I have electric teeth. What this means in practice is that on the lower right-hand side of my mouth my teeth are ‘lit up’, galvanised, alive in a way that acts almost like a conductor.
It’s funny really, when you think about it, because I used to believe I was sensitive to electricity. Up until I was about thirty, I regularly electrocuted myself, albeit in a very minor way. I couldn’t touch escalator handrails (still can’t), shop counters, anything where a lot of metal/plastic/nylon carpet was combined with humming overhead lighting.
Younger still, I blew up lightbulbs at a truly alarming rate and regularly electrocuted my boyfriend when he was foolish enough to take my hand. We joked about it, but it was such a regular occurrence that I actually became fairly phobic about touching a lot of things and to this day I always put my forearm on an escalator handrail before I will touch it with my fingertips.
So it seems only right now that my mouth has actually come alive with electricity. I’ve become a living parody of my younger promise.
My little brother used to sleepwalk, and when I was left to baby-sit him I regularly used to hear him jump out his bed and run across the overhead floor. The only trouble was, when I went up to tell him off he would be fast asleep in his bed, not faking it but deeply asleep. No way could he have run across the floor, yet I’d heard distinct footfalls. What’s more, when I’d go out to the lower hall to yell up at him on these evenings, the light I’d put out would be back on again. I could have sworn blind that light was out, yet here it was, bright as a button, mocking me with its tungsten glow.
It was only years later I read about poltergeists and how young girls aged 11 – 14 from dysfunctional families often produced these phenomena, such as thumps and bumps, lights going on and off and, if they were very disturbed, actually moving objects.
Well, at least I wasn’t very disturbed; I could just turn lights on and off and make things go bump in the night. No Exorcist manifestations for me.
I lost this dubious ‘skill’ with time, just as the number of my electric shocks and exploding lightbulbs has dimmed with age, although it’s still me who blows up most of the lights in the house. When they’re going to go, it will be my fading electric current that will do for them.
I even stopped wearing synthetic fabrics in my thirties because the static made them unwearbale: riding up, clinging, giving me and everyone else near me shocks. I couldn’t take anything polyester off without lighting up like a Christmas tree. It hurt my teeth to walk under electric pylons, and I still find their ‘singing’ on wet days unnerving, like one of them is going to shoot power down to me, its soulmate.
So why then, given this banal little history of tidal electricity was I surprised when my teeth became fully electric?
Actually one of the strangest things about the electrification of my teeth is that other people with this disease – and yes, it is an actual disease – suffer the tortures of the damned trying to accept it. Not me. And trust me, this Zen flow isn’t normal for me.
I’m the woman who walked around with a crippling case of gallstones for a year and a half because I wouldn’t admit defeat and was determined – determined I tell you – to cure myself with the only drug available.
Diligently, every day, I worked at it: hypnosis, a punitive diet (I lost almost five stones in weight, although it’s more embarrassing that I had that much to lose than that I was that tenacious.) I was in acute pain all day, every day. The only break to the monotony was the odd attack, every week or so, that rendered me unable to move, eat or lift my arm above shoulder height. I lied to doctors about how sick I was, just so I could go on using this archaic and downright useless drug (Ursodeoxycholic acid, and don’t waste your time; it doesn’t work.). And at the end of it all, I failed, and had to lose the gallbladder anyway. It nearly killed me. Not medically – that was a breeze – but emotionally. I felt an absolute failure, like I’d let my poor body down; that’s how much I don’t accept things.
But my electric teeth? Oh, I cried, and I still do. I run into emotional walls, sometimes once a day, but cry, “Why me, Lord?” like all the other sufferers seem to do? Nope. Deny it’s happening, search everywhere for another reason, a better disease, a cause? Yes, maybe a little, but I go for an MRI next Tuesday, so I imagine that will be the end of that.
It’s common for no cause to be found on MRIs for Trigeminal Neuralgia – the real name for my electric teeth – so I may well join the many others who have been left abandoned, up the creek with neither boat nor paddle to get back to shore.
