(Photo by @SpecialKRB)
It happens — a reminder, out of the blue, that you are fallible, that nothing can be taken for granted. Not even eating. Not even for a Glutton.
Right now, I have TMJ issues. This happened, as you can imagine, out of the blue, while stuffing my face with Isaan food after a lengthy family trip in Hong Kong. Commonly referred to as simply “TMJ”, this affliction is also known as “lockjaw”, which results in a sharp, shooting pain while opening one’s mouth. Although hearing me talk less is surely a blessed thing for many, many people, anything that forces me to eat less is nothing less than a tragedy (for me).
The average person can open his or her jaw three fingers wide — a feat that I am sure we have all taken for granted. Without medication, I am stuck at a paltry one-and-a-half, and what food I do manage must be properly soft, sludgy and nursery-like, or pain in the temple and jaw joint will result. This leads to an interesting set of calculations every time I see a dish: without painkillers, the crunch of a raw vegetable, a steak, or a handful of nuts is absolutely excruciating — is it worth the pain? Do I love them that much? Sometimes, yes. More frequently, though, I veer towards fish, soft pasta, eggs, rice porridge, soup. I have become everyone’s least favorite great-aunt.
Now, I sometimes get shooting headaches and sudden bouts of dizziness. Meanwhile, the feeling that I have been fitted with someone else’s teeth is persistent, akin to, my doctor tells me, athletes who hurt their legs and experience a strange feeling in their muscles while running. I am like an injured athlete, guys. If eating counts as a sport. This somehow gives me comfort.
How does something like this happen? My doctor helpfully tells me that this is something almost 100 percent stress-related. This is funny to me, since I do absolutely nothing. Yet I still unconsciously clench my jaw, all the time — while writing on the computer, walking down the street, sleeping. I need to relearn how to keep my jaw from seizing up (apparently, the “correct posture” for my jaw is lips closed, teeth apart, tongue behind the front teeth like you are about to say “No”). I need to relax. I need a holiday after my holiday.
So I am taking it easy. I am swaddling my jaw in hot compresses, twice a day, 30 minutes at a time. I am doing my jaw exercises. I am trying not to yawn too widely. And, er, as for avoiding caffeine … well, let’s not go crazy. Baby bites. Eventually, I will get my way back to that double-decker sandwich. Fingers crossed. Wish me luck.
(Photo by @SpecialKRB)