As a child I didn't quite understand the point of braces. My mother really wanted me to get them. The dentists I (rarely) saw wanted me to get them. Everyone in my childhood told me that getting braces would give me a "better smile", and, as I didn't have a problem with my crooked teeth as a visual, I didn't understand why I should care at all.
As I've aged, I've started having problems with my neck, shoulder and jaw muscles. There's no doubt that lifelong terrible posture and the choice in a computer dependent career has had a lot of impact on that, but I came across something called bruxism and ticked a lot of those boxes. So I tentatively consulted an orthodontist, and it turns out there's a chance that my crooked teeth and overbite have something to do with my pain. Though the chance is small, my neck/shoulder/jaw problems are big enough that I'm willing to finally give braces a go.
So, the month after I turned 29, I got braces.
In the time between my decision to get braces and the act of actually getting them on, I spent some time probing my little grey cells about why exactly I was so resistant to get them in the first place. It took a while to tease out - because I think (even in honesty to myself) I was a little bit embarrassed - but a fairly significant part of it was an old fear of socially sticking out as an adult with braces.
Now that I actually have them, I couldn't have been more wrong in my anticipation. I say this gratefully with the full force of being someone who is publicly upfront about being depressed and suicidal and needing support and often getting it: Being an adult with braces has probably been the most socially supported I've ever been.
Everyone I've talked to about braces has been incredibly enthusiastic about sharing their old tips and tricks, their regrets and lessons, their own anticipations about thinking about getting braces themselves, and (most importantly) their recipes of braces-friendly food. Rarely do I meet someone who hasn't had braces AND isn't thinking about getting them in some form or another.
Sometimes people take the effort to tell me about their horrifying teeth experiences with the intention to make me feel better about my situation (and it totally works - thank you). Sometimes just a simple "I know what you mean" is enough to make me feel better about feeling the bones inside my face move around. I often feel like I've tapped into a very quiet group of unknown size who have all collectively gone through the same experience of braces, remembered it, and sworn loyalty to supporting others around them actively going through those same experiences.
Unfortunately with that aside, the first month has sucked butt.
My braces dental plan has had the orthodontist put some sort of glue in my molars to push my jaw back in place and out from the overbite when I close my mouth. This means my jaw has to learn to rest in a completely different place, and since I clench my jaw all the time (something I wasn't even aware of until I started this process), my face muscles are constantly sore while my subconscious wrestles with a new habit that I have to form.
This also means that I can't use my molars for chewing food right now, since I can't even get used to where my jaw is supposed to go when I'm not actively using it for any function. I also can't close my mouth so that my back teeth fully touch - the glue is in the way. In the rare occasion that I do try and chew something, the weirdness of the new angle that my jaw is supposed to be functioning at is difficult to get over and I end up using my front teeth to do everything. By the end of the day those are often sore too.
So my face hurts. My jaw hurts. My teeth hurt. I can't chew. One of the few true joys I have in life is food, and there's a list a mile long of things that I can't eat right now. I spent at least the last year or so trying to exercise and gain weight, and the few kilos I managed to put on in that time were all lost in the first week of having braces. The first month of braces depression is not only real, it's mixed up with my Original Flavoured depression and Pandemic Related Trauma depression and ADHD depression because I can't eat the way I've always eaten, and my eating habits go hand in hand with the severity of my depression.
Every now and then I have to sit myself down and remind myself that I'm doing this willingly. I think about how everything is temporary, even those feelings of wanting to die. I think about all the nice things I've done this month, even while my face and jaw and teeth have hurt. I think about the occasional moments of relief I get to have. I think about all the icecream I'll be eating. I think about how this is probably the biggest teeth related hurdle I've ever had, and about how lucky that makes me.
It's only a year and a half of braces. If I've managed not to kill myself from all those other flavours of depression, there's no way this temporary situation is going to be the reason that I do.
With my first tightening today, I embark on my second month of braces. I'm sure I'll let y'all know how it goes. Once again, I'm hugely thankful to everyone who's sent me things to make me feel better - all of it totally works and I love you for it.