I have been stressed out beyond what I can normally tolerate... I'm talking sweaty, nauseated, sleepless-for-a-week stressed out. My darling Marble Man has mentioned for a couple of years that I should see a dentist and get checked out. I've managed to put it off, being quite adept at changing the subject. That is, until a couple of months ago.
One day, last December, I received an email from my Dear Heart stating that he'd called UNC's dental faculty practice and found a dentist who specializes in treating patients with dental phobias. He'd gone ahead and made an appointment for me for early January. My stomach sank right before it tied itself tightly into a Gordian knot. It was here... no way to escape without disappointing my Guy.
When my appointment came around, I breathed a sigh of relief because Marble Man came down with the flu and was too sick to go with me (he'd promised, faithfully). I called to reschedule for early February, feeling a HUGE relief that I could put this impending doom in the back of my mind again.
This deep-seated panicky fear began in childhood with a dentist who had no business treating children. He had been a field surgeon in WW2 and believed Novocaine was for pussies. He thought it was funny to put a child in the chair and leave them alone for many long, tick-tocky minutes. For our viewing pleasure, on the opposite wall hung a lithograph depicting a leering, warty barber reaching into the mouth of a writhing man with a pair of pliers. In the background we could hear drills, gurgling, and smell antiseptic chemical odors.
Once a year, our family would pile into the car for the 40 minute drive to the dentist's office and a fun-filled morning of back-to-back appointments. Sometimes the appointments were reserved just for me - I had several sessions for extractions and the lovely side effect of ether-induced puking. I spent those 40 travel minutes in a full-out cold sweat. Unfortunately, I didn't realize my younger brother was having similar reactions. If I'd known, we could have consoled each other.
Throughout the years, there have been other dentists. Seemingly kindly men, they didn't believe me when I told them I could still feel pain, even through Novocaine. Drills ablazin', they'd tell me I was a hysteric, I should just suck it up, that it didn't hurt. But it did.
Fast-forward to last week. I had my first check up in 14 years with a compassionate dentist who spent the whole hour taking history and chatting me up. After checking my pulse and finding it jacked way up, he merely took a visual look around, refraining from using sharp and pointy things. He said we'd go as slowly as I need to go, and suggested I see a psychologist to practice some relaxation techniques to try to learn self-hypnosis.
I had my first psych appointment on Thursday, and I think it will help a lot. We spent an hour working on biofeedback, deep relaxation, and imagery. I'm practicing a couple of times a day with the hope that I've learned enough to get me through tomorrow morning's dental appointment for the second part of my initial check up. This time there's no avoiding the instruments. I take very good care of myself, because my grand evil plan was to never sit in a dentist's chair again for the remainder of my life. So, hopefully, tomorrow I'll hear that I don't need too much work done. Crossing fingers, closing eyes, and deep breathing here... "Ohm"
copyright 2010 Shibori Girl