Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dental Damn

Today's post was going to be about wheelchairs.

Then it was going to be about religion.

I still have things to say about both subjects, but I have too much to say about both subjects, and since I have a limited amount of time today because of a meeting at Bennett's school and some other obligations, I've decided to talk about The Tooth.

You remember The Tooth, yeah? The one that cracked a short while ago? Went to the dentist yesterday to have it looked at and to have my teeth cleaned.

This was the first time I had been to the dentist in maybe 7 years or more...I think. Toothfully, I can't remember. It's been THAT long, I just have no recollection of when my last dental visit was.

But my new dentist? Love the guy. And for the sake of this blog I shall call him Dr. Vic Mackey. He has a shaved head, kind of a thick build but not fat, and even though he had a goatee it wasn't a thicker goatee like yours truly, it was understated, so I'm comfortable enough with the nickname...besides...I miss The Shield.

As it turns out, The Tooth did not break because of internal decay like its brother before it. Though there is some incidental decay in two OTHER teeth where fillings have kind of separated a bit from the teeth themselves. One didn't surprise me at all, considering that lately it was becoming sensitive to temperature.

But The Tooth actually cracked because of ME. I bit it off.

Allow me to explain.

I grind my teeth in my sleep. At least, that's what my last dentist told me she thought I was doing, because of some scratches she had seen on my teeth that indicated as much. But Dr. Mackey said that looking at my teeth today, especially at the wear and tear on my METAL fillings, I must be grinding like a mufugga (not his word choice) to be causing this kind of internal pressure.

He thinks I simply crunched my own tooth apart because of the pressure of grinding my teeth, probably due to excess stress. I told him that I have a diagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anxiety, and he said...'Makes sense.'

He then asked me if I got the PTSD by serving in the military. I hesitated for a moment and said 'No, I had an abusive childhood.' He said he was sorry. Looked uncomfortable too. I told him not to worry about it. We moved on and started talking about plans to fix the teeth and ways to possibly keep the teeth from grinding at night.

HOLY SHIT dental insurance sucks the big one. This is going to cost WAY more than I thought...and the thing to keep me from grinding? I can't afford that thing. I'll have to maybe find a homemade solution for the time being. After all is said and done, we're looking at a couple of grand for my big mouth.


The funny thing is though, that as I left the office and came home, the cost of all of this dental work (and I am glad it isn't going to need a root canal by the way) wasn't really what was on my mind. What I couldn't stop thinking about was that exchange about the PTSD between me and the Doc. That conversation has been bothering me ever since it occurred.

Before I go into the 'why' it is important to remind everybody (cause my Mom does read this blog 'Hi Mom!') that my Mom was not the source of this childhood abuse I mentioned, and I'll have much more to say about this entire subject at another time. My Father leaving and wanting nothing to do with me was one part of this problem and then my Step-Father came in and was the abusive parent. My Mom was unaware of most of the really harsh and weird stuff that took place, and I never told her.

Again...subject for another time, but I've had discussions with Mom before and she always says that when I bring up the subject it always makes her wonder what people must think of her since I have never really clarified the situation in black and white...I keep meaning to, and will completely, consider that a preamble. But my Mom was really my beacon of light in the darkness growing up. Anything good I have or am came from her side. The bad stuff? That came from someplace else.

But about this exchange between me and Dr. Vic Mackey.

Why is it that, even though it is a documented fact that adults that have suffered from Childhood Abuse can grow up to have PTSD or Anxiety because of it, or Dysthymia or other types of Depression disorders, and, even though Childhood Abuse is a very serious thing, something no one should ever take lightly, why is it that I would much rather be able to answer 'Yes' to the question 'Did you ever serve in the military?' when someone asks me a question like that about PTSD rather than say 'No, I had an abusive childhood.'

I'll tell you why I THINK I feel this way.

Because it is so much easier for other people to accept me for who I am if they imagine that I was somewhere dodging bullets and bombs in my late teens and early twenties and watching people getting their arms and legs blown off than it is for people to accept me for who I am because my Daddy called me names, slapped me around a little and did a few weird things to me when I was a kid.

And that's a fact.

'That was so LONG ago.'

'Can't you just learn to put the past BEHIND you?'

'You just have to get over that stuff, it isn't happening anymore.'

'Why can't you just forget about the past and learn to be happy?'

'If you would just stop thinking about it your life would be a whole lot easier.'

These are the kinds of things that have regularly been said to me throughout my life, and often by people very, very close to me, who perpetuate this feeling of, I don't know...embarrassment? I don't know what to call it even, when it comes to answering the question about the PTSD or the Anxiety. Not to mention that I could certainly TRY to nutshell in how Bennett's disability added a whole new dimension to this already difficult to manage disability or disorder of my own.

