Something horrible happened last night. It’s something I’ve dreaded, but knew I’d eventually have to face. Though, even when we know something’s inevitable it doesn’t make it any less frightening.
I lost a dental filling.
I’ll pause for all the horrified gasps I assume are happening.
Seriously? Nobody gasped? What, are you people made of stone?
Nothing scares me more than the dentist. Back before I knew EDS was a thing, I had my wisdom teeth removed. See, back then, I’d never had dental work done before. I didn’t know that the shots were supposed to completely numb your mouth. And my dentist kept saying, “Oh, that’s just pressure you’re feeling” but a dentist I saw a year later confirmed that, no, I don’t actually numb like a normal person and I had actually felt pain when my teeth were pulled—which isn’t at all traumatic, you know.
Now I’m terrified of the dentist, especially new dentists who never seem to believe me when I tell them I need 5x the shots that a normal person gets (and I still usually feel some degree of pain.) I mean, I’m obviously just a hysterical person with an irrational fear of the drill, right? (Until they give me shots, then poke my gums, and are shocked when I’m all, “Yeah, I totally feel you doing that right now.” They get real apologetic, real quick.)
So, yeah, I’m totally freaked out.
And, yeah, I’m totally going to make a dental appointment anyway.
If I avoided the things I’m afraid of, I’d never do anything at all because I’m scared of everything.
“Come on. Everything?” you ask.
I hate banks because I find the tall counters intimidating.
I rarely talk on the phone because I just know I’ll somehow offend the person on the other end since they can’t read my body language.
I don’t like driving down dirt roads at night because what if something or someone jumps out of the woods in front of my car and I have to brake quickly and then I’m kidnapped and brainwashed into some hippie cult? (Well, a hippier-than-liberal-Mennonites cult.)
I worry about the potential backlash over writing my memoir. I mean, “good writing” is such a subjective thing. Not everyone is going to get why I’m doing things the way I’m doing them, and honestly it’s going to piss some people off no matter how gently I handle those events. (Some people are going to get their knickers in a knot. It’s just going to happen.)
But that doesn’t mean I never go into the bank or I never talk on the phone or I’m going to stop writing. (I do try to avoid driving at night, but that’s more about my poor night vision…but also cults.)
If I really need to see the dentist, I’ll choke down my anxiety and go see the dentist. I’ll be having a panic attack the whole time, but you know, I’ll go.
Yes, it’ll be terrible, but it won’t be forever. Sometimes the future benefit outweighs the terror.
Sometimes we have to do things that scare us. People, being people, usually find excuses to avoid doing the things that scare us. But it’s usually something that frightens us that helps us grow.
The scariest thing that ever happened to me wasn’t being stalked. It was leaving my home (admittedly, that was because of the stalker, but still…) I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan. I need to know what comes next.
Leaving my home yanked the rug out from under me. I had no plan and no clue what I’d do next. All I knew is I was headed north. I had no other plan than that.
It was hard, and it was scary, but it didn’t last. I eventually found my way, and I was a better person in the end.
Sometimes I do things that scare me and it doesn’t work out so well. Sometimes I fail. But failure is still its own form of success. Even though I was afraid, I still tried, and that’s brave. So, even failure’s a victory for bravery—maybe even more so than the times I succeed.
Maybe there’s something you know you should do, but you’re afraid.
I get it. I really do.
But maybe it’s worth running up against your fear. Maybe there’s something awesome on the other side of that anxiety. Let’s face it, a fully functional tooth is pretty awesome.