Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fear & Cowardice in Kansas....

I can't stand to fly,
I'm not that naive,
I'm just out to find,
The better part of me...

("Superman", Five For Fighting)

Well I've done it again---and I feel very guilty about it.

I've cancelled my dentist appointment--- for the third dang time.

To say I have a "phobia" about the dentist is mild---it's more like a full-fledged terror. But I don't know why I bother cancelling the stupid appointment because they simply re-schedule me for another day. I'm only putting off the inevitable. I'm really stressed out about this issue--- especially since Blaine is sure to gripe his head off at me once he finds out I've cancelled the appointment yet again.

Blaine's not afraid to go to the dentist. That idgit actually likes to go--- regularly and eagerly--- and afterwards he skips home triumphantly clutching little sample bags containing the latest brand of dental floss, an ergonomically-designed toothbrush, and an embossed card on which his next appointment is written neatly in pretty handwriting.

Well, bully for him!!

Because I, on the other hand, will do almost anything to get out of going to the dentist. Just the word "dentist" fills me with dread. And I have become the queen of missed-appointment excuses. In fact, if giving excuses was an Olympic sport, I would stand alone on the winner's pedestal--- holding the Bronze, the Silver, and the Gold.

And I think it' so unfair that I have this personal weakness, because in many other ways I'm neither chicken-hearted nor wimpy at all---in fact, I think I'm pretty brave about some things.

For example, during the years I was married to Blaine, I worked as a road nurse here along the Kansas/Missouri state lines--- and my particular territory was the east side of the city, which is known locally as being heavy gang territory. Those were dangerous years; even the local police called the few road nurses who were willing to go into that area "foolhardy".

(Actually, some of them said we were "nuts", but I hate to present Kansas City's Finest in an unflattering light....)

The area is, indeed, very dangerous. In fact, I was once almost hit by gunfire there while standing on the front porch of a home while waving goodbye to a patient. Suddenly, a "drive-by" shooting occurred. The shooter missed his target--- and also narrowly missed my own head by a mere 5 inches.

To this day I remember that after the shots rang out from the double-barreled shotgun, I had frozen in my tracks---while gazing stupidly at the two grey smoke-rings that had emerged from the shotgun and then wafted lazily by my head.

One day while at home, I was startled to notice that the television show "Cops" was filming in my own road nurse territory---even in the same apartment complexes where many of my patients lived. But nonetheless, those years were very rewarding to me, and it never occurred to me or my fellow road nurses to be frightened of anything----except maybe a rise in gasoline prices.

(One time while working in east Kansas City, I noticed that a bedraggled, starving stray cat had deposited a litter of kittens in a bush. I knew it was doubtful that they'd survive. And so I couldn't help but rescue one---a tiny, white, flea-bitten kitten no more than three inches long---and I took the weak little thing home in my pocket. I wasn't sure she would live. But she is now a fat, healthy, spoiled-rotten fluff who goes by the name of Little Baby--- and spends the majority of her time waiting by her saucer for her tuna...)

(...or else attempting to steal poor Leonard's tuna...)

(Blaine rescued Leonard from an animal shelter, where he'd been deposited after being found injured and alone in some rubble after a tornado.)

Where was I?

Oh yes---cancelling my dang dentist appointment.

The following are actual excuses I've used when canceling my dentist appointments in the last two months:

-- We're moving. (It's not a lie---the landlord is trying to sell this duplex. And so we might have to move eventually.)

-- I have a sore throat. (This isn't a lie---I have seasonal allergies which sometimes cause me to have respiratory irritation.)

-- I have a family emergency. (This isn't a lie---I've always got some sort of "emergency" around here... like sending a perfectly good sock to the frog pond.)

The poor sock.

After it frustrated me for the umpteenth time, I ripped it unmercifully--- and then felt terrible. Because when I saw the pitiful thing disintegrate into a sad pool of yarn cur-lee-cues, I suddenly realized that watching it unravel reminded me of the same childhood heartbreak I felt when somebody read to me how Frosty The Snowman had melted in the middle of the street.

And so right then I sanctimoniously declared to Blaine that I'd never frog a sock again. I told him that henceforth I would simply cut the yarn and leave unfinished sock remnants on a shelf somewhere, to live out their lives with the rest of my stash. But then I changed my mind after Blaine sarcastically remarked: "Oh, you mean you're going to make a sock graveyard?"

