Tautology(ish?) Tuesday

For this “Tautology Tuesday,” I want to try to keep my “bombastic loquaciousness” at a minimum and just discuss something with which I am dealing and with which we all deal, arguably all the time. This isn’t a “real” “tautology” (I don’t know that I have really dealt with any “true” tautologies, necessarily), but it is an issue that is self-defeating and contradictory in nature. The issue I’m blabbering on about is just our tendency to mull over, or perhaps more accurately, agonize over certain anxiety-provoking thoughts. Right now I am dealing with a few of these mental black holes: one in particular is the fact that I am going to get a tooth that I broke “built up” tomorrow (nothing out of the ordinary there) and that might require posts / pins (that’s a little more … nausea-inducing….) and WILL require the removal of at least some of my gum tissue. *TRIGGER WARNING!* Eh, I might have been too late with that one….

At any rate! I have been fearing the arrival of this day not only because it is unpleasant to think about this kind of “oral surgery” (minor, I realize) but because I had the worst Behçet’s flare I have had in recent memory immediately following the root canal treatment performed on that tooth. I literally had about 50 ulcers pop up all over my mouth within about 30 minutes and the pain was verging on that 10/10 level at which I pass out because I can’t take it (I am quite sure if it hadn’t been such a small area I would have blacked out from the pain – it really was that bad). Thankfully I was able to rectify the situation with a VERY TINY increase in steroids combined with an Actemra shot … but the thought of having to RELIVE that experience and perhaps go through an even more severe flare since it involves areas that are already susceptible to ulceration is far from pleasant. I keep thinking about this ordeal again and again in my mind … and I know how bad things can get with the Behçet’s and how scarily quickly they can get so bad (one can go from fine to internal bleeding or brain swelling or throwing clots or going septic in less than 24 hours – I have been there and I have had many “friends” who have been there or are there right now – prayers for a friend who is in the hospital dealing with these “issues” which all stem from the Behçet’s). I suppose the “thought” is more like an intense feeling of dread and anxiety. It is one of those “thoughts” that I ruminate on – it just seems that everything I do and everything I think about comes right back to that thought – it is like a “real life” examination coming up that counts for 90% of your grade and you know you are not terribly astute at the subject on which you’re being tested.

We all have these “obsessive” patterns of thought – things we dread, things we fear, things we don’t want to experience but we know are right there ahead of us. Yesterday I had an appointment with one of my spine doctors (I have incurred two thoracic compression fractures as a result of being on corticosteroids for the better part of 16 years and developing such severe osteoporosis that x-rays do not capture my bones well enough because they are “too soft” – surgery would be my “best option” if it were an option which it is not because the “cement” they use to “re-inflate” the bone would be so much harder than my bone that it would just cause further fractures up and down my spine.). This doctor was very happy that my spine was “stabilizing” and that my fractures were more or less healed – he told me I need to make yearly appointments at this point since everything seems kind of “even” for now. He asked me if I had any questions or anything I wanted to discuss with him – I asked him, out of curiosity, if there was any chance that my bones would “re-harden” as I continued to taper off the steroids. He basically told me the same answer as the one he gave to another concern I brought up – that is, the fear of breaking more bones – that basically, regardless of everything extraneous (that is, that I am young and yes, it is possible that my bones will get harder when I am no longer taking steroids), nothing really changes. To put that more succinctly, it doesn’t really matter if my bones re-harden or not because ultimately my treatment for my auto-inflammatory issues and arthritis remains the same. I still have to take the steroids as I slowly wean off of them; I still have to take more if I suddenly have another severe flare; all else remains constant, so even if my bones DO NOT harden up again, and even if I FEAR BREAKING MORE BONES, the condition of my bones and my own fears do not change whatever ultimately happens.

It seems like such an obvious thing to say, but the more I have thought about it, the more I realize we have such a strong tendency to OBSESS over certain thoughts like these and to worry about these sorts of things over which we really exert little or no control. He said I could go hiking and fall down a mountain and be just fine or I could bend over and break bones again – it’s kind of a crap shoot, and one that doesn’t really care about how much I think or worry about it. It is the same with the dental work I have to have done – regardless of my fears about flaring and my fears about having tissue removed (and more!), it doesn’t change the fact that it needs to be done. In fact, needing to have a little tissue removed and the tooth “built up” by this particular doctor is MY BEST-CASE SCENARIO: I had been told by another doctor (and other mediocre dentists) that the “only solution” to my dental issues would be either to crown every single tooth in my mouth (at the low, low cost of $40,000!) or to have all of my teeth extracted (if I went that route and decided on getting implants, it would be the SUPER LOW price of $150,000! The latter isn’t really an option for me right now anyway, regardless of these ridiculous prices!). So although it seems like there is this horrible doomsday dental appointment awaiting me tomorrow, the fact of the matter is that it really is a GOOD THING – that is, that this doctor believes he can fix that tooth AND fix my “screwy bite” with JUST this one crown and building up another tooth (and perhaps 1-2 more crowns over the next 1-2 years). If I think about both scenarios in comparison, I realize there IS NO COMPARISON; if I remember the “alternative,” my anxieties about this dental work don’t quite vanish, but they do diminish a little bit in terms of severity. And the fact remains – whatever I think and no matter how much I worry about it, the work still needs to be done!

So today, I just want you to think about how true this is for you and for just about everyone – how we tend to obsess over certain thoughts or even events / encounters with others and let the thoughts drive us absolutely bonkers. I like to use the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction technique here (I’m not sure if it’s originally an MBSR technique or if it, most likely, originated much earlier) of meditating and imagining thoughts as leaves on a river that just float past. It is the acknowledgment of the thought or the emotion and the NAMING of it (for instance, “DENTAL ANXIETY AND FEAR OF FLARING SEVERELY”) that allows us to put it in something of a balloon and to watch it float away. The idea here is to recognize what it is you’re obsessing about, acknowledge it openly (naming it in the process), but allowing it to FLOAT OUT OF YOUR MIND by imagining it as something like a balloon floating away in the sky or like a leaf on a river or stream floating away until we cannot see it/them anymore. It seems like such an easy “technique,” but it really is one of those “tricky” meditation sort of things that takes some work to “master;” I have obviously fallen out of the practice of being able to do this easily and quickly and so I am making it a “priority” to practice this technique with this thought and others that are bothering me / sticking in my mind. I hope you will take the initiative / action and do the same!

I hope you are all having a happy and healthy day wherever you are in the world! I hope to be back soon and in good condition and with a *fixed* tooth and mouth! For now, just remember that it doesn’t matter how much you think about or obsess over something you’re dreading (or some bad experience you have had, &c.), the thing you’re dreading is STILL THERE and it’s still going to happen, whether you think about it or not! Please try this MBSR technique if you haven’t already, and if you have and have fallen “out of practice” like I have, please give it a go again! I hope that was helpful and I hope it eases some of your anxieties and worries this week! Thanks much for reading and I will be back soon!

❤ Always, Beth

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