Saturday, January 25, 2014

What TMJ is like

TMJ means: you're walking around in dull, throbbing pain in your face pretty much all the time. It fades for awhile, when you medicate it or ice or heat it (ice is best), but it reasserts itself when you chew, or drink, or swallow, or laugh, or speak. Even sunlight, if it's bright enough to make your facial muscles react, hurts. So even though you have things to do, you try to avoid talking to anyone unnecessarily. You have to practice a certain mindfulness - to be conscious to neither clench your teeth nor move your jaw unless the movement matters. You still find yourself required to talk when you don't want to. At the very least, you have to move your jaw to explain that you don't want to talk; you contemplate maybe designing a placard ("jaw sore - can't talk now") to show people. If they ask what's wrong you just show them the placard again until they get the message. Just this afternoon, an adult literacy group spokesperson cornered me in the library and started explaining to me her group's mission. It was easier to force myself to make the expected feedback cues ("oh really?") for awhile, even though each one cost me, rather than tell her that I didn't feel well or such (which I eventually had to do anyhow... after establishing that they were a largely volunteer-run group with no capacity to hire a teacher). Then Joe, a retired Maple Ridge bookdealer I'm friendly with, spotted me and came up to chat a bit and I had to explain my situation again ("I can listen, but I can't really talk.") He then launched into the following:

"Did you hear about the Buddhist who went to a dentist, and refused all Novocaine?"

I shake my head.

"He was trying to transcend dental medication."

It was hard not to smile at that. I have a weakness for corny jokes.

Smiling hurt.

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