long skirts while going commando. Underpants are overrated. Of course, we are going into winter, so that could be chilly. Your advice about the wedge is good. I’ve seen one online that looks good…more supportive than the college “husband” pillow. I’m thinking sleep deprivation is going to be the worst…silly me. It sounds live EVERYTHING is going to be horrible. And apparently worrying about a bra is one of my lesser problems. I’ll be wearing earth muffin clogs that slip on, and no bra. Good thing I’m a child of the 60’s.
        Holy shit. This should be quite a ride.
        I look forward to following your blog. I’m still terrified, but reading your comments and those of your followers will at least provide some entertainment. And real help. I see the potential for real depression, which is no joke, and I truly appreciate your openness.
        I’d love to stay in touch…

        • October 30, 2018 / 3:07 pm

          Haha you will actually sleep really well. It’s funny because I had some of my best sleep after I had surgery! And I was surprisingly lucid after the surgery too so that wasn’t too bad! PLEASE keep in touch!! I will help you along the way if you need anything. Feel free to email me directly, that’s probably easier. ashleyharg@gmail.com.

  38. Robyn
    January 23, 2019 / 11:35 pm

    I had rotator cuff surgery 5 weeks ago and am so grateful for this article! I really have been struggling mentally and have not really had people understand how difficult it is to not be able to do most things! Cannot even really fix a meal, wash my hair, etc.
    Thank you for making me know I am not alone and just because I am sad and having a hard time being left out I am not selfish, instead mentally struggling! I am still fighting to be positive, work a full time job but at least this helps me see i am normal per say!
    Thank you!!

    • January 28, 2019 / 6:30 pm

      I am SO glad this helped you! I really needed an outlet to vent because no one understood what I was going through. I never thought this post would have helped so many people and I am SO glad it has!! Keep your head up!! It’s only a speed bump and you’ll be better and back to feeling normal in no time!

  39. Robin
    August 17, 2019 / 4:31 pm

    So glad I found this! I am going through this right now and am feeling almost everything you describe.
    I am someone who has to stay busy and having to just sit around hooked up to an ice machine or ice pack is driving me insane. And let’s not forget the pain pills! My GI track hates me!!! And your right the being alone all day sucks. I can’t wait until I can get the all clear to get back to work, even if it is light duty,at least I’ll have someone to talk to. This surgery is no joke you have no idea how it will truly impact your every day mundane tasks like putting your hair up! Thank God my husband has been so supportive I’m not sure what I would have done.this torn cuff has literally taken a year of my life to this point presurgery and post and it is looking like November before I’m back to full duty. It does wear you out for sure, just a trip to the grocery store and I’m done, not to mention having to watch out for people who aren’t paying attention and almost hit your arm that is clearly in a sling and bandaged up. My one tip get prepared in advance of your surgery, I bought cheap dresses from old navy and cut the side of my surgery and put Velcro on them so I could step into them and didn’t have to move that shoulder. I bought a portable ice machine so I always had ice to use in my polar ice machine for my shoulder. I’m now 4 weeks post surgery and am into PT it hurts but it works. They us a tens machine before they start it really helps. I bought one for home use to use before I do my exercise it really helps.best of luck to anyone about to go through this.read as many post as you can get ideas on how to make it easier that’s what I did.

  40. Kathy
    September 13, 2019 / 1:33 pm

    This blog made me feel better, I thought I was going crazy.Two shoulder surgeries in 3 months,because I had torn rotator cuff again .THIS TIME I can’t do pt for another month,( it’s already been 2 weeks) may have started pt too early last time. Feeling helpless is my biggest challenge,I hate having to ask for help hooking my bra,and doing all the little thing you take for granted. You will notice I am pretty bad at typing left handed, I hope everyone feels better soon.

  41. Joanne D.
    December 13, 2019 / 7:02 pm

    I wish I had read your blog weeks ago. I am a active 78 year old. Had RCS 7 weeks ago and I keep thinking tomorrow will be better! The prat is sleeping……did you have serious aching during the night, especially after PT. I still cannot wash hair with right hand but starting to see improvement. Today I felt like compression is coming on (which is not me at all). This recuperation is exhaustingly! Many thanks for your blog.

  42. Lillian Taylor
    January 19, 2020 / 6:07 am

    Thank you for sharing this blog . I just got a abdominal surgery. Have not been able to sleep because of depression wouldn’t ever expected to feel like this after recovery . But knowing I’m not alone made me feel better

  43. Susan
    February 9, 2020 / 11:19 pm

    Omg !! I feel so much better everything you wrote is me to a T….the ponytail comment cracked me. How can not being able to do your hair make you cry? Ugh.

    Thanks for the read….I’m 9 days in so long road still. Hope your back in the swing of things by now.

  44. Koos Vorster
    March 1, 2020 / 12:24 pm

    I am truly glad for this blog. I had open rotator cuff surgery – tendons of three shoulder muscles torn. I’m 79 but work full time and have a busy life. Operation was 12 days ago. I think it went well. I don’t have pain. The surgeon fixed the mechanics. I with with an excellent Physio and have a schedule for my exercises. But nobody spoke to me about the emotional blues. I don’t sleep well. But working on the blues

  45. Scott Terry
    September 20, 2020 / 5:04 pm

    I want to thank you for this. I just got out of shoulder surgery this past Friday and no one told me what to expect when I got home. No one told me that once the nerve block wore off that my shoulder would be in so much pain, that I can’t straighten my arm out. No one said that sleep would be next to impossible, because the slightest movement feels like your arm is breaking.

    No one told me anything. So I’ve been going through panic mode thinking something is wrong, because I can’t even get my doctor to call me back.

    It’s nice to hear that there are people out there that have dealt with this and have gone through what I’m just starting to go through, and have had the mental struggles I’m starting to have, because I was starting to feel completely alone and miserable.

    I am sure I will read this over and over again, because this definitely gave me some hope that things will get better, even if it’s a slow process, and there are people like you that understand.

    So, again, I thank you for this.

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