I have a confession to make. This isn't easy, but I am done allowing my shame to control my life.
I have basically been living in shame for a decade.
10 YEARS of hiding, isolating myself from the world, and basically hating myself.
I've been afraid to meet new people, make new friends, and I've even felt horribly uncomfortable around family. Yes, I avoid my own family out of fear of judgement. I still show up to Holidays and family functions, but I always hide in a corner, clinging to my husband, and pray that no one speaks to me.
I have repeatedly turned down press trips and amazing paid opportunities, simply because I couldn't bring myself to face the world.
I'm done hiding now. I'm done allowing my own fears and insecurities rob me of truly LIVING.
So....Here it goes....
If you are a friend on Facebook, you probably know that I'm an extreme introvert. Most people, until very recently, didn't know WHY.
And now, I find myself in a very scary situation that could literally mean the difference between life or death. I am facing something that could literally end up killing me, and I am very, very afraid.
Here's some back story to bring everyone up to date with how this need came about, and why it's so urgent for me.
First, let me say I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE MESS I AM IN.
A lot of it is beyond my control, but some is because of choices that I have made.
I CHOSE to act in a way that created an eating disorder. I didn't choose to allow it to take over my life and damage my body, but I DID choose to make the initial jump into that destructive behavior. For that, I take full responsibility.
I CHOSE to get married way too young and stayed far too long with a man who wasn't good to me. I was a child, and didn't have the ability to see that this was an AWFUL decision. For that, I take full responsibility.
I CHOSE to put my own needs on the backburner to make sure my kids had food in their bellies and a roof over their heads. While this is not a choice I regret, I realize that putting my own needs to the side allowed things to get progressively worse, landing me in the scary situation I'm in now. For that, I take full responsibility.
Still, allow me to explain how things got this bad.
In order to escape a less than ideal home environment, I got married WAY too young to a man who ended up being very controlling and abusive. He basically told me I was ugly, worthless, and disgusting on a daily basis, which ultimately led to an eating disorder in hopes of finally being "good enough". During the years I was married to him, I also lacked in proper medical and dental care. You see, his father is a doctor, so if anyone got sick, he would just write a prescription, no visits needed.
In some ways, this was a good thing...Any sinus infections, strep, etc were treated quickly and very affordably. In other areas, such as dental care, it ended up being very bad...This wasn't his area of expertise, so any dental needs were put on the backburner.
Eventually I found the courage to leave my abusive relationship. At the time, I had a small child, and his needs came before my own. My mounting issues were getting worse, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. I had a child to care for, so I was never able to save up to take care of myself.
I remarried a wonderful man, and have been married to him for 8 years now. During that time, we've welcomed 2 more children to our family. We couldn't be happier, and I am so grateful every day that I'm finally in a healthy relationship and environment.
While I am happy with my marriage and my family, I'd be lying if I said we don't struggle. Like many American families, we live paycheck to paycheck, and often struggle to make ends meet.
We're also stuck in a very awful place as far as medical insurance goes...One I am sure a lot of folks can relate to. While we both work, we do not make enough to afford even the crappiest plans in the ACA. The premiums and deductibles would kill us, and we wouldn't be able to afford to put food on the table. (This is why I am a HUGE advocate for a Single Payer Healthcare system.)
The kids are covered by Medicaid. Here in Ohio, getting coverage for children is easy. For adults? That's another story. We make JUST BARELY too much to qualify for any assistance for my husband or myself. That means that if anything happens to US, we're basically screwed.
Whew...Okay...Deep breath...Here's the embarrassing part for me...I get to explain what's wrong, and what I need to do to fix it.
I have very serious dental issues. This came from lack of dental care for many years, abuse and neglect, as well as several years of being Bulimic. I have beaten the Bulimia, thank God, but the damage has been done, and there's nothing I can do to take it back. Believe me, I wish I could.
I have had fillings come out, leaving my teeth very weak. I didn't have the money or insurance to cover root canals or crowns, so several teeth ended up literally just shattering. Of course once this happens, there's a domino effect, and the surrounding teeth also get weak and end up becoming damaged.
So now, I am left in a very bad place. I am in constant pain, and my teeth are just getting worse and worse. Most of my molars are either cracked or broken all the way to the gumline, with the root still exposed. The ones that aren't that severe are also showing signs of damage. It's just a matter of time before they end up like the others.
The damage in my molars has become so severe that now my front teeth are also showing signs of weakness. It hurts to eat. Sometimes it feels like certain teeth are starting to come loose. I try my best to "baby" them, but there's only so much I can do when there's so much damage already there.
Anyone who knows what a severe toothache feels like knows that the pain is absolutely excruciating. In my case, it's not one tooth causing the pain, it's several. My pain gets so severe that I cannot function. Just the other day, I was shaking uncontrollably, sobbing, and I even blacked out because it was simply too much to handle.
