This morning, I awoke gritting my teeth as usual. I hugged an imaginary baby-Wendy and my jaw relaxed. It’s ok, baby, I told her, you’re safe. I believe that the gritting (what is called broxing) began during my surgery for pyloric stenosis as an infant. Gritting certainly makes sense if I had not had anesthesia, which indeed I may not have had in 1952. I have broxed all my life, and no dentist has ever helped me make sense of it. On the contrary, many dentists have blamed me for wearing down my teeth to the point of cracking my molars. Bearing down, clenching my teeth seems like a reasonable response to not only unbearable pain but the terror that one might literally split apart.
Then, making my bed, I had a PTSD moment. In tossing a throw pillow onto my bedspread, it reversed and the white of the pillow showed through the slit in the center of the pillow case. I gasped inwardly, a subtle response. There was my belly split after the operation. There I was, open and vulnerable. I rushed to the pillow and flipped it quickly over. How many of these moments have I experienced unawares over a lifetime? Understanding these types of responses, from the subtle to the more obvious, gives me back power over my life.