But I do manage it. I just wish I had a snazzier, more seductive reason to give in a situation like that one. One that the general population was more...comfortable with. 'Yeah...served in the Gulf. Man...when the shit went down, there was oil and blood everywhere man, I was scared shitless.'

But that would not be the truth, and I wouldn't be comfortable with anything but the truth. So I've learned to just answer the question and brace myself for 'The Look', which I get a lot, and got yesterday, and then I get on with my day.

Most of the time anyway.

Or sometimes, just sometimes, like it did in the dentist's office, it sticks in my craw for a day or two, and I have to put in a little extra effort to get it out.

What the hell IS a craw, anyway? least it's not stuck in my tooth.



  1. I'm occasionally embarassed that my issues don't come from anywhere manly or life-threatening either. I try not to worry about it. Why stress about the things that cause you stress? It seems redundant. I still do it anyway, of course. C'est la vie

  2. Well, I can tell you about childhood stuff that people do not understand. Children **absorb** early life experiences so that they become "part of them" so to speak. Adults, on the other hand, when they experience something, in general it is more acquired via the intellect and as such can more easily be addressed with counselling and the like. Kids who experience traumatic childhoods have to fight those primal, hardwired experiences almost forever. It doesn't mean there cannot be help or mitigation, but it's a heck of a lot more complicated than, "get over it, that was years ago." They taught us all of this to prepare us to be Montessori teachers...scared the crap out of us..thought we were going to screw up every poor little bugger that we came into contact with!! AND, another cool/disturbing fact...our dentist and our cranial therapist have told me that mouth work brings up the most horrible childhood memories for people. As a result, the cranial therapist only does mouth work after she's known a client for a long time, and our dentist is uber careful about how he approaches all his clients. Glad you know all this shit now, eh Ken?

  3. Lots of folks read this blog and hopefully the comments, too:

    Anyone a dentist? Anyone really good buddies with a dentist? Happen to be in the Ohio area? Could you/they help Ken out and work a trade or something to float some tooth repair his way?

  4. I still remember the look my then boyfriend (now husband) gave me when he sat his hand on my leg and I jumped and pushed it off. I just had this weird flashback to the day my parents decided to give us away and then my dad put his hand there and said "Are you ok?" Like his drugged up ass really cared. Of course I didn't want to tell my boyfriend that so I just got all embaressed and told him I was sorry. I still remember the look on his face then... ugg I hate it. I'm sorry you had to deal with "the face", at least you seemed to think he was a cool dentist.

  5. "I was a child soldier fighting in an unjust war."

    "I inherited it from my stepfather."

  6. I'm with Single Dad. You were a child in a war. I'm sorry this happened to you, and I find you immensely inspiring -- that you write about it, that you find humor in your life, that you are so dogged in your love and commitment to your family. "The world is ugly and the people are sad" as Wallace Stevens said in a poem -- but he wrote poetry --

  7. The great author, Pat Conroy once said. " There is no fixing a damaged childhood the best you can do is to patch it good enough to make the sucker float" Thats what we do. You will probably find that the only folks that understand the bad childhood stuff are the ones who have been through it themsleves. Hang in here you guys have been through more in three years than most folks go through in a lifetime.

  8. In my opinion, surviving childhood abuse and dealing with its aftereffects take more courage and strength than surviving a war as an adult with an already developed psyche and personality. While soldiers do develop PTSD, war trauma does not result in dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality): it's childhood trauma and abuse that forces a person to resort to such extreme coping mechanism. Childhood abuse is so damn evil because it effects you at your very core and messes with everything from your self-esteem to your future relationships. It teaches you that the world is not a safe place, warps your self-perception and ingrains all sorts of false beliefs and attitudes in you. Despite of your abusive childhood, you are a wonderful loving father and husband and an empathetic sensitive human being - and that is something you should be proud of, something that deserves a badge of honor. People who tell you that you should just move on (while they might be well-intentioned) have no foggy clue what the heck they are talking about. Healing takes work and time.

    On a totally different note, do you do interactive and web design?

  9. Could offer my arm chair analysis of why people respond the way they do and where that comes from, but it's nothing you don't know. But I do want to say something to your mom:

    Dear Ken's Mom,

    Anyone who reads Ken's blog knows how much he loves and respects you. Anyone who reads Ken's blog knows he doesn't give those feelings away to just anyone. He doesn't have to spell anything out-- it's always been clear.