After that episode, my husband was very worried. He went back to the Medicaid office to try again to qualify, and we got rejected, once again.
A secondary, but far less important issue that relates to this is that it affects my confidence greatly. I am so embarrassed that I have become somewhat of a hermit. I am afraid to meet new people, and even afraid to be around extended family in fear of being judged. This has held me back in so many ways, both personally and professionally.
I have had to turn down a lot of opportunities out of the desire to remain "invisible".
One of my biggest dreams is to run for some kind of office. I am an Activist, and care very much about humanity and the awful state we're in right now. I have the knowledge and the passion, as well as the desire to do good and help create REAL CHANGE....But the fear of opening my mouth to speak trumps all of that. No pun intended. One of my biggest hopes is to help the cause for universal healthcare, so people like me and many others don't have to suffer. No one's life should be at risk because they don't have a few thousand dollars. Human life is worth so much more than that!
I am really starting to get scared. I know that poor dental health is life-threatening, and can cause some extremely serious health problems. People can and DO die from this. I am only 35, and I don't want to die prematurely simply because I don't have the money to fix this problem, once and for all. My overall health is already suffering, and I would love to be able to stop it before this ends up taking my life.
There are a lot of options out there, but I am seeking the most cost-effective one. While I'd love to get veneers, crowns, and single dental implants, that would be insanely expensive, and will never happen.
I have basically resigned myself to the fact that the damage is so severe that it's easier and cheaper to get dentures.
God, I hate even typing that...It's humiliating beyond belief...Seriously, just typing this fact makes me cry, and feel absolutely and completely humiliated.
But honestly, it's the most attainable and realistic solution. The last time I saw a dentist, which happened to be for an emergency extraction, he even said the same thing...I just wasn't ready to accept it, and continued to put it off. I didn't have the money, and I didn't want to accept that the damage was THAT severe. Well, I accept it now. With the amount of pain I am in on a daily basis, I have no choice.
This is something that I have kept hidden for YEARS. No one knew about my pain, or the struggles I am facing. The other day, another tooth broke, making it very hard to eat. I came to the realization that I can no longer ignore this, and that I have to stop hiding. It's time that I take my life back, and the first step of that is opening up, being honest, and being willing to talk about this.
It took all the courage I could muster, but I opened up to my Facebook friends about this problem. I was so afraid....I seriously thought that no one would want to speak to me anymore, or that people would judge me very harshly. When someone tells you you're ugly, worthless, and that no one could ever really care about you...When it's drilled into your head for years...Well, you start to believe it. This is what my ex did, and while I thought I had moved past those issues, I am realizing that he still has some fucked up level of control over my thinking. Abuse, especially emotional abuse, is something that is very hard to just get over.
I've heard everything.....There are SO many stereotypes about people with bad teeth....I have had people make unfair assumptions that I am on drugs. (I'm not. I've never touched hard drugs in my life, and am afraid to even take prescription painkillers because I've seen the things addiction can do.) I have had people think I must be "nasty" or "dirty", and that's not the case, either. I brush. Always have. But when damage starts, it's hard to keep it at bay, especially when you can't afford to go to the dentist.
So anyway...I was so scared to finally tell the truth. So, so scared....But I did it.
I poured my heart out, and was brutally honest about what I am going through. I was ready to be laughed at, ridiculed, and basically made the butt of many jokes...
But you know what? Much to my amazement, that didn't happen. I've found nothing but love and support.
I've even had several friends, who I never even knew wear dentures, tell me about their experiences and struggles. They told me stories about their own shame, their own journey, and how there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and a new life waiting for me, should I work hard to make it a reality.
I realized that I am not alone, and that I shouldn't allow this deep shame to control my life anymore.
The first step to healing my own emotional scars and fears is to be open. To be honest. So I'm doing just that.
If my story can help someone....ANYONE...It will be worth it. Particularly women or girls who have struggled with an eating disorder. I know firsthand how secretive in nature eating disorders are...I know how they begin...You think you're gaining control, when in reality, the disorder takes over completely.
My struggles with Bulimia are a large part of the reason my teeth are in such horrible condition. Please, realize that even though you WILL lose weight, eating disorders are deadly and can have very negative effects on the body...From internal organ damage to digestive issues to severe dental problems like mine. Or...even worse...They can be fatal.
I was lucky. I fought the Bulimia Dragon and won...But I am still dealing with the consequences of that, and even years later, the quality of my life suffers immensely. For 10 YEARS I have hidden from the world. I have isolated myself out of extreme shame and embarrassment. Life in a "bubble" has been my reality.
I have decided that I'm no longer accepting this, and I am going to work hard to take my life back, once and for all.
