Have you shot handguns before?
It's not difficult to become accurate with one. Practice or take some classes. You dont' need to be a sharp shooter especially if self defense if your primary concern.
Revolvers are, in my opinion, one of the simpliest to understand and operate firearms. They are great self defense weapons espeically for people who are new to firearms or not have much experience with handguns. Most don't have a safety, no worrying about sliding the rack, loading a magazine, stove pipes or failures to feed, flying brass, etc. Just open it up, load it, point and shoot.
If you've already shot 22 handguns you know there is hardly any recoil. As others mentioned, a revolver such as a full sized 357 revolver like a Ruger GP 100 or S&W 586/ 686 fired with 38s is low recoil as well. Wadcutter rounds are VERY low recoil. And learning to shoot on a double action revolver is a great place to start learning how to shoot a handgun. Shooting 357 is a HUGE step up from 38s so if you are newer I would stick with 38s. You can shoot 38s through a 357 but never the other way around. I would stick with a 4 inch barrel to start. Not too short that you'll feel more recoil and not too long to be TOO heavy.
If you want to try 9mm, CZ makes some great firearms that are considered by many to be some of the most ergomatic handguns around. They are also pretty affordable. The CZ75 is their full size. It's all metal and will absorb a great deal of the recoil. But 9mm is a snappier round than 38s through a 357 revolver. Not unmanagable by any stretch of the imagine but their will be more "POP". Their medium sized handgun (CZP01 or compact) is a fantastic gun. I have smaller hands and both CZs fit my hands very well. I hear very good things about Glocks as well.
45 is an interesting round. I though it would have a lot of recoil but it really doesn't. I describe it as having a heavier "thump" but lighter "SNAP".
Renting guns and buying range ammo can get pretty expensive fairly quickly. You should find some friends with some different guns, buy a few boxes of ammo and ask them to take you to the range because you are interested in learning. Most gun people are very friendly and willing to take newbies to the range and to share their guns with you.
Good luck. You're in for a BUNCH of fun!