16 March, 2007

Primal fear

I made a trip to the dentist for a filling today. Was in a state all afternoon, completely wired from anxiety. My palms were sweaty and my heart was in my throat, and not even slow, mindful breaths could quell the fear that was building inside of me.

Two very painful trips to the dentist as a child have left their mark on my subconscious. I'm as afraid of the dentist as some people are of spiders or snakes-- to me he's just as dangerous and frightening. I realize, of course that it's completely irrational, but I just can't help it.

We got there and the dentist greeted us. I shook his hand and hoped he wouldn't notice my sweaty palm. "So!" he said cheerily, "Where's the patient?"

And I pointed to S.

You see, I WASN'T EVEN THE ONE GOING UNDER THE DRILL AND ON THE WAY THERE I ALMOST THREW UP ON MY SHOES! How pathetic is that?!

S was completely nonchalant-- we'd discussed very calmly what to expect and have read a book about a boy getting a filling. He hopped up onto the table like it was routine.

Then they gave him laughing gas. I asked only half-jokingly if I could have some too. No one laughed. And by the way? It's apparently against the law for adults.

S relaxed and watched a film and enjoyed his high while they drilled and yanked and prodded and drilled some more.

And I faced my fear. Somehow I managed to stay in the room and listen to the drilling and reminded myself that this sound (*shudder*) in itself was completely harmless.

When the procedure was over S hopped off the table proud of his new stainless steel body part and excited about showing off his numb cheek to B. I staggered out of there just glad to have survived.

We have an appointment for the next filling in 5 days...

2 comments:

Chui Hsia said...

Well done, very courageous indeed. I know a couple of people who detest going to the dentist, too, so I understand what you mean. I must have got off lightly, I actually LIKE going to the dentist because it means I'm looking after my teeth. It's a bit of a fantasy, though, as I have a rather large number of fillings and I always get told off for not flossing. Ooops, too much information!

Betsy said...

I don't know if it was exactly courageous. I felt I should be in the room in case S needed me, and my mother's instinct ended up being stronger than my fear of that HORRIBLE drilling sound!

I heard a piece on NPR last week about desensitisation (?) therapy that they're now using to help soldiers suffering from PTSD.

By being exposed to the same traumatic situation over and over they apparently work through their fears and become relatively functional again.

S has three teeth that need to be filled, so maybe it will help desensitise me to my fear of the dentist's drill.

Or maybe not...... ;-)