Making a new friend of an old enemy
You may know from last week’s post that I have had an infection in one of my gums. I went to the dentist on Monday and she told me that she thought it was the result of a broken wisdom tooth. So on Thursday I went to an oral surgeon and had that tooth pulled.
Now it is no secret to anyone that I am emotional. But when it comes to medical procedures of almost any kind, I freak the hell out. I always have. From the time I was a little kid. I can remember totally losing it in the doctor’s office at five, when they were going to prick my finger for my routine kindergarten checkup. Once, the phlebotomist at Planned Parenthood had two maintenance guys come talk to me about the heaters they were installing to distract me while she drew blood.
I cry and start to hyperventilate. As I have gotten older, I tend to rock, wring or rub my hands in an obsessive way and do deep breathing exercises. This usually keeps me from actually hyperventilating. It takes a lot just to keep the panic at bay.
There are things that I want to change about myself. I believe in changing. I believe in growing as a person and being better. And hell, I am good at that. I am really good at it. But I also believe that there are things that you have to learn to live with, that you just have to make friends with. For me, being sensitive to sugar, grains and starch, and not being able to “eat like a normal person” is one of those things. And freaking out about medical procedures is too.
It is humiliating to discover that you are a compulsive eater and a sugar addict. It takes something to stop being ashamed of not being able to control yourself when it comes to food and accept the truth of it. But as long as I fought against admitting that I am a food addict, I was never going to get any relief. I was just going to keep trying to get it right, keep trying to manage, keep trying to eat in moderation. And I was going to keep failing and falling deeper into misery.
Once I admitted that I had a problem with food and that I was incapable of eating like a regular person, I was able to really do something about it. Namely putting boundaries around when, how much, and what I ate. I was able to make it work. And I was able to stop fighting against myself. Fighting myself is just plain exhausting.
I have come to the point where I have decided to make friends with my medical panic. When I called to make the appointment with the oral surgeon, I told the receptionist that I would cry, that I am emotional. I said, “you might want to make a note of that in my file.”
The truth is that it makes other people deeply uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how many people in the office asked me if I wanted to postpone, come back another day and have them put me out for it. (Thank God I didn’t agree to that. My mother pointed out that if they put me out, they would have given me an IV!!! Just the thought of that gives me the chilly-willies! I’m still shuddering at the idea.)
I am sorry that my emotions make people uncomfortable, especially my irrational fears over medical procedures. But so do my food boundaries, and I am not willing to make other people’s comfort a priority over my own wellbeing.
So I am not going to be ashamed of the fact that I freak out before procedures. I need to make friends with it so I can deal with it. It’s one thing to be deathly afraid of being poked and prodded, but it is something else, something extra and totally unproductive, to be ashamed of that fear. I have decided I can do without the shame.
My shame, the idea that I shouldn’t be this way, is the kind of thing that makes me walk away. When I was younger, I absolutely would have walked away from every stitch, blood test, physical exam, and shot, if my mother had let me. I would have forgone all needles and drills and what not if they would have let me go to school without my shots and tests. But in my old(er) age, I have come to recognize that not having the procedure wasn’t going to get rid of the infected tooth. I wanted the results of the procedure. So I cried, and wrung my hands, and panicked, and did my very best to breathe. And I stayed, and opened my mouth, and kept still and quiet, and let the man do his work. And he was awesome!
The procedure was quick and easy. The oral surgeon, against the odds, got the infected tooth out in one piece. (I know because I asked him the odds and he said it was an 80% chance that he would have to drill it into pieces to get it out, and then stitch my mouth.) It literally took him longer to numb my mouth than it did for him to extract the tooth. And I have had minimal discomfort, completely manageable with over the counter pain relievers. And when the doctor called me that evening, I was eating dinner and I told him (while laughing) how I told everyone the story of how I freaked out and how he was awesome.
P.S. Did you get that? My oral surgeon personally called me that evening to ask how I was doing! As my husband said, “Now that’s small town living!”