The horror!

Sigh, I've also got UFO knitting to tend to. The neglected Joker's Wild Cardigan needs steeking badly---and the sleeves begun. I try to tell myself that configuring free-form fair-isle patterns while also shaping the sleeves won't really be all that difficult.....

I also frogged this poor thing, which had been destined to become a top-down raglan cardigan, but will now instead go sit in the UFO holding area, awaiting one of my next knitting whims....

Oh yes---back to the excuses I've used for cancelling my dentist appointment :

-- I'm having transportation difficulties. (It could happen---sometimes I hear Blaine's truck backfiring....)

-- I forgot to take my antibiotic. (Now this REALLY isn't a lie---because I usually lose my antibiotic bottle on a side table among pads of knitter's graph paper, skeins of scrap yarn, and my favorite knicknack, my lucky My-Little-Pony figurine.)

I guess since I'm doing "true confessions" here I might as well admit to you that I even discussed this whole dental issue with my shrink, Fred. Last Thursday I told Fred the whole story of how I'd been repeatedly cancelling my dental appointment.

And so we had discussed it.

Hey, why not discuss it with Fred? He thinks he's so smart---and it gives him something to do. Our appointments always consist of him repeatedly asking me "serious questions" while he then madly scribbles my answers (or God knows what) on a little notepad.

I mean, this guy acts like he's Sigmund Freud. Frankly, I think somebody should analyze HIM. Although I totally appreciate his services, it's like he's on some sort of psychiatric crusade. For instance, after almost every session he gives me written handouts describing his "diagnoses" for me to take home and "study".

He also makes me fill out a daily, numerical, "mood scale" paper--- at the top of which is typed in bold print: "If you are feeling higher than a 'plus 2' or lower than a 'minus 2', CALL IMMEDIATELY!"

Hell, if I called every time my stupid "mood" shifted outside the plus-or-minus-two scale, I might as well be connected to them by closed-circuit television and a walkie talkie....

Fred always has a Freudian solution for everything. He even analyzes my knitting, calling it a "coping skill". And it cracks me up no end that he even has a "theory" on why I prefer knitting (and wearing) "loud, brightly colored, non-matching, unorthodox garments".

(A theory which, interestingly enough, he developed soon after I finished knitting the "Molly Weasley's Amazing Technicolor Housecoat"--go figure...)

One time he asked me how I had "related" to my trauma patients during the years I worked in hospital emergency rooms. I had answered: "Do what? I have no idea--- I just did the best I could to calm their fears and diminish their physical pain while we treated their injuries."

But he persisted. "I mean---what particular method did you use when TALKING to them?"

And when I continued to deny having any particular talking "method", he revealed--- with a slightly self-satisfied smile--- that he uses his "therapeutic voice" on me.

Therapeutic voice??? What the hell?

"Therapeutic voice?" I squawked. "What the hell is that all about? Do you mean like the Bene Gesserit Voice used by Paul Atreides in the movie 'Dune'?"

(I knew that would irk him. Fred's very particular about what he watches in entertainment. Once I told him that I love old, fanciful movies like "Mary Poppins" and "Lost Horizon", and he snootily replied that he only watches "strictly educational channels" on the TV--- except not Animal Planet "because they're abusive to animals".)

Eventually Fred gave up bugging me about "relating" to patients and then declared that he was going to teach me a "relaxation technique" which I could use to help me decrease my nervousness about the dentist. He then instructed that once a day I should lie down, close my eyes, and relax--- and then visualize myself going to the dentist while "talking myself through" each step in the process.

He then demonstrated how he wanted me to do it, relaxing in his chair and chanting with his Voice:

"Bo, just say to yourself: 'I am now in the truck going to the dentist'..." he began slowly, "and then proceed to the next step, calmly telling yourself that you're now walking through the dentist's front door...."

"Okay," I murmured, while settling into my own chair, trying to be cooperative...

Fred continued...

"And then tell yourself that you're walking over to the dentist chair.....feeling safe....and then you're allowing the assistant to put the paper bib on you.....feeling safe....and then the helpful dentist approaches you with a smile on his face..."

And suddenly I couldn't help myself...

