Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Fog

*Comments were fixed so anyone can comment now without an account. Sorry for the problems!*

Have any of you ever seen the movie, The Fog? I'll admit, I haven't had the pleasure as of yet, but the title and the movie poster have left an imprint on my mind for quite some time. Maybe it is because I am a semi-closet fan of horror movies...

Anyway, as any of you TMJD sufferers can probably attest to, with this wonderful disorder comes what I call, The Fog. Anyone that knows me well has probably seen me in it quite often. It is when my pain level gets too bad and I am out of it; my eyes have that great spacy look, my usually bubbly self quiets, my shoulders slump, and if I do walk it is as if I am a zombie. Yes, I am in The Great Fog.

This is how I spend most of my days now. Over this year particularly, I have more and more days spent in this spacey state. I am lucky if I get a day that I feel normal anymore. This is probably why most of my friends and family say that I don't call. When the pain gets so great, The Fogs hold becomes even stronger.

What surprises me about The Fog is that when it's power overtakes, it makes one want to lay around. The problem with this is it can often cause a TMJD sufferer to clench and/or grind more, leading to more pain. The laying position is also quite bad for myofascial pain, particularly in regard to the neck. It is amazing how the things one wants to do when they hurt can often make the pain worse.

To find relief anymore all I can really do is take a hot bath, a flexeril, and sleep (always the result of the muscle relaxant). I remember well that back before things got really bad a heating pad would help or other days some ice. Often I just needed to dim the lights and close my eyes for a while to quiet myself. I know often stress can be a trigger for the TMJ and has usually made my problems worse. It is hard to see that these things don't work anymore.

So, my question for the rest of you TMJD sufferers (if you are out there reading this). Do you fall into The Fog? If so, how does it affect you? What do you do to find relief?


Today I drove out to Baltimore. I had to run a few errands which required I kill an hour or so in between. While I had the extra time I figured I might as well orient myself with where Hopkins actually is. I knew it had to be a large hospital and like most would be in a confusing layout. As expected, I was quite correct.

Spending time alone in the car often gets one thinking. This journey caused my mind to do what it has been doing often; reflecting on how I got to this place. Since I finally made the decision to see the surgeon, something I have put off for seven years (was referred back in 2002), all I can think about is the "how's" and "why's".

I'm finding myself becoming really angry. I'm angry that I have had to go through so many doctor appointments, so many years of daily headaches, years of treatments, medications, and the like. I'm angry I may have to face surgery, most likely multiple over my lifetime. I'm angry I haven't been honest about my pain to either myself or my loved ones over the years. While it is good to not focus on my pain, it was also not really healthy to ignore the symptoms either. Really, i'm having a pity party and need to snap myself out of it real quick.

The "how" factor has me more upset than anything. I've never taken the time to really center myself on this before. Back when I was seven years old, I fell about 1.5 stories in a gym class accident, landing directly on my jaw. As this was a number of years ago, they did not follow what would be today's standard procedure. While I was knocked unconscious and very well could have had serious injuries, they removed me from the gym and took me to the nurses room in the school office rather than call an ambulance. I required over 42 stitches, most internal.

I can't help but to think of what could have been different if things were handled differently that day. I think of what may have been different if the doctors would have done better follow up care over the years. Would I still be in this position? I don't know. Maybe...probably? I wonder sometimes. I know we are not meant to dwell on the "what if's?" but the human side of me does sometimes. I guess even with the more "minor" aspects of health there is some kind of grieving process that takes place.

I know this is not a life-threatening ailment but knowing how life-altering it is scares me. I know that the decisions the doctor and I make over the course of the next few weeks will greatly affect the rest of my life. It is amazing to me that something as small as the jaw has such a huge impact on ones life, but it really does. While I have had jaw/head/neck pain everyday for well over a decade now, this last year has been so extreme to the point of being almost debilitating.

I pray for answers. I pray that the strides, while I know they are few, which have been made in TMJ treatment are enough to help bring relief. I pray that if I do have surgery it is successful and does not lead to multiple surgeries in the future. I will admit it, I am a bit scared. This is nothing like any other surgeries I have had in the past. I could learn a thing or two from the hundreds of children I have met, read about, and prayed for who have battled far greater journeys than myself. They certainly make us adults look weak, don't they?!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Getting Started

As a way to get this blog underway, I will post a little blurp I shared on a forum earlier today. I will give a greater description later but at least this will give the blog a bump in the right direction.

I don't know where this blog will go. I will keep this anonymous, knowing this may never be read by another soul. As there are so few resources out there for TMD ( sufferers, I felt even if this ends up just being a journal for myself, maybe someday, another person may read my journey and will find the experience helpful as they begin their own. Who knows. No matter, maybe all it will be is a way for me to chronicle this part of my life so someday I can look back and hopefully see how far I have come. *smile*

So, here is the blurp.

I am going in finally for a consultation at John Hopkins with an oral surgeon about possible TMD surgery next week. I am excited, nervous, but more than anything... ready to get rid of the chronic pain that has been worsening over the last 22 years.

I have tried everything under the sun to find relief. I've been through the ropes of conservative treatment, praying to avoid surgery. The latest has been new splints, physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, over a dozen different meds, etc. Nothing has brought relief and this last year i've seen the most extreme worsening of symptoms in years. My hope by coming here is to find support, advice, and answers to all of the questions swarming through my head.

This world of chronic jaw pain can be so lonely, as I am certain most of you can attest to. It affects so many aspects of my life; i'm especially seeing this in my work right now. The worse the pain is getting, the harder it is to keep up with life in the workforce. Coworkers find it difficult to understand and there is no way to help them step into my shoes.

Anyway, I disgress.

So, there is my blurp. I hope someone finds this blog, particularly those of you facing similar journeys. Please, if you do, share your stories. I would love to hear from you. Hopefully we can be a support to one another as we seek relief from our jaw pain.