State of the Blueinthislight, 1/27/13

Just to let you guys know I’m alive.  Due to blinding, constant pain in my jaw, long suspected to be this, there were moments where the alternative seemed kinder.  It drove me to the ER on Wednesday, in fact, as I was convinced my jaw was dislocated.  TMJ can do that, apparently.  And it is officially TMJ now, because a doctor said so.  I’d long suspected due to previous and much less severe flare-ups that it was, and now I know.

As it happened, my jaw wasn’t actually dislocated, it’s just that the muscles on the right side of my jaw were so strongly and unrelentingly contracted that it’s stretching my jaw out of alignment.  I mean, I knew the jaw muscles were really powerful, but goddamn.  They also have some kinda endurance, because they still are.  It lets off a tiny little bit each day.

If that sounds bad to you, let me just confirm that it is in fact as painful as you might imagine.  While that’s the worst part – it seriously, seriously hurts – there’s more, as you might expect when half of your face goes haywire on you.  Currently, it feels as though someone injected a bunch of foam rubber in there; it’s reminiscent of that novocaine feeling you get when a dentist sticks you up with that stuff, but a lot different.  The only reason it resembles injected rubber/novocaine rather than a baseball bat to the face is because of that Tylenol that has codeine in it.  Jaw will only open maybe an inch, and it doesn’t quite close right either.  Takes conscious effort to talk without chewing the inside of my right cheek, which is ironic considering that I am entirely unable to chew anything else, such as food.

It’s okay, I’m well-armed; aside from the happy Tylenols, I have cold compresses, chamomile (a decent muscle relaxant) and ER paperwork justifying potentially a fuckton of sick leave.  As well, the pain is mostly gone now; it gets sore toward the end of the day, but it’s mild, and I refuse to not talk.  There’s only so many concessions I am willing to make to an extremely unreasonable jaw.  Working against me is a horde of female relations who were already terrified for my nutritional well-being because I’m skinny, so you can imagine their reaction to the news that OMG I CAN’T EAT.  You cannot know how much chocolate pudding I have in my fridge right now.  And applesauce.  And Jello.  This sounds ungrateful, I know, but I’m not.  It’s only that under the circumstances, my profligate cynicism gets pretty much free reign until I consciously think to check it.  Plus, you have to admit that when you’re in severe pain and irrationally fearing that your jaw may be stuck like this forever, the last thing you need is to have people constantly asking how you’re doing, thereby reminding you of your sudden and painful deformity.  It is a deformity too:  if you look at my face very closely, you can see my jaw jutting off to my right very slightly.

It not only hurts like hell and takes away my ability to chew food, but it literally twists my beatific visage?  It’s like it’s tailor made to piss me off.

The ER trip scared me a bit.  I have what a Carter Blood-Taker vampire called White Coat Phobia (no seemingly relevant link on Wikipedia, sorry), so as they took me into the back to do the preliminary checking of blood pressure/pulse stuff, my heart rate was high.  The agony of my maw didn’t help much either.  She checked my blood pressure twice, resorted to taking my pulse on my wrist instead of using that finger thingie they have, and asked me if I normally have a fast heartbeat.  No, I don’t think so.  Then they take me back to a bed in a room full of beds, and judging from the way the others were moaning, I suddenly didn’t think my little jaw thing was all that bad.  Then she asks me to take off my shirt as she’s getting out wires for that heart monitor thingie that’s always flatlining in TV shows; you know what I mean.  This has me thinking fuck, how fast was my pulse anyway?  Nightmare scenarios about underlying problems, most of them cancer, begin to form in my mind.  Then she starts putting sticky pads on my chest and hooks me up.

Doctor shows up a little later, I tell him I think my jaw’s dislocated, tell him why, the history, etc.  He feels my jaw and, oddly, sticks his fingers in my ears while he tells me to open my mouth.  No idea.  I’d usually ask, but talking hurts.  He says he doesn’t think it’s dislocated and tells me about TMJ as if I didn’t know what it was.  I start nodding immediately so as to show my preexisting knowledge of said acronym/disorder, incredibly irrationally annoyed that he disagrees with my diagnosis.  I know it’s TMJ, duh.  He prescribes x-rays.  You’re goddamn right x-rays.  We’ll see who’s right, doctor.

