Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Five Years Past

I've been trying to get through another blog entry for a bit over a week now - I'll finish and post that one soon - but I've been a bit under the weather and focused even more on my novel revision work, so I haven't been able to get myself to just sit down and finish that post. There are plenty of important things going on at the moment, summer just began, and Iran's facing citizen uprising over the recent election fraud there. No idea if I'm going to do a full post commenting on the situation there yet, but at least, I'd like to naturally state my full support for the protesters and Mousavi, as well as denounce the corrupt Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah, who clearly isn't concerned with the interests of the Iranian people, who've made it clear as day that they want a new direction.

At any rate, I'm typing this short little blurb up now just to share some thoughts. As of today, June 23rd, it's been five years since I went through major jaw surgery to correct a pretty huge underbite that would have eventually led to some serious movement problems later in life.

As you would imagine, jaw surgery's not the most pleasant of experiences. Getting my wisdom teeth out between 11th and 12th grades back in summer '01 wasn't so bad - they just knocked me out and I woke up a couple of hours later sans wisdom teeth and a couple of others they'd removed to reduce crowding. (The gaps from which were closed soon after by braces I had in my last year of high school. The wonders of having a small mouth and a fairly cursed dental history.)

The whole jaw surgery experience was preceded by copious amounts of dread, the feeling that the world was closing in on me as it was time to go to the orthodontic surgeon's office, and a general state of suppressed panic as I waited to be called in to go through with the surgery itself. I couldn't eat or drink for either six or eight hours prior to the surgery - as was the case with my wisdom teeth removal - since I was under general anesthesia in both cases. Once I got into the chair, they stuck the IV in my arm and had me count backward until I was out. Then the real fun began.

The procedure itself basically amounted to having my lower jaw broken, moved back, so that its row of teeth would naturally go behind the upper set when I closed my mouth, and screws were drilled into my jaw to secure it in place. (Yes, I am in fact screwed in the head. Literally.) I regained enough consciousness - to the point at which I was slightly aware of outside physical sensation though I couldn't feel any pain - after the worst of it was over in time to actually feel them vacuum out my stomach with one of the two tubes they'd placed in my nose (The other had gone in my wind pipe or something like that to aid with breathing, as I recall.), which is every bit as nightmare-come-true unpleasant as you would imagine.

After gradually recovering consciousness and regaining some of my mobility, I returned home and spent the majority of the next few days in bed, on all the painkillers they'd pumped into me. I couldn't sleep, though - for the first week or so, I couldn't so much as lie down because my jaw had to set in its new position in beginning the healing process, and lying down would have caused it to permanently shift. So I got to spend the first week feeling especially sick and exhausted with severe sleep deprivation on top of all the trauma, and when I did nod off for even a few minutes sitting up, I had some pretty horrific night terrors and sleep paralysis. The psychological norm as the mind registers and deals with the rather deep shock of going through major surgery.

It took me a couple of months to recover fully, only getting to finally eat solid food again by later mid-August '04 - even then, it was mostly soft things like pasta, sushi, mashed potatoes, and so forth, and I had to eat slowly and carefully - after months of nothing but really fluffy light yogurt, drinks designed to replace full meals (Which taste pretty nasty), and a handful of soups blended up to eliminate the need for even the slightest chewing. Nothing teaches you to appreciate solid food like months of inability to eat it or even consciously move your jaw much while it heals.

Time flies far too quickly. It's been over two years since I left college now (And almost two years since I started writing in this blog regularly.), and I'd still like to go back to school if I can, but I'm not exactly confident that another creative writing MFA grad school application rush would yield anything but further rejection. Thus, my primary focus is now on finishing and polishing this novel so I can get to working on finding an agent and publisher by the end of summer. NPR's got a writing contest going on now that I plan on participating in, though competition will be incredibly stiff and I expect to fail. The subject matter itself amounts to trying to write something emotionally evocative that can be read aloud on the radio within 3 minutes, at 500-600 words at most. A fairly vague, wide subject with a lot of room for interpretation, but so far everything I've been able to think of feels rather inauthentic in a contrived search for authenticity. I can make people laugh within those sorts of constraints, but evoking emotion is a different ballgame. I feel like most of the thoughts that come to mind just end up being cheap melodramatic ploys for an emotional reaction, rather than something pure and genuine.

And while time has flown far too quickly in regards to all these things, now it's been exactly half a decade since my jaw surgery. On the upside of all of it, while my jaw still tires easily and I can't chew things like gum anymore - nor am I any more keen on particularly crunchy foods than I have been in the past - most dental procedures don't seem nearly as bad anymore. I had to get a root canal back in early 2007 - and with my dental fortunes changing for the better in more recent times, I should hopefully never have to deal with another - and I ended up dreading it quite a bit, having always heard about how terrible the experience was. It was an exhausting experience, to be sure, but I came away from it thinking that it had been nowhere near as bad as I'd expected. I pretty much wisecracked my way through the whole thing. (I could still speak clearly enough in the breaks between each of the steps of the procedure to actually coherently joke about it.)

For the first few years after my surgery, I'd fall ill around this time of the summer and start dealing with surgery flashbacks in dreams that caused a good several nights of insomnia. Fortunately, that's stopped in more recent years, and all I'm dealing with now is a minor stomach bug - which I'm mostly over, the good homemade Indian food I had for dinner earlier's sitting just fine - that I've had since roughly last Wednesday.

So yeah, on this anniversary of the intensely unpleasant events of that day, I thought it'd be worth it to take a little time to look back and reflect. Invasive orthodontic surgeries? Not recommended if you can avoid them. But of all things, at least I gained a little more perspective from the experience. Generally what one should strive to get out of any painful experience.

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