Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fear Of The Dentist, Part 3

**Note: For full details please read PART 1 and PART 2 **

Today I made it.

Today I did it.

Without any xanax, I managed to get myself into the dentist office and into the chair and allow them to take x-rays and examine me.

Sure, I know there are many people who think, hey I can do that. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that I suffer from an intense fear of going to the dentist. That previous statement was a big understatement. For the fear, is much worse than I can even describe here. When the dentist asked me what my fear of coming in there was, I replied without hesitation and told him it begins when I try to walk in the door and make an appointment. The procedures are just more layers of anxiety that I have to deal with.

However, today I didn’t pass out and I didn’t hide. I faced myself and my fears and went in there. I asked for what I needed and explained what the very difficult moments were for me. And I breathed and I breathed and tried to stay focused even through the tears flowing from my eyes. Fortunately, everyone was very supportive and compassionate but by the time I was ready to leave, it felt like I was in a furnace reaching well over 1000 degrees. It was time to exit stage left.

I wish it was a simple fear that I could just easily let go of. However, to walk in to the dentist office and surrender to the will of what someone needs to do to you is frightening beyond belief for me. I’m very sensitive anyway, so a little bit of discomfort or pain is enough to push me over the top. You throw on top of that, someone putting objects or their fingers in my mouth and now you’ve triggered memories that have haunted me since I can barely remember.
Anytime something is put in my mouth, it feels as if someone is “STUFFING” something in there and forcing it in which I don’t want. If you suffered childhood sexual abuse, you will most likely understand what I’m referring to. If you haven’t suffered through this, use your imagination a little and you will quickly see why I’m so afraid of these things. When I first got my partial plate several years ago, it was all I could do to put it in my mouth and keep it in there without almost gagging and choking to death. Of course, I’m sure there is more to this story but when you’re so young and when your memory doesn’t process things well, all you’re left with is the horrors you are forced to face.

Several years ago, when I finally faced the courage to do major reconstructive work on my teeth, I faced insurmountable fears of just walking into the dentist office. One of the things that I did to help me get there, even with the use of xanax, was playing some of my favorite songs. The song that helped me the most was “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty. In it, the words state, “you can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down”. In my mind, that sums it up pretty good.

While the remaining procedure is still yet to be completed, I’m glad that I made it through as much as I did today. It was a difficult day and I’m feeling very exhausted. However, I’m quite proud of myself for what I accomplished today. And I can only close this part of my process with the thoughts of the “Fear Poem” by Joy Harjo, an inspirational piece of poetry to put fear in perspective.

And just writing this 1 page piece, I feel that furnace of a thousand degrees. The room has become very warm. Hello Anxiety - so we meet again today.

*For more articles, check out the Mind Body Thoughts Blog

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog through a google search. I am going through something similar to what you describe in these posts. I am 43 years old and I am going to the dentist tomorrow for the first time in 20 years.

    I've been seeing a counselor for depression for 2 years, and although it has helped, I still get thoughts of suicide when I think about my past. And everything about going to the dentist reminds me of my childhood traumas. I have vague suspicions that I was sexually abused, but I don't have any concrete memories.

    My father was an extremely abusive man. At the age when children learn to brush their teeth, my father beat my mother in front of us, and it would usually happen at bedtime when me and my sister were getting ready for bed.

    When I was about 4 years old my parents started leaving me at a daycare run by a Baptist church. The women who ran it were very cruel, and one of the things they liked to do was wash our mouths out with soap if we said "dirty" words or called other kids names. If we talked when we were supposed to be quiet, they would put tape on our mouths.

    I had to get braces when I was 14 years old, and I wore them for 3 years. The visits to the orthodontist were always stressful. He was an old man, very impatient, and he would always make me feel ashamed for not taking better care of my teeth.

    Anything to do with my mouth makes me feel ashamed.

    I am going to my regular doctor this afternoon to get back on anti-depressant medication, and to see if there is anything he can give me to make the dental visit less stressful.

    Thank you for writing these blog posts. Reading them has made me feel that there is at least someone out there who understands what I am going through.