Posts Tagged ‘braces’

A matter of metal

May 31, 2012

In the long, sad slog that has been my “adult braces experience,” today marks a turning point: It’s the last day I am required to wear my retainers full-time. My glee is tempered by the knowledge that I am not free to burn or flush said retainers — instead I’ve been advised to wear them nightly for the rest of my life.

I refuse to think about that right this minute. Instead, I am concentrating on how great it’s going to be to cruise through the days with no metal in my mouth — something I haven’t done since July 27, 2010, not that anyone’s keeping track. No more awkward removal of top and bottom appliances just to accept a fellow cyclist’s offer of an energy gel. No more constant refusal of snacks (which just aren’t worth the dental annoyance). No more incessant exploration of the alien metal in my mouth with a constantly worried tongue.

Come to think of it, I bet my number of migraines drops once I get to remove this perpetual source of irritation from my daylight hours.

In preparation for tomorrow’s unveiling, I have been practicing with the whole naked teeth idea for a few hours at a time. I went snorkeling this week, and opted to avoid having snorkel mouthpiece meet dental apparatus. And a couple of parties have seen me sans retainers as well.

I also chose not to wear them to my first gym workout since, um … December. I thought it would be hard enough getting back into the swing of weight lifting without that annoyance.

As to the reason for my long absence from the gym, let me hasten to explain. Strictly speaking, it was not my fault. (So few things are, I’ve discovered.)

My trainer, you see, opted to pursue different opportunities. (How dare he, right?) Anyway, his decision, coupled with a severe lack of funds on my part, led an extended couch potato session. It’s hard to see how I could have done anything differently in that situation.

In summary, June will see me back at the gym on a regular basis sporting a metal-less mouth that will undoubtedly be more inclined toward smiling. I’m betting the changes will ensure a great summer, one in which I finish the book.

Count on it!


Braces off!

December 8, 2011

It’s entirely fitting that the dismantling of the massive and extended construction job in my mouth was long and arduous. The tightly secured metal bands had to be wrenched from my back eight molars, the ceramic brackets on the rest of the teeth had to be shattered (their word, not mine) and the residue of glue required grinding. Yes. Grinding.

If you’re wincing at the description, let me assure you I was doing my own wincing and worse during the almost 2-hour removal appointment. For some reason, I hadn’t anticipated such a brutal unveiling. But I shouldn’t be surprised. The nastiness of shedding your metal shackles is just one more detail no one mentions when you start down the merry path of Braces Land.

My first clue that removal would be painful was when the dental assistant offhandedly informed me last week that if they loosened one of my crowns during the process, not to worry, because they would re-glue it.

What?? Crown?? Loosened? Really??

Maybe it’s just me, but I considered this an extremely alarming thing to hear. However, I willed my face to remain impassive. For some reason, I don’t like to appear weak in the dental chair, which is probably due to some ancient imperative about being strong in the face of your mortal enemies.

“Could you tell me a little bit about the removal process?” I calmly asked. Which is when I heard about how the ceramic brackets must be broken off your teeth; and as you might guess, the process makes it sound like your teeth are breaking. “Don’t worry; it’s just the ceramic shattering,” is your cheery assurance.

Pulling the 360-degree metal bands off my back molars was easier on my crowns than my natural teeth. First time I’ve been glad for the number of crowns I have. After a couple of the more stubborn ones, I just waved a hand at the girl to stop for a moment so I could collect myself and be out of pain long enough to let her tackle the next one. She frequently let me go brush my teeth and rinse during the process, which was a psychological relief as well as a physical one. Your teeth feel icky and your breath is bad immediately after the removal.

Finally came the polishing process, which made my teeth feel slick and normal again. Well, not normal. Because my teeth were beginning to slightly collapse inward, the orthodontist “opened up” my bite. So my front teeth now push outward a bit farther than before I got braces. Whenever I close my lips over my teeth now, the teeth feel big and fat because of their new angle.

