The Center Cannot Hold

Could just be that I've lived in San Francisco too long, but I've always believed that the body will express the feelings the mind often can't. Wow, did you read that sentence I just wrote? Sign me up for a chakra-centering workshop, stat! Bring me my patchouli! I've got crystals and mung beans and a tie-dyed Grateful Dead shirt from 1972 and I'm not afraid to use them! 

Seriously, though, it's not as hippy-dippy as it sounds. Your body---or at least my body---has a certain way of letting you know when it's not best pleased, kind of like a car that's overdue for an oil change. (Which reminds me: crap, my actual car is overdue for an actual oil change, someone write that on their hand for me so that I still remember it by the time I've finished this post.) It's like a flashing neon warning sign from your brain: hey, body, she's not listening to ME, why don't you do something about it? Make things uncomfortable for a while, will you, until she figures out why her lower back hurts so much? Here, I'll write down how you do it on a bright pink Post-It so you don't forget.

During that hideous time earlier this year when my cats were peeing constantly on my bed---and in the hall, and in Sean's shoes, and on the bath mat, and on any article of clothing left on the floor OH MY GOD PICK YOUR JEANS UP SEAN I MEAN IT---the left side of my jaw got progressively stiffer and stiffer until I could hardly open my mouth more than an inch without yelping. I've long had issues with TMJ-related pain---which, you guessed it, flares up the minute someone so much as steals my parking space---but this was something else.

For a solid month or two---quite a while after the problem had been solved and the cats had stopped (pun alert!) pissing us off with their (pun alert!) piss-poor bladder control---I'd spend the entire day massaging my jaw, attempting only to open my mouth a fork-width wide to avoid wincing while eating (Wincing While Eating! My next emo band name!), and self-medicating with heating pads and Advil during my waking hours (and heating pads and Valium during my sleeping ones.)

Curiously, it wasn't until many weeks later---when the pain finally stopped---that I put two and two together. Huh, I thought. I guess I was more stressed about that than I realized.  Of course, under the category of "Things That Are Sort Of Worrying For $200, Alex," constantly peeing cats don't even come close to unemployment or illness or bankruptcy or any number of other far more horrible things, but still, it has to be said: waking up, morning after morning, with a 50% chance of having been urinated on during the night certainly ain't no walk in the park.

I say all this because for the last few days, my body has been all but sending out smoke signals and carrier pigeons and musical greeting cards with a very clear message: CHILLAX ALREADY. (My body is stuck in the 80s, what can I say?) My bones have been achy, my hair has hurt, my glands are swollen, and my jaw is---yep, that old chestnut---making it impossible to open my mouth more than an inch or two to talk, but that's okay because talking pains me anyway thanks to these THREE MOUTH ULCERS I've cultivated (in addition to this weird puffy stye-thing on my eye.) I am, in short, a little run-down. It couldn't be any clearer if a candle suddenly materialized in the air before me and started burning at both ends.

I guess I've got a lot going on, what with the rapidly impending wedding and work and travel and a bunch of other things constantly on my mind, but still, I'm a little disappointed at what a wimp I've turned out to be. I mean, look at me, crumbling---physically, anyway, because I don't actually feel particularly stressed---at the first sign of strain! What gives, self? Why such a delicate little flower? People do things far more taxing than what amounts to just planning a big party, and they do these taxing things every day. Like having children, for instance: how am I ever going to handle having a child, if just wondering where I'm going to get the best-priced hydrangeas is causing my body to stage a full-blown military coup? I abhor weakness, and right now, this feels insufferably weak. Get it together, body! Grow some balls!

Uh, not literally, of course. I mean, honestly, that would just be a whole other problem, wouldn't it? And frankly, Internet, I don't have time for the doctors' appointments to deal with it.