They wheel me shirtless to the x-ray room; or, well, not shirtless exactly, but the gown I had kinda looked like how a little kid would make a toga, I mean what the fuck.  I overhear the woman taking my x-rays asking questions of another older woman standing in the background like some CIA handler or something.  So good, trainee taking my x-rays.  She also took my glasses off my face, which pisses me off so bad, but anyway.  Get wheeled back to the bed, doc comes in a few minutes later:  no dislocation.  Fucking asshole.

I have no idea why I wanted to be right about that so bad, but I do know that had it been a dislocation, they could have reset my jaw and the pain would have ended.  As is, there’s pretty much nothing they can do.  So it wasn’t entirely my absurd ego scoffing at the notion that a doctor knows more about medicine than me.  It also rendered the whole exercise pointless, as I only went to the ER because I thought they’d need to reset my jaw, and I know they have to use like muscle relaxers and general anesthetic for that, so I figured a general practitioner would just send me to the hospital anyway.  Ah well.

So, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.  It fucking sucks.  In other news, I’m very behind on my writing, as horrific pain does make it difficult to concentrate.  Upcoming:  a Book Report on Moby Dick and an article on science and religion that I’ve been meaning to write for a while.  Sneak preview:  I enjoy various crucial aspects of both and consider that there is no conflict between the two.  Or actually, more like the conflict is manufactured by overly militant science nerds and religious fundamentalists, both acting as though they represent the whole of their respective sides.  I’m gonna try to make some peace.  I also have to catch up on the blogs I follow, particularly that kindly vegan woman’s and B-Dog’s.  Have not been capable of reading with attention for a while now.

It’s gonna be jawsome.

Yep, I went there.  I always go there.

How Eating a Little Bit of Paper Made My Previous Post Possible

Let’s pretend you read my previous post, for the dual purposes of boosting my ego and because making that assumption will make for a cleaner essay.  You know you didn’t; I know you didn’t.  Let’s just pretend.  Let’s also get out of the way that hoary old American social tradition known as a disclaimer:  I’m not advocating that anybody do a fucking thing here.  If you’re so unfathomably lazy that you’d use information on a blog post without verifying it elsewhere, you are destined for hard lessons, and LSD has the potential to mercilessly and irrevocably administer them straight to your brain.

As I combed through my previous post this morning days ago in order to ensure that it read like the humorous recounting of a string of mild bad luck that it was meant to be, it occurred to me that there was a point in my life many years ago when those very same events would have been documented in a very, very emo fashion.  Then, as if by kismet and as I was beginning to write an entirely different essay, Amarok played me some Hendrix.  Are You Experienced, to be specific.  It all brought to mind the catalyst that sparked my eventual emergence from the depression, self-loathing and crippling shyness that marked my childhood:  lysergic acid diethylamide.  LSD, if you’re not a nerd.

I know, I know, just hear me out.  Although if you’re one of those people who think it’s bad just because, then you may as well stop reading it now.  I could tell you that LSD, as well as basically any entheogen ever, are unabusable and impossible to become addicted to.  I could recount how my single experience with it was a defining moment and one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I could even mention that I’m not some psychonaut neo-hippie (unless you consider being somewhat leftist to qualify one as such; I have a left and a right wing, but I suppose you’d say I veer quite a bit to the left in flight) who’s trying to justify his bad habits, but rather simply a regular guy who had a chance to try it, did so, and legitimately benefited far more than anyone would expect.  There’s also the fact that psychiatrists have flirted with studying its ability to treat various mental problems for decades now, but have been discouraged by a preponderance of people who heard about this one guy, he took some one time, and then he like jumped off his dorm roof or some shit because he thought he could fly.  Lastly, I could question the wisdom behind allowing politicians to make decisions that would more properly fall into the domains of physicians and chemists.  You wouldn’t care about all that, though.

