My Struggle Bus

Something's been wrong with me in the health department for quite a while and I finally know what it is.

For the past few months I've been dealing with some really strong brain fog. I've felt cloudy, hazy, and spaced out for quite some time, and currently possess a seriously reduced capacity for critical thinking. Sometimes it's been so thick I can barely maintain a conversation and I find myself stuttering, searched for words I couldn't find, and stopping a thought in the middle of a sentence, completely lost. I feel like my personality bled out somewhere and I've been replaced with a flat, cardboard cutout of myself. In short, I feel like a boring, meat sack.

But there's more. More recently — over the last 6 weeks, I started getting lightheaded and often quite dizzy. My wife has had to drive on numerous occasions where I would have normally been (or already was) the one behind the wheel. I've passed on fun opportunities, choosing to staying home because I'm afraid of passing out or frankly, being too boring to be around.

The other day I honestly thought I was dying. I was sitting in church and just nearly passed out. I had to double-over and put my head between my legs for a while to recover. Twice.

My arms and legs have been sore. Arms and legs constantly feeling fatigued like I just had an intense weightlifting session. Sometimes my legs just give out without warning. I haven't really been able to work out for a while. My flat(ish) tummy is now a sad little cookie pouch.

I also had this other, seemingly unrelated symptom pop up from time to time over the last 2 months. My jaw would get really tight – like painfully tight — on one side. Can't close my mouth, can't chew. I'd go to the doctor, they'd give me antibiotics saying it was probably just a side effect of a virus going around or something (I had recovered from a sinus bug sorta recently), and to to just come back if it doesn't go away in a week. I played this game 3 times, each time doing some pretty serious damage to my digestive system with clindamycin.

Let me pause to thank you for reading this by the way. This is some pretty dry, sad content right here.

They ran lab after lab and the numbers always came back fine. Nothing seemed to be wrong. Go home, come back in a week if it doesn't get better. 🤦‍♂️

At my wits end, I started sharing my symptoms with my brother-in-law who is an ER/trauma nurse in Virginia, currently in school studying to be a Nurse Practitioner. He ran everything by some of the doctors he works with in their downtime and they all seemed pretty confident it was either an abscess (maybe in a tooth or my gums) or TMJ Disorder. Either of which could be diagnosed by a decent dentist. Finally, something new to go on.

It took a lot of phone calls to find a dentist with availability before January (my next scheduled cleaning) but finally got in yesterday and with very little doubt in their minds — this is absolutely TMJ Disorder.

With my clouded mind it just never dawned on me that the two things could be connected. I have had TMJ before as a teenager, so it's even more logical because the curvature of my neck leaves me more susceptible to this kind of thing, especially combined with sitting at a desk all day and I'm a terrible sleeper.

If you've never heard of TMJ Disorder before – also called Bruxism — it's pain, irritation, or inflammation in your temporomandibular joint, your jaw hinge. It's a bit of a mystery as to how it happens, but it's usually associated with teeth clenching & grinding, poor posture, jaw position while sleeping.

Apparently, many people suffer from it for a long time without figuring it out (hello there), and it presents with a lot of seemingly unconnected symptoms (hello again), like tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, speech impediments, blurred vision, dizziness, impaired thinking, and numbness in the arms and legs. I basically won the lottery and got all but one of those.

This all can happen because there are nerves that pass through your jaw that can be pinched or inflamed, which results in interference between your brain and your eyes, ears, and rest of the body. The proximity can also affect inner ear nerves, hence the dizziness.

I'm not entirely sure why I wrote this article except for the the fact I'm so relieved to know what's been going on that I just had to find an outlet for it. Maybe you or someone you know has a similar set of symptoms and doesn't know where it's coming from and this can help you.

Or maybe you've gone through a TMJ recovery and have some advice for me what things helped you – like night guards, pillows, stretches, etc – I'd absolutely love to hear from you on all things potentially helpful! I've got weeks or months of recovery to work through here, but it'll be easy compared to not knowing what's wrong and having panic attack after panic attack thinking I'm dying.

Many of you reached out on Twitter over the last few months because you could sense something was off about me, my tweets, or a hunch. Thank you for doing that. You have some highly tuned empathy muscles – please use those often on as many people as you can.

And in case you're one of the other people who have reached out wondering why my Radical Design isn't out yet – now you know the real reason why. I have been unable to write or design anything of substance for quite some time and have relied heavily on my team for anything complex related to Statamic. I don't know what I would have done without them.

Anyway, TL;DR I'm not dying and I now have a sexy mouth guard and my head will be cradled each night in the world's least comfortable pillow as I try to somehow sleep flat on my back.

Published Aug 3, 2021

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