A Hard Lesson in Slowing Down

By Julien-Pierre “Johnny” Campbell

Content warning: discussion of dental procedures, descriptions of physical pain, descriptions of my own emetophobia

Recently, I got all four wisdom teeth pulled. While this is usually an unpleasant experience for anyone, it was made all the more difficult by two things: 1) my intense phobia of dentists and 2) the nasty reaction I had to the pain medication I was prescribed. I will be open: due to mental illness, my teeth aren’t in ship-shape condition. I have some cavities that need to be filled and could use a deep cleaning. But when my wisdom teeth started growing in, I knew that that was one procedure I couldn’t just skip.

I was getting splitting headaches, jaw pain, and terrible earaches the like of which I haven’t had in years. It sucked. I held out as long as I could, but eventually had to give in. Those suckers had to go!

I tend to pop up almost disturbingly quickly after surgeries, disabilities, be damned. Anaesthesia doesn’t bring me down long. My energy levels for the first three days after the surgery were high. I was doing chores. I was walking the dog. I was reading, eating solid food, even doing homework. On day four, however, something changed. I threw up two times in quick succession. I started feeling feverish, I couldn’t stop crying, and I would get dizzy and nauseous if I so much as shifted on the couch. The next day, I threw up four times, and my symptoms were more of the same. My jaw ached, I could hardly speak, and I couldn’t stop throwing up! Terrible.

And if the dentist fear wasn’t bad enough —I am paralyzed with fear when it comes to vomit. If I hear someone gag, cough too hard, or even make a grossed-out face while eating, I’ll flee the room. I literally haven’t — well, hadn’t — thrown up in 11 years before 2020. And the six times I threw up in two days was more than I had thrown up in my entire life.

I learned a pretty powerful lesson over this past week: it’s okay to slow down. I got so physically sick because of the pain medication, and also because I pushed myself too hard. The harder I pushed myself, the more pain I was in: so it was this awful cycle that just fed itself. So, reluctantly, I put down the laptop. I let my housemates take over the chores. I took an extra day off work.

I’ll be frank — I didn’t enjoy it! But my body has healed much faster than I expected. I hadn’t let my body rest because I didn’t think my surgery was that big of a deal. “People get their wisdom teeth out all the time. They don’t bitch and moan about it as much as I am. They don’t cry for two hours and throw up a bunch. I’m just being dramatic.”

Well … no. I wasn’t. I honored my body’s needs, slowed down, and I’m on the mend now!!

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