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2007-04-29 - 10:41 p.m.

These days, I really do feel like a mess. Definitely physically and emotionally, but probably mentally, too.

I had a right to complain about my toothache. My dentist found that I had a fragmented molar in the back on the bottom right, one tooth in from my wisdom tooth.

�What do you do about that?� I asked gingerly.

�I have to hold those pieces together by fashioning a crown, in silver, porcelain, or gold...�

�Porcelain, please,� I said, with my mouth wide open so that it came out sounding like �Orthelen blees.�

� porcelain, and maybe I�ll have to do a root canal there, although the x-rays show no abscess.� He then went on to detail the particulars of carving the tooth down so that a crown would fit over it, two hours of work right there, making an impression to send to the lab for making the crown and meanwhile putting on a temporary crown.

I wanted to call my mother. Yes, I�m 59 years old, but still when you fall down and are hurt, you want to be picked up by your mother. But then I thought about all the misery she had had with her teeth. During the last years of her life, the only �practitioner� who would not come to her house (her doctor, podiatrist, nurse, and beautician all made house calls) was the dentist and finally her brother gave her as a present a special reclining wheelchair that she could use for going to the dentist, but she died before she ever got to use it. I don�t see how she could have stood having all those dental problems with no easy way to even get to the dentist to get them fixed.

The biggest problem regarding my own teeth though, right now, is the waiting period. At first, my dentist was so booked up that he wasn�t going to be able to see me for two weeks. Fortunately, though, somebody cancelled so now I only have to wait until this coming Thursday. During the subsequent days at work, I didn�t see how I could stand to wait even a week. While I thought I had had my pain under control with minor doses of Aleve, the pain continued to worsen so that I gradually increased it to taking the maximum daily dose. This led me to contemplate taking my prescription pain killers (Darvocet) left over from my surgery of more than a year ago, of which I had taken only ONE pill. I�ve got a bottle filled with 29 more of those pills. However, �self-prescribing� like that is something I have never done before and probably wouldn�t do even now. Then, interestingly, a friend at work gave me on loan (her generous idea, not mine) her left-over bottle of Vicodin which had been prescribed for her after some foot surgery she had had, and, like me with the Darvocet, she had hardly touched any of it. By now I guess you could say I was flirting with the world of �drug pushing� as I ended up having at home two bottles of prescription pill killers that had not been prescribed to me for this particular situation. And it made me wonder why my dentist hadn�t asked me if I had wanted a prescription for anything during this waiting period.

Finally, I decided to ignore the Darvocet and Vicodin, at least for this weekend. If I hurt, I would just stay in bed and sleep. If I had trouble with going to work the next week, I figured the best course would be to call my dentist and ask him about the Darvocet and Vicodin. If he approved one of them (but I bet that he wouldn�t), then okay.

To hard-core pill takers, I am sure my fear and reluctance sounds silly. I understand that people around me share pain-killing medications all the time, but my mother did too good of a job with her anti-drug lecture, so these are things I just don�t mess with. I feel that pain is temporary, but problems with drugs could last you a whole lifetime. I�m suffering right now, but this, too, will pass.

Another frustration I am having with this is my dentist�s recommendation to chew on only the left side of my mouth while waiting to get this fixed. This makes it very exhausting to eat, and not really worth it--I think maybe only half my tongue�s taste buds are being used, and so nothing tastes like anything. So, I�m looking forward to eating normally again.

I ended up spending today in bed, but not because of pain in my teeth. Instead, it was because I fell. I was awakened in the night with a severe need to go to the bathroom, so I got up and stumbled toward the bathroom. There is a gauntlet of boxes all over the floor--I am sorting out possessions into three categories, �things to throw out,� �things I don�t want to throw out but I don�t use currently, so are for putting into storage,� and �things I use regularly and therefore want to find someplace to put so I have them on hand�; the continual misery of living in a place that is just too small. Yeah, sure, maybe someday I will say �fuck it� and go ahead and rent a bigger place and pay mortage-payment-size rent, but I am just not ready to do that unless I actually AM paying a mortgage. So I continue to suffer in this corner into which I have painted myself. (So another of my �dreams� similar to what I wrote about in my previous entry is to finally live in such a way that not one single thing I own is in a cardbox box.)

