***Possible Triggers due to descriptions**
Dental visits are very triggering for me. I prepare with a lot of mental talk to myself about how ‘this is a safe place’ ‘I can do this’ and more of this type of self talk. I’ve had several dental procedures this year and the last few I dealt with much better than I thought I would. The ability to disconnect, to go to my own safe place inside myself is key. Yet even with all the preparation inside my mind I still have to get in the car, drive there and walk through that door.
Sometimes it’s almost too hard to bear.
All the images I work daily to avoid fly through my mind the moment I feel my own saliva filling up in my mouth, or worst of all, the taste of blood in my mouth. I’ve had to, for my own safety, to discuss privately with my Dentist about exactly what my issues were. Surprisingly, he was quite kind, understanding and earned a big boost of my trust. Since this moment of sharing he’s always made sure I’m doing OK during all this extensive work he’s doing inside my mouth.
This week was a mere cleaning. Simple, right? Yet, the entire time I could smell and taste blood as no matter what we do there is always blood due to the low level blood thinners. She was quick to suction out and rinse out my mouth, cheerfully talking about Christmas gifts she was making. The whole time oblivious to the stress I was experiencing. The warning signs were there for me. My arms were all crossed up and tight, my shoulders raised in a protective pose. The more I smelt the blood the more tight my body got until the point I had to swallow and the blood made my pouch rebel. It began to growl loudly in protest of the swallowed blood, water and saliva.
No longer could I escape from all this to the safe place inside my head. The smell pulled me back as surely as if someone had grabbed me. On the heels of this thought I started shivering. This is not good, not good at all. “It’s really chilly in here.” the hygienist said. I knew we were almost done. It’s not much longer. Yet the shivering was a very bad sign. I was layered up so in spite of the chill I should have been fine. I hugged my arms closer as she continued to work.
Finally, finally we were done. I couldn’t wait to leave but had to go through the checking out procedure. A stop in the restroom to look at myself in the mirror showed me I looked stressed, worried. Breathe Bree, breathe. You are OK. Soon you’ll walk out to the car and drive home, it will be OK, you are safe. I rinsed my mouth out and still could taste the blood in my mouth.
I sat in the car, looked in the mirror and only then did I realize I’d forgotten my cell phone which had my playlist to listen to on the drive home. Breathe, just breathe. Even breath I took I could smell the scent of blood, every time I swallowed I still tasted blood. My heart began racing. I cracked open the windows a bit, not that it helped, but the fresh air was also helping to distract me. The images, the memories flew through my mind as I drove down the highway to get home, to safety.
Even at home, drinking hot tea, sitting alone in my room at my desk, I couldn’t shake the sensation of choking, of blood in my mouth, of the pain in my gut from all that water forced down. I finally said out loud, “this is only a memory, it cannot hurt me right now, right here.” I stood up and shook myself like a dog does. Bending over as far as possible I put my hands on the floor and breathed deeply. I can do this, I can do this. I DID do this, I got through it, I didn’t have to leave in the middle, I didn’t cry. I did it.
I stood up suddenly. Like everything else that has happened I survived. This day was no different. I’m still surviving day to day instead of week to week or month to month. It will continue to take time and I no longer expect perfection in this journey.
So for today, I breathed out and let it go.