I'm a fairly self-contained person, when it comes to negative emotions. I'm not really sure why, I can't point to anything in my life and say "that made me this way." But there it is, when I feel like emotional crap, I tend to shut the emotional part off and just get through the day.
That fact has been an asset, and a hindrance.
All through my great grandmother's illness, from the day she fell on her way back from the mailbox and shattered her kneecap all the way to the night she died, and her funeral, I was able to step back from the emotions and do what I needed to do, and the things that no one else could bring themselves to do.
On the other hand, when I was sunk in depression after breaking up with the boyfriend in the previous story, I got so used to shutting my emotions off that I didn't even realize how depressed I was until I tried to quit smoking and my doctor put me on anti-depressants to help with the emotional part of the quitting process. I've been trying to actually deal with the things that I used to shove aside, whenever possible, since then. I spent nearly a year pretty much on auto pilot, and once I broke out of it, I didn't like it.
In the same vein, I'm just beginning to realize exactly how sensitive I had become about my teeth. I realized this when I was talking to the girl that has been my best friend since second grade last night about this whole thing, and she was surprised at certain things that I finally admitted.
As many of you can probably imagine, considering the information I've shared about it so far, my teeth were in pretty bad shape. I'm still embarrassed to admit how bad they looked, but I haven't knowingly allowed a photograph to be taken of me in which I was smiling for... shit... five years, maybe more.
There were very few people that I could look in the face when I smiled, and most of them were close family members. The girl I mentioned was one of them, so maybe that's why she didn't realize....
I myself hadn't realized how ingrained it had become to look away from someone, or look down, or put a hand over my mouth when I smiled, until it wasn't an issue anymore. Or, anyway, until I thought it wouldn't be an issue anymore... there's a whole new set of issues now, but that comes later.
Farmmom, bless her heart, said it trying to make me feel better when I was stumbling around the Old Homestead drugged out of my ever lovin mind and muttering incoherently.
"Well, baby, you can smile now."
I think she has understood me best all my life, and I am so thankful for that, I can't even think of a way to say it. She brought it into the light so that I could start dealing with it.
See, I wasn't just self-conscious about my teeth. I'd been told for so many years by so many different dentists that it was because I didn't brush enough, or didn't floss, or because I ate sweets or a dozen other things, that while I knew that I was doing the right things regardless of what they said I still felt responsible for it. And that was only reinforced over the years as the looks from people got progressively more disgusted, in spite of my brushing my teeth so hard my gums bled.
It all collaborated to make me into a person who couldn't smile at herself in the mirror without being disgusted.
And I shoved it aside and ignored it. It was easy to make it believable, as far as being "pretty" is concerned... you know, makeup, hair perfect, all that crap... I could care less most of the time. Oh, I clean up once in a while when I'm going out, but day to day I dress for function, and if my t-shirt is baggy, that just means it's comfy. If it's stained, well, I don't have to worry about getting it dirty at the barn. Pony tails are my friend because they keep my hair the hell out of my way.
My friend commented last night, when we were talking about how paranoid I am about anyone seeing me without the denture, "Well, dude, it's you. It bothers you now, but eventually it'll just be a part of you and you'll give a crap less."
She was shocked when I disagreed.
I started off at a disadvantage in the teeth department. There's bad genes on both sides of the Farm Family, and I got a good dose, to the extent that I was in junior high when I had my first root canal. A tooth had grown in hollow, and had managed to get an infection.
After that, they just got worse. It wasn't a fast downhill slide until the last several years, but it was entirely too fast for me.
And now, I have a denture. Before I had it done I thought about not telling anyone exactly what I was getting done, but logic reasserted itself and I realized that there was no way on earth that I could pass it off as anything but what it was. So, I could pretend it wasn't happening, and let the pissants snicker behind my back, or I could own up to it.
It was a closer decision than I like to admit, in spite of my general lack of giving a shit about what the general populace thinks about my personal habits for the most part. I can hold my head high, look someone in the eye and return fire when they're talking smack about my wardrobe, my weight, or my choice of friends, but one glimmer of "eww" in their eyes when I smiled and I would just collapse in upon myself. My eyes would glue themselves to the ground and I wouldn't look up until the conversation was over.
Because I couldn't blame them. I felt the same way.
Then, over spring break, the teeth came out and the denture went in. Everyone kept telling me that it was for the best and it would be so much better now, and all kinds of other platitudes. Don't get me wrong I love my family and I know they meant the best, but I was wrestling with the fact that I had no choice but the denture at age 23. Mamaw got hers at 19, but that's meaningless to me. I've never known her with any other smile than the one she's got now. That's just her, and this wasn't me. It was a major change in my life.
I didn't tell anyone about this internal struggle, of course. Oh, Farmmom and I talked about it a little bit, but it was never really in depth. The rest of them, this blog is the first they'll hear about it, for the most part. Sorry guys, it's just easier when I have time to compose my thoughts and explain things all at once, and text gives it a step of distance.
So, everyone was trying to make me feel better and for the most part I had the same kind of feelings I had when my great grandma died. I just got sick of hearing it. I wasn't ready to deal with it yet. It was an image issue and trust me, for the first week after they pulled the teeth, I did not feel any better about my image. I looked like someone had slapped me in the mouth with a two by four, and I felt like death warmed over between the drugs and the amount of blood I was swallowing. I couldn't eat, I was pale, I didn't have the energy to stay awake long enough to wash my hair so it was disgusting.
Then I went back to classes.
And the first thing out of everyone's mouth was, "Smile!"
Which, when you're struggling with issues about your teeth, the fact that you've just had fifteen of them pulled, and gotten a denture that is both too perfect and just a tiny bit off to possibly be real, sounds like "Hey! Nasty Smile Girl! Show me your fake teeth!"
Sparky nearly got his head taken off when he asked me to smile at him, and he was one of the kindest about it.
Honestly, I'm coming to terms with it, slowly. It helps that I'll be able to design my permanent how I want, so that I can feel like it will pass the test for looking real. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel on that part.
But every morning when I'm getting ready for class, I have to practice smiling in the mirror. I can't remember how to do it without trying to hide my teeth. I catch myself looking away from the people I'm talking to when I'm telling a funny story.
I have to relearn a lot of things. And the process isn't helped when everyone stares at my mouth every time I open it. Eventually I, and they, will get past that. Until then, I get to struggle with the dual issues of feeling self-conscious about my teeth and getting pissed off at myself for being self-conscious.
It's a tough row, but it's gotta get hoed, one way or another. I'll get there. Maybe admitting it here will help. At the least it has made me think about things in an organized fashion instead of just reacting to them.