I have OCD. It stands to reason – I have survived what many therapists have described as nine years of ritual abuse. Sometimes I have anxiety attacks. Most of the time when they happen I can ride them out, waiting for the panic to subside and the irrational fear to ebb off a bit.
The last time I had a major panic attack was at the kid’s dentist. It kind of stands to reason – what is more fear inducing than taking several small children to the dentist? I had Bean (5) and Jackers (6) with me, and we had already finished their cleanings etc.
My kids go to a large pediatric dental practice in downtown St. Paul. The staff is very professional, and frankly, I know that I could not survive a day in that place – with all the screaming children (even if it is for their own good). My kids aren’t screamers (thank God for small favors) but they unfortunately both had a cavity.
I am certain that the dentists and hygienists don’t mean to make a parent feel bad – but somehow – that’s exactly what happens. The anxiety started building during the second child’s exam (Jackers) – because he was going to need to have a tooth pulled. He was born with an extra canine tooth (we called it his “shark tooth”) that was small and a bit weaker than the other teeth.
Now – when you have five small children – you spend a lot of time, an inordinate amount of time, helping them brush & floss etc. We do our best, but sometimes your best isn’t good enough.
This was the trigger. IMPERFECTION! “You aren’t good enough. You have failed, and it’s going to cost you!”The accusation, of “you aren’t really doing your best, are you?” had begun to buzz in my head, and my stomach began to knot.
I barely got out of the office before my chest tightened and I couldn’t breathe. We got into the elevator and down into the car before the full force of the panic hit – and I was able to hand my Kindle Fire! back to Jackers & Bean to keep them busy.
I told them not to be scared – as I completely broke down crying, unable to breathe, unable to talk – panic and anxiety washing over me with fear and guilt. Realizing that it was getting worse, I was able to dial JW’s cell. I don’t think I could even talk at that point, simply crying into the phone “help!”. It scared me to think the kids were scared – but Jackers was very calm and brave – and kept Bean busy playing some game while watching me in the rear view mirror. “It will be ok, mommy”, he said, completely as if he believed it.
Sometimes I think JW has a transporter beam – or is secretly a NASCAR driver – because I think he was there in under five minutes. His presence causing a strange mix of calm and additional tears. Somehow, JW is safe, he is that elusive “Home” that my heart and soul have craved – and it calmed me enough to be able to drive home with him following.
He stayed until the full force of the attack had gone, and checked to make sure the kids were fine (which they were). In fact, they seem completely unaware of how awful those minutes were.
I am trying not to avoid the kid’s dentist. I am nervous to go back, afraid a bit that it will recur. But I know it’s not the “place” – the physical in any account – but the “place” in my heart where imperfection and failure equal physical pain and shame that is the problem. How or when will that heal?