There are many lessons in life that we can only learn through experience, and I feel like life has a way of surprising us all the time with the things we least expect — good or bad.
What I learned in the week of my wisdom teeth extraction was one of the best and unexpected life lessons I have probably ever been graced with. Now I know why they call them “wisdom” teeth.
Recovery comes in different forms, but it follows the same process, no matter if the pain is physical or emotional. Recovering from my wisdom teeth extraction became a symbolic process mirroring my ever slowly healing heart. What I learned surprisingly, was that recovering from a broken heart is much like recovering from losing wisdom teeth.
The first day after the loss of your wisdom teeth, much like the first day after being dumped or breaking off a relationship, is marked with the feeling of complete numbness. No pain. No real emotions. Nothing. Your body is numb from the medication and also from producing its own defense against the pain it was feeling. The reality of what just happened hasn’t come crashing down yet; your feelings are eluding you. The first day is like a lucid dream, and you go about the day wondering if it really happened…if it was real…and if it would stay like this permanently. You go through the normal motions as if it was a regular day, but you find it difficult to do those motions without feeling empty, without feeling some sort of numbed pain and difficulty. There’s something missing that you’re not willing to face.
By the second day, you wake up like a truck had just run over your body. The emotions are slowly seeping into your consciousness, but you rely on the medication to continue to numb the pain, much like people deny themselves of the reality and make believe that what just happened wasn’t real or that it was all just a phase that will get resolved soon. You find your tongue trying to feel the space where your teeth once were, much like people try to run back and grasp any sense of normalcy out of fear of the unknown, out of fear of feeling the loss. Trying to go back to how things once were even if it’s now hollow, empty, and forever changed. You try to fight back the reality of the loss. Eating the same as you would when your wisdom teeth still existed. Trying to find ways to reach out to the person you were once with. But the end result is the same — you feel the sharp pain of the loss, even if you refuse to accept the facts of the evident changes.
By the third day, you begin to grasp the reality – that this is going to be permanent; this is going to be life from now on. You continue to medicate yourself as prescribed but secretly you’re thankful that you have something to numb the pain, to save yourself from feeling for just another day. You shelter and enclose yourself from everyone and everything because they all remind you of the very thing that is hurting you. You know the reality, but you’re too in shock from it all. It’s still surreal. It’s still like a bad dream to you so you shut yourself out into a bubble where you don’t have to accept it, where you don’t have to feel it.
As the fourth day comes, you begin to realize that the medication isn’t needed anymore, yet you still take it, afraid of the consequences if you don’t numb it. Afraid of what you might feel and how you will act. Afraid of the unknown.
But as you take it needlessly, you feel its harmful effects — the dizziness, the headaches, the constant need to sleep. You realize that it’s harmful for you to continually numb yourself and shelter yourself; to suppress the emotions that are trying to let themselves out. You break down because now the numbness is hurting you, so you have no choice but to let the pain seep in. You realize that that’s all you can do. Because what was lost, won’t come back. What was lost, won’t and can’t be brought back to how it was before. All you can do is feel the loss. Feel the pain of the memories. Feel the soreness, heaviness, and bruises burdening your body.
The consecutive days after this realization go by like a blur. You go through your days as a zombie, searching for something to make you feel like normal again. But you aren’t entirely there. You want to be better already. You get frustrated and angry at how you aren’t better, at how you can’t act like everyone else still. You want things to be alright again. You want to eat normally without having to chew with just your front teeth, without having to mash your food, or cut it into microscopic bits. But no matter how you try and how much you wish, you aren’t completely yourself just yet.
But slowly, as more time and days pass, you start beginning to feel like yourself again, eating the things you used to, how you used to. However, the scars still hurt you every so often. The pain comes back to you as the memories and old habits flood back with the enactment of the actions you used to do and with the visitation of the places you used to go to. The things you used to do still can’t be done without reminding you of what used to be, but you have gained enough strength to do them again despite that.
And then one day, it’ll happen.
There’s not going to be some grand sign, balloons, confetti, or a red carpet, but merely a light bulb turned on inside your mind. It’s simply a realization of what is and what has been. On that one day, you’ll wake up and realize that you’re getting better. That the pain you initially felt was fading.
You are healing.
One day, you’ll realize that you can do all the things you used to and while the memories of the past may still haunt you from time to time, you’ll discover new things that make the present and the future worthwhile. The heaviness in your heart will chip off, just like the stitches from the wisdom teeth surgery will dissolve in time.
For when you stop thinking, obsessing, and yearning for the process of healing is when the process of healing actually starts.
You’ll learn that the pain you endured was for the best… that the pain was to protect you from something that could have been worse if it had not been removed at that point in time.
No matter how deep the wound, how sharp the pain, it’ll heal. You’ll recover. It only varies in the amount of time the recovery takes, but it will get better.
You won’t think of it as a loss forever, it’ll eventually become a lesson learned.