I’ve been haunted by something for years and years now. It’s been a recurring thing in my life, something that would creep up on me when I was least expecting it. Something that would make me totally and utterly scared, fill me with such a panic that I froze with angst. I’ve always feared this particular thing, but it had gotten particularly worse in my teenage years. With other, I thought more important, things going on in my life I survived by living like it didn’t exist, like there was no problem. I couldn’t think, talk or hear someone talk about it. When I saw something that made me remember my fear I felt sick and panicked. It even went as far that I couldn’t hear anyone say the word. Dentist. Tandarts. Yes, I had a severe phobia of the dentist.
The good news is, I’m doing better, the bad news is, I let it control me for a lot of years. So why am I sharing this with you? You might not have a problem with the dentist at all. You might even like it (are there people out there who enjoy it?). That’s not why I’m writing about this, it’s because everyone has fears, whether it be big or small, important or not. Fear is human, it’s also needed and important to feel fear. Fear helps us humans survive. It’s a way to recognize things that could endanger us. However, fears that are taking over your life or harming you in whatever way, are not OK.
Just to make it clear to you, I know loads of people dislike going to the dentist, they might even feel nervous or skip an appointment every now and then. Not saying that I’m something special, but I had gone past that stage of being scared, it had gotten to a whole other level. As I said I couldn’t talk about it, think about it, I had panic attacks about it, I dreamed about it (let’s call that a nightmare) and even worse.. I had stopped going to my appointments all together. My mom, supportive that she is, had talked to me about it for the last year and tried making me appointments, but every time I couldn’t go through with it, for whatever reason.
I have had terrible experiences at the dentist. The dentist itself is a friendly and skilled guy. I’ve been going to him since I was young and he knows me and my family well. It’s the procedures that made me scared in the first place. My sensitivity for sound, smells and pain made it worse. I couldn’t handle the feeling and experience, I remember (almost) fainting one time. I had panic attacks (picture me sobbing hysterically in the room) when I tried to go. The dentist recognized I had a problem. I had a phobia.
And then it was enough. I needed to go. My mom had made an appointment for herself and I knew about it. It was right before a vacation and I had some discomfort in my mouth and felt so worried about it. So I made myself go to her appointment (accompanied by my mom). Tip: go with someone you trust. The dentist knew about my fear (we called him before I came) and took his time explaining everything. He also didn’t use any tools except a mirror. Turned out I had two cavities. That could be fixed. Long story short. One cavity turned out to be much worse. I had inflammation under my tooth. It needed to go. It took a handful of appointments to get everything fixed. He described some drugs to make me calm and less worried, which helped a lot. I got through the process and each time had more courage to keep coming back. And the thing is, my fear became less and less.
Things that helped me:
talking about it with someone
making a plan and sticking to it (face your fears)
have someone there to support you
having the dentist know about it
taking some drugs the first couple of times
writing down my thoughts and feelings
doing it multiple times
accepting that you’re scared
It’ll be something that I’ll need to work on for the rest of my life and no I’ll never like going to the dentist. As long as I’m okay with going to my appointments once or twice a year, having a dentist that supports me and is careful, I’ll be okay. So don’t ever think there’s no hope. Never ever give up, because there’s always something you can do, there’s always hope. Don’t feel like you have to conquer your fears alone; find someone that understands and will help you. Fear is a part of life, but it’s not supposed to be consuming your life. When you feel ready to tackle it, go for it! I believe in you!
Have you conquered any fears? Or are you still struggling with it?