Saturday, May 4, 2013

Root Canal: flickers of mental health and life

My dentist appoint is quickly approaching and, shockingly, I'm looking forward to it.  Yes, I need at least one root canal, maybe two and I've known this for over two years.  In 2011, my wife had her first hospitalization and unfortunately that was the year that I thought I'd save some money by taking out a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)... it was high deductible alright; it managed to highly deduct both our health and savings.  In 2012, we thought the worst was behind us and although I moved away from the HDHP, after 2 more hospitalizations and paying the 15% co-pay our savings and the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) that I had set up intending to pay for my root canal and crown was quickly gone.  So now we advance to 2013 and my wife seems to be doing much better, being hospital-free for over a year, and once again a FSA was set up for root canal... here's to affordable health care...two years later!

Given the history, there is a component of looking forward to root canal to have something that may usually be dreaded over with.  Beyond a normative reaction to "get it over," there are other explanations for my eager optimism to get it done and it stirs memories from the many years that I worked in the field of mental health.  On occasion in this field, you may encounter what some may refer to as "cutters".  These are individuals who cut their body, commonly on the forearm, not for the purpose of suicide but to satisfy some other perceived purpose.  Typically, I have seen the purpose involve one or more motivations to varying degrees.  In cases where a personality disorder was involved, a primary motivation may be attention getting with the intent being to focus energy and attention toward the individual.  A second motivation, often found when a mood disorder is involved is an attempt to feel something.  These individuals will often describe their cutting as an attempt to relieve nothingness or to fill a void.  A third motivation for cutting may be expressed as an attempt to relieve pain which may be physical or mental.  Arguably the second and third motivation that I have described may be one and the same as one may rightly argue that the loneliness and despair of nothingness may indeed be rightly labeled as pain and suffering.  While cutting may sound shocking to the undoctored, if you consider some often embraced alternative therapies, it may be more understandable.  For example, one may argue that therapies such as acupuncture or Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT also known as shock therapy) similarly work to interrupt or disrupt pain.  (I realize some would explain their efficacy in more scientific jargon, but I believe the root truths are expressed here).

As we approach sending our second daughter to college and prepare our first daughter for an internship away from home, the stress has exacerbated and with the joys of watching our children mature, there are many moments of sadness.  Despite the illusions of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), affordable college tuition is illusive and a parent's sadness grows as they know they cannot provide the level of support demanded by societal expectations.  I suspect for myself and for many of the truly middle class who travel through the FAFSA process, there often evolves a growing suspicion that the financial aid system is severely broken.

And so amidst the growing stress and despair, I eagerly say, "bring on root canal."  I am looking forward to something that can provide a sufficient distraction and offer some (albeit temporary) relief.

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