Just a few weeks ago, I had the chance to connect with a blog reader over the phone. She was a 4-year veteran of lupus, a successful entrepreneur, and doing her best to stay positive and upbeat about life with lupus.
Our conversation took place on an evening when she wasn’t feeling so well…her throat was terribly sore, and over the course of a few hours, she’d developed sores in her mouth and throat that were very painful. She was very concerned that the symptoms were progressing, and every time she went to the mirror to check their status, it seemed as if the sores were spreading and her throat was redder and rawer than the time before.
Oh, how I remember the constant (read: obsessive) visits to the bathroom to check the progress of my angioedema-ridden lips, a rash on my chest, or my swollen throat glands. It’s an awful feeling to know that your body is changing before your very eyes…and you can’t help but stay glued to a mirror so that you can track the transformation. I always thought it was helping my cause to visually monitor the progression…but you know what? My lips were going to swell whether I physically watched them double in size or not. It was out of my control, and the more I worried about it, the faster they’d swell (at least…that’s my opinion. I think my anxiety complicated the situation.) In fact, I found that the less I worried about them, the better. Once I realized that my lips were on their way to Botoxland, I’d make a pact with myself that I could only consult a mirror a certain number of times, like once an hour, or maybe two more times before bed. I did my best to take my mind off the swelling and that included visual confirmation. There was absolutely no benefit camping out in front of the mirror. It was bad karma, and it made me feel even worse about what was transpiring.
So, I shared my experience with my reader, and I hope she benefited from learning the error of my ways.
While I haven’t had any symptom worthy of a stream of mirror checks in awhile (knock on wood!), I did have some random pain on one side of my jaw recently. I woke up from a nap and noticed an odd ache in my mouth. It hurt so much so that I couldn’t chew anything or open my mouth more than a couple of inches. It only lasted a few hours (an evening and into the next morning), but I couldn’t help but obsess over the pain. I kept forcing my mouth opening, trying to see if the level of pain had changed. I tried massaging my jaw and flexing my face muscles, attempting to figure out exactly where the pain was coming from. I tried everything to monitor the progress of the pain – was it getting worse? Was it getting better? Was it spreading to the other side?
I realized after about an hour that it was time for a pact – no more jaw investigation. Just let it heal. If I was going to dole out suggestions to others on this very subject, I needed to follow my own advice. I needed to walk the walk and talk the talk. (Or actually, in this case, not talk the talk…because it hurt to do so.)
Once I took a step back and stopped obsessing, my evening pretty much returned to normal. And the next morning, the pain was gone. I’m still not sure what it was, but I’m glad I didn’t spend one more moment worrying about it. I could have worked myself up into quite a tizzy…but I didn’t. Score one for me!