I wrote a post about how IV sedation benefited me during a dental procedure back in 2010, which subsequently led to several emails from fellow dental anxiety sufferers wanting to know more. Thank you guys for writing in, and I hope you managed to get your dental woes sorted out sans the anxiety! I guess this will be a sequel. Kind of.
Warning – super long post ahead!
I hate sequels, especially of the dental drama variety. Holiday sequels, family comedy sequels, “funny moments in the office” sequels, yeap bring them on. But medical sequels (too much of them) and dental sequels can well stay out of my way. But that’s life – full of ups and downs.
Unfortunately, a filling on my right upper molar failed miserably. I currently have pain on chewing, and considering the depth of the cavity, I opted to do an elective root canal treatment with the blessings of my current dentist. (And another crown thereafter. Yes, another.)
And of course, with me being all jittery about dental procedures, I opted to be sedated once again.
With my medical history being too complex now, my dentist didn’t feel too comfortable doing the root canal himself. So he referred me to an endodontic specialist whom I saw for the first time last week.
The endodontist was a really nice guy, and I really enjoyed chatting with him. And me being me, I flooded him with loads of questions. But not once did he show any sign of irritation. It was only when he wanted to do an “ice test” (putting a cold object on my tooth to test the level of nerve sensitivity) on my tooth did I freak out. It was then followed by my howls of “ohmygosh, so embarassing!” thereafter, with the endodontist and his assistant smiling reassuringly at me.
He then asked me why was I so anxious about dental work and where my dental anxiety originated from. Not the first dentist to ever ask me this question. To be honest, I never really thought about it, and my responses to previous dentists had always been a shrug. I only knew that yeah, I get anxious about dental work.
I thought about it a little on the spot, but was only able to vaguely trace it to my experience with my primary school dentist.
My response to him? “Because my primary school dentist was a prick.”
He could barely hold back his chuckle.
This is the turning point. It will have to be.
I originally thought 2013 will be a much better year. It turned out to be much worse than 2012, and perhaps the second worst in my entire life. Sure, there were great moments here and there – travelling overseas and being a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding. But on the whole, 2013 was just … bad.
And there is no one to blame other than myself.
Losing my grandmother in April brought me down. Way, way down. During her death and the subsequent funeral, I was basically expressionless, numb to everything that was going on around me. Not because I wasn’t close to her, but because I was in shock. And everything happened too fast.
Prior to her death, I only knew she had stage 4 cancer 5 days before.
And I hated myself for it. Chinese New Year 2013 turned out to be the last ever Chinese New Year I would ever have with her. And what was I doing then? I WENT HOME early during the festivities at her place because I had a client deadline to meet, and I actually put my client deadline as a higher priority over Chinese New Year with her and my extended family. What the fuck was I doing?
And even while I was physically there, mentally I wasn’t. My mind was someplace else. Even when I was speaking to my cousins, I was basically bitching about how I have stuff to do at home, as if my work was more important than all of them combined.
But seriously, even if she turned out to be well this year, it shouldn’t have made a difference. Must someone come down with cancer before I realize that I should be spending more time with him/her?!
It’s a bloody huge wake up call. I’ve made some horrible decisions which I’m still bitter about until today.
It was this year when I realized my priorities were wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
It was only after my grandmother’s death when I began to evaluate my own life more closely, and I realized I have not been treasuring the people around me enough. How many times have I turned someone down for dinner or a weekend out because I wanted to do my work? Way too many times.
Meeting my extended family at my grandmother’s place used to be a weekly affair. How many times have I gone there last year and this year? Apart from Chinese New Year, zilch.
How many times have I promised to have dinner with my parents only to have my coding work overrun (usually due to bad time management and over-zealousness, like starting a new task at 6pm) and end up cancelling, promising to have dinner with them “next time”? I have lost count.
Here’s me announcing on Facebook in 2011 that I won’t be free for an entire month because I had stuff I wanted to do.
And here’s another status update from last year when I mentioned that I’ll be missing my grandmother’s birthday because I couldn’t finish what I had sought to do for the day.
That turned out to be her LAST BIRTHDAY.
Seriously. What was I thinking? Has my workaholism blinded me to the fact that other people exist?
Ironically, I started becoming extra-paranoid that I might lose anyone at anytime. In fact, I started to worry about every single damned thing.
When my favourite cousin flew to Vancouver, I was left there wondering whether the airport send-off be the last time I see him. When any of my parents go to the dentist/sees a doctor for any reason, whatsoever, I’d be worrying up a storm. Worry, worry, worry – that was what I kept doing.
Health-wise, it’s been major roller-coaster ride which hasn’t yet ended.
(At this point, let me pause to add a little disclaimer: Cousins and relatives, after reading from here on – please do not approach my parents with questions. I just want to be left alone. Thanks.)
I have a chronic autoimmune illness which went into remission early last year after I painstakingly fought it for a year and a half since late 2010. It relapsed early this year after a bad bout of flu, brought upon by an entire week of late-nights to meet a client deadline (same old story). Needless to say, my immune system into a decline for the rest of the year and since then, it’s been a never ending cycle of falling sick – getting well (briefly) and falling sick all over again.
