Not literally, of course, this is The Netherlands. But I did something that I’m proud of and I’ll tell you all about it.
Fifteen years ago, I changed dentists. My old dentist, whom I had visited twice a year for my whole life, was in my hometown, while I had been living on the other side of the country for a couple of years already. That wasn’t practical at all. I found a new dentist here in the city and registered there. But before I could go to my first appointment, this dentist retired. And when I looked for another one, nobody was taking new patients, their practices were all full. Oh well, I had good teeth, never had caries, so I didn’t worry too much. I would look for a new dentist later.
When I wanted to visit my old dentist instead, sometime later, it turned out that he had retired as well. What a coincidence! So I was dentist-less. I still didn’t worry, because my teeth were fine. I would look for a new dentist later.
A few years later I still didn’t have a dentist. I didn’t have any money, either, because being a singer didn’t pay well. I was worried that if I would visit a new dentist, I wouldn’t be able to pay the bill. I would look for a new dentist later.
Then I got a burnout/depression. I didn’t have the energy or money to visit a dentist. I also didn’t have any complaints, so I could look for a new dentist later.
When I had recovered from the burnout a bit, I managed to finish my bachelor degree in computer science and immediately found a job. It was hard to focus and think so much with my still foggy brain and bad mood, but I managed. Having a job and some money again felt good. But I still didn’t have the energy to find a new dentist.
I was made redundant at my job and looked for a new job. It was hard and I had a bit of a crisis: what did I want to do with my life? And why didn’t I manage to do that? I went through a dark period and then I found my current job. I was glad that I could hold on to something again. Dentists were far from my mind. I could look for a new dentist later.
Meanwhile, it had been more than ten years since I last visited a dentist. I didn’t have any toothaches, but I saw that I got tartar. I got a wisdom tooth, then another. The third is now peeking through as well. I had heard horror stories from fellow singers about having them pulled and the surgeon hitting the tongue nerve, paralysing the tongue. I didn’t want to even think about having a dentist tell me that the wisdom teeth would have to come out. They were fine. I got an electric toothbrush to keep them clean, so I could look for a new dentist later.
In the past two years, I’ve finally been building up my life again. I went from hanging in there, to functioning, to starting to have some reserves. I lost a lot of weight, started eating more healthily, started doing yoga, got promoted at work, started enforcing boundaries, got into therapy for my CPTSD and generally started to feel better.
I could look for a new dentist now.
But by now, I was super scared to go to a dentist. It had been fifteen years. What if my mouth was full of caries? What if I had to undergo super expensive treatment? What if the dentist would judge me mercilessly? Ignoring the problem was still easier. But then I found out something by coincidence. There is something called a “lieve tandarts” (a “kind dentist”), which is a dentist who specializes in treating patients who are afraid of dentists or who need special care. I put on my big girl panties and sent them an e-mail to register. I got a quick response, and last week on Wednesday I had my introduction appointment.
The dentist took her time, made x-rays of my teeth, and checked my gums. Then the verdict came, and it was slightly surprising: I had no caries at all! However, I did have a lot of tartar, really a lot. My gums were fine, but my wisdom teeth had to go. So I got a reference to a dental surgeon for that, and a new appointment to remove the tartar as well, for last Monday.
I was looking forward to having clean, pristine teeth again, but when I arrived at my second appointment, the dental hygienist was running late. We started half an hour late. She aggressively asked me why I had not been to the dentist for such a long time. And why I hadn’t made an appointment with the dental surgeon yet. Then she was a bit intimidated by the amount of tartar. She even got a dentist to look at my gums again because she thought they were worse than reported. Fortunately, the dentist could reassure her, my gums weren’t that bad and removing a lot of tartar would be great because she could really make a difference. So she decided to remove the tartar in two separate appointments. She warned me that it might be painful, but that I could get analgesia if necessary.
By then, my courage had sunk below zero again. This was turning out to be quite challenging after all. But I pushed through and made the appointments. The first one is next Monday, the second one is three weeks later. I don’t feel that good about it because the dental hygienist didn’t exactly radiate confidence. But I know that now, and maybe that will help me prepare. I won’t count on her support, just on her expertise.
I didn’t sleep well that night – also because my hormones were raging and every emotion became larger, including my fears. But today I’m okay again. I even made an appointment with the dental surgeon for December. Another scary thing. I’m feeling quite proud of myself for finally biting the bullet. It’s not easy, but I know that it’s for my own good. And I’m patient with myself and more loving, which helps.
My experiences over the past few years have confirmed a suspicion that I’ve had for a while now. The better my mental and emotional health, the easier things get, and they work out organically. If I try to force myself before I’m ready, I’m using way too much energy for a bad result. If I blame myself for not doing something that I’m not yet ready to do, it’s only going to push me down. It’s better to try and accept what I can’t do right now because I know that if I could do it, I would be doing it. It’s a funny way of having faith in myself and taking my (unconscious) behaviour more seriously. It’s kind of like trusting that the universe will send you what you need when you need it, but the other way around. I will do and search and pursue what I need when I can. My subconscious knows what the next step is.