Coping with Recovery
By Michael Parish, PsyD
In my role as a psychologist dedicated to working in the field of bariatrics, it has been my privilege to help patients and their families confront and master the many pre- and postoperative psychological demands of bariatric surgery. These challenges include preparing for the prospect of surgery, coping with the recovery process and adjusting to the behavioral and emotional demands of complying with all of the long-term aspects of the bariatric program guidelines.
While I have found this to be an awesome and motivating experience, I have been most inspired as I witness the positive changes in the patients’ mindsets as they initiate and continue each of their unique journeys of self-discovery! How many times have we heard patients remark in amazement as they review their dynamic life changes? How their mindsets and personal expectations have changed and developed, as they exclaim, “If my surgeon only operated on my stomach, why have there been so many changes in my brain?”
While the improvements in health status and quality of life are of central importance to all of our patients as they marvel at this “second chance at life” that surgery has offered; I have been most especially impressed with the somewhat more subtle, yet equally powerful aspects of our patients’ journeys of personal exploration, growth and self-discovery. Based on numerous conversations, I have noted that there seems to be a common thread connecting each of our patients as they begin the adjustment to their weight loss programs. At first, during the initial adjustment and “honeymoon period” of rapid weight loss, patients have shared with me how indebted they feel to their surgeons for their dramatic weight loss.
However, while it does not seem too difficult to give credit to their surgeons, many patients have a more difficult time acknowledging their own contribution to the changes they are beginning to experience. For me, the real pleasure is when I see a special kind of glow on the faces of the patients, as if they had experienced an epiphany or as if lightbulbs had been turned on in their brains because they’ve begun to realize and accept the dramatic and central role that they have truly played in their own success. They are aware of their own innate talents and abilities and have learned the tools for mustering resources necessary to achieve their goals. It is this growing acceptance of just how much our patients have discovered about what they really can accomplish for themselves, and the challenges they have been able to confront along the way, that give true cause for celebration.
So, to all of you, as you consider how to meet and embrace the unique challenges of your own journeys, give yourselves time to reflect and take credit for the whole range of dynamic growth and of the positive changes which will continue to surprise you along the way!