"Use the force, Luke!" I blurted, "Use the FORCE!!!"

Fred didn't laugh.

Fred never laughs at my jokes.


Okay, okay, eventually I did try Fred's "relaxation" exercise here at home. But I gave up because I simply can't do the damn thing right. I mean, I can lay down, relax, and try to "talk myself" through the process all I want--- but I found that there's simply no way to talk myself CALMLY through the part where ..

....the part where I rip that bib off my chest, vault out of the chair while knocking over the instrument table---and then shove past the hapless dental assistant...

... and then run screaming like a maniac out the door and down the street...


I have another appointment with Fred next Tuesday.


(Do you think the dentist would mind if I set my lucky My-Little-Pony figurine on the instrument table while he was working on me?)


Cindy said...

You're a nurse, so you can't be squeamish, right? Would it help to know exactly what's going on there in your mouth? I ask because that's what it took for me. I had to know what was happening every. single. second. or I'd faint. (Dentists HATE it when you faint.) I also happened to have a dentist who offered me a mirror so I could see what he was doing. Maybe your dentist could even find an agreeable patient who wouldn't mind if you watched their treatment. A little knowledge can go a long way toward calming big fears.

Anonymous said...

My suggestion? Use that line on the dentist next time you can "make" yourself get in there ... right in the middle, yell "USE THE FORCE, LUKE!", then duck quick and hope whatever he drops doesn't land in your mouth! LOL

Karma said...

As a nurse and fellow dentalphobe, I can definitely relate, Bo. I see the difference between "us" and "the sadist" as allopathic medicine has vaulted headlong into the 21st century while dentistry has remained happily bogged in the Dark Ages. I love reading your blog-makes me feel like I'm not alone out here! (exits skipping and giggling OK, trudging and grumbling,to do the catbox and hoping to encounter no critters)

Anonymous said...

OMFG, Bo! "Use the force"... I snorted out loud - you should have put a beverage alert on this one!! I too avoid the dentist. In fact I was just thinking about the fact that is has been more than 3 years since I managed to force myself to his chair when I decided to distract myself by reading your blog... it must be a sign that I am fine to not visit this year either. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

OMFG, Bo! "Use the force!" I just snorted out loud! You need to put a beverage alert on this one!

I, too, have dental avoidance syndrome (DAS) and was literally just thinking about the fact that it has been over 3 years since I forced myself into his chair when I decided to distract myself from the scary thoughts by reading your blog. It must be a sign that I am safe to not attend to his office this year either... Thanks Bo!

Anita in SE IN said...

1. let me know if that My Little Pony works and I'll get me one. I have to see the dentist weekly until these crowns are finished, and any help I can get is appreciated.

And 2. Fire Fred, any one who neither appreciates one's jokes nor understands Sci Fi/Fantasy is not to be trusted!

Maggie said...

I know that dentist terror, and doctor and people I don't know putting their hands on me, or getting really close to me...and I hate the dental lectures..
I think Fred is an educated idiot....'how did you talk to your patiends??' Gee, it depended on the person, the situation..You did what worked best, what you knew or felt would help at that moment with that person...duuuu...
Knitting is great coping tool, it's also a great way to have nice things to wear that no one else has 1 just like it...
I go to the dentist, try not to toss my cookies while I am there, and reward me for being a brave kid and submitting...a skein of yarn, a bit of fabric, a big bag of M&M's... love ya, keep being You

Anonymous said...

Oh, I can relate!!!

And I don't think the dentist should have a problem with your Pony at all, if he DOES, it's time to find a new dentist!!!!

GOOD LUCK! I will be pulling for you!!!!

danielle said...

GET TO THE DENTIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I hate them too and I blame my childhood on this...and the infernal NOISE that you had to live thru coupled with the pain...I still leave gripmarks in the arms of the chairs....but am now in the midst of an on going issue that started the week before Christmas and is going to cost me about $2,000....and it could have been prevented if I would actually go to the dentist on a regular preventative basis (and also if I had had different parents as I blame my issues on genetics - in particular my dad having rotten teeth altho deep down I know his were environmental and financial)...HIE THEE TO THE DENTIST! I have found a great one I have to admit - who does great pain relief but I still hate to go and actually cringed in Dec when they figured out how long it had been since they saw me....