There’s a lot of misinformation on LSD, as opposed to something like methamphetamine, which if anything is actually worse than the public perceives it to be.  For one, the hallucinations are far milder at a reasonable dose than commonly presented; you won’t pet dead relatives, you won’t talk to fantastical animals, you won’t traverse alien worlds, none of that crazyness; you are far more likely to gleefully laugh at bad movies, be awestruck by sunrises and intensely love your fellow human beings, and I say this as a self-avowed and unrepentant amiable misanthrope.  Things do tend to “breathe”, and it’s common to see patterns overlaid across your field of vision, though.  There are hallucinogens that can have you being chased by extradimensional lizard aliens, but acid isn’t one of them.  Or maybe it is if you take a massive dose.  Mine was quite small, which is entirely incommensurate with the magnitude, longevity and positivity of the end result.  Massive doses might also bring on the infamous acid flashbacks too, because neither me nor a single one of the friends that took it too had any.  Judging from my research, a flashback isn’t really that bad in most cases anyway, but merely a recollection of how one felt during the trip.  One can also spontaneously and unwillingly recall how one’s first kiss made one feel too,  so I guess we better make kissing illegal as well.  They can be more severe, but again, it almost certainly involves much bigger doses, similar to how intaking too much oxygen can kill you, or drinking too much water.

Everything – every single thing that exists – will hurt you if indulged improperly or to excess.

Not that acid is without danger.  My young-man-emo-phase came with a good deal of self-loathing, as emo phases often do.  When you hate yourself, things such as a string of mildly bad luck similar to that depicted in my last post tend to validate that hatred; oh look, the world hates me too, I guess I’m right to feel the way I do.  Like a great deal of conscious and unconscious thought, it’s a loop that feeds back into itself, becoming stronger and stronger with each cycle.  This isn’t really a new concept: religions and spiritual traditions that emphasize the analysis of the human experience have documented the mind’s incessant tendency to run in circles for thousands of years, such as the Buddhist concept of vāsanā or, roughly, the Shaivist concept of the rāga tattva.  They also generally agree that these loops are incredibly difficult to entirely break, as they are all permutations of desire:  wanting, seeking, obtaining.  When a thing is obtained, another want surfaces.  The more often the loop cycles, the more it perpetuates itself, and it becomes harder and harder to break.

Brief aside before I continue:  before starting this essay I searched ‘lsd tolerance’ on Google to refresh my memory on whether or not it could become a habit.  The first result was a site called Above the Influence, a site which ironically immediately tries to influence you into taking up that tried and true American tradition of bashing shit without having tried it or indirectly experienced it in any way.  One thing of value that it does say is that LSD disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.  Hang onto that.

Now back to the hybrid tornado/train wreck/feedback loop that is the human brain.  Psychological disorders such as the aforementioned depression, narcissistic personality disorder, etc. tend to act as a filter through which everything else is passed.  To put it another way, if your thoughts/desires/longings are the planets of our solar system, then depression is the sun around which they orbit, and which itself is spinning in the center.  This would mean that most all the functions of your brain are subservient to a central dysfunction of ever-increasing power.  It’s doesn’t take a great leap of logic to conclude that disrupting this “normal” functioning of the brain could be good for a person, does it?

There are a few caveats, though.  For one, you need to be on speaking terms with all of your demons.  That’s at the very least, and intimate familiarity would be ideal.  You feel on this stuff, and your mind revels in itself.  It will not respect boundaries.  With a meditative practice, you can go to those cordoned places in yourself as tentatively as you like; with a chemical, those places come to you as they will, and amplified just as your senses are.  If your self-control collapses when those demons make themselves known, they will outright traumatize you on this stuff.  Knowing yourself is a great thing in any circumstance, but here it’s mandatory.

For two, you need to know yourself.  You need to really know yourself.  Nobody ever thinks they’re repressing anything without some hellish introspection; that happens to be one of my specialties, so that well was dry long before I took anything.  I realize I already said this, but it bears saying a hundred more times.  Under no circumstance is it good to be a unknown and foreign country to yourself.

For three, it amplifies what’s already there.  If you’re in a good, calm mood, then your entire body will feel amazing and all of your usual stressors will seem the way those spiritual traditions I keep mentioning describe them:  small, fleeting, ephemeral, like smoke in the air.  You’ll see your own complicity in the pain they cause you, and you’ll realize that without that complicity, they and nothing else can hurt you at all.  It’s like standing up and realizing you’ve been sitting your whole life letting things loom over you.  If you’re in a bad mood, invert everything I just said, imagine how incomprehensibly hard that would most likely suck, and learn the twin virtues of patience/not moping about shit.

