Busy. Buuuusy, busy busy busy BUSY.
This is new for me, and potentially dangerous territory. I have to be careful. Always mindful. So far i’m mostly okay, but i must be willing to cut back or stop entirely if my current mania, which feels like it’s winding down, ramps back up.
This is it though. Busy with writing, working, relationships, busy with life. I’m not overwhelmed, i’m just capable of doing more. I’m not frozen, immobilised by my past traumas anymore. This is more of the life i wanted – and i’ve worked hard to get here.
This is a catch up post: random fill-ins, observations, things i’ve learned, maybe a thing or 2 that are bugging me… We’ll see. I’ll just get to it and see what i come up with, eh?
Off we go.
First, my teeth. They needed cleaning, and i have 1 tooth that’s become rather sensitive. It doesn’t hurt all the time but, it hurts. I’ve had all my wisdom teeth removed, and lost a couple of other ones too, so i’m not keen to lose any more. Since spring 2020, i’ve avoided any in-person health care as much as possible, and that, along with dentophobia (also known as odontophobia) has kept me out of the chair for around 2yrs. I should say i was once deemed phobic, but therapy brought me down a few notches to what i’d say is more of an intense anxiety now.
I call to make an appointment with the office that helped me with exposure therapy, and patiently handled all my tics and quirks until i could get my dental needs addressed relatively easily. I tell them i’m fully vaccinated and ask to see a hygienist who is, also.
I’m eventually informed that they won’t be disclosing their status.
After some time and information, i come to understand why, even though i don’t exactly agree. I’m getting twisted up, full of tight knots, and having trouble breathing. I’m weepy and irritated, but i begin problem-solving. What am i going to do, if my teeth need attention, but every office has this stance?
I go to my friends on social media and ask for input. For one, posting about what i’m dealing with calms me, and getting it out of my brain unclutters my thoughts and narrows my focus. After soaking up their support and gathering suggestions, i disconnect from everything and spend quiet time with my husband and pets. A quiet night with loving connections and fun distractions is what i need, and while i don’t sleep much, i sleep a little.
In the morning i feel ready to try and figure out something that will work for me. Unexpectedly, someone reaches out privately, and i’m able to find a place to go.
At the appointment, i try not to say anything about my anxiety and my trauma history. I did that with the last dentist, and it worked well, but i wanted to see if i could go in to the new office and not need to announce all my problems in order to feel safe.
I was clearly in distress, so i disclosed as little as possible to the hygienist, who was understanding and kind. I don’t feel like i failed. I’ll tell whomever i need/want to about my mental illness, it was just a wee test. I’m not ready for that yet i guess, and i might not ever be, which is okay.
She said my teeth and gums were in excellent condition, especially for someone who hadn’t had her teeth cleaned in so long. Then the dentist came in to discuss my x-rays, and here’s the suck: See, i have Bruxism, which is excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching. I grind my teeth when i’m sleeping, and i clench my jaw during the day. I can’t wear night guards because i destroy them. I’d been on Botox injections in my masseter (jaw) muscles for a couple of years, and it had helped tremendously. However, pandemic anxiety has kept me from getting them.
The dentist told me i’m cracking my back molars and need 2 crowns, or i’m going to lose them. Further, she said my tooth sensitivity is likely due to the Bruxism as well. She’s recommending to go back on Botox, and also to get dry needling. I also have bony growths under my tongue due to the nighttime clenching, and it might be partially to blame for my hearing loss.
It’s a lot.
I have a quote for how much it’ll cost, and a general idea of how much insurance will cover. I’m taking things a step at a time and not freaking out, but it’s clear this can’t wait any longer than it has to.
So i have anxiety about dental work and SARS-CoV-2.
I asked for what i wanted, set boundaries, managed my emotions, and went to my support system to get me through. I lost a good dental office, but it’s okay. They did what they felt they had to do and so did i. I have a new office that seems pretty decent so far. I definitely appreciate the hygienist.
This brings me to another bit i want to post about.
I like compliments.
Actually, i love compliments.
And i don’t just love them, i thrive on them. They boost my self-esteem, creativity, productivity, and imbue me with a level of calm and confidence that i don’t have without them.
Growing up i got the message that i should be humble. Especially because i was only worth what i could do for my abusers, and they wanted to keep me down so it was easier to control me. But i received the same message from those who were good to me, and my religious community, too. I saw other good and “godly” people blush at compliments, and say things like, “Oh, you’re too kind,” and “It was nothing, really,” and “I just helped,” and “It was all so-and-so’s doing.”
I learned that the proper thing to do was to deflect, to give credit to someone else, to look flustered and embarrassed and squirm uncomfortably while clearly forcing oneself to say, “Thank you.”
