the year of broken bones

I’m now five months post-jaw surgery. The entire healing process, everything from surgery on, was so different than I imagined. This surgery loomed in my head for years before I actually had it, and I worried it smooth. I had the time to worry about every little aspect of it–what if I can’t breathe when I wake up? What if I puke? What if I can never feel my face again? What if I have an adverse reaction to anesthesia? What if my pain meds make me nauseated? What if I don’t like my face? What if I still have pain? What if it causes new pain? What if I’m somehow awake during surgery? How can I possibly live on a liquid diet, when I don’t have any weight to lose?

To everyone, anyone reading this who may have this surgery in the future, I hope it’s a consolation to know that my experience wasn’t NEARLY as bad as I worried it would be. I lost about 8 pounds during my liquid diet period, which lasted about five-ish weeks. I cheated a little at the end. I did get tired of drinking all my food, but after a while it just became a monotonous reality. Food just won’t be enjoyed for a while. It will merely be tolerated. Which is livable. I didn’t blend up anything nasty, like hamburgers or chicken or eggs. I drank chocolate Ensures and fancy Bolthouse and Naked drinks for the first few weeks. The rest of the time I had the energy to blend my own smoothies. I especially liked this raspberry one I would make.

Recipe, if you’re interested:

-frozen raspberries

-tsp. espresso

-plain Greek yogurt

-almond milk

-scoop of chocolate whey protein

-vanilla extract

-2 tbsp. honey

I’d mix what seemed like right amounts of everything and blend it up. I think this was a recipe I modified from a booklet a fellow jaw surgery survivor sent me. It got me through my last two weeks of a liquid diet, because it didn’t taste like chalk.

I experienced none of my fears after surgery. No puking, no nausea, no choking. Granted, just having lower jaw surgery totally helped in the breathing category. My pain was very manageable throughout. My pain was managed so well that I had time to get annoyed over the splint I had to wear for the first three weeks. It was embarrassing to speak in public, since it made me really lispy.

Now, 5 months later, I have no pain in my jaw. My teeth are aligned, and I get my braces off next week. (I’ll do another post then to show video of me before and after everything.) I’m really looking forward to looking my age again. I can eat anything I ate before. I avoid certain foods still, like hard, raw veggies or gumballs or whatever because I still have braces, but that is what dictates my restrictions, not my jaw’s ability or lack thereof.

The only thing that’s still a work-in-progress is my numbness, which I knew to expect, but it’s still a bummer. The right half of my lower lip and chin is still 90% numb. I just started getting baby feelings in that area a few weeks ago, which was a huge relief. Feeling a tiny bit is infinitely better than feeling nothing. I still eat with a mirror at home so I can be sure I don’t have food on my face. I’m hoping my numbness will continue to dissipate as more months pass.

Now, onto my latest woe. In December I regrettable climbed up a building wall like Spiderman, fell off of it, and landed on back, with my left elbow underneath me. My arm looked kind of funky and hurt like hell, but I’ve fallen off the monkey bars and stuff when I was younger and hurt my elbow similarly, only to have it feeling better within a few days, so I went to bed. The next day the pain was so stabbing when I moved it that I felt nauseated, ┬áso I went to the emergency room and found out I had broken clean through my olecranon, the upper portion of my ulna. So basically, my elbow. It hadn’t shattered, but I needed surgery that I had to wait a week for. That week was not fun.

img_0348

During surgery, my sexy orthopedic surgeon put some metal in my elbow. He described it as “a plate and some screws”. I was in so much pain and just wanted my arm back to it’s straight self that I went under not really knowing much more than that. I was anticipating some bruising, and a like two-inch incision. When I uncovered my arm again a few days after surgery, it looked like this:

arm

Absolutely horrifying. I felt like a zombie. Every shower was a terrifying new time of discovery. I’ve only every seen a dead body on Forensic Files look so rotted. When my physical therapist told me I had 30 staples in my arm I about passed out. So much for a two-inch incision.

I had really limited range of motion and everything hurt. I flew home for Christmas two days after surgery. I knocked myself out on two oxycodone and a dramamine. I physically couldn’t put my luggage in the overhead bin, so I kept it cramped by my feet. This was my introduction into the world of what it’s like to live without an arm. Thank God I’m right-handed.

For six weeks, things I did with one arm:

-wash my hair

-wash my body

-put on lotion

-type (became easier faster than other things)

-cook

-get dressed

-do my job etc. etc.

It’s now been seven weeks since surgery. This healing process has been incredibly painful, way worse than jaw surgery. I still can’t straighten my arm fully or bend it fully. I can feel the three milimeter-thick plate in my arm with my finger. I can’t rest my elbow on a table or desk. I can’t prop myself up to read a book. My elbow gets very tight when it’s cold. Bumping it or getting bumped into is enough to make my eyes water. Here is my most recent x-ray, taken a few days ago:

arm-metal

The first x-ray is older, from when I still had staples in. The second is new. I had no idea exactly how much metal was in my arm, or in what formation. Now that I can see all those criss-crossed screws in the tip of my elbow, it’s little wonder it’s so sensitive. My sexy surgeon told me most people elect to remove the metal after six month to a year of healing. Despite my incredibly high health insurance deductible, I might just have to bite the bullet and get that shit taken out, because it’s such a literal pain.

So, 2016 was a year of broken bones, pain, patience (and impatience), and recovery. I’m hoping 2017 doesn’t follow suit.

newness

Like most, the new year is one of my favorite times to reflect and adjust accordingly.

