the tooth extraction saga, or; some thoughts on chronic vs acute emotional/physical pain

August 30, 2020
For those who don’t know, I had a tooth pulled Friday. The difference in my overall mood/energy and even basic stability has been extreme – and extremely fascinating!
My life has been weird lately. Not externally– more or less pretty boring by those standards. I’m a single adult living on my parents’ property with my two cats, doing food delivery.
As far as what’s been happening internally, though, it’s been pretty strange. At the same time as I feel like I’ve begun recognizing more nuance in life in general- I’ve also begun blurring a lot of lines.
Pain is one such example.
I used to think of physical and emotional pain as two entirely separate phenomenon- with only really occasional overlap.
Now, I’m not so sure about that.
Now, I am starting to suspect that when our brains identify something as painful, resources are allocated to try to fix the problem.
I have been pretty consistently upbeat of late, but this is a state of being which requires pretty high levels of energy to maintain. Even just stuff like interacting with my mom- I have to go into those with a lot of….hm. Emotional reserves(?) built up, or I tend to crumble. That happened on Friday, and the difference between that day and most days lately was stark.
In this case, it makes sense to me that the energy my body normally would allocate to maintaining a sort of calm awareness that my mom is hurting me due to her own hurt, and trying to find ways to soothe that hurt- was instead being allocated to trying to heal my jaw/cheek.
It is difficult to overcome insecurities. Difficult to not take things personally.
Thinking back, though- my behavior and thoughts over the past few days were remarkably similar to times when I have had no physical injury to contend with.
Take out the removed tooth, and add in some traumatic emotional event, and I can’t immediately identify any ways my behavior/emotions would have been different these past few days.
I think it’s possible that even when the source of pain is an emotional one, our brains still send a bunch of resources that way to try to heal it- which frequently results in something like fruitless chewing on problems? Thinking in circles, reliving painful memories- could these be symptoms of our brains trying to find a Way Out?
Trying to heal, but without an easily identifiable physical injury, lacking clear direction on how to do so?
If so, it’s a bit of a catch-22, because I believe pretty strongly that that very ‘chewing’ on pain reduces our ability to effectively identify the source of the problem, and take meaningful steps towards solving it..

August 31, 2020

 

At some point after creating this server, I began writing with an explicit goal of pulling around any topic I write about to feeling…. Inspiring.
I don’t always succeed; and sometimes, for various reasons, I don’t even try that hard. This channel is an example of that- I knew I could get there, but just didn’t have the energy to direct my thoughts that far. Last night, I had an idea for how to! But was trying to sleep (mostly unsuccessfully- prolly would have been happier had I allowed myself to get up and wear myself out a bit by writing) and now, I’ve completely forgotten the idea I had for direction.
Sometimes, though…. Sometimes I can get there if I just…. Start talking, and see where my brain goes.

 

Alright. So. The direction my brain keeps going in seems only indirectly related to this topic.
This is likely either because:
A. It is. I’m just thinking about it because it’s what I’m experiencing right now.
-or-
B. There’s some connection, or potential connection, that my subconscious is trying to bring to my conscious attention.
I’m going to follow the thought as a sort of experimental exercise, just in case it’s the latter!
I just had one tooth pulled, but I have at least one other that will need to go. Anything I can learn about this process will help me to get better at the post-extraction process for the next one. I’ve noticed a couple potential avenues for me to explore, the next time ’round.

 

One of these has to do with sleep patterns; even though I’d been taking long naps during the day pretty much every day for weeks now- my total time spent sleeping has been remarkably consistent. Usually 5-6 hours spent asleep at night, then another 2-3 during the day, for an average of 8.5ish hours.
Every day, for weeks.
I had the tooth pulled on Friday; Friday night + naps came out to 9.5 hours – which makes sense. Prolly needed extra sleep for the healing process.
But! The next night (+ naps) came out to eleven hours. It wasn’t until that evening that the swelling in my cheek had increased to a degree that was noticeable. Perhaps, if I go back to sleeping consistent amounts of time each night- such large deviations can be used in the future as potential indicators of things like infections, before there are external signs.
The other thing has to do with just not thinking critically about what I’m doing, heh. I’d been very careful of trying to reduce the possibility that I’d get dry socket- but after realizing I had an infection, my brain went straight to ‘how can I start fixing it?’
And before I left for the ER (anticipating a long wait that didn’t end up happening)- I rinsed my mouth with fucking hydrogen peroxide.
Really great for killing bacteria- but also for dissolving things like the blood clot I needed in place to avoid getting dry socket.
Took me way too many sleepless hours last night, during which I was experiencing a very different, much sharper pain than I had been to make the connection.
So how might this tie into the first segment of this channel?
Hmmm. I suppose…
Well. I left things with the ‘catch-22’ bit. But I’m a firm believer that there are no such things as problems we can truly do nothing about.
I feel like it’s not useful to sort of ‘chew’ on pain- getting stuck in those fruitless sorts of running in circles in our mind-
When I get to a point where I realize I’ve cycled back to the same conclusion a few times, with no clear path forward; I try to do something else for a while.
If I haven’t thought of something new to try the first couple times I’ve run through whatever I have going on, whether the problem is physical or emotional, for me that generally means I’m either lacking crucial information and need to do some kind of (passive or active) research, or I’m not looking at the situation clearly enough and need to think about something else for long enough to approach it with a clear mind.
But what we can do is identify potential ways to mitigate the effects of similar problems, down the line.
Even if I turn out to be wrong about the sleep thing (though I suspect the hydrogen peroxide one is prolly pretty accurate)- I still feel better.
Because now, I have a plan.
I have something I can at least use to guide my actions the next time around- and if it doesn’t work, I’ll have that much more information to go on.

brooke

I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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