Jul 09, 2009

Leading up to our wedding I had horrible pains in my jaw like I had the worlds worst toothache. I went to the dentist, sure he was about to tell me I was due for a root canal just weeks before the wedding. They couldn't find anything...and I made them do x-rays because I didn't believe them. They think I was grinding my teeth in my sleep due to stress...or as he put it...the idea of having an actual mother in law. It went away about 1 week after that...the body is a crazy thing!

Jul 09, 2009

Sod the hydrangeas. The wedding will be perfect because you're marrying the perfect man for you and all the rest is small fish. Your body and you deserve a break from worrying.

Jul 09, 2009

I had a friend who had never so much as had a severe headache in her life (ok, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration), but when she started planning her wedding she was all the sudden dealing with migraines on a weekly basis. It just seems no matter how good you are at planning, weddings just stress a girl out! Hang in there.

Oh, and get your oil changed.

Jul 09, 2009

That's so weird - I am going through the exact same thing right now, only my symptoms are in my neck, shoulders, and back. My skin is a mess (and I haven't been eating chocolate)and I feel like every joint and hinge is trying to come unglued.

And I have to start a week of midnight shifts TONIGHT. UGH.

Jul 09, 2009

In regards to your TMJ, Holly--I have the same thing and have had it for years, so I feel your pain. A while back I actually had a mouthguard made by my dentist (ok, he was actually an "oral-facial pain specialist", but whatever) that I wear at night--it worked wonders! Seriously, within a few nights, the pain was gone and I was back to my old self. The mouthguard itself probably takes some getting used to, but having had braces and headgear for like 7 years as a child must have numbed me to things like that. I also got some physical therapy, which was awesome and also really expensive, so YMMV. Take care!

Jul 09, 2009

The night before my rehearsal dinner, I developed a sore throat. My dad (who is generally not a nice person) told me to take it easy and forget it was there, because it probably was just all in my head. And it was.

Oh, and I got the biggest zit of my life on my BACK the week before the wedding. It was there on my wedding day, but I have never seen it on pictures, and I'm sure one day I'll forget it existed.

Get your oil changed, get a pedicure, do something fun for yourself and try not to think about the wedding for an hour, especially on a weekend day. It'll do you good.

Jul 09, 2009

Thanks talkwithnothought, I can wash this of my hand now!

I hope you feel better soon. Try a little meditation - just some quiet time for yourself each day. If that doesn't work, lock the door, take the phone off the hook, hit the couch, and watch a marathon of movies like "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle". That always helps me. :)

Jul 09, 2009

I second Melanie on the mouth guard. My dentist made me one ten years ago, and I still wear it every night, regardless of what is going on. It works wonders. It may be a little pricey; but it lasts ten years!

It doesn't exactly turn you into a sex kitten when you go to bed a night, but you will be pain free - guaranteed.

Operation Pink Herring
Jul 09, 2009

I think I'm just going to give up blogging and link to your posts instead.

I've managed to come down with what I've dubbed the Wedding Flu, develop a strange and worrying rash on my face, and have some kind of swelling going on in my mouth. I know -- I KNOW -- that this is all stress related, even though I'm not all THAT stressed about the wedding anymore. I'm not stressed about the wedding, but I am stressed about the huge, impending changes -- it's been said that nothing at all will change, we already live together and all that -- but holy hell, we're going to be MARRIED. in front of a whole bunch of people. our families are meeting. Oh my god, just writing this comment I want to cry.

It's just a lot. It's a lot emotionally, no matter how zen you are about the wedding details. I could not agree more with your SF new-age diagnosis -- it has to come out somewhere, and what your brain can't process, your body will. Through a bloody rash on your FACE and the flu, if you're me.

Jul 09, 2009

For years my tried-and-true stress management technique was cold sores and bronchitis. On the eve of my wedding, my throat hurt so badly I could barely speak. I must have drank about 3 gallons of tea with honey. Miraculously, I woke up on my wedding day with little more than a stuffy nose. However, on my honeymoon, I developed a full-blown cold. No problem, though, compared to what could have been.

