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LJ Idol week 15: nimbus

Trade in – item is used and worn, has been well if not perfectly cared for, comfortable and attractive. A few scars, but not noticeable. Want to trade for new item, should be similar size, shape, age, and color.

I am 38 years old, and I am falling apart. 

Most recently, it’s my jaw.  I finally saw a TMJ specialist this week. He asked me to open wide, took measurements and agreed that it was stuck, I have about 2cm of clearance. The official medical diagnosis is a dislocated jaw; sounds nasty doesn’t it? There was no trauma, just a slow curve of increasing pain and decreasing movement. Now I have a splint that fits over my bottom teeth, so I am constantly aware of my mouth. I mean, I used to know where to put my tongue, in fact I didn’t even think about it. Now I can’t figure it out.

Of course, once you’re at a doctor’s office it’s not just one thing. The x-rays show bone degeneration at the condyle of my right mandible; it looks pitted and rough instead of smooth.  And I have enlarged mastoid areas bilaterally, which is strange enough that my x-rays are being sent to a radiologist for a consult.

So now I have a little cloud of worries circling my thoughts. What will the radiologist say? Does the bone degeneration mean I will always have jaw problems? How long will it be until I can yawn without cringing again? Am I going to wear this splint for the rest of my life?

Once the worries appear, they multiply, and take in topics that weren’t originally part of the issue at all. The muscles in my neck and shoulders have been tight ever since I can remember, will anything relax them? My right shoulder blade clicks when I pull it back, is it going to get stuck someday? My left elbow sometimes doesn’t straighten, my hips aren’t strictly level, my right piriformis muscle has been knotted for months, my instep is tight enough that occasionally pointing my toes makes it cramp. What the hell? I’m not an athlete, or a carnival performer; I’ve never been in a fight, or a car accident beyond a low speed fender bump. Can 38 years of just living do this to a person? Was I doing it wrong? Or did I start defective? Is there a warranty card somewhere I can find and send in for replacement parts and installation?

In the past year I’ve seen a gynecologist, an endocrinologist, a dentist, a surgeon, an urgent care provider, and a massage therapist. In the past I’ve also visited chiropractors and physical therapists. My pain tolerance is high and I do probably ignore things longer than I should before getting them looked at but I’m responsible about my health. I eat well, run, brush my teeth regularly. Should I just stop going to doctors, would ignorance be bliss? 

Or maybe I need to find one doctor who can look at everything. Maybe I need to move away from specialists and take a more holistic approach. After all the body is one organism. I get that fixing my jaw will probably help my neck. But what if fixing my right shoulder blade helps my piriformis? Or figuring out my left elbow solves my insteps?   

I look back at my 16 year old self and wish I hadn’t taken the body I had then for granted. Before it got bumped and bruised and banged around I just did stuff, without concern that I’d pull something, or that anything was degenerating. I never really pushed it physically. I’m curious to know what I could have done, before I got old.

I know that starting over isn’t really possible; I can’t go back to the factory model. No one is going to give me a new body, even if I trade this one in. I have to start from the here and now and recalibrate the things I can. But the worries get bigger, louder, and more insistent, until I choke on them. Maybe if I sit very still the swarm will go away and let me breath, let me think. Then I can form a plan and figure out what to do next; come up with a logical place to start out of all the possibilities. Hell, if I can just figure out where the hell my tongue is supposed to go while I’m wearing this thing, I'll be happy.  For now.

***This entry is brought to you by creaking, and ow, and seriously, a radiologist?, and grumpy face.  Other entries this week can be found here***

Ergh. I hope the jaw thing doesn't turn out to be too bad.

Right? Every new thing I find out seems to be a step worse, so hopefully there's nothing else new to discover.

I think as we age we all think back and regret taking our flexibility for granted. I do. You wrote that very well.

Oh yeah. I ran some in high school but am way more serious about it now, and I wonder how fast I could've gone when I was 17. Thanks for the kind words.

Eeep! Is this what I have to look forward to in ten years? Maybe I should take better care of myself too.

Hopefully not! But enjoy your body as it is right now, like it or not it's going to change on you. Of course you've had kids which I never did so you've already dealt with your body changing on you, and all at once.

In all seriousness, have you considered acupuncture? What I've seen of their work is damn near miraculous, and they do come from a holistic perspective.

You are the third or fourth person to say acupuncture to me this week. I've thought about it before, but never pursued it. However, with what I know of what they can do, especially for joints, it seems like an area I need to start exploring now. Sadly everyone who is telling me about it lives somewhere else, so I have to start asking locals if they have any specific practioner recommendations.

