TMJ disorder is more debilitating than most people realize.
The one-sided headaches, pressure behind the eyes, jaw pain, fatigue - just getting through the day and doing normal tasks becomes a real slog.
When I look back at all the days where I felt so terrible, I start to realize that I’ve lost years of life enjoyment because of it that I’ll never get back.
For those who don’t suffer with TMJ or understand it, you may look at a sufferer of TMJ and think nothing’s wrong. You may think they’re just being a hypochondriac.
On the outside, a TMJ sufferer generally looks totally fine.
Often times, doctors can’t immediately identify the problem. You end up pushing for a bunch of tests which take months of your life as you go back and forth from test to scan to test to scan only to be told that you’re totally healthy every single time.
I went through stages thinking:
‘What if I have a brain tumor?’ ‘What if these are the early warning signs of a stroke?’.
Every time I had even the mildest pain in my body, I’d start Googling the symptoms and finding new possibilities.
After pushing my doctor repeatedly to find out what was wrong with me (before I knew it was TMJ), I even ended up at a neurologist who sent me for an MRI to check for multiple sclerosis!
Of course it all came back negative.
I was “fine” but this was not the answer I wanted to hear.
It wasn’t that I wanted to have some horrible neurological disease - I just wanted an answer as to why I felt like one half of my head was in a vice all the time.
All I needed was for somebody to say, “you’ve got TMJ disorder and here’s what you can do to fix it”.
I’ll never forget the day I first experienced TMJ pain
Up until my 26th birthday, I had never experienced a serious health issue in my life.
I only knew what it felt like to be totally healthy without a care in the world.
Perhaps because I had always been this healthy and without any physical issues, it was more of a shock to my system when I suddenly started to experience what I would later find out to be TMJ symptoms.
At that time, I had just started a demanding job that put me under a lot of stress and it was the first time in my life in fact that I had ever been in such physically draining employment.
I didn’t care because it paid well!
But eventually I hit a point where it was literally damaging my health.
One day I was walking to work, hadn’t slept well the night before and was highly stressed out about the situation at work that I was dealing with at the time.
For the first time that morning as I was walking down the road to work, I experienced my first severe TMJ headache.
Just behind my left eye.
I felt like someone was literally pressing on my eyeball with their finger.
As the hours progressed, it got so bad that it affected my vision and I experienced a migraine so bad that I left work for the doctor. He thought I was making it up.
I wish I was making it up!
I went home and took the following few days off. The symptoms subsided slowly but to this day ever since then, I’ve had to live with these symptoms on and off. I’ve had months at a time where day in and day out, I feel like something’s pressing on the back of my eyeball.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is something I’ve also had to live with (primarily on the same side as the eyeball pressure).
It’s amazing how life can change in one single instant.
You go from being healthy and carefree to constantly being aware of your physical condition.
Whatever’s stressing you - it’s just not worth it
I’m going to share my strategies for beating TMJ with you in upcoming posts (make sure to subscribe) but today I want to leave you with this obvious piece of advice:
Stress isn’t worth it.
TMJ may or may not be caused by stress but it is definitely exacerbated by stress.
It’s no coincidence that the first time in my life that I was hit was severe TMJ disorder symptoms was the first time I was under intense workplace stress.
If you’re suffering from TMJ and in a stressful environment, get out of it. If it’s a stressful job, quit and find another one even if it doesn’t pay as well.
Do whatever you can to change your circumstances.
Your life and health are worth far more than your career.
I ended up quitting that job to save my health.
The money was amazing sure but it wasn’t worth the damage it was doing to my well-being.