Try try try to care even a fraction less about all the ultimately inconsequential things you're worrying about. I totally understand wanting to get everything right, but on your actual wedding day, you won't even notice half the amazing things you've labored over for months.

Jul 09, 2009

I totally didn't feel that stressed out about our wedding, and then like the month before I started losing hair by the fistfuls. THEN I was all freaking about being bald going down the aisle.

My friends kept being like "You have to stop stressing!" I was like "I'm NOT stressing. I have my Lists, and I work on them, and I make checkmarks and all is fine." And then like the second day of the honeymoon I was ponied up to a wine bar and thought.... hmmm, if this is no stress, maybe I was stressed out. I just think it came on so gradually that I didn't even realize. But it's not like you can do anything really but keep calm and carry on... I mean, really, what else can you do?

Jul 09, 2009

Oh and as for the mouth guard - I use one that I got from the drugstore and it works just fine. I've also had ones made by the dentist, but everytime I had a cavity or something filled then it had to change and it was getting super expensive.

The one I have is like this one.

Nothing But Bonfires
Jul 09, 2009

Thanks for all these supportive comments, guys!

I did once have a mouthguard made about six years ago, and I think it helped immensely for a year or two. Then I lost it somehow in the shuffle of moving between two houses in Charleston and never found it again. My TMJ was pretty much under control by then, so I never bothered to have another one made. For the last few years, it's only flared up when I'm under stress and I'm generally able to get rid of it in a day or two.....but now it seems to be pretty constant. Maybe another mouthguard IS in order!

Jul 09, 2009

I know what you mean... my body has a way of angrily reminding me who's in charge when I try to cram too much in. whenever that happens I always go back to my holy trinity: eat right, work out and sleep well and things always settle back down eventually. if it's really bad I throw in an extra "good for me" bit, like yoga or a pedicure.

good luck! and I love your emo band name.

Jul 09, 2009

I have a friend getting married in a few weeks and she is recovering from a really bizarre rash that is entirely stress induced but she initially told her doctor she did not have any unusual stress despite the fact that she is in the midst of planning a wedding for 500 people in 3 months! I think brides-to-be (normal ones) are afraid of being seen as bridezillas so they shove all their stress down internally until it manifests in all of these crazy ways you and others have described. My poor sister started her period the day before the wedding - a full week before scheduled despite the regulatory powers of the pill.

Jul 09, 2009

Oh goodness, the mouth ulcers. I've been dealing with those every month for a few months and they are just miserable. Mine seem to be related to "that special time of the month," but they alone are enough to make me weep into my morning breakfast. Oh, wait, it's too painful to EAT breakfast! I'll take liquid lunch for $1,000. Hang in there and be good to yourself. You're so not a wimp!

Jul 09, 2009

First of all, the cat thing would have given me motor ticks complete with eye twitches. I don't think there's anything wrong with stressing about being PEED ON! My dog (I should say our BAD dog does ... we have two and one is an angel and the other is THE DEVIL) has the tendency to mark every once in a while and I pretty much throw the hissy fit of the century because DAMMIT I LIKED THAT BATH MAT! And he always does it right after I've busted my butt cleaning or such nonsense.
Ok, long way of saying "YOU'RE OK!"
Also? I'm going to go ahead and give assvice and recommend a staycation of the Priceline variety. Order room service and leave your cell phone at home ASAP.

Jul 09, 2009

I had eye twitching. My eyes would not stop twitching. I was working three jobs until two days before our wedding and my body was clearly in distress. So. Those two days off were necessary. But I was fine in the end!!

Take a bubble bath and relax, girlfriend!!

Jul 09, 2009

I would like to change my answer about the whole does it feel different after the wedding thing. The relationship with Sean may or may not. That's really a toss up. What will feel different is that you'll wake up and go "Wait what about the flowers and the tuxes and's done...." and heave a giant sigh of relief. There will always be something to worry about but for a while, the giant concern that's taken residence square on the horizon will be gone, hopefully having left only fantastic memories of a great party.