Will I be sad? Damn right. Crushed probably. Without a diagnosis of an artery or vein pressing on a nerve, a tumour or cyst, or MS (which is no better, because all you’ve gained is MS and Trigeminal Neuralgia) there is nowhere else left to go but down.
It’s a degenerative, incurable condition. This means they can’t fix it and it gets worse with age. Sometimes unmanageably worse. It’s known as ‘the suicide disease’ for a good reason – this is it. And I’m not a cheery soul to start off with.
It’s rare; they estimate only 1 person in every 100,000 people get it, and while it’s common for people to first think they have toothache when they get it, what is less common is to actually have it inside their mouth, like I have.
What this means in practice is I get electric shocks in my mouth. I get them randomly, whenever the Trigeminal Nerve feels anything that triggers it. In my case, so far, temperature change. What that means, in practice, is any variation in temperature is registered as an electric shock of pain. This isn’t like an electric shock; it is one, in the sense that the stimulation feels exactly the same. Doubtless there is no electricity running though me (but given my history, who knows?), but as far as my brain is concerned, there’s a hundred volts or so, right there, every time the wind blows.
This, in turn, means when I go outside I get shocked, when I come inside I get shocked, when the wind blows in my face I get shocked, when I stand over a chiller cabinet, or an air vent, or I yawn, or eat, or drink, or brush my teeth or shower (I admit, that’s an odd one, but hey, that’s the joy of this disease) I get shocked. In short, everything in life gives my mouth a burst of pain that brings strong men to their knees.
Fortunately, and I mean that, there are drugs for this. Not its own drugs – oh no. These drugs are for epileptics. Anti-convulsants. They dampen down/slow the nerve impulses (TN is thought of as hyper-excitable nerves) and thus stop the shock sensations.
After mistaking my condition for a dental problem (everybody does), and sensing something didn’t ring true in the dentist’s diagnosis, I went on the internet, that home of the barking and the life-saving, and found a disease that fitted what I had so well it was like it was made for me. Great. (That’s sarcasm, not joy.)
I went to the doctor’s, after two weeks of pain, a lot of confusion and anxiety, and a weight loss of ten pounds. And I’m not particularly overweight any more (I did learn from those gallstones, you know), so I couldn’t afford to lose ten pounds in two weeks.
I cried. I try to never cry with medical professionals. It puts you at a disadvantage. The doctor diagnosed my condition immediately, and came to the same conclusion as me (without any prompting), Trigeminal Neuralgia. Even then I wasn’t as crushed as I should have been, I was just so fucking relieved – medication. NIRVANA!
The drugs seemed to take an age to work, but eventually they did, and the shocks stopped. Just stopped. It felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. Who cared if I was so nauseous I couldn’t move, or that when I did move I fell over? Who cared that I had to go round shops hanging onto cabinets, leaning on something or someone for support at all times? So I looked drunk; was so stupid I couldn’t even remember the word for salt and had to go through a lexicon of every word that began with a ‘sol’ sound (I still do), I was saved. I’d seen the light. Western medicine had turned off my electric teeth.
Now, some months down the road, I’m still in pain. I have acute ‘sensitivity’ in my ‘hot zone’. I’ve had to put meds up and back down. I hallucinated at 800mg of Carbamazepine and had to live in a house infested with spiders, including a giant tarantula-esque thing that lived in the stencil above my bed (it’s a bird) that would come out the wallpaper at night. I saw oranges on park benches and sparrows in the fruit department at Asda-Walmart. I got so used to these I learned to tell what was real from what wasn’t all by myself, although I did have to ask occasionally.
And now here I am, haunting forums where all the crackpots hang out. People who sound like the world’s worst hypochondriacs. Poor sods who are either half-crazed with pain or medication or simply years of just not being believed – the misunderstood Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia sufferers. They don’t have the dignity or medical recognition of Classic Trigeminal Neuralgia’s shocks but are instead tormented with almost constant pain; pain that no-one has any explanation for, or for which there is little help.
I’m glad I’m not one of them. My pain might be more ferocious, but I have meds that tame the beast – at least for now.
You never know, if all else fails, maybe there’s a life for me on the road as an old-time circus freak.
The Woman With the Electric Teeth (drumroll please…………..)
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