March 22, 2010

Thawing Out a Dentist Smile (Speculations)

I'm currently drinking tea out of a straw because the right side of my mouth is too numb to retain any liquid. Needless to say, it's a useful method to reduce the amount of drooling.

I must say, technology really is going a long way (Not because of the straw!). Remember I said I had two cavities to get fixed last week? Well, today I got them fixed in under 30 minutes and I felt 5% pain max. It was much better than when I used to get my teeth fixed when I was younger (and I can't imagine how it must have been for my parents when they were kids... or for medieval folk... yikes).

It's what I wanted to talk about today though. Pain, anticipated pain, pain that heals and makes us stronger, and vain pain. I thought of a parallel between the unbearable anguish and internal conflict that life painfully drops on us regularly and the pain at the dentist (Well, the former pain). I also made a connection to sickness. Without being arrogant, I've seemed to have found a more positive way to undertake depression.

There are two pains I’ve identified today in the dentist’s chair. There is the pain you go through, by choice, to evolve and make things better and to keep going on without pain. I call this "The dentist". There is also the pain that was uncalled for, that simply attacks you, and that you must fight against (usually this brings more pain) to get better. I call this “The cancer”.

I'm confident fighting through a cancer is not vain. The attacker (the cancer) itself may be vain, but surely one who is affected by the disease and gets through it learns much about life. Learning is not vain. Surely they become an inspiration to others. Affecting others is not vain. It will not have been a vain battle whether the victim survives or not, so long as they fought their best battle.

So why should I feel that freeing oneself from depression is a vain goal? I've been attached to my own anxiety and dejection because I felt that if I fought against it like you would the flu or a cancer, and I got better, I will feel I had suffered so much for no reason since I would be well and unchanged. Cancer victims do come out of a vain sickness changed and why would I be afraid to let cancer vanish? The difference between depression and cancer is that cancer is physically provable; victims are not be alone. Melancholy is invisible. I would want to stay depressed so that I would never be cured and I could search indefinitely for a positive reason for my condition.

Well I realize now that fighting this feeling inside me, this obstacle, is not vain at all. I tell myself this all the time when I have the flu and I’m shivering and my muscles ache and it’s hard to ingest or digest, your throat is burning and you have cold sweats all over… I tell myself to fight the disease, not the pain, to simply endure the pain because once I am healed I will feel better and the memory of the hurt will merely make me stronger. Why should I keep this bit of knowledge from myself when I am down in the dumps?

That’s how my outlook is more positive now. I’m not sure whether depression is a “dentist” or a “cancer”; in my case it might have become a bit of both. Whatever it is, I have learnt so much about life because of this and though most people will not see me as a hero or an inspiration for surviving it, when others have to go to the dentist after me, if I have kids one day, I could share my tale. “Don’t worry. The dentist hurts for a little bit. You feel horrible and have a fever, trying to vomit for hours, but it’ll pass. Once you are better, whether everyone knows what’s happened to you, whether you’ve learnt anything from it, it doesn’t matter, you’re free now, go forward, you can share this with your kids later.”

Now I know why I should try to be happy. It’ll become easier and easier to quit this redundant habit of mine.

*Smiling mask by Kathleen Carr

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