So i did that – i internalised what was modeled for me.
Therapy showed me that i’m a people-pleaser. I fawn, i toady, and i try to read everyone, to anticipate their moods and needs. To riff on a terrible B movie that i love, i was there to eat humble pie and kiss ass.*
I did it all to be accepted, get approval, and avoid rejection. Thanks to my mother’s manipulative influences, what i did could verge on cozening, although it wasn’t consciously done. What i did understand was that compliments worked, that most people liked them, but that i wasn’t supposed to, because it made me conceited and “full of myself.”
Hello cognitive dissonance.
Once again, continued therapy helped me figure it out. The culture i was raised in, along with abusive parental conditioning, had stifled many aspects of my personality. I’d buried them in self-preservation, and any time they made an appearance i felt deep shame, often added to by those around me:
Who do you think you are?
Do you think you’re special or something?
You think you’re better than everyone else!
I did not. In fact, i’d internalised the message that i was bad and disgusting and worthless.
But thankfully, tucked away deep inside, i had a beautiful, marvelous, amazing and indomitable spirit.
I was a survivor. I wanted to live.
Therapy helped me set myself free.
Over the last year and a half or so, i’ve been well enough to help my husband at work. I don’t do it all the time, but when he needs an extra hand, i can go and lighten his work load a bit. He works in construction, so it’s physical labour. I have a couple of chronic pain issues, so the cost to me is not small, although i’m glad to pay it. If i go and assist him, he doesn’t have to train and pay someone else. But there’ve been times over the last few months where i’ve snapped at him, and it’s not for any obvious reason – i’m just churlish, and it’s not okay.
I apologised every time, but my snarkiness continued, and i needed to figure out why. I’m not generally an asshole, but i was definitely acting like one. Through paying close attention to my thoughts and emotions, i found that it was occurring most often when i felt like i wasn’t doing a good enough job. So, i started telling him this, and he’d respond that it was fine.
But i still felt petulant. I felt like a child, and became aware that my system** was at play.
I did what i do when my Bits N’ Pieces are particularly active: i asked them what they want.
It was like i’d pulled that old nubby metal chain that hangs from a dusty lightbulb in movie attics…
The light shone, i knew what the problem was, and went to my husband and told him:
“I need you to tell me i’m doing a good job. When you take a look at what i’ve done and say nothing, i assume it’s not good enough, and you’re not saying anything because you don’t want to hurt my feelings. I would like you to say nice things about my work; i need to know i’m doing well.”
My husband is very quiet. He was raised by parents who were emotionally unresponsive, and he has difficulty accessing his own emotions as well as understanding others’. It’s not natural for him to consider his or anyone else’s emotions. However, he’s been open to learning, and he makes an effort to meet me where i’m at, emotionally. I had to let go of the destructive belief, “if he really loves me, he’ll just know.” Once i was able to ask for what i wanted, we’ve both been able to work on me getting it.
In other words, he’d forget to praise me for my work.
I had to quash that silly romantic notion for the thousandth time (it’s dying a hard death – think Paul Ruebens in the movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), then go to him and ask:
“Am i doing okay? Do you think my work is good?”
He’d respond with a “Yes! I’m sorry, i forgot. Yes, you’re doing a great job, thank you! I appreciate your help. You’re helping me a lot.”
And just like that, something relaxes inside me. My system gets quieter and i feel strangely warm and glowy.
My mood improves and i have more energy. Time stops dragging and i feel more able to do the job. I have more confidence that i can do it correctly. I feel valuable and important.
Compliments, man. I like compliments.
My BFF says, “Feed me tacos and tell me i’m pretty.”
‘Bout sums it up.
Let’s give my adventures in dentistry a call back now, shall we?
When i was sitting in that chair, a new-to-me chair in a new-to-me office, with a hygienist i don’t know and my pockets filled with anxiety and my body tense with stress – she said nice things about my teeth. She said nice things about ME and how well i’ve taken care of my teeth. She casually praised me and immediately i could feel myself softening.
I’m doing okay.
I’m doing a great job.
It’s going to be all right, H. Breeeeathe.
This post feels good and right. I don’t need or want to muddy it up with the stuff that’s bugging me lately.
I think i’m cruising on the memories of those compliments, you know? Heh.
I’m going to leave it at that, then.
Y’all take care as well as you can.
You’re still here, so you’re doing okay.
You might even be doing great, consider that one!
Now i want tacos.
Love and Peace,
*From They Live: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And i’m all out of bubblegum.”
**If you’re a new reader, welcome! When i refer to my system, i’m referring to my DID diagnosis.
IMAGE: Sidral Mundet