Controlling Anxiety (Part 4 – Positivity)

You got the foundation, now let’s talk about the all the little things that help with my anxiety. For instance, when I had a bad toothache, I asked to work from home. This gave me some along time to dwell in my toothache misery, which made me want the darn thing pulled out. I also had time to build up courage to do it. I then called the dentist and made an appointment. The anxiety was low at that time, and while I didn’t want to do it, I convinced myself.

If we get ride of the tooth, it will never be a problem again. This won’t be as bad as the first time, because I won’t let them work on it, I want it gone. My tooth is very wiggly, so it can’t be that hard to pull it. The injection to numb me will only take seconds. It’s no time at all. My husband goes to the dentist for a lot of work and he likes them. I’m sure that I can trust them. There’s no harm in making the appointment… I don’t actually have to go if I really don’t want to. That was my self-peptalk. I made it safe to make the appointment. I made it for the same day, but much later. It was about 8 am when I made the appointment and I made it for 4pm. I did what I needed to do to at least make the appointment.

Some peoples idea of encouragement doesn’t work for me. Scare tactics, like you could die if you don’t go, or you could be in more pain if you don’t go, or you could loose all your teeth… those don’t work for me. Telling me about how I need to go or the consequences if I don’t, doesn’t work for me. I’m not stupid, I already know these things, and that isn’t helpful to me. It just causes me more anxiety, which causes me to back out. My hubby was at work, so I talked with him in chat and he gave me lots of  great encouragement. His encouragement was all about how great his experience was there and how good I’ll feel when that tooth is gone. That’s the kind of encouragement that works for me! I posted on my facebook and limited to a certain group of people. A lot of great people posted some fantastic encouragements!

“Luck! I’m sure you’ll be fine. Every dentist is different, so there shouldn’t be a repeat of 14 years ago.”

“Love Light and Luck ! Technology in the dental world has significantly improved from 14 years ago. You’ve got this!”

Some of the comments were good accounts of their own dentist experience, and those helped out a lot too. It made me focus on the fact that there are good experiences, and technology does change a lot over the years, which improves experiences. The key to encouragement is to keep it positive! Having good friends also helps a lot.

A good friend of mine gave me a ride to and from the dentist, and he said to call him in if I needed him. However, I chose to do it alone. I really wished my hubby could have been there.  I usually plan around his work schedule so that he can be with me but this time, for some reason, I felt like it was okay for him not to be. That feeling alone was triumphant!

I was slightly embarrassed that I brought Quill with me, but I decided to be brave and just face it proudly. I have a plushie butterfly that goes with me to every surgery, and is perched on top of my head when I’m sick. His name is Quill (named after Nyquil). It’s childish and silly, but that’s the point. It’s goofy, it’s fun, it’s me, and it makes an otherwise grueling anxiety episode just a little more positive. Sure, it’s embarrassing, I feel like I’m being childish, but fuck it. It’s who I am and I accept it. After long, that embarrassment is completely forgotten, because when I’m sitting in that chair and my anxiety at hit stage 4, Quill is a fucking ray of sunshine!

One thing that helped was that the dentist office had a train motif. They had an awesome toy train traveling around the inside of the building, from the waiting room, to the rooms where you get your teeth done. It’s beautiful and I felt like a little kid. I loved it. It helped in making it a positive and fun environment. I had moments of gittyness when the train came by. It was something else to look at and it was pleasant.

Another thing that helps me, is to communicate with the nurses and the doctor. I told them, I have an anxiety disorder that makes it hard to come to the dentist. They took the time to comfort me and talk to me about what was going to happen. They told me which part was painful, how long it would take, and which parts where not so bad. She was detailed, and answered my questions. They made sure I was ready before they did each step. This level of attention was wonderful. I didn’t feel judged or uncomfortable (well, other than the crazy anxiety and tooth pains).

I also happen to be obsessed with taking photos and when the nurse showed me the x-ray of my tooth, I asked if I could take a picture of it. She looked around and whispered, just don’t let anyone see you! I took a picture of it to show my husband and a few close friends. Sure, it’s a morbid curiosity, but it was a little exciting. The little things can lighten the anxiety.