My mouth has been out of bondage less than 48 hours, so my teeth are still sore. Weeks ago, I scheduled a celebratory caramel apple-eating date with two girlfriends today, but truth be told, I’m not sure my front teeth are ready for the festivities. Biting into an apple makes me feel like wincing, and I believe I’ve reached my quota of wincing this week.

So was the whole thing worth it?

Many people said once I ran my tongue over my smooth, straight teeth I would declare the process worthwhile and heave a sigh of satisfaction.

That hasn’t happened yet. Monday I go in for my retainers and the contouring process. (Did you know contouring is the polite word for grinding? Now you do.) I’m willing to be “contoured” because I can already feel high spots and unevenness developing in my bite, as things begin to settle in this post-braces phase.

As for the retainers, I was previously told they needed to be worn at night, but on Braces-Off Day I was informed that for the next six critical months I should wear them at all times except while eating. I guess one’s teeth are determined to head straight back to their incorrect, unhealthy, ingrained positions. Lovely genetic encoding we humans are subject to, what?

I don’t meant to sound so ungrateful. Of course I’m glad to be braces free. Ecstatic in fact. Brushing and flossing is now a genuine pleasure, instead of a source of disgust and dismay. And I’m delighted to have shaved six weeks off my projected estimate of 18 months in braces. I was wretchedly obsessive about wearing my bands and always chose the earliest date for each appointment, hoping to hurry my progress. It paid off. Having a natural smile at Christmas is worth a LOT to me.

But is all forgiven? Am I like a mother cuddling her newborn while blocking out the birth process?

Nope. Maybe in a week or a month. Not today.

From various things that dental assistants have said along the way, I have gathered that my mouth was a particular challenge. Most recently, while attaching some wire or another, one commented, “Oh, you’ve even got hooks on your back molars. My goodness, we’ve thrown everything at you! You’re having the full orthodontic experience!”

Such asides, euphemistic as they are, let me know my path to dental conformity has been thornier than some. Perhaps, my jaded outlook is partially due to that fact.

But mostly I just feel deceived. I can’t think of another process that I went into with such anticipation and dedication, where I was so completely blindsided by the experience’s negative aspects.

Disclosure, people. Yes, you’ll lose a few patients if you tell the truth. But dentists have got to do a better job of warning adults what they’re getting into when they say yes to braces.

And since I’m pretty sure they won’t — consider this me just doing my part.

Book? What book?

July 28, 2011

Yes, I realize it’s been some time since I blogged. Believe me, if I had amazing progress to report, I would have, you know, reported it.

Instead it’s been an unsettling, unproductive, nay depressing 4 weeks. Not to put too fine a point on it.

However! In the good news column: I finally got on the phone earlier this week and set up interviews for the chapter on 30 year olds. You just know the 30something ladies are going to have fascinating stories about desire and how the process of having a family figures into things. I feel eager to reengage with the book — and that’s a huge relief after my month of inertia.

Plus, I have a meeting with my book partner this Sunday, where I have pledged to have a revamped book proposal ready to show her. With Mo’s sign-off, I’ll send it to an agent (yes!) in New York who expressed interest in reading a full proposal.

This agent thing is quite an exciting little side story, actually.

I found this (well-known!) agent’s bio in a post about ThrillerFest, a summertime New York event which had an agent fest component. I showed it to Mo and she agreed the woman was a great fit with our book and suggested we consider flying up just to meet her. Because of the cost involved, I emailed the agent to ask if she was going to be appearing at any events closer to Florida or ones that were more up our alley than a gathering of thriller writers. (Not that our book won’t be thrilling, of course.) In that email to the agent, I included 3 or 4 sentences sketching the premise of our book.

Well, the agent emailed back quickly to say we shouldn’t make the trip solely to meet her, but that she’s interested in taking a look at our proposal online!

Awesome, yes? Very exciting.

Unfortunately my proposal needed massive revising and all this occurred just three days before my trip to Texas for Mom’s birthday, girls’ group gathering and a special memorial event I’d been planning for a while. Also, it happened about two hours before I got the phone call letting me know my friend Clarence was in the hospital with a stroke.

