"Smile! We're in Europe, Andrea!"
This picture was taken almost 6 years ago in 2014. Gabe & I were on choir tour in Europe when we were dating in college. 😊 It was such a special time, and I look back on it fondly, though I was in a lot of discomfort from TMJD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction/disorder). On a choir tour, the schedule of singing and rehearsals and performances is pretty rigorous, even for someone without any issues -- lots of standing, singing in cathedrals without air conditioning in thick, velvet robes, sometimes two concerts in one day, etc.
If you look REALLY closely, you can see little tape right by my ears. What's that? Little tiny strong-powered magnets.
I was SO desperate for relief (but too sensitive to take any meds) that I was taping little tiny magnets to my face 15+ hours per day. It DID help a little bit on the worst days, or at least made the worst days less bad (as long as I actually wore them every day), but I hated feeling like a robot walking around with magnets. It felt especially weird because when people asked me why that helped, I didn't have a good answer. No research, or minimal anyway, had yet explained the possibilities for why it helped some, but it helped enough that I did it. I hated being asked all the time about it, even though I would rather people ask than just stare.
I figured that if I had to live with chronic issues, at least I'd rather no one else could visibly see it -- at least I could ignore it by giving my jaw a name (yes, my closest friends knew which days "Doris" was cranky!). But the magnets made it feel permanent because others could visibly see it too. And no one knew if this was going to be a permanent issue or not. That was the hardest part. I questioned my desired career choice. I mean, how could I possibly be a music teacher who has to sing for 7-8 hours per day if I am in pain after 20 minutes of singing? How's that ever going to work out? But I was so far through my degree that I didn't want to waste the time and spend more time in school, so I kept going. I figured I could get a different job with my degree if I had to.
So how did I get from there to here? Today I feel better than I ever have -- physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and relationally.
But it wasn't an easy journey. Lots of experimentation and trial & error happened (including the magnets) until I found some things that really helped. But once I did, it was like a light switch. Things started getting better so quickly that I dared not believe it would actually be a permanent solution. You see, different drs I visited just gave me a list of things to do/not do. They said there was no cure and no known cause, though they gave me a night guard splint to hopefully help. And that did, a little, but it didn't really get to the root issue. Perhaps some drs know more today than they did then, but I didn't believe that they were right with what they told me then. I couldn't believe it!
I'm no doctor, but with what I know about the body and how EVERYTHING affects everything else (for one quick example gut health affects mental health), I knew there had to be other options. And I'm SO glad I was open-minded enough to truly seek and try them and not discount them.
For me it wasn't a matter of if I could afford the options. Yes, some of the things I tried before finding things that truly brought wellness cost me money. But for me the question I kept coming back to was, 'If I found out that this would help, that this would bring wellness and/or relief and I didn't try it, how sad would I feel? Health to me is more important than "fun stuff," especially because I want to truly enjoy the fun stuff! If I can postpone some of the "fun stuff" for a few months or a year until I feel better, how much more will I enjoy it?'
'But if this doesn't work for me, what do I have to lose? A few dollars, I guess. If this DOES work for me, what do I have to gain? Everything! My life and desired career! My social enjoyment in the evenings back instead of going to bed early with a numbed-from-ice-packs face! Opportunities that this holds me back from!' Even if it wasn't cured, I desired a more full and healthy life.
And I have found it. I CAN work multiple jobs now because I enjoy them and have the energy for them! I CAN go enjoy social events (when this whole stay-at-home is over) when I used to stay home and ice my face. I CAN sing for 7-8 hours per day without any discomfort.
If I stop my balancing act of solutions, I do have uncomfortable days again, so I know I still "have TMJD" to a lesser degree -- but the beautiful thing is that it rarely affects me anymore. I feel so empowered to know more about how the body works, how food affects us, how the environment around us really does change us for good or bad. God made plants to be healing, for our good. I have many options now on those very few days when I struggle. I had one day last week where my jaw kept clicking and was really sore (probably from weather pressure). But it didn't turn into a big problem because I knew right away what options I had available to me and what I wanted to try first, before it turned into a bigger problem.
I feel empowered now to make my own wellness choices as a part of a huge wellness community, more like a family, really. And I feel free. God gave me freedom!
And that is WORTH the trial and error process to me.
If you're struggling now (with emotions, with chronic issues, with weight, with motivation, with TMJD, with anything, really!), what is holding you back from really digging deep, from embracing the journey to wellness? How can I encourage you to take those first steps (or maybe 5th or 55th or 107th steps!)?
I have a group of people I'm walking this natural wellness journey with, ready to be their cheerleaders. It's free! If you need a little hope and cheerleading on your wellness journey, come join us. 🥰 And if you want to ideas for your specific situation, I'm more than happy to listen and share what I know. You can find me on FB or contact me through the button at the top of the page too!
I love you guys, really and truly. I'm here for you.