Suffering is optional

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been having a difficult time with pain.  Sadly, this has continued, as the cause of my tooth pain is elusive… and expensive, but that’s another kind of pain.  I went into this expecting that a root canal was a simple thing – that is, a specialist examines your teeth, determines the problem, treats it and bada bing bada boom… the pain is gone… well, after a reasonable amount of recovery.  But no, that’s not how it’s been.  I’m learning this dentistry thing is as much an art as a science, “that’s why they call it practicing,” The Hubs points out.  Yes, well. 

There are still many questions, as the pain continues, two months after the root canal and who knows how long into the pain?  Does another tooth need a root canal?  Dr. Endodontist can’t get a consistent read on it.  It’s very sensitive to cold (ouch!) and I report bite sensitivity, but only this last visit did she get it to be bite sensitive.  Is there a crack in the root canal treated tooth?  She didn’t see one when she treated it and nothing shows up on x-ray.  Is this just a poor root canal recovery due to other pain issues (chronic headaches)?  She’s seen that with other chronic pain patients.  Is there something going on with my sinuses?  Hmmm… I do have a chronic runny nose.  Or might I just be insane… pain all in my head in the terrible imaginary sort of way?  Yes, I have had a bad night or two mulling that one over. 

What to do; what to do?  There’s the obvious… keep seeking medical answers, which I’m doing, but it’s crazy expensive, as we have no dental insurance, which certainly adds stress.  And there’s the daily management of life.  I went into work one day a few weeks ago after a few days off after just realizing a second root canal wasn’t the answer, scared to death.  Every so often someone said to me, “how are you?”  You know, the standard, polite “how are you?” and I wanted to rant, let venom spew forth, and on a few occasions probably did.  Very quickly I realized, I am NOT nice!  I might hurt, but I don’t want to be like this.  And I made a quick decision that I needed to develop a “sunny disposition” and quickly.  Yes, sunny.  It’s silly, it’s goofy, it’s a little dumb.  But if I could be sunny or close to it, I would not be able to spew venom and that’s what I was looking for.  I also knew that I might need to make this decision over and over again, as it’s easy to lose one’s sunniness in the face of pain, but that I would remake the decision as many times as was necessary.  I have come to believe with other aspects of my life that “fake it ’till you make it” does work, and it can work for being happy.  I may not be able to make the pain go away, and I also recognize that I need a little down time to deal with it too, but choosing to be happy works.  I can be happy and in pain.  Sometimes I invite the pain along to whatever I’m doing, because it avoids a fight and more pain.  Long ago, when just dealing with headaches, I came up with “suffering is optional” and that is the gist of this.

So, in order to be a better therapist, wife, mom, friend, human, I invite you, Pain, along with me.  Let’s go about our day smiling and just a little bit silly.  ‘Cause I like silly.


5 Responses

  1. i think having a positive attitude is really beneficial in life, no matter where the challenges and struggles lie. at the same time, i equally believe that suffering has purpose and can bring us closer to ourselves or help us look in a new direction, for different answers. it’s like a signal.

    having been through 6 months of HELL with my one tooth over a year ago, that included 2 trips or more to the endodontist and landed me in an oral surgeon’s chair, i know this pain you speak of. it was excruciating, especially the multiple procedures i endured.

    i’m still trying to figure out the reason for all that pain. was life asking me to slow down? was it to uncover a bigger problem- (my heart)-which flared every time I was given lidocaine?

    i don’t know. what i do know is that sometimes, you just have to sit with your pain and accept it while the answers might take a long time to come.

  2. I’ve lost count of how many root canals I’ve had over the years and I often had additional problems with them until my GOOD dentist in RI identified this problem. While “most” people have just 2 roots per tooth I had three. One root was not getting treated on each tooth which led to ongoing pain for that tooth. He was amazed with this little quality of mine but most of my other doctors would not be since I seem to be a medical anomaly in many ways. (Nope….. NOT that way!)
    And then, of course, you know of my other chronic medical pain issues. I had an excellent doctor, also in RI… thinking of moving back now…. who recommended the book, Managing Pain Before It Manages You. It’s a cognitive-behavioral approach to pain that has made a world of difference in my life.

  3. I’m so sorry that you are still suffering but your outlook and positive attitude when you need it is a good way to try to live. Big hugs.

  4. I do understand the pain issue.Surgery,injections,pt, medications for a back issue. And still have pain.
    You may want to see an ENT and have a CT of the head ? Sinus and migrains also create jaw and tooth pain.

  5. A cone beam CT scan is next on the agenda.

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