And that’s pretty much when things went off the track.

Dealing with my friend’s unexpected death was truly bad enough, but layered on top was Dental Nightmare No. 718: the dreaded cross-angled rubber band configuration the dentist delayed on my previous visit. At least I was prepared with a few days worth of pain reliever prescribed by my migraine doctor. (Guess what he ordered? Oxycodone. Yikes!)

Nevertheless, the pain was still so bad from the sharp hooks (which serve to “catch” the rubber bands), that I was pretty much unable to function for five days. By function I mean I couldn’t eat, couldn’t talk, couldn’t swallow — because all those movements require you to move your tongue, and each time I did that, it felt like a wasp was stinging my tongue. Truly awful. I finally returned to the dentist for an emergency visit, told the sweet young assistant on duty that something was terribly amiss, no one could possibly intend for me to be in this much pain and to please HELP ME.

She carefully studied my situation, restored the offending hooks to their neutral position and instead pulled out a different hook from the opposite side of the tooth, and then angled it downward in such a way that it didn’t pierce my tongue with each movement. I quit taking the oxycodone the next day (which had not alleviated the pain anyway) and began to feel like life was worth living again.

And those cross-bands on the back teeth weren’t the only bad news; I was assigned bands on my front teeth as well, encompassing two teeth on the top and two on the bottom on each side of my mouth. The rubber bands I wore at night on these teeth were so unyielding that I was almost unable to open my mouth while wearing them. Daytime bands were lax enough to allow speech. For this I assume I was to be grateful.

For anyone who’s counting (I was!), this all meant that a total of 12 of my teeth were constantly being adjusted by rubber bands for an interminable 4 weeks. I was not a happy camper.

Fortunately, that particular era of torture ended yesterday; I am now back to two fairly standard rubber bands in a new configuration. Even so, I feel marked by the previous miserable month, perhaps because I was simultaneously experiencing grief over my friend’s death. I feel like a soldier who’s too wrung out to offer any further resistance. My last impulse to fight has drained away. I can’t win against these braces and nothing I do seems to make it easier. I just want it over with.

From here, six months feels like a long time, ya’ll.

16 shots to the head

June 30, 2011

Every three months I get Botox treatments from my neurologist (a wicked smart man I greatly admire), in an effort to reduce the migraine headaches I’ve enjoyed since about age 40. The good news is that he’s down to using one vial instead of two for each session; the bad news is that means I still got 16 shots in my head today.

Actually, I’ve become fairly inured to the process, and as unpleasant as I find shots to be on any part of my anatomy, the stings and pricks of the needles on my neck and hairline don’t bother me much if I take a Xanax a bit prior to the procedure. That one little pill keeps my anxiety in check and relaxes me enough to not tense up with each warning of “a little stick.”

June brought only 3 migraines this year; a look at my records shows I had 6 in June last year, 7 in July. Many of last year’s migraines were multi-day affairs, returning for extended runs despite my desire to create “one pill only” experiences. This spring, almost all my headaches have been banned with one pill, so that’s another improvement.

Because of my progress, I start each month optimistic and happy, convinced I can get down to 1 migraine … or 2. Or none! But weaning my brain away from the ingrained patterns that lead to migraines is tricky business. Though I once experienced 4 weeks migraine-free, I haven’t been able to repeat that feat.

Maybe in July. Maybe this will be the month. Actually, it’s easy to see why June was not the month when I could post zero migraines. I was racing to finish my chapter on the 70 year olds in three weeks so I could go on vacation to Texas guilt-free. And I did, but it was a rushed process and I felt the stress. Then there were tense days in the hospital when my beloved friend Clarence Clemons suffered a stroke. And the sad trip back from Texas for his memorial service when the stroke proved fatal, despite our optimistic hopes after the first 3 days. An almost-immediate return to Texas followed, to complete a vacation somewhat altered (but still very special) to honor my mom and my niece on their shared birthday.

Since I frequently will get migraines from the altitude of airline trips or the jumbled schedules they cause, it’s no surprise that one of my June headaches was directly attributable to those factors.

