Yesterday, I went to the dentist. I’ve been putting it off. After two bouts of orthodontic treatment in my life (one as an adult) and countless dental visits in between, rather than developing a high threshold of pain with respect to my teeth, it seems to be getting lower. And so I had a sneaking, or not so sneaking, suspicion that my time in the dentist’s chair would be uncomfortable.
I’d reluctantly made the appointment because I have a small crack in one tooth and although I could have probably continued chewing on one side for another month, I felt compelled to go. A decision I questioned as I lay back in the chair, one side of my face numb, with tears rolling down my cheeks.
Let’s face it, it’s the end of the year and I’m kind of running on empty. I’m pre-menstrual. There was a full lunar eclipse yesterday and the equinox. Factors which may have resulted in my inability to sit in the dentist’s chair and reign in my sensitivity.
But what made it even more difficult for me to control what I was feeling, was the look of confusion and unease on the face of my dentist. Here I was trying to explain that it wasn’t about her but that I was premenstrual, tired and had a low threshold of dental pain due to years of treatment (fortunately I restrained myself from mentioning the planetary alignment) and she looked totally mystified. So much so, that as I left the practice, I found myself apologising to her for being so pathetic.
It was only as I drove back in town afterwards, that I thought ‘Geez, what’s with that?!’ Just because I’ve been given a shot of anaesthetic, doesn’t mean I’m not going to feel anything at all. Maybe it will numb the nerves immediately surrounding the affected tooth, but it doesn’t desensitize my whole person to the sheer discomfort of the procedure or the memory of years of dental pain.
The irony is that I chose this dentist because she has a reputation for a more holistic approach. There is no doubt that she is a very good dentist. I didn’t feel a thing in the tooth she was focussing on. But the point is that I did feel and then felt silly for feeling and being honest about it and then felt faintly outraged with myself for feeling silly.
There have been a number of times in my life where I’ve been criticised for being sensitive. I don’t want my behavior to make people feel uneasy or for it to impact negatively on my ability to do the job, but here’s the thing… I am sensitive. I have a fairly high level of empathy and self-awareness. If my mind and body send signals of discomfort, I’m going to pay attention. And quite simply, sensitivity is part of who I am. I think it’s an important tool in my kit as a mentor, communicator and connector.
So after years of feeling like I need to somehow switch off my sensitivity in order to be effective and if that didn’t work, apologise profusely, I’m beginning to embrace it. I’ll let you know how that works out.