From Fear to Joy in the Dentist’s Chair

My path from fear to joy in the dentist’s chair took many small steps. It certainly was aided by advancements in dentistry. I was not too fond of dental visits because I had a mouth full of cavities as a child. While city kids received fluoride in their drinking water, country kids like me didn’t. That’s my excuse. The reality of choices early in life is they can have consequences as we age.

From Fear to Joy in the Dentist’s Chair

I assembled all my dental paraphernalia to illustrate I take my dental health seriously. And also, I want to introduce a habit I’ve developed over the last year that makes my dental visits an absolute joy.

Most recently, I had two visits in seven calendar days. They were scaling and root deep cleaning to remove the tarter and bacteria that love to lurk at the gum line. Convention expects numerous injections to numb the entire area to effectively and quickly release the damaging plaque.

As a result of the meditation I use daily, my persona has transformed from a hurried doer to a calmer appreciator of rest. For example, I begin slow, shallow breathing after the hygienist numbs my gums with a topical. Then it returns to regular breathing, except I slowly extend my out-breath.

When the dentist tells me, “This is going to pinch,” I’m in the middle of a slow, steady out-breath. I don’t flinch, groan, or react to any injections throughout the procedure to numb half my mouth. That is one whole side, up and down. The slow breathing puts me in such a calm state, and I’m perfectly still. Fear is a distant memory.

I can honestly say during the first procedure; I never felt pain. Never.

Conversely, I felt pain radiating out my tongue toward the tip during the first injection at the second procedure. Yet, I didn’t perceive this as painful or upsetting. Why? Because I know the sensation will be short. After all, the purpose is to numb the area.

My Dentist’s Reaction

As I’m in this euphoric, meditative state, I seem to know what the dentist or hygienist needs me to do. So it took a few seconds before I realized the dentist was talking to me about my demeanor.

“I’ve never had a patient as calm as you during the numbing process. And I don’t like being on the receiving end, either. So how do you do it?”

I explained my slow breathing strategy.

“So you breathe deeply in and then slowly out,” she said.

“Not exactly. It’s more of a continuously shallow, slow breath.”

As the dentist and hygienist continue their animated banter, I drift into my peaceful, dreamlike state.

Parting Thoughts and Suggestions

It’s hard not to laugh a little and think how much they reminded me of myself when I was in the constantly doing mode. And that’s another helpful mindset in the dentist’s chair. It’s your mind, and you can take yourself somewhere else anytime you desire. Don’t worry. When they need you to move, they’ll let you know.

As a child, I was not too fond of dental appointments for a simple reason. I was stuck in the past, anticipating a repeat of an uncomfortable experience. However, if you can move your thought patterns from the past, where the source of fear exists, to the present, it’s simple to be in the peaceful, easy feeling of now.

The next time you walk into the room with the dentist’s chair, take a moment to look at the chair. When sitting in it, close your eyes, lean back, and feel the comfort of a perfectly designed piece of furniture. Then, take a deep breath and sink deeper into the luxury of the dentist’s chair. You have begun your journey from fear to joy in the dentist’s chair.

Self-love is the Way

Self-love is the way to achieve your goals. This statement is broad, perhaps too general to understand. Here’s an illustration from my life where self-love opened the door to better health.

Self-love is the Way Forward

When life is stressful with work, family, grief, or health concerns, we find coping mechanisms that pull us through the pain. Some of these paths are Art in Medicinevery healthy and life-affirming. For instance, a friend discovered her artistic talent through an art therapy program during her cancer treatment. Her painting is the dancer in red, top center.

An integral ingredient in any forward movement is self-love.

For some, self-love bloomed early in their life. As babies, toddlers, and in early childhood, they received the affirming affection, praise, and happiness from people integral in their life that built the confidence of self-love.

For others, myself included, we were missing an essential ingredient that led us to believe we weren’t good enough to receive the love and affection we desperately desired. Early childhood is a unique situation for each of us, affected by personalities, intrinsic values, and perhaps the contract we made with our Creator before entering the world.

Forgiveness is an element of self-love. You might find it easier to forgive others than yourself. That’s a great place to start. But ultimately, forgiving yourself is key to self-love.

Grief Plays a Role

For me, I’ve used emotional eating as a tool to soothe hurt. But, unfortunately, it became a dramatic example as I put on twenty-four pounds over the last five months.

I was wrapping up the initial frantic probate actions in early April following my husband’s death. The payoff was returning to the peace of the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains.

Although I was still the caregiver for my 93-year-old mother, she had adjusted well to her assisted living home. Driving the twenty-one miles to visit her, I drank in the peaceful pace and scenery of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

But I was still in my perfectionist mode, using the trip home to shop in Boone. My self-loathing kept me from simply returning home along the same route.

