So I think since the last time I posted, I had three dentist appointments and one visit to the gynecologist. So it’s made for an interesting week.
I think it has been more than 10 years since I went to the dentist. I don’t think I have seen a dentist since I became a teacher. I started teaching in 2005. Anyway, you can’t really expect good news from the dentist after that long.
She said I needed “deep cleaning,” which I have had before, because it was a similarly long time before that. I have actually seen a dentist only three times as an adult. I’m scared.
The exam was on Tuesday. I saw the gynec in the morning and the dentist in the afternoon of the same day. Christmas was Monday and the day after, I rode buses around town seeing new medical specialists.
They turned out to be surprisingly kind. Overall, I have seen six different medical types of various kinds over the last few weeks (2 dentists and 2 hygienists, a doctor, and a gynecologist), and they have all been astoundingly nice to me.
It’s something I have been wondering about, because they’ve all been chosen somewhat at random. The doctor and the dentist I chose out of a plan book more or less based on the name and what I thought to be the gender. (Somehow I got it wrong about the doctor.)
The last doctor I had was very good and very kind, but not chosen at random–I asked around for recommendations–and I kept the same doctor for years. Six different people, all very caring and very nice, and all chosen by chance. How did that come to be?
I don’t have an answer to that, but I have been relieved.
The dentist was interesting, because midway through the first session of deep cleaning, I realized I am not so afraid of the pain. I am afraid of the noise. The dental instruments are like having a mini Skil saw in your mouth. It’s terrifying for me to have that go on for an hour or more.
A few times, sitting in the chair, waiting for the dentist to do his work, I just reminded myself that my only job was to try to calm down. Other times, I have to balance some other task in the present, something that needs to get done or a conversation that needs to be managed, but at the dentist, there is nothing I need to do other than try to manage my internal state. That helped somewhat.
It helped, too, that I knew what I was afraid of. It did not make the fear go away, but it gave me an opening with it at least.
Something interesting happened in the midst of this, because I started to have flashbacks of dismemberment sitting there in the chair, and that was more than I could take, so I began to imagine myself as the dentist. Being in his head was much more pleasant than being in my head.
Over the year, something I have realized is that there is something in the present frightening me at these times, and trying to ground myself in the present makes things worse for me. It does not matter that nothing bad is actually going to happen because of what I am frightened of. My mammal brain is simply responding to a stimulus in the way that it has learned to respond, and it’s likely to keep doing that.
So I looked at the dentist and I thought he is looking at my teeth. He is concentrating on what he is seeing there, and he is calmly trying to get it off. I know what calm, concentration feels like and it’s quite a pleasant feeling, so I just borrowed his.
This has something to do with life as a human. We feel things within ourselves as ourselves and we also imagine other people’s experiences and we feel those within ourselves too.
Child abuse interfered with this, because when I entered into my parents’ experiences, it was too terrible. Their inner states were too painful, and their views of me too awful. There is this practice of taking a perspective you are supposed to have, which is what makes other people comprehensible, and I think I stopped doing it or I stopped doing some part of it and a piece of my development as a person did not proceed normally. It was interfered with, and I think this made everyone seem unpredictable and difficult to understand or communicate, and not just my parents who were impulsive enough to feel unpredictable in the best of cases.
Just a thought to chew on for a while.