Mental Health

Root Canals and Mental Health… Who Knew They Were Connected?

Blog_root problemsAt the age of 12, I began to feel shooting pain in one of my right bottom molars whenever I chewed. After visiting my dentist, he was not able to identify the source of pain and assumed there was a small crack. He placed a filling in the tooth and sent me on my way. A few months after that procedure, I landed myself back into the dentist’s chair and received a larger filling to replace the first one. Neither procedure did anything to resolve the pain and I resorted to chewing on the opposite side of my mouth for the next 11 years.

At the age of 23, I decided to go to a new dentist, hoping he could fix my tooth. That dentist informed me that the old filling was too large to replace and my tooth really needed a crown. Can you guess what happened? I got a crown on that pesky tooth and once again, it did nothing to resolve my pain. Five years later, I found a new dentist who told me that I needed a root canal. He performed the procedure and for the first time in almost 16 years, I was able to chew on the right side of my mouth. The root canal cleaned out the pulp, disinfected the tooth and root system, and removed the source of pain.

For the past 10 years I have been able to chew on both sides of my mouth, pain free. In fact, I forgot all about this tooth problem until I was in a recent session with a client. The memory of my tooth helped me explain how, much like a tooth needing a root canal, people live for years with emotional and mental pain, without cleaning out the root from where the pain originates. Many people even spend a lot of money on things to relieve the pain, to no avail.

Anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, addiction, fear, relationship issues and many other mental health problems all have a root source. Experts in the field of trauma will tell you that even auto-immune diseases can be linked to unprocessed traumas.

Many people live for years with daily anxiety and have no idea where it comes from and how to get rid of it. Many seek therapy, learn techniques to replace thoughts and behaviors, and find ways to cope but somehow, they always cycle back with similar struggles. I believe the reason why this happens is that people fail to address the root of their problems in order to live pain-free in the present.

Hebrews 12:15 talks about a bitter root growing up and defiling many. When the Apostle Paul wrote this to the Hebrews, he was referring to a person being idolatrous and his sin affecting more than just himself. This same concept can be used for any person who has an unaddressed root issue. A person may have constant anxiety around a boss or authority because he or she had a parent that expected perfection or was explosive when the child made mistakes. Another person may have an unhealthy relationship with food because she was called “thunder thighs” in the seventh grade. Another person tries to control everything his spouse does because he was abandoned by a parent at the age of seven.

Maybe you identify with one of these examples or maybe your story is a little different. The point is, sometime in your life, something embedded into your brain’s memory network which now tells your body, mind and emotions how to react and function. If this is you, I encourage you to examine what that might be, ask God to reveal it to you, find a therapist or a pastor who knows how to help, and clean it out so you can experience a full life in the present and future.

If you are serious about therapy for your issue, I highly recommend EMDR therapy. It is an empirically established modality that is perfect for overcoming small and big traumas. I am trained in EMDR and use it with my own clients.

Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about this topic or therapy.

Christian Life

I Fell Off the Bandwagon

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After months of consuming too much food, growing horizontally and avoiding a sports bra, I finally laced up my athletic shoes and went for a run. It wasn’t pretty but I know it’s what makes me healthy! My lungs burned, my heart felt like it might explode and most people could have walked faster than my uphill pace. I felt like I was in a slow-motion video, but in reality, I was going as fast as my body would let me.

Last year, I could run an 8-minute mile with little effort, plus I completed a half marathon and a 12-mile Tough Mudder. Now I can barely run a 12-minute mile without feeling like I might die. It’s amazing how quickly we can lose our physical fitness, but it’s also amazing how hard it is to start at the beginning again – gaining flexibility, stamina, speed and greater lung capacity.

As I pushed through the pain of my short 1.7-mile run, I couldn’t help but relate this to God. Many of us go through seasons of consistently attending church, reading our Bibles, praying and growing in our faith. During these times we are often filled with strength, joy and watch our lives transform through the power of God. Then life gets busy…Our schedules change…We fall out of our routines…We start to grow weary… And we find ourselves right back where we started – feeling lonely, stressed, tired, bitter, depressed, even hopeless.

Starting over hurts! Sometimes we allow so many painful things to weigh us down without giving them to the Lord. It’s like we’re trying to run a marathon after gaining a hundred pounds and developing asthma. Yes, it hurts but we don’t have to run a half marathon at an 8-minute mile pace to hang with God. We just have to lace up our shoes and go out for a run with Him. God is patient and sets the perfect pace.

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. NIV

Matt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. NIV

Matt 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. NIV