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Actual dream footage taken inside Nancy's head!

Bril novelist and all around delightful human being Nancy Pickard recently posted about her fear of HEIGHTS and LADDERS over on The Lipstick Chronicles. And told what she did when a friend needed a hand. Up in the sky. And so she faced her fears and went right UP a ladder. Mostly.

I am not her.

I am unmoved by heights. I would have scrambled up that ladder like a monkey.

I catch and release spiders with nary a shiver.

I am bold in darkness.

I wiggle through enclosed spaces with Reacher-like aplomb.


I am afraid of Dentists. Granted, my own personal dentist is very nice. And here we understand that “nice” is a euphemism for “quick with the ‘scrips.”

This bear has Ativan.

For a cleaning, I get valium and gas. If, dear Lord no! NO! I have a cavity? I require a fistful of Ativan. And more gas. The staff treats me like a terminal mental patient. They pat me and make sincere eyebrows and speak in hushed tones and don’t move too quickly around me. They KNOW if they startle me I will burst into tears and BOUND out of the office like panicked deer.

What’s funny is? It isn’t actually dentists or drills. It’s the CHAIR. I am TERRIFIED of that chair. I figured this out a couple of years ago when I took my kids in to be tooth-cleaned. This is usually Scott’s job, as I do not want to freak them out and infect them with my dento-terror. But he was sick. SO!

I took ’em. I was FINE. I sat in the waiting room flipping through ancient Reader’s Digests. Ho hum! No crazy peeps here, Doc!

THEN their dentist wanted to talk to me— about ORTHODONTIA. SO I said, “Sure!” After all, I’d been FINE in the waiting room, fine when I sent my kids back one by one, fine with the receptionist, fine fine fine. Then she took me in a room. With the chair.

All my inside parts trembled and wrenched themselves loose from their moorings and tried to clamber out of my throat at once, pushing and shoving at each other. I got dizzy. Tears started leaking out and I realized I was hyperventilating and would soon pass out. I backed out of the room, around the corner, away from THE CHAIR.

My Inner Landscape while in the chair...

I had not, unmedicated, been in the presence of The Chair for…years. And I never have been again.

Remember how I said I was not Nancy? Well—If Nancy’s friend had taken me to a stack of THOSE CHAIRS and said, “Climb this pile of pure. matted evil to the roof,” I would have punched him the face and fled screaming.

I say all this to say, Four months ago I canceled my cleaning due to a scheduling conflict. The girl on the phone was new. I know she was new, or she did not realize I was me, because she said, “OKAY! I have that canceled! Want to reschedule now or call back?”

“CALL BACK!” I hollered joyfully. And hung up before she could ponder the offer.

OF COURSE I have not called back. The weeks have stretched into months and it has to be done. But how on earth? I can’t BRING myself to do it.

I creep past the phone these days as low-bellied and tuck-tailed as a naughty dog, thinking “I have to call I have to call I have to call I have to call I have to call I have to call….

But not today.”

11 comments to Fraidy-Froo

  • I not only have this issue with the dentist (only I’m more of a freak over the needles and drills and FINGERS IN MY MOUTH all pointing in my direction **shiver**) but I have an issue with calling people I don’t know. Really. I hate the phone. Why OH Why don’t more people set up appointments online like Pizza Hut and Honda and Sears? Really.

  • A few years ago I had to have prep work for a root canal done without anesthesia. It was as bad as it sounds. The upside is that I no longer get nervous about visiting the dentist because I’m pretty sure I’ve already endured the worst possible outcome. I am afraid of the sturgeon that swim in the lakes near my house. And I won’t be dipping my toes in to face that fear anytime soon!

  • Em

    I am not quite as afraid as all that but I usually have the dentist stop at least once during a procedure and ask if he is hurting me because I am crying. “No sir. Just freaking the ef out. Continue on.” I did, however, almost leave my running car in a traffic jam in a tunnel last summer. The only thing that kept me there was that I could not think of a safe way to take my kids with me and I couldn’t leave them there to be swallowed up by this precariously supported hole in the ground. If that isn’t maternal instinct, I don’t know what is.

