Tuesday, April 07, 2009, 6:50 PM
My biggest childhood fear, not including spiders or the dark, was my dentist. A week ahead of appointment time, I would start counting down the days with dread. It felt like being on Death Row, not that I know anything about being on Death Row, but I do know something about that awful sucking black hole in the pit of my stomach.
Every appointment time--every time I went--I was more nervous than I had ever been--ever. As soon as I caught my first whiff of that office, my internal organs shrank and I felt like barfing and taking a poop right then and there. I never fainted from this fear, but I don't think it would have exactly been a horrible thing because it would have been better than quaking and crying. Surely The Powers That Were would have taken a child hitting the floor unconscious more seriously than a bawling one.
I'd whine as soon as my butt hit the dentist's chair (which I always thought looked like a beetle without legs). The light above my head was The Evil Eye. It never had to blink. It saw every tear, every muscle twitch, every look of horror on my face. I used to pray to it.
Please, please, please let me out of here, amen.
Once my dentist (Dr. Dawes) said to me, "I haven't even done anything yet, there's nothing to cry about."
Only I thought he said, "You’re a rotten kid and I'm going to feed you to The Boogieman," because then I was really really crying and they had to get my little sister to come and sit with me. Crap, was I the biggest boob. I think it's hilarious now, but it wasn't back then. Sometimes I want to go back in time and just hug me to death. Couldn't hurt.
I think...I think I was so awful skerred because I was unlucky enough to be born human and not as a crocodile or a shark. They said I had too many teeth for my mouth. (Well, who put ‘em there? Not me. Why was I being penalized?!) And so Dr. Dawes had to pull my baby teeth. I forget why, I was just a kid. All I really remember is the fear and the injustice of it all.
Well, and Dr. Dawes and the embarrassing crying thing.
I won’t even mention the cavities.
Okay, maybe I will. Just the sound of the drill was enough to make my pulse do the funky chicken, but the cavities are what really got me. Just the sound of the drill was loud and unrelenting outside of my head, and when it was inside my mouth, there was the ow-ohmigod-ow-fricking-ow factor. And tears. And fear. And adult anger. And embarrassment.
I was traumatised. More than once. Not that it took a lot to scare me.
Leaving Dr. Dawe's office was always a huge gasp of relief. It meant I’d survived, that I’d live another day, and I really really liked that part.
In case I wonder what this post is about a year or so from now, I wrote it to illustrate that I was not beaten down (ultimately) by this fear. By the time I entered my senior year at high school, I'd been through it all: braces (the BAND kind that necessitated wearing spacers for a week beforehand--TWICE--and over a period of SEVEN years), a root canal, wisdom-tooth extraction, and pseudo-suffocation (bunch of times) by mint-flavored rubber (because mint tasted the most like oxygen). Plus, I discovered that I hadn't really experienced life until my mouth was forcibly held open by a plastic and wire contraption wide enough to fit the barrel of a hair dryer inside, and I'm sorry I don't have any photos of that.
It's not like fighting through cancer, but it was horrible enough. Gawd, etc.
BUT. I am not that afraid of dentists any more. I cannot be held in a perpetual state of fear. It gets ridiculous after a while. It gets old. Bravery doesn't negate the fear--standing up for myself isn't a bad thing (yeah, it can be scary, but it doesn't have to be all bad). I should be able to be who I am without making excuses.
Read that part over as needed, Andi.