Thursday, January 29, 2009

Anxiety, I'm Taking the Fight to You!

I won't even go into the list of things that can trigger my anxiety. There are too many to count. However, one that it seems I share with people who do not have a diagnosed anxiety disorder is the dentist. It is rather uncomfortable for someone to be digging around in a very sensitive area of the body. The mouth is responsible for eating, talking, breathing, making faces at friends and family, and my favorite, kissing my husband! It's not a part of the body you want to have hurting and it certainly feels like when one tooth aches, your whole body is in pain. I am so bad I didn't even want my teeth cleaned. I much preferred my mouth to be left alone. Especially since I didn't want to go in and find out I had a cavity, or worse, more than one. I was very happy to be blissfully ignorant. Then, I got a toothache. Odd thing is, it wasn't a cavity at all. However, the dentist had me in her grasps. I was scheduled for a cleaning. Ok, I did the cleaning. I take relative good care of my teeth. What should I be worried about?

Oh, and one other thing, I had my first filling- my first cavity- two years ago. It hurt- bad! I didn't want to deal with that again. After all, I have three oral surgeries under my belt. I have been through enough (not to mention the chocolate fudge swirl ice cream my mom fed me after each one- I still can't touch the stuff!) Three oral surgeries and one cavity. My quota was set. Not. During the cleaning they found two teeny tiny cavities that needed filled. Oh yeah, and that one cavity that was filled before; it was leaking. It needed to be drilled out and redone. Two separate appointments. Two days of dealing with the poking, prodding, and oh, needles in my gums. I was not a happy camper. I begged my boss to tell me that I was invaluable, that she couldn't run the place without me, and that I would have to stay at work and couldn't have the time off. She giggled and told me to get it done before I thought about it too much. Problem is, I have an anxiety disorder. Thinking about it too much is right up there with automatic functions like breathing.

The days loomed closer to doomsday. I kept allowing myself to think about the pain, the hurt, the discomfort of not being able to eat without hurting. Did I mention I let my anxiety level spike? It was when I decided that enough was enough and that I was not going to let a little filling ruin my two weeks in between cleaning and filling. I had to come up with a plan of attack. The first thing I needed to do was sit down and think about what my reaction would be in reality. I wasn't going to die. Chances were, I wouldn't have a panic attack in public. I can usually control those pretty well. However, past history did dictate that I usually lose my cookies right after my novocaine shot. That could be a problem. I also was super sensitive to the pain and pressure of the drilling. This I learned from my last filling. I complained about phantom pain. The pain you think you should have when you smell that burning smell coming from your mouth as well as the pressure of something making a hole in your teeth.

Figuring out what were my toughest issues actually brought a wave of more anxiety. Now I knew what I was going to do! I would puke, whine, complain, and wimper my way through another filling, or three. Not this time. I am always so embarrassed after one of those episodes, too. I had been very up front with my dentist at the cleaning that I was scared of going to the dentist. She had been understanding and had helped me come up with the most cost effective way of getting through this. If I would take some of my anti-anxiety medicine before going in, I would be spared the cost of laughing gas and would still stay relatively calm. It was a great plan and I had to convince myself of it.

I had to put it into action. Well, if I was going to take some of my anti-anxiety stuff, I needed to make sure I had the day off. There was no way I could work with kids if I had that stuff in me. Request time off of work was the first thing on my list. My boss was very understanding and gave me the time I needed. I made sure that my appointments were times that Tim could come with me. Just someone there who understood that I wasn't being totally crazy and had an actual condition for this anxiety calmed me a bit. The second thing on my list, a comforting familiar person nearby, was fulfilled. The anti-anxiety medication needed to be kept at a minimum. The medicine that I usually take for sleep because I am an insomniac would have to be discontinued the night before my treatments so that I could use it without risk of an OD during the procedure. This could be a problem. However, I accepted that I was going to be anxious and allowed myself to play it out without getting out of control because I had planned up to that point how to handle what was going on with me in the moment and what was going to happen to me at the appointment. In the end, I fell asleep losing very little sleep in retrospect. My last thing to make sure of was to tell my dentist exactly what I had taken, who had prescribed it, and when I took it. This way I could make sure there was no potential drug interaction.

The result: Success! With a sore mouth. I made it though. I took the shots without showing my breakfast to the staff at the office. There was a jab of real, not phantom pain, that I had to deal with, but the rest was manageable. I even managed to crack a smile as well as I could with one half of my face frozen into a straight lip look.

I had always been afraid to face my anxiety and deal with it because I was afraid I would cause more anxiety instead of less. Turns out, taking the fight to the anxiety was just what the doctor- or maybe the dentist- ordered.