But you know what? Three is NOT BAD, people! Not considering my history and not considering the stressors that cropped up in the past 30 days. So I’m declaring the month an improvement migraine-wise.

And though my habit is to start each month delighted with the clean slate and hoping to keep it that way, I’m having trouble with that tonight. That’s because tomorrow I have a dental appointment and I have this terror that they will try to install cross angle rubber bands again. The attempt was made last month, but my tongue shredded on the rubber band hooks in just hours, and the effort was abandoned. I’m praying my dentist has suffered amnesia since our last meeting, and no longer feels the need to recommend such a drastic procedure for my tortured mouth.

Please join me in this harmless prayer. My mouth thanks you.

A month without migraines

March 19, 2011

It happened.

For the first time in 15 years I went a whole month without a migraine headache. In fact, I’m approaching the six-week mark. My last headache was Feb. 7, and although I’ve had two or three days with aura, no migraine developed.

I know. Can you believe it?

I almost can’t. I go along and live my life, do the things I always did — but I don’t spend all that time sick, and fighting being sick and wondering when the sick feeling will end and then wondering when it will come back. Now that I don’t accommodate all that pain and suffering, I wonder how I was able to find space for it.

See, there’s all this time now. Every single morning is a morning when I can get up and start my day thinking about breakfast and work and exercise and errands and accomplishments. And I have slid into this world so quickly and easily that now I fear any return to the old ways, when mornings were all about whether or not it was going to be a migraine day and if so, how to adjust.

I saw my neurologist this week for my quarterly Botox migraine shots (ugh) and when I told him I’d finally assembled a successful arsenal of defense weapons against my headaches, he said he liked that image. I said I believed both the braces and cranial sacral work were contributing factors, and he agreed, calling the latter physical therapy. (His acceptance of alternative medicine is one of many reasons he remains my hero.)

The bad news is that a few weeks of success isn’t enough for him to recommend I stop taking Lyrica, the anti-convulsant I began taking in August as a migraine preventive. (You see ads for it on TV for fibromyalgia patients; it’s used much more rarely for migraine sufferers.)

I dislike taking medicines longer than I need to, and this one brought along the unwanted side effect of a solid tire that now sits around my waist, mocking my efforts to banish it. I am hopeful that once I stop these meds, I can lose the inches, but we’ll have to wait and see. My fear is that by the time I get off Lyrica, the tire will be entrenched and immovable, mine to enjoy for a lifetime.

Sigh. One thing at a time.

The braces are surely helping to reduce migraines as well, and now that I’m into my eighth month, I understand why the dental specialist said, “you underestimate the mess you’ve got going on in your mouth.”

Boy, did I. My whole structure — top and bottom teeth — was tilted inward, not outward. And reversing that is like turning a river: nothing about it is easy. The rubber bands I’ve now had for a month are pulling individual teeth up out of their sockets, creating uneven surfaces where my back molars were once smooth. I know they’ll all even back out later in the process, but meanwhile … ARGH!

To review: almost 2 years of quarterly Botox injections, 8 months of Lyrica, cranial sacral work and a massive braces project. These are the most recent (and most successful) weapons I unleashed against my migraines.

Big guns indeed, and they do bring their own messy side effects. But the results are worth it. Life without migraines is an unbelievable joy.

Next week: Book update, I promise, filled with fun stuff teenagers told me during their interviews about sexual desire.

Less talk; same amount of dental misery

February 17, 2011


I had this moment of revelation during my Christmas vacation in Texas. I was riding in the car with my sister, expounding on some minute detail of the misery I was enduring due to my braces, grateful beyond words for the chance to truly just whine to my hearts’ content, secure in the knowledge that my own flesh and blood would never get sick of my laments, would not stop loving me or even roll their eyes, because, you know — FAMILY.

But at length I glanced over and something in my extremely tactful sister’s face suddenly broke through my self-absorption. It wasn’t that she showed any disapproval or weariness or even lack of sympathy. But I somehow knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was taking unfair advantage of her love. Its effect on me was immediate: “Enough,” I told myself.