I've just started having health issues that seem serious for the first time in my life, so I totally feel you on this one. I hope you get it all straightened out. Growing up sucks sometimes!

I hope your health issues work themselves out, too. And yeah, there's a point when you're at the doctor complaining about aches and asking what's wrong and the answer is 'you're older', that is a little horrifying.

Oh no. :( I hope things take an upswing for you soon.

Thanks. It's not really all that bad, this was just a particularly rough week and my brain went into a bit of a spiral. but my boyfriend says he likes my body and I'm not allowed to trade it in so ...

My neck and shoulders are always rock-hard as well, so I hear you about that. I think it's just where I carry my stress. I also see an endocrinologist quarterly due to my diabetes. This 43-year-old model would be happy to trade for a model with a working pancreas, LOL.

Good luck with the jaw issues, that's gotta be rough!

Yeah I think I have the same stress carrying issues, though in my case there's also posture. If I get my new jawbone, I will totally get you a new pancreas at the same time, seems only fair.

Thanks - it'll be fine I'm sure. I'm just cranky about it in the now.

Sorry to hear you are hurting and worrying. Hope you can take things one step at a time and not get overwhelmed. It would be a good move to get a PCP ( primary care physician) to coordinate your care and make appropriate referrals. You did well to keep your sense of humor in the entry!

My gyn is my PCP and I really like her, but when I went to her with the jaw she had no idea who to send me to. I think she actually ended up googling doctors, which I could have done myself. But I like the tmj doc, and we'll see how all of this goes. Thanks!

"Maybe I need to move away from specialists and take a more holistic approach. After all the body is one organism." -- I've begun to think along these lines myself the older I get. And I too wish I'd taken a more conscious effort to keep myself healthier from when I was young, so that I would be more in a 'maintain' role now rather than a 'fix all that's broken' role. ;)

It's one of those things that 18 year olds will never believe and that us older folks keep trying to tell them - take care of yourself and enjoy it now! Ah well better late than never I suppose.

That is the scary part about getting older - how we aren't what we physically used to be :/

I was at the Dr last year and we were trying to determine if we needed to adjust my thyroid meds, I had several mild symptoms that implied yes. Or, as she said, "you could just be getting older." Sigh.

Can 38 years of just living do this to a person? Was I doing it wrong? Or did I start defective? Is there a warranty card somewhere I can find and send in for replacement parts and installation? I'm 46 and can identify with nearly everything you mentioned. :( It really amkes you wonder.

I broke a tooth today and I just wanted to break down. It's like each successive little thing amplifies the others. In other words - i feel your pain.

Hopefully we both find some relief/solutions. I read the above thread and may be giving acupuncture a go.

I hope your tooth is okay! And yes, every new thing just makes every other thing magnify until it seems like nothing works, which of course isn't true either.

I'm starting to ask around for acupuncture recs, if you go for it too we'll have to compare notes.

I've said a number of times to various friends that it seems like the mid-thirties are when you start to get the warning shots from your body - like life has started to catch up.

My sympathy AND empathy in your direction.

If mid-thirties is the time I'm right on schedule. None of this is that major taken individually it just piles up.

Thanks for the good thoughts.

Aww, I'm sorry you have so many pains right now :(

Thanks. What's funny is I still went for a run this morning, with my splint in, and a muscle in my back that I appear to have pulled while sleeping. So it's not necessarily stopping me - just making things harder. Thanks!

This sounds so familliar except I'm only 32 and sadly my list is longer. Not to one up you, just to say I sympathize. I'm going through the jaw thing now for about three weeks where I can't open it all the way and sometimes when I close it my back teeth don't touch. I didn't know there was such a thing as a TMJ specialist. I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow who is an osteopath. Hopefully she can help me.

I hope you can get some more relief from some of this soon.

Hopefully the osteopath does help with your jaw, that does sound similar. I didn't know there were TMJ specialists before this either - the dr I'm seeing deals with that and sleep apnea and that's it.

May we both have happier days soon.

lol... now that I'm aging a bit, I can so relate to what you're saying here. All of the little bumps and bruises, nagging hurts from a lifetime of football collisions, throwing myself around on wooden and concrete floors playing basketball... I've beat myself up over the years and can now feel I'm beginning to pay the price for it.

A lot of people suggest trying a holistic/Eastern approach to things... treating the one organism, as you say, instead of individual symptoms. Have you ever tried accupuncture? I've heard it works wonders.

Hang in there and I do hope you get to feeling better very soon!

Exactly. And I know things aren't that bad, and I'm not that old, but last week was not a good week. I haven't tried acupuncture but I've had it suggested from enough folks in the last week that I'm going to start searching one out.

Thanks for the good thoughts.