Frankie says relax!

Jul 09, 2009

Oh and I planned my wedding in six months. Two months before our wedding I started college again after a break of a couple years, started a new job, put our house on the market, and my brother announced that he was getting married exactly three weeks after my wedding. My mom and I both developed a nervous twitch/jumpiness/all around panic. Remarkably enough, we survived all of it. You'll be just fine.

jennifer in sf
Jul 09, 2009

I haven't planned a wedding but my body definitely protests in times of stress. In particular the jaw (which is apparently very common) and my, erm, intestines lets say. Which is awesome. So that's to say you're not weak, it's totally normal.

Oh, and I used to have a custom mouthguard until I ground my way through it back in grad school. But my dentist told me to just try this one that you can just pick up at Walgreen's. So maybe try that and save yourself some dough/time.

Jul 09, 2009

I used to be a massage therapist, and the cheesy saying "You hold your issues in your tissues" is so true. I just want to mail you a case of wine so you can RELAX.

The wedding is going to be so lovely, Holly. Enjoy the process of it, and the anticipation of marrying Sean. It's all going to be great. Take good care of YOU first and foremost. xoxo

Jul 09, 2009

You poor dear!

I hope you feel better soon. In the meantime I hope you find some time to let your body rest and refuel your energy. Gah, now I sound like I'm the one in tye-dye.

Jul 09, 2009

There is something about the semi-public spectacle of a wedding that brings on extra stress. You're throwing a giant party and asking everyone to watch you try and enjoy it. You will enjoy it by the way, I can tell. But stressful, yes.

Parenting is mostly much more private. Except for those in the checkout line moments. I promise, not the same kind of stress at all.

April W.
Jul 09, 2009

Definitely get another mouth guard. Mine is a life (and tooth) saver. You can actually fracture teeth! It's quite painful. ;)
You could also try massage. I go to a rolfer ( because they do work on the jaw and it seems to help when it has gotten really bad. It is expensive though.
Are you exercising? That will help knock those stress chemicals right out. Even if all you have time for is a walk around the block during lunch, get out and do it. A little sunshine midday really helps to pep me up and get me through the rest of a hectic day.
The wedding is going to be amazing, take a few deep breaths. :)

Jul 09, 2009

I went through something similar too. One of the great (yes, sarcasm) things I inherited from my mom is stress induced eczema. Sometimes I can feel the rash the second that it happens, like a prickling sensation.

I felt like I had the wedding under control. Contracts signed, deposits made, RSVP cards back, etc. Things were pretty on schedule and I was eczema free.

The week before the wedding, I had an appointment to see my opthamologist. I've been seeing the same doctor for five years, so they have a decent record of my vital signs. Right before the eye puff and dilating drops, the technician took my blood pressure, as usual.

As she was writing down my BP, she said, "Hmmmmmm...well, that's kind of high for you. Are you okay?" I started to tell her that I was fine and then realized it was probably squashed wedding stress (which it was).

Until that moment, I honestly thought that I was fine, and I was on a conscious level, but I think that the stress was just manifesting itself in other ways.

I, too, sometimes wonder if I've lived in hippieland too long (and whether I should start rolling in patchouli in place of bathing), but in this case I thought damn, my body really is telling me something: CHILL THE EFF OUT!

I took that as a sign to go sit on the sofa with some ice cream and watch When Harry Met Sally.

Jul 09, 2009

Ohhh the eye twitch! It makes me crazy!!!

