emotions · Medical/Dental · Mental Health · recovery

Structural and Emotional Improvements

woody path
Copyright Kara Jackman

I’m proud of myself today even though it was a trying one. The jaw surgery is behind me.  It was minimally invasive and uneventful. The doc used a tiny scope and instruments the size of knitting needles to clean out the arthritic tissue. The recovery has gone better than expected, too. I could not ask for much more. There are still physical therapy exercises to perform, a jaw machine to use to strength my mandibular function, and a soft food diet. The jaw machine must be used 4 times a day, twenty repetitions per use, spread quasi-evenly throughout the day.

Last week I had a crown placed on top of a tooth in the left upper side of my mouth. Didn’t think much of it at the time, I just got it done.  The space the tooth left was the size of the Grand Canyon because there was little to no enamel there to begin with, just a knobby tooth and tissue. Now there is a much bigger tooth in the space than I could have ever imagined. I am finally getting used to it. The first day it felt like the Rock of Gibraltar. “This can’t be right, I thought.” It was. There was worse news, though. Shortly after the appointment I tried on the post-surgical splint and it no longer fit.

If the splint does not fit, then you must acquit. That’s how that goes, right?

The splint must be worn whenever I am not eating. I full on freaked out. I made a bunch of phone calls to the surgeon’s office. No one called me back. I called more because I knew I made a mistake.  After three days of little sleep and lots of phone calls, I got a coordinator on the phone. I scheduled an appointment for Monday.

Screen Shot 2019-05-07 at 11.52.18 PM
Splint, more commonly known as a mouthguard

I went in first thing Monday morning, saw the physician’s assistant, and had the impression taken for the new splint before the surgeon even knew why I was there. He came in asking lots of questions. He was pointed, accusatory, and made me feel stupid.

I was pretty harshly cross-examined.

Now, if this had been four years ago, I would have gone off on him, yelled, screamed, and eviscerated him in a few words. Today, because of all the work I did on myself, because I am no longer drinking, and I am a more patient human being, I made a better choice. The emotional choice was to pivot toward something that was less bombastic. I chose to cry, to feel my emotions, let them wash over me, and show the doctor how his words impacted me. This is what it means to be emotionally transparent with oneself and others.  I hate crying. I especially hate crying in public, but this is what the moment called for in order to preserve the relationship with the surgeon.

The tears streamed down my face for what felt like an hour, but was, in fact, only a few moments. An emotional hangover effect hung over me like a dark cloud all day. Crying leaves me depleted. The feelings stay with me for longer than they need. It doesn’t end after the tears are collected by tissue. No, sadness sits in my body and in my mind, like an elephant.  Hours after the encounter with the surgeon, I found myself shaking at my desk, while doing work that I enjoyed. What the heck was happening? It was not caffeine. I had not had enough. I ate, so I was not undernourished. Nope, it was just my body reacting to my mind.

kim k

In the end, it was the right move. Years ago I learned that emotions do a lot of things, they communicate, motivate, and educate us and those around us. Long story, short, I believe I got that new splint for free because I cried. Kidding. No, I was my authentic self. My emotional interior matched my emotional exterior. For me, that moment was also the path of least resistance. A path I never used to take. I would always go the route of anger. However, anger is not something people respond well to. It took me far too long to learn how to control my anger impulse, but I am glad that I did. I’m also glad that I took the time to see myself in this new light. To see this change that I made and make space to honor.

The structural improvements we see in ourselves are palpable. Motion improves over time, pain reduces, and performance improves. However, the emotional changes we make, take longer to actualize and recognize. At the end of the day, we may be getting in our own way. Acknowledging where we went wrong in the past is key to positive, future change. As of late, everything regarding my mental and physical health seems to swirl around me like a funnel cloud. The one saving grace in all this growth and change is that I have come to realize that the phrase, “it may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility” is a pertinent reminder for this particular season of my life. At the end of the day, it not about blame, it is about showing self-restraint, not causing a larger problem, and doing the right thing for the situation at hand.

Hey, who knows, if I play my cards right I might receive another free splint.

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