the little alma that could

So, I’ve mentioned I’ve been having a lot of dental problems lately.  It all started this past summer when–after a short hiatus from seeing a dentist–I decided to get my shit together and get a cleaning.

The reason for the hiatus was that, since Fogg got sick, all the self-care stuff I did for me–like dental cleanings, therapy, and acupuncture–fell by the wayside.  I had big loans to pay back.  By July, I’d paid most of them off, so I finally allowed myself that luxury of getting my teeth checked out.

I actually used to like going to the dentist as a kid.  For me, it was like this great treat because I got dental products and Mama would always buy me a chili cheese burger from the Chili Bowl next door.  I always had decent teeth.  I did have a couple cavities filled, but basically, I had zero problems with my teeth for most of my life.

But being someone who was not great at self-care, the dentist was often the last thing on my list as an adult–because I was always last on my list…and sometimes, I didn’t have insurance.

So, I’ve always been surprised that I haven’t had major dental issues.  My Mama had horrible teeth, so it’s not like I won the genetics lottery there.

Anyway, I’ve had really great luck with dentists–always going to the best in Denver.  So, last summer, I went in–intending to get a deep cleaning and a nightguard fitted.  And that’s when this saga began.  Because they found out I had a cracked tooth.  Which meant I couldn’t get the night guard until that was fixed.  Well, the problem with that was that I was moving, and there wasn’t time or extra money for such things–so I decided to wait to do it out here–since I figured it would be one less thing to deal with…and the move was not going well.

I wasn’t in any pain.  So, I got out here.  Scheduled an appointment for mid September.  Which I rescheduled a few times because–no pain–and work was being a cunt.  It would have been fine, but I just didn’t feel like I COULD make the time.  So, I kept postponing, and then they postponed.  So, for months, this went on.  Then I finally went in and they discovered I now had two cracked wisdom teeth–probably from grinding and oh–there were other issues.  All on the left side.  Shit.  At the time, no big.  I wasn’t in pain.  So, I scheduled my wisdom tooth consultation and planned on doing the other stuff after as that’s what was recommended.

But then, the pain started.  And, at first, it wasn’t bad.  Just some aching.  At first, I wasn’t sure it was even dental pain.  It might’ve been referred stuff from sinus and ear infections.

It just got worse and worse.  And most of the pain was in the tooth that shouldn’t have been a big deal.  It was superficial and was just a replacement filling.  The one next to the cracked wisdom tooth–the one my dentist really struggled with and worried about–was fine.  Just a little achy.  I waited because I had read that sometimes fillings hurt and need time to adjust.  That had never been my past experience, but I’d never had composites before either.  Plus, my dentist is out on paternity leave till May.  So, I didn’t want to put anyone out.  They referred me to another dentist if I had emergent pain, but I was just going to wait it out till May.

But the pain was wearing me down. Making me hate life.  You can’t really go through life with a heating pad strapped to your face.  Luckily, work has been mellow (if frustrating), so it didn’t really matter if I was moving slowly and swishing shit every 10 minutes to try to deaden all senses.

A lot of my pain was in my ear and jaw, so I wondered if the sinus infection I had moved into my ears.  Maybe it was just that.  A simple fix of antibiotics and peace out.  So, I made an appointment with a new dr while I was waiting on my actual dr later this month.  I figured it would be better to do that than go to urgent care.  Cheaper.  I also figured I’d mention it to my oral surgeon.  Maybe he could fix it when he did the wisdom teeth.  And just because my gut told me to, I scheduled an appointment with another dentist.  A woman.  Because I’ve experienced a whole lot of men out here not listening to me when I talk about what’s wrong.  I prefer women, usually, except for dental shit because dental shit requires some degree of brutality that women seem to lack.  (And maybe that belief is why I’m in pain now–who knows?!).

So, yesterday, I go in for my medical appointment.  My ears look fine, except there’s super bad dry skin which is what’s causing the itching…allergies, probably.  She recommended allergy testing.  She looked at my mouth, saw no signs of infection.  Told me to come back if it got worse and to definitely see a dentist.  It was a total waste of time, but I was glad I did it.  Because at least now I know what to fix.

I went to my oral surgeon’s. and they did a panoramic xray that made me super claustrophobic, but I loved the staff and the dr.  He has a real wry sense of humor, so we got on well.  He immediately saw that the upper tooth–the one that was worrisome still had a hole.  He actually mistook the filling as a temporary because of the xray results.  He recommended totally replacing the filling and said I should do it after the wisdom tooth extractions.  He only recommended pulling the two affected wisdom teeth since my other two are in good shape, and why fix what isn’t broken?  (That’s what I’ve been saying).  And he looked at the other tooth and said that was fine, but that some people take time to adjust to composites.  He said the aching there should go away.  He saw no signs of infection, which was surprising given how long this sucker’s been like this.

So, I left there–relieved and happy that the estimate was pretty reasonable.

I arranged days off work for mid-May–scheduling out a bit since I’m dealing with work crap starting next week and can’t really take a week off in the middle of that.  The pain had been better over the weekend, and it wasn’t bad yesterday.