I am not a New Year’s resolution maker. But that very day, I vowed privately to talk less about my braces in 2011 than I did in 2010.

It has been remarkably easy to do. My secret has been to not bring it up myself; to wait for others to ask.

Guess what? Almost no one asks. Beloved friends and family apparently are able to live their lives and sleep soundly at night without daily updates of my dental travails.

Shocking as you may find this, it has its upside, which is that I am More Pleasant To Be Around. I mention this so that if you live nearby, and have been avoiding me during this unsavory episode of my life, you may now be assured the coast is clear. Feel free to call me for lunch, get togethers, etc. The danger is past.

I am able to proclaim this new and improved attitude with confidence because even time in my orthodontist’s chair today has not dampened my spirits. When I can bounce back this quickly, I know I’ve turned a corner. This morning, my former heavy-duty wires gave way to a new set of heavy duties, and I was shown how to use rubber bands for the first time. Yes. Apparently the metal bands have shifted my teeth enough that now it is time to begin moving my jaw. Which the rubber bands can purportedly do. (Don’t ask me how this happens; frankly, it seems impossible.)

So far there’s not much pain, though I was warned that headaches for a few days are common while the jaw adjusts to the new pressure. I don’t get regular headaches, I get migraines, so this isn’t good news. But I remain obstinately cheery. Perhaps because overall, my migraines are still VASTLY lower in number during the last 3 months than at any other time in the past 15 years. And I believe that part of my relief (not all) is due to the easing of pressure on my lower jaw, which the braces have facilitated.

That improvement is one big reason why it’s easier this year to refrain from mentioning my dental misery. Because truthfully, after more than 6 months in braces, I’m still aghast at how pervasive the discomfort in my mouth is, how chronic my problems with talking and eating. But when asked how I’m adjusting, “I hate them,” is enough. I leave it at that and don’t embellish.

(Nevertheless, grateful shout-out to Mom for pressing for details last week, even after I explained to her that I was trying to avoid the subject. “But I’m asking,” she said. Sweeeet! Ten minutes of guilt-free peevishness immediately followed.)

In other news, book progress has been slow this week, though I had a marvelous interview with a teen on Saturday. She was articulate, mature and loving; I was enchanted. The encounter reminded me that I’m beyond fortunate to be working on a book that engages my passion and imagination so completely.

Next time: More on the book, less on the braces. (Broke my own rule, didn’t I? Because you didn’t ask.)

Procrastination prevails

December 11, 2010

It’s hard for me to blog when I don’t feel proud of myself. My vanity compels me to wait until I’m on an upswing of energy and confidence, at which time I enjoy enthusiastically posting my achievements and plans.

Not so today. I’ve had an icky, unproductive two weeks with very little book progress to report. Instead I have been doing everything but: cleaning the condo, trying to get a new screen door, buying and wrapping and mailing Christmas presents, catching up with friends I haven’t talked to in a while, addressing Christmas cards, working out, meeting with my financial adviser, celebrating Hanukkah with friends, reading, doing the crossword, you name it.

Ugh. I’m so annoyed with myself. Everyday I say it’s going to be different and every day I get up and find a million things to do that are NOT writing. At least I did a long-awaited interview with an intriguing 82-year-old woman at my condo for four hours last weekend — she’d been waiting a long time for someone to ask about her sexual history and it took perhaps more time than it needed to for her to share. But check that off.

And I had a productive one-on-one session with my computer teacher to make heads and tails of the survey statistics which are now in the computer. Plus, I have another session scheduled in two days. So check that off as well.

But the writing — ugh. I’ve been working on one chapter forever, alternately making progress and bogging down. After thrashing it out with a writer friend two nights ago, I decided to give it up for now and move on. I need certain interviews to be able to complete it, and I’m just not getting them, so I’m going to let it go and move on to chapters dedicated to each decade in women’s lives. I’m going to trust that in the interviews for those segments, the women I need to complete the troublesome chapter will surface.