So what’s the point of all this?  Who the fuck knows.  It could be that I vehemently believe that a unilateral and indiscriminate war on drugs is proof that we in the country are fucking incapable of learning the lessons of Prohibition and still govern via fear and ignorance, justifying it with some vague doom-mongering about social cost.  It certainly isn’t to encourage anyone to either abstain or indulge.  It’s illegal and potentially dangerous in a subtle, potent and possibly long term way.  Think, be honest with yourself and decide.  I guess it’s not to recount the acid-fueled all-nighter we pulled either.  I’d intended to, but this is way long as it is.  It’s among a number of things I’ve touched on that deserve their own essays, so some other time, hopefully.  Plus, honestly, calling it an “acid fueled all-nighter” makes it sound far more interesting a story than it actually is.  Suffice to say that I saw my stressors for what they really were:  small, fleeting, ephemeral, like smoke in the air.  I saw my own complicity in the pain they cause me, and I realized that without that complicity, they and nothing else can hurt you at all.  It was a hell of a lot of fun too, lest all this spirituality I’m spouting make it sound like myself and my friend were playing monks for the evening.  It’s impossible to say if it was so much fun because I experienced the much-vaunted detachment that is the goal of any worthwhile spiritual practice or if it was just because I was on fucking awesome drugs.

I can say with certainty what the point isn’t:  to try to convince anyone that LSD will cure one’s mental ills.  To me, it’s fairly evident that I was “ready” to learn what my depression was trying to teach me, and “God”/the universe/dumb fucking luck used LSD as a catalyst to bring about that eureka! moment that invariably accompanies any true apprehension of the nature of any abstraction.

In fact, I think the sort of mentality that would seek out a figurative magic pill that would sort their brain out for them is exactly the sort of mentality that would fare very poorly on this stuff.  It’s just not how it works.  It’s not how anything works.  There’s been bad days in the years since I took it.  Some very bad ones, actually, and all flanked with good ones, as it’s always been.  It has to be that way, because it’s the bad days that define the good days.  Nobody wants to believe that, including myself; we all have some thing in our hopes and daydreams that we just know will come along and sweep away the drudgery of quotidian existence, and thereafter all the days will be happy ones.  We wait for true love, plan to have children, gun alongside coworkers for that promotion as if we all wouldn’t just end up adjusting our lifestyles until we were just as tight financially as we are now.  Gamblers wait for the big win.  Artists of all stripes await their big break, and it’s folly, all of it is, every single bit.  True achievement is finding the joy in that drudgery.  It’s there.

Even after my experience, I can’t always find it.  But I compared acid flashbacks to a kiss earlier, and it still applies here.  You can’t recall a kiss unless you’ve kissed someone.  Once you have, with a little time and space and just enough peace to imagine, it’ll come back to you.  The way your lips tentatively and hesitantly met comes back.  The moment when all tentativeness and hesitation fell away and you melted into each other comes back.  That feeling of blissful panic, that knowing that if she were somehow snatched away from you now that you’d just fucking die comes back.  What doesn’t come back is the nervousness itself, the uncertainty; there’s only the recollection that they were once there, which brings with it nothing but laughter at how silly and unnecessary they were.  Whatever else happens, whatever else is lost or stolen or destroyed, whatever godawful cataclysms and depredations shake your ground, rain down from the skies or kick in your door, you can always bring it back to you.  It’s true for wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends and lovers, and it’s true for life itself too.  In fact, I coulda just said it was like kissing life itself and saved us all a lot of trouble.

My apologies for using the word quotidian; I am well aware that that sounds pretentious as all hell, thank you.  Apologies as well for taking so long between my last post and this one, should anyone actually care about the length of the interval.  Lastly, introspect.  A lot.  You can leave a strange place, quit a job you don’t understand and you can leave a lover rather than take the time to understand them, but if you are foreign to yourself, then you’ll be lost for every second of your life.