Then last night, I noticed that there was some mild swelling and sensitivity on the gum on the front side of the upper cracked wisdom tooth.  I noticed it because I noticed my mouth was bleeding after I brushed.  It felt like the crack was a bit larger and the bleeding was from the wisdom tooth.  I also noticed that this part of my gum smelled like bad breath–despite just brushing and etc just prior.  No other part of my mouth was like that.  So, I immediately thought–infection!  Maybe an abscess.  But the very beginning of it.  I called my oral surgeon and discussed, and he felt like food probably just got stuck in the crack and I just needed to brush and flush.  So I brushed like a crazy lady and swished with all kinds of shit.  Today was not pleasant.  My face just ached–worse than it ever has and it wasn’t from the tooth that’s been bothering me.  It was that upper area–where the worrisome tooth is and the wisdom tooth that is sensitive is.  I also noticed my ear hurt way more.  My other ear hurt.  I had more jaw pain.  I had shoulder and even arm pain in my opposite arm.  And the OTC painkillers and clove oil were not really helping.  The only thing helping was the heating pad.  I still had no sensitivity to heat or cold and could eat fine, but I started avoiding eating on that side and made sure to brush every time I ate or drank anything other than water.  My mouth is the cleanest ever.

I had canceled my dentist appointment for Friday since it looked like I was waiting until after my wisdom tooth surgery since fixing the filling now might mean it would be damaged during my extraction–and I’d have to have it redone.  So, I scheduled it with my normal dentist for mid-May.  That was before all this aching and weirdness.

I honestly thought all of this would be something I could just deal with.  Because I didn’t want to put anyone out–didn’t want to redo things.  Didn’t want to make it harder.  Didn’t want to take time off to fix this.  Or spend more money.

I told my therapist this, and she laughed because it was such an Alma response.  We did a lot of work today.  Basically, identifying that–there’s a part of me that really can’t voice my needs.  Mostly because as a baby and a toddler and a child, I was taught I didn’t have the right to have needs.  And even if I screamed bloody murder, it wouldn’t matter.  The people charged with taking care of me were either absent or checked out.  So that every moment of my young life was literally life or death.  So, I learned to just not have needs.  But–of course–we all have needs.  So, I turned it around.  I wouldn’t tell people I needed anything.  But I would expect them to know–if they were good and decent people–because you just should know if you love me.  And then when they wouldn’t, I’d be devastated by that–take it as some comment about my value.  I described it as feeling like I’m an animal stuck in the corner, surrounded by this moat of heavy, dark sludge that drowns you and that is utterly inescapable.  And the only way to get out of it is to fight.  To make everyone else the enemy–to save my goddamn self and hate everyone.  And there’s a righteous anger attached to it…a judgmental thing attached.  An immature teenager realizing she is powerful–that she can save herself.  But it takes a lot.  And it hurts a lot.  And in the process of crawling out, I make everyone the enemy.  I leave them before they can leave me.  I make shit up about their malevolence and who they are to me.  And then I’m gone.  As far away as possible.  No warning.

It’s a pattern I have seen over and over and over and over again in all parts of my life.  Most especially in my interactions with people.  With work and in romantic relationships.  I control and manipulate by being righteous and angry and by leaving in all the ways I leave in plain sight.  And the other person has no idea why.

But I do now.

It means I have an unmet need and that self-care is very low.  That I am neglecting myself at a core level.  I’ve realized I have two basic, core needs that matter more than anything.  I need to feel like I’m a person of integrity.  And I also need to feel respected.  These things are connected, intimately, but for whatever reason, I’ve always felt like I had to honor one or the other.  When I am feeling out of integrity, I need to be productive and feel supported in my productivity.  When I feel disrespected, I need to soak up good energy from friends who love me.  Who know me.  Who value me.  I need to have pats on the back.  And I need that from myself too.

I realized today that all these things are out of whack right now.  And when that happens, I’m stuck in that corner looking for any reason to jab the fuck out of some person who clearly hates me and is out to get me.

I am ready to fight to the death because–for me–this is always about life and death.  Because that was what I was taught.  No one is coming.  No one cares.

Tonight, I took a nap after work–had a fever dream–and woke up to no aching.  Oh my God–was it over?  Maybe the flushing worked.  Then an hour or so ago, I felt this lightning bolt of severe pain stab me in the tooth that was worrisome.  Like there was no doubt that was the Universe telling me–“Stop putting yourself last.”  My therapist had said as much when we left things off–asking me to try to ask for what I needed and keep a record of all the times I didn’t.  And why.  And the outcome.

So, that was a wakeup to get the damn shit fixed.  Even if I had to go to another dentist and make my dentist feel disrespected.  Even if I had to spend money.  Even if I had to take a half day and inconvenience people.  Even if the whole thing had to be done.  I just knew in my gut that I cannot do this every day, all day, for the next month.  Fuck that.

It was the same exact feeling I had after being misdiagnosed twice by urgent care folks and ignored by men who didn’t understand that I don’t complain unless the pain is unbearable.  It was the energy that sent me to the ER that morning–that got me immediate help–that saved my fucking life.  Because had I not gone, I would be dead.  There’s no question.  None.

And if I don’t start giving people the option of meeting my needs, I will die some other kind of death.  The kind that involves feeling like I don’t matter.  The kind that involves deep disappointment in those who say they love me–that they will never show up for me in the ways I need them to.

Fuck it.  I’m not hurting anymore. I’m not being an accomplice in my own misery anymore.

So, Thursday morning–people will deal and I will tell someone I need their help.  Because I am done being the fucking lonely savior.

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