Last year I resolved to keep record of all the books I read in 2015. I did that, but my competitive side started counting and thinking I should be reading more and it became stressful. I would start a book, it wouldn’t be my thing, and I would be loath to stop reading it because then I wasted days reading something I couldn’t put on my list. I started to rationalize that the 37 I did finish wasn’t a true reflection of the actual 5o or 60 books I started and read parts of, not to mention I had to find time to watch all seasons of Mad Men and Sex and the City in there somewhere, so that lack of time should be factored in somewhere, right?

This year, a friend of mine sent me a list of types of books to read, and I think this will turn out better, challenging me to read outside what I might have naturally chosen while minimizing the pressure to read quickly or get through a certain number of books. My working list is below.

  1. a book published this year (2015)–Eileen, Ottessa Moshfegh
  2. one I can finish in a day–Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
  3. one I’ve been meaning to read–The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
  4. one recommended by a librarian or bookseller–The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey
  5. one I should have read in school–Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
  6. one chosen for me–Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
  7. one banned–The Boy Who Lost His Face, Louis Sachar
  8. one previously abandoned–Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
  9. one I own but never read–The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
  10. one that intimidates me–Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  11. one I’ve already read–Wanderlust, Elizabeth Eaves

If I don’t like any of these, I’m resolving now to toss it and not feel guilty. Any other recommendations welcome.

Onto a topic far less interesting and much more stressful: my teeth, an almost constant pain in my ass in recent months. I got braces again in October in anticipation of jaw surgery. The orthodontist said to expect to be ready for surgery 10-12 months after getting them on, and I sincerely hope he’s right and this shit doesn’t drag out.

Reliving the nightmare of braces as an adult is disheartening, primarily because of the pain I don’t remember feeling the first time around. My teeth have been varying levels of sore for the past three months. I got my wisdom teeth out two months ago, and am now dealing with nerve damage resulting in numbness in my lower lip and chin. That’s ever-so-slowly improving, but it’s been a frustrating process. I have rubber bands pulling my cross bite out, bite turbos keeping my jaw open to allow for that, and eight tongue tamers glued to the backs of my front teeth (google for maximum level of sympathy). The bite turbos make it hard to talk (read: lisp) and also make me grind my teeth in my sleep so hard they squeak, which is kind of scary.

I also just feel ugly. It might all be in my head, but it feels hard to be respected as a medical professional when I’m lisping my way through an explanation and looking like a weird tween. I try to bond with my older pediatric patients by asking them about their braces, and they are never having it. Throw me a bone, teens.

Overall though, it feels good to be started on this jaw-fixing journey. Getting started was an enormous obstacle, mentally and financially, and getting through the worst of this ordeal is a goal for 2016.

What other goals might an introvert troll have? The constant one, to try a little harder, give people a chance, or quickly dismiss them but put myself in a place where I can meet others. To go to uncomfortable events, to talk to strangers. To establish myself further in this place. Not to get to a place where I feel socially desperate, like I did a while back when I seriously considered trying to hang out with my dental hygienist.

Come on 2016, be good to me.

Arizona nightdwelling

I am now in Arizona, a land of continuous sun. It’s where I’ve wanted to put myself for years now, and I’m finally here.

Despite the persistent sun (to the tune of 115 degrees), I am a nightdweller. I’ve gotten a job as a sleep technologist working 12-hour overnight shifts in a hospital (cue the sound of my masters in linguistics being flushed down the toilet). Therefore, the setting and the rising of the sun are the bookends of my days. I usually go to bed at 8am and get up at 5pm. I get supremely annoyed when people are noisily going about their business at noon, and even though I have no right to tell them to shut the jizz up, I want to. Lawnmowers have become enemy number one. Children playing in the pool has become the equivalent of the upstairs neighbor playing dubstep at his shitty party at 3am.

On my days off is when I feel this most acutely. When I’m working, I can forget that it’s night. Everything is quieter and I’m at my best, but those are the only real cues that it’s nighttime. The fluorescent lights and lack of windows make me feel like it could be any time/I could be 50 feet underground/on Jupiter. Time ceases to exist except as numbers standing out in white on my computer screen. On my days off, the world is only spending time with me for a handful of hours. I’m eating breakfast while they’re eating dinner. I could easily party until 6am (if I had friends here) while they’d be dead by 2. I have to rush to get my ‘morning’ Starbucks or to get to Target before it closes. And heaven forbid I have to do anything during business hours.

Last Friday night I woke up at 8pm, horrified that it was already dark, and went to go see a movie. I caught the last showing of The Diary of a Teenage Girl and left the theater at midnight. The streets were dead, everything was closed. That’s when the waiting begins. The world here ends at midnight and leaves me to fend for myself. I went back to my mostly quiet apartment, overheard a drunken fight between shirtless men that ended, ‘give me my fucking beer back and keep steppin”, and spent the next six hours in dark silence. I read, drank, watched Netflix, read some more, drank some more. Because no one is awake there’s no one to call to catch up or hang out with. There are no runs to the grocery store or the bank. I can’t get my oil changed or wander the stacks at the library, two things I’ve been meaning to do for weeks but haven’t found the daytime hours for. I’m in an overly air-conditioned vacuum. I light candles. I feel stifled. I go outside and sweat within minutes. I look at my phone. It looks back at me. I go back inside and start the cycle over again.