  • My dad hated going to the dentist thanks to a terrible experience when he was young. It took him decades to work up the nerve, and by then most of his teeth were a mess. The first dentist he chose assured him everything would be fine. Dad insisted that they work up to the difficult stuff – no working on the back teeth, only the front. If he touched a back tooth, Dad would leave. Oh, of course, weaseled the dentist. Reclined, draped, it began. And the dentist poked at a back tooth. Deliberately. My dad – all 6’2″, 285 pounds, forcibly removed the dentist’s hand from his mouth, vaulted out of the chair, and said, “I TOLD YOU.” I like to think the dentist cowered a little.

    Eventually Dad found a dentist willing to follow his rules, and he gradually became more comfortable with it until he was having fillings in the back teeth. Dad’s issue was the drill, and his solution was a Walkman (this was a few years back!).

    Do you have a good enough relationship with your dentist to try aversion therapy? Will they let you practice just standing in a room with the chair? As for making the appointment, well, all you can do is do. Would you let your kids get away with avoiding something so important? And, if you need a reminder about the importance, check out the photo I linked to the first time I posted this comment (I assume I got caught in your spam filter because of the link). Or just Google “rotten teeth” and check out the images.

  • The ToolMaster has to take my youngest, because he’s prone to dental anxiety, and I have zero capacity to calm him. I can take my daughter, because her nerves are made of Titanium. I myself cannot think about the dentist or I’m done-for. I make the appointment, put it in my calendar and then forget about it until the last possible minute; any dwelling of any kind would make me an angsty/shrieky mess. So. Get Scott to make the appointment? Hit the meds? I dunno. All I do know is the longer you put it off, the harder it will be to face. (That’s why I ended up with a twelve-year gap.)

  • I never used to mind going to the dentist, even the orthodontist, but as I get older and I suppose things just need more work I am starting to be one of those people who freaks the heck out. I realized, this last time, though, that I needed the dentist to walk me through and tell me exactly what he was doing and why. He said that was weird and opposite of everybody else, but hey, I aim to please 😛

  • Nancy

    Have Scott make the appointment and not tell you when it is until the morning of it. Less time to freak out. Then, gladly accept the drugs when you get there.

  • Oh lordy do I know that feeling, of creeping past the phone knowing that I should should SHOULD make that call, that harmless call… and then not being able to, not quite yet. I think we all need a support group ;p

  • Kacie

    My sister found a place that has “Spa Dentistry”. Maybe somebody around you practices it too. Basically, she gets a full mani-pedi including a paraffin wax treatment and a hand massage WHILE the dentist is working on her mouth. I’ve never been, but she tells me that you get so wrapped up in the relaxing stuff you don’t think about what is happening to your teeth.

  • pam ballard

    I have an opposite story of fear. In 11th grade PE, I had a real jock for a teacher & she assumed the whole class shared her enthusiasm for whatever the sport du jour happened to be. We did a gymnastics unit. One exercise was jumping the pommel horse (is that what it’s called? you run a long way & bounce off the end of a wooden diving board type thing, spread both legs wide, put your hands on this leather-clad object about 3 feet off the ground & jump over it. I mean, that’s what the Olympians do to it.) I am a weinie. I have no athletic skill. And I bruise easily. After taking my turn attempting to jump over the thing all week, Coach happened to notice on Friday that my shins were seriously black & blue because of my technique. I would run fast down the lane, bounce on the springy thing, & forget to spread my legs out, & not jump high enough, & slam into the horse hard, right between my ankles & my knees. Coach took me aside, clearly disturbed by my injuries. So thankful that I was about to be excused from continuing to torture myself, I looked deeply into her eyes, as she intoned: “If you don’t get over that horse, you’ll be afraid of it for the rest of your life. Now, try one more time!”

    I didn’t make it over. But I can report, in the decades since, EVERY time I’ve been confronted with a deadly pommel horse (uh, maybe three times?) – I faced down my fear & refused to let it interfere with my God-given right to sit on bleachers.

  • Beth

    This just makes me feel better since I’m not the only one who avoids my perfectly nice dentist. Ugh. Shudder.

    The only thing that has made it better besides drugs is that I used to have this hygienist from Forsyth County who would yap yap yap about her boyfriend, her family, her little dog, etc, until I was done.