February 25th, 2011


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***