A Week-Long “I Told You So!”

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I’m back from my unscheduled hiatus with a message: listen to your body, or it will make itself heard.

I’ve been the recipient of this very message three times over the course of the past week. I’m hoping evangelizing is all I need to do to allow my subconscious, or the universe, or whatever it is that’s brought me the aforementioned message to move on, and start beating another dead horse.

I took a break from posting to SMDS because I woke up on Friday with the beginning of a cold. In retrospect, this shouldn’t have been surprising. I had been experiencing the emotional and cognitive impacts of pain management for a week already. The more I told myself I was going to be okay, the less okay I got, until I was no longer sleeping. My doctor finally convinced me to make the switch to a narcotic pain killer. That my body was eventually going to tire of being on red alert 24/7 is kind of a no-brainer. We’re talking multiple layers of denial, here, folks.

Nevertheless, when I felt that oh-so-familiar tickle in my throat, I responded much the same way I responded to the realization that my pain had become unmanageable: I tried to think my way out of it.

Writing this post is an exercise in 20/20 hindsight. Thinking through the past week, the difference between positive thinking and willful ignorance seems really obvious. Looking at that tweet now, I feel like kind of a boob.

And I should. That Friday, I kept all my appointments, added some new ones to the docket (because why not?) and declared that if indeed I was to become sick, I would meet my virus head on! When I wasn’t out and about, overdoing it in every conceivable way, I was at home, cleaning my bedroom furiously… because who wants to board oneself up in a dirty room? I did all of this in spite of the fact that my doctor had already ordered me to stay in bed. By the time I went to bed Friday night, I was sick, tired, and hurting like crazy.

Four days and many medications later, I was on the mend, enough so that I felt I needed to keep my appointment with my dentist.

I have always prided myself on having great teeth. I’m almost thirty, but I’ve never had a cavity, despite a pretty epic diet soda addiction and chronic acid reflux. In a family where trips to the dentist are almost always accompanied by bad news, I’ve always been the golden child. Until a few weeks ago.

Yesterday morning, I went in to the dentist’s office to get the first two of three—count ‘em, three!—cavities filled. Interestingly enough, that’s a cavity for every year I blew off going to the dentist, on account of being far too busy being a graduate student. What a boob.

When it comes to going to the dentist I am a model patient, and getting these cavities filled was no exception. It was neither painful, upsetting, nor particularly inconvenient—the whole experience was actually kind of interesting. That said, walking out today with my lopsided smile, writing a check for a dental procedure I could have easily prevented… it was my own private walk of shame. A walk of shame accompanied by lots of sniffles, and a bit of a limp.

I’m really happy to (slowly) return to life as usual. That said, I’ve realized I need to make a really serious effort to pay closer attention to my body. Listen to your body, or it will make itself heard.  The price I’ve paid for denial has been a steep one, and I’m too stingy to pay it again.

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

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