it’s hard to think clearly over the pain


as unpleasant dental procedures go, this most recent experience will be noted in my files as one of the worst. the extraction site is a misery and getting dental implants is as thrillingly comfortably as one would expect, which means not at all.

i feel a little bit like a whinger, but honestly, it hurts. my gums hurt. my sinuses hurt. my head aches. it has been excessively awful. i feel like i’m being tortured. even the painkillers aren’t making much of a dent. it’s unrelenting and miserable and i haven’t really been able to function.

i can’t think clearly over the pain.

it occurred to me that i’ve been in this situation before. metaphorically as well as actually. i often have trouble thinking over the pain. after all, isn’t that really what my mood-altering behaviours are designed to do? they help me escape from the pain that i can’t function my way through.

i can’t think clearly over the emotional pain.

i can’t get around it. my thoughts don’t focus. i disappear under a dark wave of emotions that rise up and are so huge and big that they seem unmeasurable. i can’t see past them to the other side. it’s a big and borderless swirling mass, full of emotions that i can’t identify. all i know is that it’s loud and fast and frantic and it swamps me. it takes over until i feel and desperate in every pore. i stop thinking when the emotions come rushing up. all i focus on are ways to make it stop.

it’s not swollen extraction site, throbbing in your jaw pain. i can’t point to the pain to show the doctor where it hurts. the pain is psychical rather than physical and i’m just as desperate to get rid of it. there’s no quick fix though, no matter how desperately i want one. the lack of an easy solution is why i looked for other ways to deal. defective ways in the long run, but in the short term they were successful. they eased my mental distress. they calmed the darkness. they quieted my mind. i could think. my maladaptive coping skills acted as a kind of behavioural opioid.

the solutions were awful in and of themselves but that was okay; you get unpicky with behavioural choices when you are in distress – it doesn’t matter what you do so long as it’s something. actions that seem aberrant and abhorrent from the outside seem logical and acceptable from within because they release you from the pain paralysis and let you start processing cognitively again.

the aftermath of the coping behaviours brings other kinds of pain; physical, often, and the pain that comes from the self-disgust you feel when once again you give in to the actions you swore you wouldn’t. they seemed necessary in the moment though. i’m willing to do a lot to quiet my brain and gain even momentary clarity of thought.

unfortunately, the coping patterns aren’t a solution. they’re a bandage. they don’t fix anything, they just put the unbearable pain off until later. not feeling it ever is not a realistic option. it’s tidal. the pain you can’t think above always comes back. i’ve tried long-term denial and you simply can’t maintain. the wave rises again and again.

perhaps the reason i can’t think clearly over the pain is that i’m not supposed to. the solution lies in going through the pain. in living with it and getting to know it intimately. travelling through the pain doesn’t mean i need to think. it means i need to be brave.


(april 24, 2018)

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