I was talking with a friend the other day who proposed an interesting question. She asked me to identify what surprised me the most immediately after my amputation. This is a difficult question to answer because, despite all of my research, I feel as if I was not prepared for such a drastic life change. My guess is that nobody can ever be completely prepared.
Immediately after the surgery, I was most shocked by the difficulty I had sleeping. It wasn't the pain, although that itself was enough to keep me from resting. I couldn't get to sleep because I couldn't find a comfortable position for my newly created stump.
My amputated limb felt foreign. I had spent my whole life feeling both legs under the covers as I slept. All of a sudden my body changed, and it was difficult to be comfortable within my own skin. Every position I tried seemed to amplify the loss.
Sleeping on my side, my stump felt odd against my other leg. On my back, the covers laid against the limb in an awkward manner. I couldn't lie on my stomach because of the incisions. I remember just finding a position and forcing myself to be still, regardless of the discomfort, until I finally fell asleep. Sometimes this worked. Many times it did not.
This period was, without question, the most difficult time in my recovery. Lying still, trying to ignore how foreign my body felt, I often felt lost. It is a horrible feeling when you don't relate to your own body- to feel like a stranger to yourself. During these nights I often felt a sense of despair that is difficult to relate in words.
Thankfully, the difficulty sleeping was a fleeting issue. Although problematic, I can only recall it lasting for only a few weeks. Slowly, with each passing day, I began to adjust to the new sensation of having an amputated limb. It is truly remarkable how quickly the body and mind can adjust.