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Dental Phobia Stories

Story 15

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I don't know that "overcome" is the correct term. I still struggle with my anxiety every time the situation comes up, but I do have something that helps. I BRIBE MYSELF. I figure that it's time the "inner child" work went beyond the children of alcoholics to help with other child-based dysfunction. Basically, it goes like this: You respect your fear based self (the child-self) and reassure it with your responsible adult-self. I say something like: "It's okay to be afraid. A lot of people get nervous coming here. Last time you did really good handling ________xyz_________ and this time you'll do even better."

I then go on to bribe my inner child with something FUN and as child-like as possible. When my grandfather was still alive, I purposely chose a dentist near him, so I could visit with grandpa afterwards. Now, sometimes I go to the Krispy Creme donut factory and watch the conveyors and vats of oil, betting on which ring of dough will fail to flip, or watching errant blobs get stuck. If I've done something truely heroic, like allowed myself to leave the chair and go to the bathroom to collect myself when if feels like they've forgotten me--really they're seeing more than one person at a time--then I actually buy my brave child-like self a donut and treat my adult self to a cup of their strong coffee.

Other choices include playing with the beads at the Bead Emporium, going to see the golden handed gibbons at the zoo, feeding the ducks day-old bread, or skipping stones across the canal. Lately, since my apointments have been right at lunch time, I've been going to Max & Erma's for soup, but that feels a little bit too grown up and I feel cheated, sort of. I probably owe myself a fun movie and (not a taffy apple) a pinball game.

It's been disappointing that my partner has no grasp of the emotional cost for me to go to the dentist. Once, the assistant asked me why I was crying, like I could answer, and accused me of making her feel bad. (The real dentist accepts my silent tears and lets me work on stress management on my own with an occasional pat on the shoulder.) When my mouth was finally free for speech, I said, "I hate the dentist." I didn't mean the dental person but my partner, who'd been asked to stand nearby later told me I should probably appologize....In truth, I should probably ask that Missy (her real name) be kept away from me, especially since the temporary cap she glued on came unstuck within the hour.

In reading the other stories, I realize that I have not been miraculously healed by one pain-free dental event. Nor do I care to go into the extent of my debilitating anxiety. Perhaps I'll have a more satisfying story to tell at some future date, but for now, I'm happy with minor sucess that allows me to make and keep appointments, say what I want and need, and I can generally stay in the chair, without calling too many time-outs.

Oh, my biggest bribe of all, the promise to my child-self---"If it's too bad, we don't ever have to do this again." So far, that's one bribe I haven't had to fill.

Submitted by Kim

2005. The copyright lies with the respective authors.