Dental phobia: My story

Today,  I went in search of online anxiety support groups. Skimming Psych Central, I noticed one that hit home for me: Dental Phobia Support.

I always knew I had dental phobia, but it never occurred to me to find a support group for that, because for adults, fear of the dentist and doctor is heavily stigmatized. We expect children to be scared or nervous experiencing the dentist for the first time, but society rarely expects adults to fear the dentist.

I registered for the forum and thought about how far back my fear started. I thought back to my first filling. My parents brought me to their dentist, Dr. Arbuckle, to get my cavity filled. I was 7-10-ish, and I was nervous because ahead of time, my mom and step dad educated me on the procedure.

They told me about the needle and the drill. They told me the needle was necessary so I wouldn’t feel the drill. But my anxiety built up from there throughout the entire appointment. I remember being called in from the waiting room; My grandma and mom came in with me. I sat in the chair. Dr. Arbuckle (a name I will always dread in the sphere of dentistry) snapped on his rubber gloves and prepared the needle.

Panic. Panic. Panic. I started to shake uncontrollably and cry before he even got it in my mouth. When he got close enough to my mouth, I pulled away.

Seeing how scared I was, the good dentist suggested I watch him administer novocaine to the mouth of another patient waiting in another exam room. He wanted to show me how painless it was.

So I watched. Yes, I watched and I died standing up. Or that’s what my mother and grandmother said. They described my face as turning a shade of ghostly white and my lips a shade of ice blue. I remember feeling cold, standing in that spot watching the dentist stick the needle into the patient’s gums.

Mad Scientist Arbuckle failed to notice how squeamish I was. It was obvious from the start that he had little to now training with children.  Either way, I think I died standing up. But I came back to life. Barely. I suddenly needed to use the bathroom.

Against the protests of the adults, I ran to the bathroom and locked  the door behind me. How long could I pull off this farce until the adults decided to take me home without incident?

The adults coaxed me out of the bathroom and into The Chair of Death again.

Another failed attempt at administering the injection led me to the bathroom once again.

When they coaxed me out more forcefully the second time, Step Monster Alan was in the Mad Scientist’s room waiting for me at The Chair. Mad Dentist Arbuckle made threats about wrapping me in a straight jacket while Alan held me down,  his arm pressed against my chest so I couldn’t breath.

I begged Step Monster Alan to stop. Like a desperate aniimall, I saw only one other option as the Mad Dentist Arbuckle lowered the injection to my mouth.

I bit his rubbery gloved fingers hard, making sure it hurt.

He pulled his hand back with a stream of curses that remain a blur in my memory.  He didn’t want to work on me anymore. My parents could take me to a children’s dentist, because he didn’t want anything more to do with me.

A short time after that, my mom and step dad told me Mad Scientist Arbuckle quit. I assume that was true, because I never saw him in that office when I accompanied the parental units to their dental appointments.

That was just the beginning of my dental phobia. I use not having dental insurance as an excuse to not go to the dentist. I know that there are student dentists in my city that work on low-income patients for free, but my biggest fear about that is they are students. What if they can’t handle an extremely anxious, out of control patient?

The major problem for me now is the pain. I fear the pain the dentist brings me, and my heart races at the sound of a dental drill and the smell of a dental office.

Cleanings are extremely painful on my teeth because dentists rinse with cold water.

When I was in high school, my mom figured it was time for me to start seeing her dentist. I had thought nothing of this transition at the time, because I was no longer a child. It made perfect sense to me.  But my phobia only worsened my visits to this new dentist.

My worse memory at this new dentist is of this gruff, stern Russian hygienist spraying my teeth with painfully cold water. I was crying and whimpering, and she told me she couldn’t work on me if I kept doing that. I stopped for a minute, but the water hit my two front teeth with such force, that my body jerked and sprayed her in the face with water.

Boy, was she pissed. I apologized profusely and explained that my teeth are very sensitive. She told me it wouldn’t hurt that much if I flossed more.  What made my phobia worse (if it could get worse) is that, despite having a novocaine injection, drills still hurt my top teeth when I get fillings. The dentist’s lack of bedside manner  didn’t make it any easier on me. His response was, “It’s all in your head,” or “It’s just the sound of the drill that scares you.”

Well, at that stage in my life, I think I could tell the difference between physical pain and being afraid of the sound the drill makes.

I don’t know how to overcome this fear, and I am considering asking my doctor to prescribe me a Xanax for the  time I get up the courage to see a student dentist for a cleaning.  I really want my teeth to be healthy, but this desire for healthy teeth isn’t  helping me to overcome my fear.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Would anyone like to share their experiences? I invite you all to share your stories and recommendations in the comments.





Difficult Day

Well, it has been a difficult day, and by far a difficult month. I don’t like to self-indulge too much in this kind of rambling, but this is an anxiety blog.

So right now my boyfriend is a courier and the major financial support in our home right now. I’ve been earning very little while freelance writing for neighborhood papers. I get paid $50/article. The most I’ve made in a week is $100. It sounds sad, but there are weeks where I can’t even find stories to cover. I’m still working on story-finding techniques, but with very little guidance from anyone.

