Most of these past few weeks I've felt sorry for myself.
It all started when my jaw began hurting. I thought maybe I had a mild case of TMJ. Days passed and I noticed a foul odor in my mouth when I was brushing my teeth.
I was disgusted and embarrassed.
I went to the dentist; turned out I had a tooth that needed to be pulled. Unfortunately, because of my bone disorder, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, my jaw can't withstand procedures to salvage or replace my molars. This specific tooth was one of my last chewing surfaces. Much to my dismay the tooth had to be pulled. As if that wasn't upsetting enough, a week later the exact same experience occurred. This time with the final molar that allowed me to chew!
As I returned to the dentist for the second time in two weeks, I couldn't believe it. It felt like the movie Groundhog Day. Unfortunately, the second tooth was much more difficult to remove. It had a root that was curved in and near several nerves.
I was in the dentist's chair huffing nitrous-oxide before the extraction when my dentist called it off. He wasn't comfortable removing the tooth with all those nerves that would be exposed. He sent me in for emergency surgery from an oral surgeon nearby. Thank God there was a mix-up in the paperwork: the oral surgeon's office took me in immediately because they thought I was already in their system. They later learned that a "Sean Stevens" (with the same birthdate) had visited them, not "Sean Stephenson." Had it not been for this mix-up, I would have had to come back another day. Miracle.
The surgeon gave me six shots of Novocain, but every time he touched the tooth it caused me to whimper in agony. Mind you, I've had over 200 bone fractures in my life. This was bad. My wife, Mindie Kniss, stayed by my side the entire time.
The surgeon tried to get the tooth out; each time I cried out for him to stop. It was beyond awful; it felt like torture. The poor guy looked miserable doing what he knew must be done. I clenched my fists, gave him a nod of approval and he commenced with the procedure giving one horrific last tug. I heard crunching and felt an electric shock run from my jaw to my brain stem. It shot down to my toes and cycled through my entire nervous system this way for a good (more like bad) 12 seconds.
When it was over I wept. I was so overcome by emotion. I couldn't believe what I had experienced.
Have you ever had a day when you hated being you? I rarely do so I was unfamiliar with the experience. I hadn't felt that kind of pain since I was in grade school and a steel rod was pulled from my right femur with no anesthetic.
For the most part, I rarely talk or think about my disability. It's something I've felt has been more of a footnote in my life. Yet, these past few weeks it felt like the title.
Most of us have something in our lives that will be with us, whether we like it or not, until the end. Something that never goes way. For each of us, it's totally different. We can kick and scream, bark and bite, but there it is.
What must we do with lifelong challenges that we cannot shake?
Bow to them; they are our teachers.
We must respect them. When we fight them, we lose. They will always be one step ahead of us.
We must stop fighting and start learning, gathering the lessons of patience, compassion, trust, drive, focus, etc..
Obviously, easier said than done.
I've been riddled with pain most of my life. Kidney stones, surgeries, broken bones and the list goes on. However, I want you to hear this...
My life is amazing!
Why? Because I declare it so.
The sh*t we all face in life waits for us to label it. Pain sucks. Heartache sucks. Loss sucks. However, life doesn't have to suck. As soon as you label that life sucks, you're hosed. None of us want to go through difficulties, yet it's a part of life. It makes the sweet times even sweeter.
I lost more than two teeth. I lost the ability to chew. My culinary future has been relegated to soups, juices, smoothies and, yes, even baby food. Could I feel sorry for myself? Sure. Most people would say I certainly would be justified. But honestly, what good would that do?
I'd rather bow to my teachers and gain their wisdom.
You can read more from Sean Stephenson on seanstephenson.com.