Yes, it's going to take some time to save the money for my dentures. Yes, I will likely have to get a part time job on top of my blogging and homeschooling. Yes, I will likely have to run myself ragged and work 3rd shift at a gas station, IF they will even hire me with awful teeth...But I am willing to do whatever I need to do to reclaim my life. I deserve it, and more importantly, my kids deserve it. I don't want to die prematurely when it is preventable.
This is step one. Sharing my story. Speaking openly about not only my dental problems, but also about my battle with Bulimia.
If I can prevent just ONE person from heading down the road I took, it will all be worth it.
And if you're in the same boat as I am, please know that I am always here to listen, and that you are not alone.
Thanks for "listening". And please, keep any comments positive. I am very emotional right now, and really can't take any cruelty or bullying. My goal is to finally feel BETTER and build confidence, not feel worse. I am determined, and I am finally optimistic for the first time in many years.
2/11/2017 07:07:59 pm
I enjoyed your article, and I'm so glad that you're "taking charge" of your life. Two shows that I watch on TV, are "Dr.Phil," and "The Doctors." On "The Doctors" website (thedoctorstv.com), one of the topics listed (which they have people on their show for) is called, "Do you need a medical procedure that you can't afford?" I'm assuming by medical, that they may mean dental, too. It's worth a try, and they (Travis Stork & doctors) seem very compassionate and non-judgmental, and they really love when people accept their help (while setting a good example for viewers, too). I wouldn't let your "nerves" get in the way, either, because "coming clean" and being brave and truthful are very "freeing" in the long run. Good luck!
2/12/2017 11:04:43 pm
Thanks so much for the suggestions! I have horrible anxiety, but anything is worth trying at this point. I have contacted these shows and am hoping they can help me with this. It's a horrible place to be stuck, but I am determined to make it happen. <3
2/12/2017 10:11:17 am
I am so sorry for all you have been through. Life is hard. Harder for some. Sounds like you are a pretty strong person. Have you talked to your dentist about a payment plan? When I was in college, there was this student whos teeth was bad but couldnt afford dental care. I know nothing about it really, but I remember she said something about going to the welfare dept and they helped her. Seems like they told her about a group of dentist who charged based on your income. Perhaps you could do the same. I dont know. God Bless.
2/12/2017 11:09:25 pm
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Yes, I have been checking around on such things. Most dentists here accept Care Credit as a payment plan, which I got denied for. I am still looking for other options, and maybe a practice that will make independent arrangements rather than going through Care Credit. It's hard to find one that does this, at least here. I'm also contacting every single clinic I can find, even if I know I won't qualify. (The restrictions are pretty strict for dental help, and are mostly limited to people under 18 or 21, or you have to live in a specific county or locality.) I got denied Medicaid a few months ago, but just reapplied in hopes that maybe this time, they might approve me. It's not easy for adults without a disability to get coverage, and it seems we're poor but not quite poor enough,lol I'm trying to think of everything I possibly can, and am leaving no stone unturned. Thank you so much for your kind, supportive words. I was so afraid to post this and put this out there.
2/13/2017 06:58:05 am
I'm so happy to hear that you're persisting to get help. You're so young, and have a long life ahead of you; better to spend it with as little stress as possible. But to do the hard work first (by trying to get help), will ensure that the stress is bound to decrease, and your self-confidence will benefit as well.
2/13/2017 06:30:43 pm
Thank you so much for your support, Vanessa. It means so much to me. I honestly expected cruelty and ridicule...There has been far less of that than I expected, and I am amazed by the kindness and empathy I am seeing. It's truly humbling, and makes me feel so much more optimistic about my future, and humanity in general.
2/13/2017 06:59:00 pm
Wow! I am SO happy for you, Brandy, even as nervous as you must be! Anyone would be! I'm glad, then, that they must consider dental patients & procedures. They DO need people to be on their show, and I think that they use the Dr. Phil approach (as his son is "The Doctors" producer), in that, "paying it forward," and "treating people with dignity and respect," is priority. Stay strong, tell them the truth (no matter how embarrassing) about everything, and keep us posted!
2/13/2017 11:29:37 pm
I actually have a GoFundMe, but didn't feel it was appropriate to use my blog for self-serving purposes. I have shared it on my personal Facebook. :)
2/27/2017 05:18:00 pm
I love you and I'm so proud of you. I'm proud to call you my friend, my best friend, and that you've trusted me with these things in the past. I'm so happy you're finally getting help. It gives me hope that I'll get my own miracle one day.
5/9/2017 07:18:38 pm
Brandy - I can see that "your episode" will air on The Doctors on Thursday. I'll be sure to watch it!
5/11/2017 09:22:48 pm
Wow. It's scary to think that, the past is easily brushed off, when you don't put a label on it (or share its event with others). But your blog post brought up some raw memories. First off, I have issues with me teeth as well, fillings have fallen out. I don't remember when it happened, before children I'm sure. But I would over eat, and puke, but I never thought of it bulimia. I can see where it stems from now....
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