Over the many years I’ve been alive, I’ve discovered and dealt with many allergies — from the milk formula I had as a baby, to a period in my prepubescent years where my parents had to put me on a prophylactic medicine because they couldn’t figure out what I was allergic to, to learning I could never fearlessly eat shrimp, crab, or lobster again. In medical-speak, I’m “atopic”, which means my body reacts to small allergens in a big way. They’ve always been rather temporary incident, however, and I’m thankful to God that I’ve never had to undergo desensitization because the things I’m allergic to are easily avoidable.
The past two weeks, though, I’ve had to deal with a new allergy. It’s not one that has me scratching at hives, or struggling to breathe, as in previous instances. It’s not even an allergy that’s immediately visible.
Not many of you know that I grind my teeth while I sleep. To keep my teeth from grinding down to a pulp (eww!), my dentist had a mouthguard custom-made for me. In order to keep it from becoming a harbor for bacteria (another eww!), the manufacturers treated it with an antibacterial agent.
The first month I had that mouthguard, I had nightmares regarding teeth falling out, but I reasoned that it had something to do with my brain adjusting to having something in my mouth while I slept. Now that I think about it, though, it might have been my subconscious telling me there was something wrong with that mouthguard; my body had started reacting in small ways to the material it was made of and/or the antibacterial agent it was treated with, until it finally could take no more.
Two Mondays ago, I woke up with swelling in my gums and my mouth’s inner lining, and my tongue felt burnt. I initially thought it had come from using a strong breath spray. It was so bad that I couldn’t chew or swallow anything solid without pain. I stopped using my mouthguard and waited for my mouth to heal, which it did by last Sunday. In the back of my mind, though, I had a nagging suspicion that the swelling had something to do with my mouthguard, since all the areas that had swollen had been in contact with it.
Last Tuesday evening, I put the mouthguard back in for the first time. Four hours later, when I woke up early Wednesday morning, the swelling was back. I knew then that it was an allergy. It was so bad that I had to take two corticosteroid tablets, and people thought I’d undergone collagen lip injections. (LOL!) And then began another cycle of being unable to eat. But since the second allergic reaction happened so close to the first one, it was even worse this time around. Even drinking water to moisten my tongue brought tears to my eyes, and talking was definitely out of the question. It got to the point where I actually began wondering if my mouth would ever return to normal.
I woke up this morning with the pain lessened just a bit, so I know the worst is over — and I’m never using that mouthguard again!
You may wonder, why would God allow me to go through the whole painful experience twice in a row? And why couldn’t this allergy be dealt with as painlessly as the previous ones?
Well, I do believe it was no coincidence. I work with words for a living, but sometimes I don’t realize how powerful speech is. Due to my enforced silence, I’ve realized a new economy of words. I’ve learned how much of my side of a conversation could be pointless or unproductive or just hampers other people from speaking their minds. I’ve also learned to listen more, and that it’s okay not to have to entertain people with “witty” yet fruitless conversation that, at its worst, is a series of sarcastic put-downs. Let’s not waste words, but instead use them to encourage, inform, and empower each other.
If I learn this lesson well, my pain for the past two weeks will not be for nothing. Ü