I had Quill resting on my knees and I rubbed his soft fabric wings under my fingers. His cute black beaded eyes looking at me, and his seam looked like a smile. I fiddled with his cute pink antennae. I remembered the day my husband bought him for me. I had been especially sick. I was so sick that I was mostly bent over the couch with my hands full of tissues. I couldn’t hold him at the time, so I put him on top of my head. It was the only safe place for him… thus the tradition of setting him on my head when I’m sick began. Why a butterfly? Because out of my whole plush collection, I did not have any insects, and it was unique. I now name all insect plushies after cold medicine (it’s okay to laugh, I do it).

I remembered the first surgery that Quill went into with me. Quill had been my sick buddy for quite some time and I thought surgery shouldn’t be any different. When the doctor told me I could bring him into surgery with me, I was elated! I didn’t think I could and I was happy. It made me feel good and that kind of positivity helps quell anxiety. As silly as it may sound, having Quill with me on the operating table when I’m otherwise surrounded by strangers, makes me feel like I’m not alone. Quill is attached to good memories. All these things that I’ve been through and survived. Quill is a reminder of love and good things. It’s something that brightens an otherwise dark moment.

So, if you have something that you are sentimentally attached to, that makes you happy, that comforts you… don’t let embarrassment keep you from it. Who cares if it’s childish or silly… it’s a huge source of courage and comfort, and that’s no small thing. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Quill has become a symbol of bravery and I love this rainbow butterfly ❤

While sitting there, I thought about my plan of action. The anesthesia was going to hurt, but it would be quick. Then they need to exact the tooth right away. It won’t be as painful, and because the tooth is wiggly, it won’t take more than a minute. That’s not that long. I’ve suffered this toothache for two days. A minute of pain is doable. I’ll close my eyes and just let it happen.

When the anesthesia was about to be administered, I closed my eyes and gave them the okay to start. I relaxed as much as I could and I thought about the fact that the seconds were going by very quickly, it would soon be over. When I had the first shock, I groaned. The technician (not sure what they are called) apologized and explained that the shock to my lips and tongue is because it’s close to the nerves. She said it’s a good thing and means everything will be good and numb. She said I needed two more and they would be quick. Again, I recounted that it’s just a quick shock… no matter how painful, it was literally a second or two of time for each one. It did not linger.

My anxiety hit a high stage 5, as I was shaking uncontrollably. When the dentist came in, he asked if I was okay to do the extraction. I had tears in my eyes and my skin had turned white (I’m a redhead, so when I go white, it’s ghostly). I said yes. He said I need to try not to move. I had to tense up to control the shaking, and I gave my approval to go. I closed my eyes and I told myself, this is the easy part, and it won’t hurt like the anesthesia. He gave one yank and in literally 3 seconds, it was out. It was just as I told myself it would be. I opened my eyes with enough time to see the bloody tooth and I was relieved. I soothed myself by telling myself it was all over. When I relaxed, the shaking was heavy. All the times that I “talked to myself”, it was in my head.

I sat there, letting the anxiety wash over me mixed with a feeling of relief. I didn’t feel like talking much, and I was somewhat disconnected. I guess you can call it a form of mild shock. I wasn’t observant of my surrounding and I was mostly deep in thoughts of relief and riding out the intensity of the anxiety. It’s very hard to explain this feeling. It was very intense.

It faded gradually. After about an hour the shaking had gone. I didn’t cry in sobs or anything. I sat down at home and promptly wrote about how the anxiety felt (hence the first dentist post). Writing is also an outlet of the anxiety. As I wrote, it was like the anxiety was being released into each word. As I expressed it, it left my body.

Today, as I was inspired to write more about it. I feel like I can do the dentist visit again. It won’t be as difficult or painful as this was, because over all my teeth are pretty healthy. I have a few minor cavities to fill and I need a deep cleaning. I considered, what if I have to go through the same painful anesthesia? It was pretty fast and I did well. I even felt good afterwards. So… yeah… I think I can do this. I’m surprised at how confident I feel. I realize that due to the intensity of the experience, I’m on a high from the endorphins, but this positive connection with a dentist visit will help me in the long run. The best way to fight anxiety, is to create positive associations with the things that cause the greatest anxiety.

Also, the fact that they are going to give me a Valium the next time helps. I like the idea of having some relief from the anxiety. I take it an hour before the visit, so that I’m already relaxed when I get there. It’ll be a new experience and we’ll see how it goes.


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