I had gotten myself to the entrance to the bathroom and was in the process of stepping over a pile of boxes when the leg that I was trying to step forward onto suddenly had a bizarre cramp; it painfully contracted up on me in such a way that there was nothing there to step down onto in the automatic process of walking, so I did a belly flop partially onto the floor and partially onto the boxes, banging hard on the knee of the cramping leg on the bathroom floor. And there I lay for a few moments, unable to move, shocked and in pain with cramped leg torturing, my tooth and jaw aching, my banged knee throbbing, and my bladder screaming for release.

The two most urgent pains, the cramp in my leg and the pressure in my bladder, flogged me back up and I scrambled over onto the toilet where I sat (standing at the time being was out of the question) with the offending leg stretched out as best I could. Once I finished there, I hobbled with my very painful knee my way straight back to my bed and pulled the covers tight up over me.

I slept fitfully throughout the rest of the night, awakened way too often with other kinds of leg cramps. I never knew I had that many different leg muscles, and all of them decided to act up in turn throughout this whole miserable night. Leg cramping actually has long been one of my major physical problems, but it was never like this before. (By the way, toward the end of his life, night-time leg cramps had gotten so bad for my father that he wouldn�t go to bed at night, but slept sitting up, instead.)

As far as I have been able to tell from searching the Internet, nobody really knows what causes cramps. There are various theories, of course, such as �electrolyte imbalance,� �dehydration,� �the position of the legs in bed,� �too much exercise,� �not enough exercise�, and that old bugaboo, �aging,� etc. All it does is make me wonder why I don�t die from a cramp in the heart muscle. Every other muscle in my body seemingly has had its turn at painfully cramping, why not that one? Maybe because the heart operates in a way that is rhythmic contracting and RELEASING, that the problem that can occur with a heart is that it fails to CONTRACT , so �cramping� would never be in its nature. I don�t know.

Personally, I think the etiology of cramping (especially the way it hurts so much--this is much more than a muscle simply �contracting�, but is a muscle tightening itself to maximum contraction with all its might, more might than you would ever be able to control on your own) is similar to TETANUS, which is a disease in which every muscle cramps all at once (I believe, fatally, and unquestionably, with more pain than anyone could possibly contemplate), with opposing extensor and contractor muscles operating at the same time, ripping the body apart.

Tetanus, I suppose, comes from a bacteria and whatever that bacteria does, operating on the brain, perhaps...? Maybe this bacteria eats up a particular enzyme or hormone, or blocks a chemical in the brain necessary for controlling the contraction and release of the muscles. It makes me think of brakes on a train, designed to contract in full upon a malfunction (so that malfunctioning brakes make a train stop instead of having them preventing a train from being able to stop)--this is a very clever concept, these train brakes, because normally one thinks that a power failure, say, would prevent one from being able to apply the brakes, but in this case, the power is what is used to keep the brakes OFF; power failure means brakes ON. So maybe the same thing happens with muscles.

This whole thing would bear more research, except I think of all the excrutiating pain such research would cause to uncountable laboratory animals and I feel the better course, based on the insensitivity and lack of ethics of our scientific establishment, is to allow the issue to yet remain a mystery even though it�s one that regularly hurts me like the dickens.

* * *

I stopped this entry for a while to do a little research on tetanus, and, too late, yes, indeed, they have been doing their experiments on animals. Such as the one where they injected the tetanus toxin into (what we would call) the calf muscles of cats and then watched them for 24 hours. They concluded that the passage of impulse along the nerve that makes the muscle contract �did not fatique� in all this time, which presumably meant that the cats were in the process of severe muscle cramp for 24-hours without let up. The cats would have been screaming, I am sure, if their vocal chords hadn�t been cut (a usual procedure in animal testing labs). Just reading that made me sick to my stomach, so I didn�t research it any more. I learned nothing more than what I already knew, that researchers will continue to cause a pain to helpless animals that is greater than the resultant wisdom. Yes, so the contraction will continue for at least 24 hours, how significant was that bit of �knowledge�, really? What we need to know is what makes it happen and how to stop it, not how long it can conceivably last.

* * *

Sunday addition: Maybe getting a full day of bed rest was what I really needed most. By the time time I got up on Sunday, I hadn't taken any pain pills, not even any of the Aleve, and I was essentially pain-free! I made myself a waffle for breakfast from the wonderful new Amish cookbook that I was given as a gift by the woman who runs the D.C. trip, and my pain didn't come back (which could have been stimulated by chewing), so I then went on and cooked up some eggs, peas, and turkey Spam (my "diet conscious" replacement for breakfast sausage) and still came out okay. I still need the crown, of course, but maybe the pain was from some kind of infection that I've now gotten rid of (which means I might not need a root canal). Anyway, I'm feeling better already.

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