My eye twitches, sometimes I don't even realize I'm stressed until the twitch starts. It started in my upper left eye lid, and moved to my upper right eye lid. It's now in my lower right eye lid. I figure it will end up at the bottom left and then maybe it will go away forever? Vitamin B seems to help make it less severe.

sarahi make sure to get some exercise
Jul 09, 2009

i'm a big jaw clencher in my sleep, so i definitely feel your pain re: the jaw thing. there's nothing worse than waking up with a blinding headache from all the clenching. i have a mouth guard too, and it usually helps a LOT. when i go through particularly stressful periods, it sometimes stops being so effective, but i find if i make sure to get some kind of cardio in every day (even like 10 mins) and do some really good stretching before bed and when i wake up, it really really helps. hope you heal up soon!

Jul 09, 2009

ha, my cursor disappeared while i was typing "make sure to get some exercise" - now i know where it went! sorry about that.

Jul 10, 2009

My TMJ hit after I had an upper GI endoscopy. The doc disconnected my double jointed jam and forgot to tell me. Of course it was going to hurt like heck for weeks and it would take me a month and 3 doctor visits later that it was TMJ caused by the surgeon. To take my mind off stress I watch Blockbuster movies - 2 or 3 a week. Good luck !! Cheers -

Jul 10, 2009

a weird suggestion that might help you- try putting the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth. it always forces my jaw to relax a little.

you could use a spa day, woman!

Jul 10, 2009

Be glad that stress doesn't equal hair loss with you like it does with me in recent years. Not good before your wedding! I lost enough hair today to make a really nice toupee for a really large rat.

Jul 11, 2009

When I get all stressed out its always my stomach that gets all tied into knots and makes me miserable. Somehow everything will fall into place- Im sure, and only worry about the things that are really important- let the rest go, and no one will ever know the difference.

Also- best piece of wedding advice I got: WASH YOUR HANDS. And then wash them again. After shaking so many hands and hugging etc. you've gotten everyone's well wishes along with their germs. Despite the fact that I thought I was careful about washing my hands both my husband and I ended up with bad colds which is not how we wanted to spend our time in Bora Bora.

Jul 11, 2009

Two things came to mind while reading this:

1) Barack Obama says, "GO GET YOUR OIL CHANGED"
2) And Chris Elliott in There's Something About Mary

I'm sending positive energy your direction. And I agree with Lisa—everything will fall into place. You're going to have a beautiful day that will lead to beautiful memories. Deep breath. No worries.

Jul 11, 2009

I totally get what you are saying. I didn't feel very stressed planning my wedding, but my stomach did. And I don't know what it's deal is, hello down there, only weaklings can't stomach stress!! I hate when that happens. But seriously, try to make some time for yourself during all this craziness and remember that the most important thing is that you get married. No matter what happens with the flowers, the bridesmaids, the guests, the cake or the food, you are still going to accomplish your main goal, getting married! I had to remind myself of this constantly during the planning, and honestly everything turned out awesomely! Good Luck!

Jul 15, 2009

ah the jaw... as a (reiki) therapist the jaw is usually what i work on the most with my clients. the jaw is where most of our tension goes. (then it travels down to create neck and back pain and up to create headaches and migraines.) it's very hard work and not easy -the first step is being aware of it- but there are always positive results in the end. email me if you want a few exercises or tips that might ease the pain.

exercises for TMJ
Sep 23, 2009

I knew somebody who have TMJ problems like you. I just can feel his pain whenever he cringes in pain. He always try to open his mouth, I don't know why, but I think he is trying to massage his TMJ. So weird, he looks like a camel chomping on a cigar! LOL!

Mal Milligan
Jan 05, 2011

Funny you mentioned the months you had TMJ. Me too. I had an upper GI series and got my jaw disconnected. It's double jointed to begin with so it pops easily. I know the surgeon must see the jaw pop off the hinge when he tilts the head back after adding enough valium to make your entire body go limp as a kitchen towel. Tylenol took care of the headaches and ear aches and eventually - like 2 months later - it all went away. I went to a specialist a month into the pain and found out I had TMJ. It would have been much nicer for the upper GI series surgeon to write me a note I could comprehend after the sedative wore off. OK Cheers -


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