  10. Thank yor for sharing your story. When my son had a massive stroke (at age 7), I went online looking for people who could understand what it was like to suddenly be thrust into the special needs world. I came across your blog. I took strength from knowing that there were families out there facing life changing medical events with courage and humour, even in the crappiest of times. (Especially other people who don't beleive that they are in Holland.)

    As a recovering abused child, I gotta say that the stuff that happens to you as a kid shapes you in ways that adult experiences simply don't. Watching my son have a stroke and holding in my arms as he lost consciousness changed who I was forever. BUT, the actions of my step-father towards when I was a child me broke me. It took years of effort to be mended from my childhood, and there are still cracks.
    Why did the dentist assume that he had a right to know why you had PTSD? Knowing that PTSD is caused by extreme trauma, how is it in any way appropriate for him to ask? Does is change the treatment plan? I am offended (a bit) on your behalf. My younger son has PTSD from witnessing his brother's near-death experience, and, quite frankly, it is not really everyone's business and I don't always want to explain it to people who are being nosy. Reliving emotionally scarring events just to satisfy someone's curosity is not my main priority.
    Once again, thank you for sharing your life.

  11. Interesting. I think the real problem is that we still don't fully understand these disorders and that makes us less able be sympathetic. I remember reading about PTSD in a book recently and seeing that it's actual neural pathways that are effected--it's not just a hormonal imbalance. There's just not enough information.

  12. Stryder Wolfe:
    I think we ALL do, those of us that come from 'that place'. No way to avoid it.

    Actually, most of that stuff I did know about. From some years spent studying my issues and some time spent in therapy. It also helps to have a good friend who is a practicing Psychologist.

    So far no takers. But it's hard these days to trade Dental Work for drawings of Spider-Man.

    See, this is why I liked you from the start, and why you jumped out at me this week. I can identify with you and you were new here. I appreciate the sentiment, but I was cool with it.

    You're story reminds me of a funny situation when I started working at Palisades. The company was small so when I got there we all went out a lot together. One night I had a bit too much to drink and so I was very...talkative.

    Now I was very new to the company, maybe two weeks, and someone asked me if there was anything they should know about me. I thought about and said 'Yeah...nobody should touch me by surprise. Make sure you announce yourself or make sure I see you BEFORE you lay a hand on me, or I might turn around and put you on the floor before I can stop myself. Just want to give you fair warning.'

    Of course...the conversation came to a SCREECHING halt. And then I had to explain that one of the things the S-Dad did was, if I was late coming home, was wait in the dark and I never knew where he would be and then, like a cheetah, he would pounce from somewhere and bash me a few times.

    SO...a part of PTSD is that any repeat of that circumstance...a surprise physical touch, even a light one, when I am not prepared for it, instantaneously put me into Fight Club mode, or it did then, I was around 33-ish.

    I had to spend a LOT of my thirties training myself out of that...took some work. I still stiffen up, and when Bennett does it that stiffening that REALLY sucks, because what I used to get from my father I now get from my son. Sudden random and unexpected acts of violence...and that is a full-fledged pile of suck-ass because I LOVE my son and he doesn't mean me harm.

  13. SingleDad:
    Is that a quote from something in particular?

    The humor thing I got from my Mother, her greatest gift to me. She has always taught me that a sense of humor is perhaps the most powerful weapon in the universe against any assault. But the inspiring thing? Eh…appreciate that.

    Appreciate that. And I agree with what that author said and have often tried to explain that to people. This is something you never fix. You can only manage it. It is not something that goes away, it’s a part of you.

    I will address that whole good/bad father thing and all that in a post sometime, but thanks for the kind words. But I could do so much more than I do. But I also recognize that I speak to myself with my Father’s voice and I choke myself with my Father’s hands ALL THE TIME. So it is hard to know when it is ME and when I am channeling the past. That part I get. But more on that later. As for interactive web design, I still don’t have a good handle on REGULAR web design. It is one of the areas of design that I would love to get some real training in.

    I think she knows that, but thanks for the remind. Mom, Annika (if this is the same Annika, which I THINK it is) made that Muppets quilt that used to hang over Carter’s crib a LONG time ago, the handmade one, in case you were curious.

    You know, that thought never really crossed my mind until you brought it up. I don’t know why, but I have never gotten offended by personal questions because I am so quick to offer personal information. So perhaps, in our conversations leading up to that point, I may have given him the impression that I was the type of person that was OK with it? Maybe that was why he felt it was OK? I will say that I have often been told by people who speak to me in real life one on one that I sometimes have a way of making them feel at ease to where they will say things to me or talk about things with me they normally would not, that might be part of it. Should have gotten a degree in psychology, then I wouldn’t be in this struggle with my career. 

    True that…like anything else, the less people know the more intimidated we are of it.


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