In June 2010, I fell asleep driving. I hit a sign, flipped 3x, and had to get pulled out using the jaws of life. I was in ICU for two weeks, couldn't speak because I had a broken jaw, burns, a missing tooth, collapsed lung, my chin was busted open leaving a huge scar with permanent nerve damage to my face, chronic TMJ pain, and tooth/gum pain from retainers and years of failed and inconsistent dental work.
That accident changed me. In more ways than one. And even TODAY, I'm still... realizing things about it. It took my smile. Metaphorically and literally ...and it took a chunk of my confidence.
Over the years I've practiced how to smile and talk to hide my teeth in certain ways. I cover my mouth a lot especially if I laugh. I smile with my lips closed a lot. I avoid taking photos and if I do, I try to face a certain way so you don't see the fake teeth or make sure I'm far back so you can't really tell. I learned how to be smaller so I wouldn't have to talk in front of people. I practiced how to say certain words so they wouldn't come out funny or with a lisp. Try not to eat in front of people I don't know so I don't have to be embarrassed about having to take out the fake tooth to eat. Learn how to sneak and hide to take the fake tooth in and out in public so it's unnoticeable. Spent a lot of time feeling less than or not pretty enough or as pretty as someone else because my smile/face is flawed. Wondering if someone is looking at my mouth and grossed out (especially in intimate situations where I'm close up)
Wearing a mask during the pandemic was actually a relief for me because I could hide my mouth in public. That level of self-consciousness breeds self-doubt and contributes to a bigger picture of the many ways I haven't valued and loved the amazing me I am. After almost 11 years and many dentists, I am on the road to FINALLY getting my teeth permanently fixed! I've been to several dentists over the last year getting X-rays and molds and consultations. It's scary and exciting and I'm pretty nervous about it. I'm grateful to have found some people who are dedicated and creatively working to find a solution for me. This is just one step in a MOUNTAIN of other big steps in my healing journey, but with perspective, I can see how it all connects together in a bigger picture.
But a funny thing has happened lately... I'm ONLY around people who I feel comfortable with most of the time. I work from home (rarely have to be on camera with clients), I don't really go out much (without intention), and the people I talk to or spend time with are the people that I don't have to PERFORM for. I can show up as snaggle-tooth Christina and not feel self-conscious. I can NOT put in a painful ugly retainer to try to hide the huge hole in my mouth, and they couldn't care less. I don't have to not smile or hide my face. I can laugh LOUD and BIG and FULL and just BE and it's perfectly fine with them. I wish EVERYONE this level of authenticity and ease with those around you. It hasn't always been this way. I've had "loved ones" and family feel some kind of way about it, which made me feel some kind of way about it. Maybe because they knew me before and knew my beautiful perfect smile...or were scared what other people would say... IDK. But it's also not my business or my shame to carry around. It has taken me years to learn how to be small and I'm hoping it won't take more years to unlearn those habits and be more comfortable no matter what, just being me.