Archives for Dental Anxiety
Okay, I fibbed a little bit. The blog post isn't technically blank. There are words and sentences and stuff, but that's about it. It's hard to fill anything with great meaning when you're placidly walking around with a blankity-blank mind. Let me set the scene: it's 4:23 p.m. I am sitting in my bedroom office (i.e., at an L-shaped desk that I hacked together with a real desk from Target and a long hand-me-down dresser from the 1970's). I'm facing the bed. I see an unmade mess of sheets, quilts, and pillows. I should probably make the bed, shouldn't I? Or, well, maybe not -- after all, I'm only going to un-make again five hours from now. There's a window to the left of the bed. From my vantage point, I see an overcast sky that makes me strangely comfortable. Overcast days give me permission to do whatever I'd like -- work, read, putz around, cook -- without dealing with the manic "OMG get outside and enjoy the sunlight while it's here!" message that the sun tends to broadcast. A cloudy sky releases the pressure to savor the season. It's a neutral force that I've come to know and love ever since developing panic disorder. In my pre-panic days, I was a high sensation-seeking gal who never passed up an opportunity to spend a day in the sunlight, ride an upside-down roller coaster, or jump off a 20-foot cliff into a river. I'm not a high sensation-seeker any longer. Adrenaline is not my friend. I don't search for it. And when it finds me accidentally, I usually tell it to shut up.
I just got back from the dentist. And I am so, so relieved that I am back from the dentist and no longer reclining in that chair. Stupid cavities. I hate them. And yes -- that photo above is me, today, reclining that that ever-hated dentist's chair. How'd I pull that one off, you might ask? Well, when I'm nervous, I like to keep my cell phone in my hands. It's admittedly a safety behavior -- merely holding my phone doesn't save me from anything. It won't stop a panic attack. It won't cure nausea. It won't slow down my heart rate. But it just feels good knowing that my teeny little digital portal to rest of the world is resting in my palm. While the dentist was working, I raised the camera with my left hand and snapped that picture. Call it a distraction technique. And check out those sweet shades they gave me so that I wouldn't get toothdust in my eyes. In combination with all of that dental stuff coming out of my mouth, I sort of look bionic. The only reason I can find humor in this picture now is because it's all over. Two hours ago, I was shaking and feeling tingles in my toes. I was freaked out that part of ear had gotten numb. I couldn't handle the fact that my swallow reflex felt stunted. My heart was racing, my jaw was sore, and I was involuntarily flexing every muscle in my body. A dental appointment is no field day. Especially for those of us with panic and anxiety disorders. But you might be relieved to hear that there are a few things you can do to make your next appointment less nerve-wracking:
When I was 6 years old, I slapped my dentist. Yes. Seriously. He'd found a cavity in one of my baby teeth. At age 6, I didn't fully understand the mechanics of getting a filling -- but I did know that cavities resulted in loud and scary drilling sounds. So, I was nervous. My mom sat nearby as the hygienist reclined the child-sized dental chair. I was whining and whimpering. Most of my friends were just starting to lose their baby teeth -- surely I'd be next, right? Why did the dentist need to fix a cavity in a tooth that was going to fall out anyway?