Last night I returned to the dentist for a simple procedure: fill 2 of my remaining 3 cavities. My doctor had given me some anti-anxiety medication, and my dearest husband was driving me. I should have been in and out of my appointment in about 90 minutes.
But of course, things did not work out as I had planned.
First, some back story.
Around February 2013, I had my wisdom teeth removed. What should have been a very simple procedure, quickly turned to the most traumatizing event of my life. I had been given anesthesia, and about half way through the procedure I woke up. I was devastated and just kept crying and crying saying over and over, “I’m not suppose to be awake. I’m not suppose to be awake.” The oral surgeon at the time, told me that he could not knock me back out. His plan was to finish the two teeth he had started and then let me go, but I told him point blank, “If I leave, I’m not coming back. I need you to finish.” So, tears still streaming down my face, I was given a generous helping of nitrous oxide, and they finished the procedure.
Ever since, my anxiety about dentists, particularly fillings and extractions, has continued to climb.
I thought I was finally making progress, having found a local dentist who was patient, and understanding, and able to deal with my whackiness. I felt comfortable in her care.
But everything was different last night. I was scheduled to see, unknown to me, a different dentist. He seemed nice enough at first, but soon it became clear that I just did not like this man and that this wasn’t going to be able to work.
Not even 10 minutes into the appointment he was suggesting that I look into sedation dentistry, as opposed to regular dentists (like himself). To someone who is pretty damn proud of herself for even showing up, this was very discouraging. I hadn’t even begin to get worked up yet, and he was already telling me he thought I was too much trouble for him? I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was just concerned about me and my anxiety was more obvious on the outside than I realized.
Soon after, when he had failed to successfully inject my gums with the anesthetic, he was all too quick to blame this on me. I thought I was doing so good! And I was just crushed when he said he couldn’t proceed because I couldn’t keep my tongue still. Like I had any idea what my tongue was doing? Surely they could have been a better way for him to express his concern for my safety than scolding me for not holding still, like I was some unruly child?
While I was calming myself down so we could try again, he even went on to say that he felt I can’t do this tonight and should go home. I could feel the anger rising in my chest. How dare he! I wanted to yell at him and tell him, “Do not tell me what I can or cannot do.” Instead, I gritted my teeth, and let some tears stream down my face. I knew I could do this, I WANTED to do this, I was prepared to do it – otherwise I wouldn’t be here!
Part of me wanted to prove him wrong and let him finish the appointment…but the other part of me was slowly coming to terms with the fact that it might be best for me to reschedule and make sure that I could see the dentist of my choice. And of course this made me cry more because I was angry with myself, and embarrassed, and frustrated. (Have I mentioned that I cry a lot when I’m angry?)
After spending some time talking with my husband, I made the decision to leave. There aren’t really words to describe the amount of disappointment one can feel with themselves when their body and mind just don’t cooperate. It hurt. And to know that I’d have to return in a couple weeks, hurt more.
So what’s the moral of all this? Gosh, I wish I knew. Maybe if you’re a dentist, or any doctor, choose your words with care. There is a huge difference between encouraging your patients to find the options that are best for them, and kicking them while they are already down because you don’t want to deal with a particularly difficult patient. Especially when you’re dealing with someone like myself, who has high anxiety around their procedure.
As for me, I’m still struggling to come to terms with it myself. I want to just take a step forward and accept what happened and where I am not, but I also still feel incredibly angry with myself for not being able to do what I set out to. Maybe one day I’ll be able to sit down in the dentist chair again without the help of power anti-anxiety medication and deep breathing exercises….but it doesn’t look like that will be any time soon.