The toothache 

So, my life turned crazy this week. Well, really it sort of started last week. I don’t know. I really want to write it all out in detail and explain it and sort through it, but I’m afraid if I do that then I will never catch up to the things happening currently in my life, so, I’m going to just summarize it all as best I can. 

Starting with last week Thursday, something started to switch, a little. I’d been in this “very disconnected, super far away, nothing is real, I’m not me”, place. It wasn’t a good place to be. Bea had suggested trying to be present in the moment, aware of what is happening in the present. I had tried, but only managed to end up overwhelmed with feelings and shutting down. So, when I went to therapy last week, we talked about this. 

“I tried…..I just….I don’t know, I can’t.” I said to Bea, feeling frustrated with myself. 



“What did you try? Like, what things did you focus on to bring yourself to the present?” She sounded curious, and maybe a little surprised that I was allowing the conversation to continue in this direction. 



I shrugged, and it took me a while to answer, but I finally mumbled, “Washing dishes……knitting…I don’t know.”

“What kinds of things did you pay attention to? Can you walk me through the process?” 



I felt a little annoyed at her questions, partly because I was afraid that once I answered it would be obvious I had done it wrong, and partly because I didn’t really have an answer.



After a moment of silence, Bea began to offer up suggestions. “Did you pay attention to how warm the water was, or what the soap bubble felt like? Maybe the sound of the water running?” 



I was so confused. No, that wasn’t what I did at all. And that was when I began to realize that my “far aways” and my “being present” were maybe different than Bea’s, and that there were different levels of being not just far away, but present. I didn’t say this though, I just shook my head, and whispered, “I don’t know.” I told her how I tried to be present but had shut down so much that I didn’t even remember washing the dishes. 



At this point, I was curled up into my normal ball on the couch, my face buried in my knees. Bea suggested that, maybe, I needed to start smaller, find something simple and very non threatening to focus on when trying to be present. “I have these scented markers,” she had told me. “What if I got them out, and you picked one to smell and draw a line on paper with? You could guess the scent, and see if the color is is on paper matches the color you expect it to be.” 



I sat very still for a long time, wavering between wanting to nod my head and say okay, and wanting to go farther away. Just the idea of intentionally being present felt threatening. We talked it through, a little bit. I admitted to feeling so stupid for not being able to do something so simple. 

“The present wasn’t a safe place when you were little. You needed to be able to go,far away. It makes sense that the present still feels scary. But it is safe now. You just haven’t had the chance to learn that it is safe here, in this present moment.” When Bea said this, I felt so understood. It felt like a turning point in our relationship; I started feeling like she was still Bea, and like she was here. I nodded my head, and sat up. 



It took a long time for me to grab a marker off the table, and longer still to uncap it. Bea let me sit and take my time. She went through the exact exercise with the markers that she had asked me to try while she waited for me to start. I chose orange. It smelled like the liquid orange Motrin to me, and the color of the marker was a much prettier orange on paper than I expected. Just that little exercise was frightening and draining, and I felt like crying afterward. I shut down pretty quick, but not so much so that I couldn’t function. 

On Friday night, I woke up with a toothache. It was terrible. Even with hubby being so distant lately, and everything feeling very messy with him, he managed to be there for me. He took care of me all weekend, called a new dentist (my old one won’t see me anymore because I had cancelled too many times, and so I hadn’t been to the dentist for over a year), and made an appointment. He scheduled an appointment on Monday morning. 

I emailed Bea to let her know I had to cancel, and that I was sorry. She emailed back, and we ended up maintaining an email connection through the weekend, and on Monday morning. She told me that a lot of people with trauma are very afraid of the dentist, and that it makes perfect sense. It didn’t help get rid of my fear, but between her emails, and hubby doing his best to make the dentist trip as easy as possible on me, I felt supported, understood, and cared for. The wall between me and the world seemed to be lifting. 

I ended up needing a root canal, and was lucky that they were able to do it that day, and use twilight sedation along with nitrous for me. So the whole thing was a lot less frightening than it could have been. Hubby held my hand the entire time, and stayed with me. 

There was plenty that was triggering though, and on Tuesday, I emailed Bea about the whole thing. I told her how I cried, and how I can’t breathe, and how I hate laying back, and hate having things in my mouth. I hate that hubby has to take responsibility for my dentist stuff because I’m so scared, I just won’t go if I’m not made to do so. I hate that this dentist and the entire staff was nothing but kind to me, and all I wanted to do was run and hide but felt frozen. I hate that the dentist was concerned about what made me so scared, asking if there was something specific, a fear he could help alleviate or of I had just had a bad experience. I wrote to Bea that I have no answers for questions like that. I’m just scared. 

She wrote back pretty quick, and reassured me it was a trauma symptom. She suggested that if I liked this dentist, or whomever I decide to see longterm, I might want to communicate to them that I have PTSD, and that would help explain my fears, and hopefully stop them from thinking it was something a dentist had done to make me so scared. She also said that she was glad hubby was experiencing the reality of my trauma. That made me feel really looked after for some reason I can’t quite explain. 

The dentist trip– and tooth pain– wasn’t pleasant at all. And I won’t say it was worth it, but some good did come from it all. I felt like Bea was really there, like she was herself, and I was able to feel her support. I felt like hubby really did care about me, and wanted me to feel safe. I haven’t been able to feel any connection with anyone in my life since finding those emails, and even before that, I had been feeling like everyone was changing everything, and very unsteady. I still feel unsteady, but I don’t feel shut off from people who care about me anymore. 

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7 thoughts on “The toothache 

  1. Goodness, having a root canal sounds absolutely horrible. I have never had to have any dental work, but even cleanings trigger me. They didn’t used to, until I started this intensive therapy. Having your mouth open and all the probing, so terrible. You handled this so well, and I am SO glad your husband stepped up and supported you. I’m sorry it was such painful experience, but like how you used it to learn something and gain strength and confidence in your capacities.

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    • It was pretty horrible, although I was only aware for the exam and numbing shots, so I don’t have much to complain about. I don’t know if I learned a lot, but it was a situation that shook things up enough to force me to let people back in.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh no, that sounds awful. Up until recently, my husband would pretty much have to sit beside me and hold my hand during so much as cleanings. I’ve gotta go on Tuesday for a cleaning and a filling that popped out, so blah. Hopefully a phantom illness does strike me overnight needed me to cancel again. I hope you’re feeling better and while having to get a root canal majorly sucks, I’m glad hubby was there for you and that you felt connected with Bea. ❤

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  3. I am very similar around dental work. Not only because of sexual trauma but also because I also had a very bad experience with a dentist as well. I’m glad this was an okay experience for you. Also glad you’re beginning to feel a bit of connection again.

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    • Although it shouldn’t, it shocks me how many people here feel the same as me about the dentist. And from what Bea has said, it’s so common. I had no idea. Hubby is now on a mission to find me a girl dentist. He thinks that might feel less threatening to me. We shall see.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Our dentist is moving offices to a less convenient location and my first thought was that I should try to find a female dentist this time. I think it would probably be less threatening. Still hard, but worth a try I suppose.

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      • Anything that might help is worth a try, I think. I was thinking how the hygienist is always female, and how I’m still scared and frozen when I get my teeth cleaned. With the dentist that “fired” me, I had gotten to know the hygienist pretty well, and that helped somewhat because I knew she wasn’t scary. It just didn’t alleviate the actual scared feelings once I was in the dental chair.

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