I should have written this review awhile ago because a lot of the details are already fleeting -- but maybe that will be a source of positivity for you! It's only been 3 months since my surgery and I sometimes forget I've even had it done (until I look at my nose, of course, and am reminded how glad I am I did this!)
First off, there are a ton of reviews out there on what to expect, but ultimately, its so important to remember that EVERYONE'S BODY IS DIFFERENT - your body heals differently, reacts differently and has different weaknesses and strengths than everyone else. The TWO best things to do before a procedure like this is to (1) read and obey ALL the directions your doctor provides -- they will make a TREMENDOUS difference in your recovery (take/apply the arnica, don't drink or smoke 2 weeks before and after, build up your immune system with good foods, drink a LOT of water, etc), whether big or small (most likely big), and (2) Prepare your mind. Be in tune with the reasons as to why you're doing this, and be in tune with your emotional state to keep yourself lifted and positive at all times. Having a good attitude about the whole process was so vital to my recovery experience, as stress and anxiety directly affect your body. If you do these two things, you will really thank yourself after everything is said and done.
A side note: I had my tonsils removed as an adult in 2009 and it was TERRIBLE, so I was expecting the worse with my rhinoplasty -- which kind of goes back to my "preparing your mind" advice. In a weird way, expecting the worse made my recovery "easier" because I was prepared to be in pain, I was prepared to be miserable... and I fully registered that it would pass eventually and be an experience behind me (but with a new nose!). Preparing my mind this way became a positive advantage for me. I was fully ready this time -- building up my body and mental strength, while I was out drinking practically every night the week before my tonsillectomy in 2009, thinking it would be a piece of cake (ROOKIE MISTAKE). Again, I know you really can't compare the two surgeries a whole lot since they're so different -- and like I said earlier, it's important to remember that everyone recovers differently -- but my point is that EVERYONE can benefit some way or another with their recovery time/pain/swelling and overall attitude by preparing your body and mind at LEAST two weeks beforehand. Don't overlook this!
With that being said, the surgery itself went very well. I woke up from my anesthesia without problems (just harmless disorientation and loopiness) and pretty much had zero pain (thank you drugs!) My first night was just uncomfortable, not really painful, as I had to sleep sitting up... which was annoying. My gauze had to be changed fairly often, like three or four times a day, from all the blood leaking from my nose. Pretty gross. Day 2 wasn't so fun, but still not horrible. The medication started to make me feel sick and nauseous (which was a similar reaction I had with my tonsillectomy recovery), so I tried to tough it out and take Tylenol instead. Even without the "hard stuff", it wasn't too painful. A read a lot of reviews of people saying this surgery isn't really painful, just uncomfortable, and I have to say this was the same for me. It may have been my optimistic attitude, or the fact that I was "prepared" to feel this way by reading everyone else saying that, but whatever it was, whether mental or physical, I was very happy about feeling that way.
By Day 3 and 4, I was not the nicest person to be around. My husband was a rockstar at taking care of me, but even he wasn't safe from my frustrations being vented upon him. My biggest frustration was my sleeping situation. I was mad that I couldn't lay down and rest horizontally and that my neck and back were starting to hurt and I kept waking up every 2 hours for discomfort. Not only is it not recommended that you lay down flat, but you just can't do it. It doesn't work... at least not for me. My nose immediately felt weird and uncomfortable when I tried to, and the blood flow was immediately off and there was no way I'd be able to fall asleep that way, despite my body liking being flat again. I just had to get over it. What helped me sleep better was my humidifier. GET ONE IF YOU CAN! I read so many reviews of people complaining about dry mouth and waking up from it, but I plopped that thing right by my face and dry mouth was never an issue. By the end of Day 4, my swelling started to move into my cheeks and I looked like a chipmunk... which my doctor said was totally normal. "Swelling tends to move down and out", apparently, and it literally did just that. It started in my eyes and nose Day 1-2, moved to my cheeks Day 3-4, then down to my jaw Day 5-8.. and then gone!
When I got over the hump (or shall I say, "dorsal hump" - badum ching!) of Days 3 and 4, and I'll throw in Day 5 for good measure, everything was improving. I couldn't believe how quickly I was recovering. By Day 6, I was totally self sufficient -- I could cook my own meals, bathe, go outside and walk the dog (while scaring the neighbor's kids, I'm sure), etc. After not being able to do these types of things on your own, being able to do them REALLY helps your attitude. Extra bonus. By Day 13, I went to a concert with my Dad and husband. My bruising was gone (but I looked...tired...) and my nose was still swollen, but presentable enough. Otherwise, I was dancing and singing and having a great time.
Overall, the ugliness and all the gauze and blood and "pain" and discomfort is something that goes away fairly quickly: 1-1.5 weeks. The OTHER phase of recovery is the sloooooow and tedious process of your nose becoming 100% what it is meant to become after your surgery --- the part of the recovery I really didn't know WHAT to expect. I had a closed rhinoplasty so as far I can remember what my doctor told me, a lot of the action went through one part of my nose (in between my nostrils), which makes sense to me since that's the area that's taking the longest to heal. I have scar tissue in that area that feels (and looks, to my husband) tough and it's almost always red like I have a cold and have been blowing my nose. Concealer helps a bunch. My doctor also had to do a lot of reconstruction to the right side of my nose per whatever the heck was going on in there (apparently a lot), so that side has always been more swollen than the left, and still is somewhat at my 3 month mark. I certainly don't look hideous.. and you can definitely go out and be social by the 4th week, but be patient and know that this is NOT the way your nose is going to look 1 year down the road. The major swelling and bruising should definitely have gone down by the time you're at 3 months, but you will still have some swelling, redness, and tenderness in general until at least 6 months to a 1 year. There is no "big reveal", as it's more of a "stay tuned!" for next time you see your friends or family, because every week, something minor changes.