Well, today, my boyfriend got into an accident that made it so he can’t drive his car. He’s completely uninjured, and I am grateful for that. There was a light post in his blind spot, and he backed into it enough so it caused some structural damage on one of the wheels.

He called me today to tell me all of this. Given our fender bender experiences in the past, I knew this would be costly. Before the insurance covers anything, we have to come up with $1,000. As soon as he told me this, I knew I would have to do the one thing I dread: begging family. I feel terribly guilty asking my family for money because they always do so much for us and everyone else, plus they aren’t rich folks, either.

At that point I am having a panic attack about having to call my beloved grandparents who are by no means wealthy and ask them if they have $1,000 to give. I popped two klonopin to take the edge off.

I wasn’t upset when my grandma said they weren’t able to lend any money because they don’t have much themselves right now. I was just happy to have her on the phone to talk to. She talked me into a calm state of mind.

She told me that my mother might have some of my savings bonds that my aunt used to give us when we were babies. They wouldn’t be worth much ($25-$50 at most), but that is a start. Next, I would have to very nervously and timidly ask my mother and her husband if they happen to have $1000 they can spare.

In the mean time, I want to say that I am dealing with my anxiety a little better now in this financial chaos. That’s more than I can usually say about myself when dealing with money issues (which come up a lot, by the way). It seems that one of my major stress triggers is financial problems when they arise.

I have a difficult time stepping away from the issue and thinking clearly about it. People always tell me not to be stressed because money issues are a part of life and happen to everyone.

But I have to find it within myself to say, “OK. There is nothing that can be done immediately, so I need to go about my routine to let my head clear.”

That’s difficult for me to do, because I was not taught how to handle financial problems. Growing up, adults told me not to worry! They have it under control. So, naturally I tried not to worry.

But that didn’t help me at this point in my life.

However, I am grateful that I am not dealing with this alone. My boyfriend and I are here for each other and in this together. I don’t want him to feel alone in it, either.

Currently, he’s been waiting for a tow-truck since 1 p.m., and it’s 7 p.m. now. I hope it comes soon.

I hope I’m not alone in the way that I panic over financial problems. Does anyone else out there have intense anxiety about finances? Please share.

College students share their anxiety and depression experiences with the ADAA

Does your anxiety and depression make you feel isolated?  The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has an anxiety disorders page with anxiety resources and videos of young people talking about their depression and anxiety.

Jasmin Terrany, LMHC speaks in the intro video for  “Anxiety and Depression Stories.” She uses body image as an example of how we, especially women, are severely affected by anxiety and depression. For example, the nagging, programmed voice in our heads telling us we need to lose five pounds never goes away even when you lose the five pounds. That negative voice has less to do with the five pounds and more to do with how we focus on the negative things about ourselves as the whole  reality and not the bigger picture.

Following the intro, college students speak about their anxiety and depression experiences. It’s amazing to see how everyone’s experiences and coping mechanisms are similar, yet different.  What’s more empowering is for people in their twenties to see their peers discuss their experiences. Often times, we are told we’re “too young” to experience anxiety and depression. As a result, we begin to feel like weirdos because young sufferers think it’s not normal for young people to have mood disorders. Yet, the reality is that anxiety and depression are just like any physical disease, because they do not discriminate between age, sex, or ethnicity.

Videos of college-aged students discussing their mood disorders opens a dialogue that we should be having as a society. When we have conversations about mental illness, we need to teach others to eliminate stigmatizing language including phrases such as, “You’re too young for that,” “Are you sick in the head?” or “Take some pills.” No one is ever too young to have anxiety or depression. We need to destroy this idea that anxiety and depression only hurts older people.

Maybe we should all start making videos of ourselves describing our own  mental illnesses. Wouldn’t that be an enlightening experience for the world?


As an anxiety and depression blog, What’s My Damage? will explore not only my experiences with panic attacks and depression, but also news and articles from online sources and publications I read related to the topic.I hope to share how I’ve dealt with panic attacks, anxiety and depression, what has worked and has not worked for me and what I am still learning about it. Readers are encouraged to share their experiences with me in comments or via email. I don’t want to make this all about me. I want to share what I am going through, but I also want to hear from others to share information about depression and anxiety from all people and sources So far, I have ideas for a lot of posts lined up. Some include  how to approach loved ones with depression or anxiety, ways journalists can overcome social anxiety one step at a time, how being creative can help anxiety, advances in mental healthcare, article from Adbusters on mental illness and so much more.

Fresh perspectives from readers are always welcome, since I can’t think of everything myself. Feel free to submit ideas in the comments or via email. I won’t mention your names if you don’t want me to. I’ll be discrete and refer to you as “a reader” (or something like that) if you request that I not use your name or username.

So, here it goes. I hope this blog to be a success. Baby steps.

P.S. I am not a trained therapist. My occupation is a writer, so do not mistaken me for a doctor. All information in this blog will be based on my experiences, readers experiences and information from articles and books I read.