Ever find yourself dreading something so much, you can’t think of anything else? Your heart beats fast. Your palms sweat. You lie awake at night. Yet afterwards you find yourself relieved and even happy? This happened to me this week when I had to face the biggest, scariest, most threatening task of all…
I had to get a root canal.
Now anyone who reads this blog knows I’m terrified of medical stuff… any medical stuff. Dental’s no exception.
My fear is always they’ll find something horribly wrong, which will lead to more appointments, more racing heart, and more sweaty palms. I’ll never escape.
This week, (as I’ve done before), I even considered cancelling. I can live with a bad tooth, I thought. But my logical self prevailed.
The ironic thing is you couldn’t find a cuter, nicer, less scary dentist than mine. Dr. I is tall, dark and handsome. He always smiles and speaks softly.
He lets me put on dreadful daytime TV for distraction, even though I’m sure he’s ready to tear his hair out.
The hard part is when I’m in the chair and he starts to recline it…my head way, way down. Panic starts bubbling up. Dr. I and his assistant hover over me and I have to swallow back claustrophobia.
Meanwhile, Rachael Ray chats away in a supermarket, trying to find the healthiest snacks. (By the way, black bean chips are not always the best choice. Who knew?)
Next, Dr. I inserts that Q-tip with the cherry-flavored numbing gel. In a few minutes, he pulls it out, holding up that dreaded shiny, steel cylinder.
“You’ll feel a little pinch,” he says, easing a needle that looks twelve inches long into my gums. I brace myself, but feel… nothing. This is why I love Dr. I.
He then picks up one of those silver drills that make that unearthly, grinding noise. All the time Dr. I is talking softly like he’s trying to calm a spooked horse back to the barn. “Just a little more,” he assures.
The drilling continues. Cold mist rises from my mouth from the friction.
I try not thinking of the scene in “Marathan Man” where the villain, played by Sir Laurence Olivier, drills Dustin Hoffman’s teeth without Novocain.
“You’re doing wonderfully,” says Dr. I. And strangely, this helps. Damn, I think as he works away, I’m good at this.
Before I know it, he’s done. Cotton and metal brackets are pulled from my sore mouth, one by one.
I walk out feeling good. I triumphed.
And okay, I hardly stormed the beaches of Normandy, but for me it’s a victory. I faced down my fear. All the tension leaves my body and in its place is… relief, even pride.
Until I get home and face my second fear.
Why is it taking so long for the Novocain to wear off? I try not thinking about that urban legend where a woman’s Novocain never wore off. She was stuck looking like the Elephant Man forever.
I touch one side of my sagging mouth and start worrying. An hour goes by and then two. Oh my God, I’m going to be permanently disfigured.
Finally I feel those wonderful tingles…you know, those itches you can’t scratch? Phew.
And that’s when I have my other feeling of gratitude. Usually I find lots of fault with my face – double chin and wrinkles and even a zit here and there, but there’s nothing like a bout of Novocain to make you appreciate what God gave you.
Now I can claim full medical victory. I made it to the other side and that’s when I realize something else.
In a strange way, challenges are the spice of life. I see now how weeks starting off with stressors (a medical appointment, meeting lots of new people, travelling) make me happier in the end than weeks with no stressors.
In fact, I’m usually bored at the end of those.
Maybe we’re wired for bumps in our lives. (And yes, I’m talking about small bumps, not big ones). Maybe small challenges keep us alert, even grateful. They take us out of our comfort zones long enough to appreciate what we have.
That said, I won’t welcome my next medical appointment, but I’ll try to remember that sometimes good comes from them. The relief later is worth a little discomfort.
Maybe little tortures give life spice, after all.
How do you feel about medical appointments? Are you a wreck too? Comments are always welcome.
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