All We Have to Fear is That Dang Hippie Cult

Credit: Greg Westfall
Credit: Greg Westfall

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.

Yes, everything.

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.)

Credit: I-5 Design & Manufacture
What I assume hell looks like.    (Credit: I-5 Design & Manufacture)

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.

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  1. bishopkenneth April 28, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Once again, an great piece of writing. I’m 57 and I too have had a lifelong dentaphobia (of course it’s a word; I just used it, didn’t I?). When I was a young boy, probably 7 or 8 years old, my mother took me to a dentist and he pulled the wrong tooth. Turns out later we found out he was a drunk. And that was before malpractice lawsuits had become a thing. Then, there was the time about 15 years ago when I was at a dentist and they gave me laughing gas, and I went on an LSD-like trip and hallucinated. When I came out of it, I told the dentist that I had imagined a voice telling me that ALL the pain the shots and gas were masking was going to hit me all at once like a fist to the face, and in my hallucination I had seen it coming and let out a deep, primal scream. The dentist said, “You DID scream man! I think you cleared out my waiting room!” He told me they were all scared and had pulled out some kind of syringe thing full of drugs that they shoot straight into your heart if you start to die or something. It took like three hours to come down from the nitrous oxide experience. Turns out I can’t do laughing gas. When I told mom, she said, “Hmmm, you always used to get sick and vomit after your dentist visits; I guess that’s why.” So, I’m with you on the whole scary dentist shop of horrors. BUT, the last few times I’ve been have been just peachy. No gas, no drunk dentists, and no tripping.

    1. Kristy April 28, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      If I’d heard someone scream like that, I’d have cleared out of the waiting room too! I tried laughing gas once, but it didn’t do anything for me at all—not even the fun kind of tripping. My whole goal in life is to have enough money that I can have my dentist knock me out entirely and do all my dental work at once for the whole year. I should probably want to donate all my money or something instead, but I totally just want pain-free dental work.

  2. Jonny Rashid April 28, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    You rock! I’m the pastor of a hippie cult, or at least I’ve been accused of being that.

    1. Kristy April 28, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      I used to visit a hippie Mennonite church when I was in college. We sat on the floor and talked about the Bible, then we ate soup. They were nice, but I didn’t want to wear sandals year round so I quit going.

  3. Angela Veenstra April 28, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I thought I was the only one scared of the hippie cults!!!!! Nicely written piece. I love that you pointed out that failure is not always BAD sometimes it can lead you to a new and wonderful direction. Keep the posts coming.

    1. Kristy April 28, 2016 at 6:29 pm

      For sure. Failing at one thing can lead us to something amazing down the road.


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