But it did, and I still carry scars and proof of it all around with me today. I will for the rest of my life, I see it every time I look in the mirror.
I have decided it's time. It's time to put down on "paper" my experience with TMJ disorder, so when I look back on my life I can still have a record of everything and I will remember how much courage it took to face some of the things I've had to face because of this crazy disorder.
There is so much to this story that I am going to try to just give you most of the basic facts, and spare you the gory details and photos. I am trying to write this post without too much emotion tied to it, because, like I said, this has been one of the hardest battles I've had to fight.
Finally we were able to get in touch with a surgeon in Nashville who specialized in the type of problem I was having. I was losing weight, I couldn't smile (notice the photo above how I can't open my mouth to smile) and I was in constant pain. We scheduled surgery for Christmas break.
He would be breaking my lower jaw bone in two places, wiring my mouth shut for a little over a month with the hopes that the discs that went in between my bones would slip back into place.
After I recovered from the procedure, things seemed to be going a lot better! I could eat, I could talk, and do most of the things I hadn't been able to do in a long time. This included being in a local theatre performance of High School Musical that summer.
Later that fall things started to go downhill again. I noticed pain creeping back into my jaw, and slowly my jawline started to recede. No longer did my teeth fit together, and my face became disproportionate. I was going through school for education, and my praticums in the elementary schools were almost impossible to get through.
They quickly put me in braces (second time around) and scheduled surgery for me the following December.
I went through the first semester of my senior year in braces, and had to move back home to undergo the invasive surgery. We weren't sure how long it would take to recover from this surgery, or how well the outcome would be. My parents (especially my sweet mom) as amazing during this whole process. They took care of me when I literally could not sit up. They wiped my nose for weeks when it wouldn't stop bleeding, they rushed me to the ER when I was dehydrated from throwing up, they fed me through the night with a syringe and tried all kinds of crazy mixtures in the blender for me so I could have something similar to Christmas dinner.
( This photo was taken about 2 months after my surgery. I didn't allow anyone to take pictures of me for a long time because things were so.. well.. awful)
This surgery was a lot more intense than the previous surgery. The surgeon went in and totally restructured my face. This included cutting my chin off and putting it back on with metal brackets, cutting my top palette and screwing that back in with "L" type brackets, as well as cutting and restructuring several bones on my lower jaw. It took me about a year to "fully" recover from this surgery. My chin and lower lip are still numb from it, and the roof of my mouth hurts a lot when I eat things.
My jaw still bothers me every day, but it is nothing like it was my Sophomore year of college. I have learned how to manage it through physical therapy, talking a lot less than I used to, staying away from foods that aggravate it, acupuncture and massage. Posture has also played a huge role in helping me have less pain. It flares up often, and when it does I have tools to better manage it, which I am so thankful for.
There are so many back stories to this overarching story. Like my decision not to teach, or how David basically courted me through my second surgery, or how my friends and family stood by my side during all of it.. and most of all how I have struggled every time I look in the mirror. The face I see looking back at me is not the face I have known the majority of my life. It's a battle I fight, knowing that this is who I am now, and even though it wasn't what I once looked like I am still beautiful.
But, let's save all of those stories for another time.