Tomorrow I have a session with my book-writing partner, and that will help too. She is hugely inspiring and always makes me feel competent — which I could use a dose of right about now. It would be such a boost to have a week of enervating productivity before I head to Texas for the Christmas vacation.

Because guess what? It’s highly unlikely I’ll get anything done on the book during the two weeks I’m out of town. It’s nice to tell myself I’ll find some quiet pockets of time to write and be creative, but come on. How likely is that? If I discover a solitary hour when I’m in Austin with all my family and pals and distractions, I’m way more likely to log on to Facebook than devote myself to the difficult task of writing.

OK., I’ve done it. Posted a blog about my weakness of character and pathetic procrastination. Turns out it feels every bit as demoralizing as I expected. Perhaps I will be galvanized to write just to avoid such humiliating posts in the future.

The good news I can share is that my migraines are still in retreat — which is HUGE as anyone who knows me can attest. I’ve had one bad spell, around Thanksgiving, with two headaches in five days. Since I’ve been headache free ever since, I’m wondering if perhaps that episode was the result of an inflamed ulcer that pretty much took over my mouth for a week after new bands were added to my braces the Monday before Thanksgiving. The wires on one of the bands were so sharp they tore up my cheek in moments, so of course I used wax to cover the offending band. But when I removed the wax to eat meals, my mouth would get dug up again. After three days, I just began leaving the wax in while I ate. Only twice did I end up swallowing it; a small price to pay because the ulcer finally healed.

Have I mentioned that braces are a giant pain? I feel the need to point that out, because if I’ve only said it a thousand times, it’s NOT ENOUGH.

The saving grace? The movement of my top front teeth means they no longer are shoving my jaw back. And that’s a good thing for migraine control. But have you noticed? It’s all this bizarre circle where the reason for the braces is to banish migraines and maybe they do but they also cause mouth trauma which in turn can cause migraines which negates the effect in the first place!

It takes someone smarter than me to figure out the sum of all the totals.

Meanwhile, I’ll be here. Slogging through this unproductive period and anticipating an upswing. When it arrives, I’ll share my achievements via blog and release you from the task of a) feeling sorry for me or b) wondering why I don’t quit whining and get my ass in gear.

Me, I’m in the ‘b’ camp.

What would normal look like?

November 13, 2010

It’s scary for me to write this blog, but I’m going to take a leap of faith and pray I don’t get punished for being optimistic — because, believe me, it’s happened before.

It would seem — after roughly 16 years of battling hormone-related migraine headaches — that I’ve finally assembled the combination of factors required to vanquish them. If you’ve ever had one migraine and felt the despair of watching your day’s agenda slip away into dull pain, you know how joyful I feel to be within reach of reclaiming my life.

In my worst periods, I have treated headaches up to 18 and 19 days each month, but things settled down some after menopause, and I was down to 5 or 6 a month, and they were treatable with a single pill.

However, this spring, those monthly headaches began recurring for 2 and 3 days, and finally my number of sick days was simply too much. You know how it is; you make up excuses about why the status quo is acceptable until suddenly it’s not OK anymore. I was tired of feeling ambushed mid-morning by the dull throbbing pain behind my left eye, and the defeat I felt every time I took my relief meds was torture.

So I told my neurologist I was ready to try another preventive drug (besides the Botox which I’ve been doing for 9 months). It’s been 4 or 5 years since I took a preventive (Depacote) and it was pretty much a flop. I gained 20 pounds, lost about a third of my hair and had the same number of migraines as always.

This time we tried Lyrica, the drug you see on TV commercials to treat fibromyalgia. I think they mention 784 possible side effects in the ad, and another 1472 are listed on the information sheet you are issued with the purchase of this drug. Depressing and intimidating, to say the least.

BUT … BUT … BUT! It is working for me! I started taking it at the end of March, which is also the time I got the braces. I figured the hammering in my mouth would bring on migraines, which helped me take the leap and start the Lyrica. But in fact, I believe the dental work is actually contributing to the decrease in headaches. I don’t clench as much and, most importantly, my front teeth have been shoved forward, so they’re no longer forcing my back teeth and jaw into my neck.

