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Teeth Grinding

Lauren Justice

Oh, I feel continuously more sick. I don’t recall when it began, my now enduring anxiety: that my body and mind are doomed and are festering and hurtling towards self-destruction. Not unraveling but wringing itself tighter and then tighter still so the unbearable tension on the threads will snap them until enough go that it loses integrity and the whole thing comes apart. When it comes apart it will not be easy or painless, by nature of the tension the torn ends will diverge with nothing less than whiplash, the severed halves will propel in opposite directions and keep the books balanced so it will at least be natural. First was the psychoanalytic therapy and I was proud to be taking care of myself but it doesn’t look like I’m getting anywhere with that because the same things keep getting at me in different forms, so I feel like it’s not just me and it's not just in my head, it’s really all like that, then physical therapy for my back and I thought it was going well but now I’m doing it for my jaw too plus the pills to be taken before bed because since I wrote them that letter I’ve been grinding my teeth at night. So it doesn’t feel so much like self-care anymore, it feels like damage control and I’m grasping at the threads fraying faster than I can catch hold of them. I remember after that first dream when I awoke screaming and throwing my head against the cabinet, I thought to myself well I hope this doesn’t become a regular thing, and then it became a regular thing. So I started grinding my teeth at night that summer, and I’d have headaches and jaw pain for half the day after I got up. I wore a mouth guard to sleep if I’d remember, did meditation and mindfulness and cleared my mind of stress before bed, which helped with both the dreams and the teeth grinding but evidently not really because then I gnawed through my mouth guard. I chewed it in half. So I’m seeing someone twice a week for the temporomandibular joint dysfunction and I’m on the muscle relaxants, because of all the tension like I told you I don’t even rest when I sleep, mind nor body, the former busy dreaming of my limbs being strapped like an animal to four corners of a table and my loved ones molesting children and strange seven foot men with limbs so long he crossed a room and grabbed me all in one step and falling backwards into the deep and the dark in the embrace of the demon whose fault all of this is, and the latter grinding my teeth to nubs at night to cope. Now nothing is really working so I think I will grind my teeth until my head is ugly and gnarled and dream of hell until my brain is black, but even so I won’t forget being on the cusp of consciousness in the middle of the night, so slowly coming out of sleep that all there was at first was a priori emotion, anger and indignation, and a moment or a lifetime later finally with the mental capacity to know what for, that I wanted to grind my goddamn fucking teeth but my lover’s hand arresting my suicidal jaw from its design, thumb on one side and four fingers on the other, gripping my face with greater strength than I could grind with and I grind hard, and him whispering to me STOP. Maybe it's the helplessness of being woken up like that, or the sure, exact command to which I obeyed, but I feel as though the force of his grasp was the only force strong enough to keep that thread from snapping.

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