Barometers and Swedish Healthcare

Theo, Brian, and I have been getting our travel vaccines topped up at a clinic in Stockholm. Across the street from the place where they give vaccines, they have a clinic where you can see general practice or specialist doctors.

I’ve had periodic difficulties with my ears throughout my life: as a child I had tubes inserted after having chronic ear infections, I once had an eardrum burst because I was flying while I had a cold, and while I was pregnant with Theo I had to have another tube inserted in my left ear. The during-pregnancy tube is still in place, and after three months of off and on discomfort I’ve been worried that it might be infected.

So, after Theo’s most recent vaccine appointment, I walked over to the clinic to try to make an appointment to have my ear examined.

“You can’t just drop in to see a specialist,” the woman at the counter said, shaking her head.

I explained that we’d be in Stockholm for three more weeks and asked if there was any way I could get an appointment before we left. Since specialists in the United States can take months to see, I wasn’t too optimistic.

She looked at her computer and pressed a few more buttons, “would 3 pm work?” So, based on my single data point, I extrapolate that the wait time for specialists in Sweden is about four hours.

I came back to the clinic and was ushered into an examining room five minutes before my appointment time. (At an earlier appointment for a vaccine we were overlooked and ended up waiting for almost 30 minutes. The nurse was horrified, even after I explained that a 30 minute wait for a medical appointment wouldn’t be particularly unusual in the US). The doctor asked me a few questions, examined both of my ears, and declared them perfectly healthy.

“Are you sure it’s your ears,” she asked.

She gestured for me to open my mouth. After some peering, “You clench your jaw when you sleep.”

“I guess sometimes.”

“No, no, I wasn’t asking. I can see that you clench your jaw.”

She showed me a diagram of the ear, and how my jaw is directly beside it.

I’ve absolutely had issues with my jaw in the past, to the point where I couldn’t chew for two weeks a couple years back. My jaw is somewhat misaligned, but I decided against getting braces to realign them, because there was no guarantee that it would actually fix the issue, and I worry about messing with things that aren’t entirely broken. Instead, unless it gets considerably worse, I’ve decided to use my jaw as a sort of barometer for my stress. When it starts hurting, I need to do a better job of managing my stress.

So apparently my ears aren’t infected. Instead, my stress barometer has been triggering.

For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to try spending less free-time on my computer and more time in the world. I’ll continue to post, but perhaps less frequently and more photos than text.