In the past dozen years, I’ve never gone a month without multiple migraines. But in October, I had only 2, neither of which recurred. This month, I’ve had just 1 headache (and I brought it on myself; ugh; say no more; say no more).

I’m even losing the feeling of aura that so often haunted my days, making me wonder if a headache was lurking. Instead, I’m clear and focused day after day. (I have lost some hair and I’m struggling to maintain my weight, but the scary side effects like seizures, heart problems and suicidal depression have stayed far away.)

The Lyrica and my braces are two pieces of the three-pronged approach that is finally working. I also began cranial sacral work in mid September. I investigated having it done at Palm Beach Gardens’ Upledger Institute years ago when I was writing a piece on migraines for the newspaper, but it became too complicated. A friend said she’d been trying to find a good practitioner for years and finally one had moved to town.

So I took the leap and made an appointment. My first experience with cranial sacral therapy was a shock: I expected someone to physically massage my head and instead experienced more of a vision quest. There’s very little touching, and the goal is balance — but it’s like you subconsciously do the work yourself.

If it sounds flaky, so be it. I’m willing to concede that my subconscious may be a lot more powerful than I gave it credit for. After just a couple of sessions, I feel calm and … well … balanced. I don’t know how that can be; I just know migraines are no longer throwing my life out of kilter day after day. They aren’t in control. It feels like sanity has been restored, like maybe I’m the captain of this ship and capable of charting a true course for wherever I want to go.

It is truly an horizon-expanding experience for me: to warily step up to the controls of my life and accept that I can be free of migraines and the toll they’ve taken. It’s a step I desperately want to take, but I’m also afraid. I’ve tried So. Many. Things. to beat back my headaches. How can I trust that this will be the one time it all comes together?

I can’t, of course. But I will anyway.

What else can I do? I’m an optimist, after all.

It’s what we do.

Sex, sex, sex

October 24, 2010

Sorry for the sensationaistic headline, but, well, it’s true.

My whole life these days revolves around sex — and not because I’m having any personal experience, but that’s a different post.

The survey results about women’s sexual desire are in and we’ve gleaned some basic statistics. (For instance, we surveyed 27 teenagers, 11 women in their 90s, 771 married women and 95 widows.) But because the survey questions were open-ended and difficult to quantify, as of yet I don’t have the juicy stuff, i.e. how many women mentioned kissing as something that stimulates their desire or what percentage of women say rushing to intercourse is the one thing they wish their partner would NOT do.

I talked to my statistics guru about this today and and he explained the need to turn our qualitative answers into easy-to-read categories. It seems I need expanded spreadsheets for each of our 6 questions.

Soooo. I have more work to do.

But that’s fine! I’m totally energized for the task.

Mostly that’s because I had a highly motivating work session a week ago with Maureen Whelihan, my book partner. (If you knew her, you’d see why; she’s super upbeat.) She loved the intro I’d written, which was lovely to hear, but more importantly, we talked about voice in the book. Our conversation and her comments gave me confidence and in general freed me up creatively.

As a result, I’ve spent the week crafting a chapter tentatively titled “A Day With the Doctor,” where I set the stage for what Dr. Mo’s patients experience on a typical visit. (Hint: She asks her patients if they’re having sex, and if so, is it good?) Plus, this is the chapter where I have inserted all the surprising details about how minimal the training is for gynecologists when it comes to sexuality. A study of medical school curriculum in North America on sexual health showed that 61 percent of schools offer less than 10 hours (!!) of study in this subject.

What? Aren’t they supposed to be experts? No wonder physicians and specifically gynecologists are hesitant to bring up sexuality with their patients! Their education didn’t help them overcome whatever prejudices, hang-ups or fears about sexuality they carried into adulthood. Until the majority of doctors are able to have knowledgeable, non-judgmental conversations about sexual function with their patients, women will continue their frustrating quest for reliable, accessible information in this arena.

