"It hurts so bad," I screamed, throwing back the sweat soaked covers and bolting upright in bed. My heart sank when I glanced at the clock, and it read 1:21 AM. The night seemed endless.
"Still your tooth? "Marc mumbled, half asleep but trying to be supportive.
"Yes, I can't take this anymore," I moaned as I got up and headed toward the med cabinet for yet another handful of Advil that was already ripping at my stomach lining. "This is hell."
For the past three weeks, I have been struggling with tooth pain. A recently filled cavity, turned into a root canal that needed a crown, ultimately morphing into a sinus infection. I've been subsisting on a diet of Advil and antibiotics while my dentists and endodontist have drilled, poked and scraped away. Even as I write, there is still a dull ache that makes me nervous to chew on the left side of my mouth. I do not trust that the pain will not return.
I take meticulous care of my teeth. Dental checkups every six months, flossing nightly, brushing with the timed beeps of my electric toothbrush. Recently, I even gave up Tootsie Rolls because they were not helping my anti-cavity cause. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to repair damage that years of starving myself has created, but, as my dentist has gently explained, some damage cannot be undone.
There have been moments these past few weeks when my head has ached from pain and my stomach rolled from all the medication that I let myself wander down the well-worn path of regret—replaying the "if only's" that threaten to muck up my positive mojo and toy with my recovery. If only I had not allowed myself to starve my body for so many years. If only I didn't ignore the warnings of doctors that I was forcing my body to use itself as fuel, my bones, my muscles, and yes, my teeth. If only I focused more on taking care of my insides and cared less about my outside appearance. If only I had the balls to have stopped the anorexic behaviors every time I promised myself I would.
But the reality is, I didn't. And there are consequences to that. Sometimes I forget about adverse outcomes because despite what I put my body through, right now, I am healthy. My body is strong. I have regained muscle and have been able to arrest further bone loss with proper diet and strength training. My hormones are online, my relationship with my husband is solid. I have a fulfilling career and friends whom I adore. And man, my boys, there are no words to express how grateful I am for the fun, loving (although at times, exasperating) relationship we have now. Every year I maintain recovery, the despair of living with anorexia becomes dimmer, and more distant.
But this past month has served as a reminder that I did not come through the disease unscathed. There are residual effects of anorexia that will leave an imprint on my life forever. Maybe the recovery Gods know something I don't. Perhaps they sent this difficult tooth issue to remind me to stay on the right path, to take care of myself, and to take nothing for granted. Because the reality is, the consequences of my anorexia could have been much, much worse.