We all have fears.
Some we’re born with.
Some have to do with the mystery of the unknown.
Some we develop as a result of trauma.
Today, I’ll be talking about the last kind I mentioned: fears we develop as a result of trauma.
When I was a bit younger, my dad had gotten new insurance (ahhh, the days of being on my parents insurance….) and signed us up for a new dentist. My mother made my brothers and I appointments, loaded us into the car, and drove us into the city to meet the new dentist and have exams.
One of my brothers went in first and I anxiously tapped my foot waiting for my turn. When my brother emerged, he was visibly shaken and upset, and I swear there were tears in his eyes – but “boys don’t cry.” He took a seat and put his head down, not saying much to anyone. The dentist called me in next, and I remember having that feeling in my stomach when you know that something may wrong, but you go along anyway.
The big man in the white jacket sat me down without greeting, tipped me back in the chair, and proceeded to open my mouth and without even telling me, shoved a needle full of novacaine into my gums and started drilling away at my mouth without waiting for the the novacaine to take effect. I felt everything. I tried to speak up, but he wouldn’t listen, and all while he drilled, he muttered things like, “Must have taken ALOT of candy and soda to get your teeth like this,” and “This is bad. Very, very bad.” It was like a horror movie – I kid you not. I wish I was exaggerating.
At this point, I’d like to point out that, previous to this, I’d never even had a cavity filled. This was my first experience. When “The Butcher,” (as I referred to him as for years) took a break, I begged him to stop with tears coming down my face, and he complied. I ran into the lobby to my mother, shaking and crying hysterically. It didn’t take more than a split second for my mother to promptly drag all three of us kids out of that torture chamber of a dentist’s office. When we got to the car, my poor brother confessed that the dentist had done the same exact thing to him. Horrible.
Flash forward – I literally would not step foot into a dentists office for YEARS. YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS. The experience scarred me terribly. Finally, I had a horrible toothache that ended up needing a root canal, so I was forced to see a family dentist in the town over from us. He was a SAINT, and after I’d told him why I had avoided the dentist for the better part of a decade, treated me like a child when I was in the chair. He was my security blanket – until I moved 3,000 miles away.
He got me. He knew to tell me every single step of what he was doing.
He knew to distract me with stories about his time in Vietnam, and what his daughters latest adventure in college.
After I moved to LA, I bought myself dental insurance since I can’t get it through work, and signed up for a new dentist. I was horribly scared. But, I figured since the dentist I chose was in Beverly Hills, he must be great.
Not even close.
I won’t get into the details of this experience, but it was AWFUL. I left my first visit crying my eyes out, wondering what the hell had just happened. I wondered if others had had bad experiences, so I “Yelped” him and read review after review of the same experience I’d had. There were so many bad reviews, that they’d actually listed the business as “Closed” on Yelp so that no one else could give him a poor review.
What is it with me and terrible dentists?!?!?!
So, I started my search again, because I’m a grown-up and grown-ups need a good dentist, and with fear, chose a new dentist in Beverly Hills. I had to wait a month before my appointment, so obviously for the entire month I was filled with anxiety and fear every time I thought of going. I read her Yelp reviews to calm my fears. All good.
At my first appointment yesterday, as I sit in the chair waiting to meet my new dentist, I became dizzy, nauseous, and tears popped into my eyes.
She came in.
I asked her if I could speak with her for a moment before we began.
I started crying instantly and told her my experiences and said that I really just needed her help and her patience and that, even thought I am thirty years old, I was really, really scared.
She smoothed my hair back.
She spoke softly and said, “Let’s just pretend like none of that ever happened. I’m going to take care of you, okay?”
She laid me back in the chair.
She grabbed a tissue from the counter, walked over, sat down in her chair, and wiped the tears off of my face.
She. Wiped. The. Tears. From. My. Face.
I’ve finally found The One.
It’s okay to be scared.
It’s what makes us vulnerable and beautiful.
We may get hurt.
We may become fearful and weary.
There is hope.
There will always be things that make us scared.
And there will always be the kind souls who smooth back our hair, dry our eyes, and get us to trust again