Making the decision to have TMJ total joint replacements implanted at age 24 was not easy. Advice came from all directions and all viewpoints; I should do it because it would increase my quality of life…I should not do it because it was a gamble and I was “so young.” Everyone had an opinion, and I tried hard to listen patiently as each friend, acquaintance, medical professional, and even stranger gave me their point of view.
I received so many emails that were well-meaning but very negative. They demanded to know: how could I possibly make a decision that would effect the rest of my life at age 24?
How could I not? I had no life.
The first two to three years after I had my TMJ total joint replacements implanted were hard, I won’t sugar coat it. Some days I wondered if I made the right decision. Some days I was almost sure that I had made the right decision, and other days I felt it was a mistake. For the most part, my pain was still out of control more than it was in control, and my opening wasn’t that great, either.
However….Slowly, it got better.
How? Well, I made a commitment to exploring every avenue of pain management open to me. My doctor was committed too, and he often reminded me that he would do whatever he could to help me feel better. Slowly we started to figure it out and I began feeling a little bit better. I started working again and dating too. But it still took me hours to wake up in the morning. I had days where I was totally couch-ridden, but because I felt better than I had in a very long time, I resigned myself to that being my “normal.” Hey, at least I wasn’t crying all the time anymore, right?
For a couple of years, everything remained the same. I felt okay sometimes and awful others, but never great…or even good.
Then, a bunch of changes in my life were the catalyst for a bit of a (good) wake-up call. I got a puppy (a golden retriever named, what else, but Hope), I started eating a little bit better and even exercising. I started a new business that was flourishing.
Things were better than ever.
I wondered – was it possible for me to feel EVEN better??
I started thinking back on the past 6 years and everything I was told…chronic intractable pain….permanent nerve damage…..
Was it possible that the doctors were wrong – that I wouldn’t have to suffer with chronic intractable pain for the rest of my life?
See, I’m a strong optimist. I look on the bright side of everything, and am constantly seeking growth and trying to improve my life. For once, I had given up the optimism for TMJ disorder and settled on what I called “guarded realism.” I knew that someday I would need more surgery. I knew that someday my pain would skyrocket.
Someday, the other shoe would drop. Wouldn’t it? I didn’t have the answer to that question and that was (and still is) scary.
However, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years (and especially over the past year) is:
You can NOT sit and wait for the other shoe to drop and stop living your life in the meantime.
No one is ever going to show up at your door to anoint you with the “you’re not sick anymore” certificate.
No one will ever stumble across the answers to your health problems and give you the answers once and for all.
The only person that is going to help you get better…..is you. And the only time worth starting….is now.
You’re worth it.
On Thursday, I’ll be back with another post to talk with you about what happened when I stopped waiting for the “you’re not sick anymore” certificate….and how you can help yourself get better, too.