Suddenly Everything Changes

A routine developed. I added personal training at the Wellness Center in Boone before visiting Mom. But the allure of Publix, my favorite grocery store in Boone, brought me back through the traffic. It was more important to serve my masculine nature of doing than surrender to my feminine side of appreciation of nature. My lack of self-love won over the calming effects of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s meandering 45 mph route.

Another Passing

Suddenly, Mom’s health plummeted. Her dehydration set up a dramatic series of events. Infection and discomfort were severe. Surgery was not an option as her blood pressure fell.

The doctors and I chose to keep her comfortable as her life force left her in under a week. Such a quick change is shocking, even for a woman in her 90s. But, unfortunately, June 4th marked another significant change. And another period of heightened anxiety began.

My Attention Wavered

Although I noticed my clothes tightening, it was easy to ignore. But the numbers on the bathroom scale continued to climb. Finally, I succumbed to the easy route of eating sandwiches, nachos, and ice cream. In addition to a load of carbohydrates, my digestive system balked from gluten, coffee, dairy products, processed food, and sugar. Sadly, I ignored my gluten intolerance and the inflammatory effect of dairy and sugar on my body.

A Nice Day in Nature

Native Bee BalmOn the afternoon of Saturday, August 27th, I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch at The Bluffs, a restaurant along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Earlier, I joined a fern identification walk with the local chapter of the North Carolina Native Plant Society. But, not wishing to hold up the other hikers, I saved my photography for this native monarda, where I met a fellow botany enthusiast. Overall, it was a rewarding day.

The Sh*t Hits the Fan

After arising Sunday morning, I drank my 12-oz coffee with cream and sugar, followed by a one-half gluten-free bagel, cream cheese, and preserves. Within minutes, a burning sensation began in my stomach.

I soldiered on, working on a pre-session health questionnaire for an upcoming Zoom. My weight gain needed attention, and I took the first step toward solving the problem.

Before I could finish the questionnaire, my stomach pain demanded attention. So I popped an acid reduction pill and frantically looked for food to absorb the acid.

My body continued to balk. The dreaded, violent release of my stomach contents followed. All I could think about was whether it looked like coffee grounds. I had seen that phenomenon from a patient with a bleeding ulcer while working as a nurse’s aide in high school. What a relief. No coffee grounds!

The Reason Becomes Clear

As I continued moving from one position to another, I finally lay down on the bed and had a loving conversation.

“You have everything you need to get through this pain. It will pass. Allow sleep to come, and the pain will be gone when you awake.”

Twenty minutes later, I woke up. The pain was gone.

As I lay still, it became clear that the pain was a wake-up call to get serious about taking care of my body. I imagined the unseen trauma of my digestive system fighting the inflammatory effects of sugar, gluten, milk proteins, and milk sugar.

Self-love is the way to improve my health. With this new self-awareness, I began searching for knowledge about my system and the journey back to health.

the sky is the limitYou can achieve anything with self-love. After that, the sky’s the limit.

Sharing with tenderness,

The Dark Before Dawn

I’ve come to appreciate the dark before dawn. It’s a place of rest in anticipation of the beauty to come. And the more clouds, the more spectacular the display.

The Dark Before Dawn

In life, you might experience something similar, a hurt from childhood that continues to haunt your soul, preventing you from thriving. It is your dark before dawn of realizing the beautiful person you are.

It has been my experience that everyone has something or someone in their young life who wounded them. Usually, it is a person you love or admire; a parent, sibling, grandparent, teacher, or authority figure.

Although it could be a single occurrence, it’s more likely habitual. You’ve heard the painful words many times, in many different ways.

At first, your child self was shocked. Then you started to believe you deserved the criticism. Perhaps you retreated within and tried to hide in hopes you wouldn’t be noticed. Alternatively, you worked hard to be the perfect child to win your tormentor’s love and affection.

None of these tactics worked. You couldn’t escape until you were old enough to get away. By then, their words became your internal words. You convinced yourself they were right.

“I’ll never be good enough.”

You Can Still Heal

You can heal the wound regardless of how long you have felt undeserving.

My wounds were deep and pervasive. It has taken hard work to dig up the truth and hurt. It’s painful. But once you see the source of your anguish and bring it into the light of day, you can destroy it.

The words that hurt you were their words, sourced out of their childhood pain. It is in your power to stop the cycle.

Once you deeply understand this, forgiveness is possible.

Accept Help from Healers

It would help if you had help and support with this work. Healers are available in many ways; therapists, shamans, life coaches, counselors, and reiki practitioners.

Ask for help from your Spiritual Guidance through prayer, meditation, or another ritual meaningful to you. If you are unsure how to start, use this guide to begin the process of uncovering the root cause of your unhappiness.

You Hold the Key to Happiness

Slowly, taking this process one step at a time, you will dispel the dark before dawn and open the gate to a beautiful life you design. Then, like a well-tended garden, you can live a life radiant with sweet-scented encounters and realize your dreams.

You are more than good enough.

You deserve the extraordinary life of the promise your birth bestowed.

With loving tenderness,