When I was first diagnosed with Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) – I was relieved. Finally, I could get on with feeling better.
Boy, was I wrong…
The hardest part of living with an invisible illness is realising that no one will ever understand the daily struggles you face.
Chronic illness is more than just constant pain – it’s an endless cycle of anxiety, disappointment, insomnia, tears, and nausea-inducing pain meds.
It’s the overwhelming disappointment when a treatment doesn’t work. It’s learning to take time off and rest when you need to. It’s dealing with disapproving relatives, co-workers, and friends who just don’t understand. It’s dealing with disapproving doctors who think you’re just trying to get a codeine prescription. It’s dozens of tests, thousands of dollars wasted, and a whole lot of anger and exhaustion.
In 2014, the stress of the HSC was starting to take its toll on me, physically and psychologically. I was a nervous wreck and my body was copping the brunt of my anxiety.
During the day, I was clenching my teeth, leading to head-splitting migraines and searing facial pain. Nights were little better: I suffered night terrors and as a result, I was grinding my teeth so forcefully that it was audible from the next room.
As exams started, my jaw physically locked shut. I couldn't open my mouth any wider than 2cm. Eventually, I resorted to a soft food diet – say goodbye to chewing gum, steak, or anything remotely chewy. I was eating like an elderly lady in a nursing home.