We went to the dentist yesterday. This wasn’t the kind of dentist appointment with a cleaning and a sticker. This was the kind of dentist appointment with sedatives and drills.
Unfortunately, my daughter was blessed with my tooth genes, and that means she will be forever traumatized by the world of floss and fluoride. As a parent, there is nothing worse than knowingly putting your child in a position where she will feel pain, and not having a choice.
Until now, I have always been in the room when a doctor was with my children. It never occurred to me there would be another alternative.
Imagine my surprise when I picked up my purse to go back to the exam room with my daughter, and I was told that I wasn’t allowed. My daughter started crying at the thought that I would not be with her, and I could feel the volcano starting to erupt from the pit of my stomach.
The feeling is very familiar to me. Some might refer to it as “mama bear.” Some might refer to it as a protective instinct. But I know what it really is: fear. As I went over the scenario in my head, I had more concerns than I could count. I knew the dentist was male. I knew the dental hygienist was male. Both of them were relatively attractive, which I illogically associate with sexual aggressiveness. (Unfortunately, my father was an attractive man.) My daughter was fully sedated and could not even walk.
I had 5,000 thoughts in a second and a half. My first thought was that I still had time to grab my daughter and run. My next thought was that I could extend my getaway time by punching the poor dental assistant in the face. Then, I thought that I could just pull out all of my daughter’s teeth on my own and get her a nice set of dentures.
At this point, I knew I had to start talking myself off the trauma ledge. This dentist’s office had a spotless reputation. The exam rooms didn’t have walls and doors. There were 500 employees working at this place. There would be no opportunity for my daughter to be sexually abused by anyone.
I finally noticed that there was a female dental assistant standing in front of me. She was probably wondering what was wrong with me. So, as calmly as I could, I asked if she was going to be in the room during the procedure. She said that she would. I asked again if she would be there the entire time. She said that she would. I am sure she wondered why (maybe she didn’t). So, I kissed my daughter and handed her to this random woman. Then, I sat down and shook until my daughter was returned to me.
This is how trauma works. It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t follow logic. I know the nice, attractive dentist had no desire to hurt my daughter (except for the drilling part). I know that a reputable dental office is a safe place. But it doesn’t matter. In that moment, the trauma was in charge.
My path to recovery requires me to acknowledge my anxiety in the moment but respond with strength. Each time I respond to a seemingly terrifying situation with a trusting response, the trauma loses its grip a little more. The anxiety subsides a little more. I can feel my innate power fill in some of the empty cavities left behind from the dissipating trauma that used to define me. Little by little, I am returning to me. I am becoming whole again.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Jul 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Corey, E. (2013). Have Trauma, Will Hover: The Dentist. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/08/01/have-trauma-will-hover-the-dentist/