OK. Climbing down from my soap box now. Let’s see if I can pull myself back on topic.

Oh yes. Overall the book is progressing very well. Dr. Mo and I agreed to talk on the phone for update meetings every 2 weeks and we set our next work session 4 weeks out. This is very motivating for me and breaks tasks down into manageable bites. I definitely feel more organized and productive.

In related news, I’m approaching the 3-month marker for having the braces on, and I still despise them. I never forget they are there, never find anything to like about them and never fail to be annoyed by them. I am, however, resigned. I had two more bottom teeth banded last week and will be given the dreaded spacers soon to make room for more bands on my upper molars. I’m afraid to ask the dentist how many teeth will be banded before this nightmare ends. I reserve the right to take to my bed for a month if the number tops 10.

But maybe a women writing a book about female sexual desire shouldn’t use expressions such as “take to my bed for a month.”

Note to self: Be sensitive.

Progress on all fronts

September 21, 2010

As the dog days of this Florida summer draw to a close, I’m moving into a whole new phase of my book project. Yes! Data entry is finally complete and chapter writing begins.

But first: An interruption for dental news of the most exciting level. The turbos are already off!

It’s true. The nasty metallic spikes glued to the back of my two front teeth — which were installed to keep my top teeth from scraping the braces off my bottom teeth — are gone. I had thought the turbos and I would be intimate pals for 6 months, but a blessed reprieve occurred. Last week, on a quick trip to the dentist to reattach a loose bracket, Iris asked if I’d like to get the full adjustment the we had scheduled for the following week. A no brainer for me. Anything to speed up the process.

So when the dentist wheeled over, I of course wanted to know exactly when the turbos were coming off, because I had a big-time party to plan for the day those intruders were removed. I might have also indicated that I was not amused by said turbos’ unpleasant influence during the previous six weeks.

To answer my question, the dentist told Iris to check my back teeth with that tracing-paper-like stuff they use to get ink on your teeth — you know what I’m talking about, right? And she does the test on both sides and tells the dentist it looks like my teeth are OK and the turbos can come off. “You’re not just saying that so she’ll quit whining, are you?” asked my jovial dentist.

“Let me assure you,” I broke in, “I have not yet BEGUN to whine to the extent that I’m capable of when it comes to these turbos. I have saved that particular joy for my family and friends — and those intrepid readers who follow my blog.”

Despite my surly attitude, a closer examination by Mr. Dentist revealed that my front teeth have actually moved forward enough ALREADY to avoid the lower teeth, although little rubber “bumpers” were fastened to four bottom teeth for good measure. (The clearance is still too close for comfort; thus the friendly bumpers, which are actually kind of fun to moosh my top teeth against cause they’re bouncy.)

Needless to say, my life took an immediate turn for the better. Iris said the turbos would come off in 30 seconds, but that getting the glue off the back of my teeth would take much longer. She was right; that glue was more like cement. But so what? Turbos were off! I left the dentist elated.

The fretfulness I felt from the awkwardly placed spikes disappeared, the constant soreness of my tongue was gone in 24 hours and the necessity of disentangling food from the turbos after every single bite of food was over. Hallelujah indeed.

Thus, I was able to turn my attention to much more rewarding pursuits and wrapped up the data entry phase. Only a dozen surveys remain to be added to the spreadsheet, and they await missing information from my book partner, Mo. Meanwhile, I’ve gone back into my book proposal to update it with solid information about what we learned from the surveys, replacing the speculative statements I wrote before the numbers were in.

But I don’t want to spend too much time there. I’m itching to get into chapter writing, and interviewing the 6 or 7 women from each decade who will “represent” for their age group. Because we have the largest representation from women in their 40s and 50s, I’m considering doing more interviews from those decades, and perhaps only 3 or 4 from the teens and 90s. There seems to be so much to learn from mid-life women about what does and doesn’t stimulate desire.

More to come about these fascinating women. But first, a short trip to Texas — because I seem to have this thing for states where the summer drags on forever.