I have been in San Diego for a little over a month. All scans, x-rays, and doctors appointments have been completed and the news is good. Well, almost all of the appointments have been completed. The only outstanding appointments at this time is the dentist. Yep, I arrived in San Diego with pain in my jaw (which of course I was sure was head & neck cancer). Day one was an appointment with my dentist, day two was an appointment with the periodontist, and day three was surgery to remove one of my back teeth and have a bone graft completed. Since then I have been through another gum surgery. I have one more to complete after I return from Christmas.
Have I told you that I really, really dread going to the dentist? All these dentists are very nice people but I have had very few good experiences with the dentist. It started when I was in fifth grade and continues to this day. Just in case you are not aware yet, dentists make me very uncomfortable.
No matter how hard I try to be adult and rational about all this, my little girl pops to the foreground and once again I am a mass of little girl feelings. I try to be an adult but often when I get to the dentist office and the news is not the best, I have found myself crying in the dental chair. I know I am not alone in these feelings. All I have to do is bring up the subject of the dentist and the person I am speaking with shares their own feelings of fear and dental dread.
All of us have an inner child. I have read books about this. I have gone to workshops about this. I have, through meditation had conversations with my inner child. I think I acknowledge her existence but then, well, just mention the dentist and here she is again, taking over my present day existence.
It is bad enough I become a small girl at the mention of the dentist. This time, when I arrived for my first appointment with the periodontist, I discovered the office was in the same medical building that I took Jim to, three times a week for the last four months of his life. He received IV nutritional therapy to help him better tolerate his chemotherapy. People with head and neck cancer often receive feeding tubes because they cannot tolerate eating. This therapy also helped him live without the feeding tube.
Not only did I have to deal with all my dental fears, I also had to confront some issues around grief. Boy does that subject continue to pop up at interesting times. Once again I sat down in the dental chair, the tech came in and I started crying. Was this fear, was this grief, was this everything all mixed together? I will never know completely. It was hard to walk to elevator and return, once again to this building.
As I review these last several weeks and my visit to this dentist and building, in some ways I find this has been a bit healing for me. I have had time to reflect the moments Jim and I shared in our visits to the doctor who treated him. Jim and I always functioned well as a team. We shared everything. Some of those visits were fraught with anxiousness but we always were very good at supporting each other through our lives together. Sometimes he would sleep and I would go for a walk. Other times we sat and read. Yet other times we shared our thoughts and feelings with each other. It has made me miss him more. It has made me recognize how important those moments were in our relationship. It has made me realize how important all moments are in my relationship to all others.
It is OK to acknowledge and accept my inner child. That little girl gives me the opportunity to laugh and play and look at the world with excitement and wonder. It is a little harder to acknowledge her when I am sobbing in the dental chair. I guess that is the time to acknowledge her most of all. At times like this I need to tell all of my selves “it’s OK”. If I need to cry, then cry. Usually after my sob session is over I can handle my time at the dentist better and I feel more adult.
Later this morning all of me is off to the dentist for a follow-up.