Being someone who has had chronic illnesses since 2008, I should be no stranger to “pacing myself” and “taking rests were necessary” by now.
Apparently not. I still went at full force. It was only from the later part of this year where I started to slow down a little – but somehow, my immune system just wasn’t holding up even with my slower pace.
Recently, faced with a couple of spotty lung x-rays and abnormal blood test results, I am now at a point where I realize I may have just done irreversible damage to myself.
I always pride myself in loving what I do. Even today, I remain just as passionate for entrepreneurship, the start-up scene, and what I do in general – which is a myriad of writing code, designing, web marketing, giving talks about gamification – all the things I love.
Whenever anyone asked me whether I was “undergoing stress”, my answer was usually a straight-out no. And I wasn’t lying. I actually enjoyed it.
But still, there is still something called “overdoing it”. Passion can be a silent killer that blinds you from reality, and you don’t realize that you’ve overstepped the mark until you get hit from behind.
And from the looks of it, I’ve overstepped the limit.
2013. It was a huge (probably, much needed) emotional, physical and mental jolt. The cumulative effect of everything that has happened this year has drained me entirely. I’ve lost all motivation for everything. What I love to do, suddenly doesn’t seem as appealing. I’m just completely demoralized at how I’ve just lost complete control of everything – my own health included, which I cannot stop worrying for right now. I’m just so angry at what I’ve done.
Yet somehow, I’m rather amazed at how I can still put on a close-to-normal front when facing other people. Although from the looks of my recent Facebook posts and this blog entry, that facade is fast disappearing.
I have to start re-evaluating my priorities.
I love my work. But I also love my family, my friends and myself.
2013 has taught me way too much:
1. About the importance of treasuring the people I have around me and not take it for granted that they will always be there.
2. That if I lose my own health, I basically have nothing. And it WILL be a long struggle back up.
I used to think I was superwoman, or an “Energizer Bunny” – a nickname given to me by many people. But today, I know who I am. I’m a human being. And like everyone else, I am not infallible.
I will bounce back eventually. I’m certain about that. The only thing I’m not certain about is when.
As for 2014, I only have one resolution right now. To stay alive, and to live as if 2014 will be my last year on Earth. (Okay, that’s two resolutions.)
What is it about illness that opens a person up as a free-for-all repository of the worst, most condescending advice imaginable?
Unsolicited Medical Advice – Nothing about Everything
One word – no. I’ll stop you before you even start.
I’ve stopped talking to people about my health (apart from a trusted 1-2 closest friends) precisely because of this reason. Because everyone seems to want to have a say.
“I think you should change your doctor, I don’t think your current doctor is doing a good job.”
“Why don’t you opt for something more natural? Like Traditional Chinese Medicine.”
“You should seek a third opinion. Your current medications are too expensive.”
“You should take more vitamin A/B/C/D/E (or whatsoever).”
No. I did not ask you for your advice. And no, I don’t think you’re in the position to judge that “my doctor is not doing a good job” or “my medications are not right for me”. Neither should you be dishing out advice when you do not have the full picture. (Which you definitely don’t – I’ve kept 90% of the ‘picture’ hidden. The remaining 10% are the occasional symptoms you see.)
I speak for myself and most chronically ill people out there. I understand your intentions are good/you want to help. But really, no thank you.
Instead, this is what I ask for.
Trust that my doctor and I are allies, that we are working together towards the best possible way to fight this monster that is my illness(es). My doctor is doing his best. So am I.
Just because I am not in what you think is the “optimum state of health” does not mean that my doctor is not doing a good job. We are doing the best we can. It’s challenging to restore a car that has been in a bad accident to it’s original state of glory. Likewise for humans.
I accept my current state of health now (although you might disagree) because it’s already several times better than how it was before – when I was going in and out of hospital every week or even every night.
The road to recovery is not always smooth. There will be hiccups.
Trust in the fact that I am perfectly capable to manage my own health and make sound decisions.
Realize the reason why I am rejecting all forms of unsolicited medical advice is because I’ve been with this long enough to understand myself and my own body, and that I know my own medical history best, and what my current health can and cannot tolerate. (Not because I am stubborn or close-minded, as some people put it. On top of the fact that you’re sticking your nose up somewhere it doesn’t belong.)
There are many other ways to help without walking down the unsolicited medical advice route (which trust me, pisses the person off more than “helping”). Supportive messages when things aren’t going too great is good enough. And even if you’re silent when we’re seated face to face, I’ll still know you’re with me.
It makes me feel like you think this is somehow still my fault. Like, if I really wanted to get better, I would just do the random thing you were telling me about, because obviously that’s what you would do in my situation and then you would get better and then you wouldn’t have this issue. But that’s not reality.
All your unsolicited medical advice totally cured me! (J/k) – The Only Certainty Is Bad Grammar
My painful invisible disease is more real than your imaginary medical expertise.
Unsolicited Medical Advice – Unsolicited Medical Advice Warriors