An Open Letter to My Dentist
Dear Gentle Dentist,
The reason I am your patient in the first place is because of trauma I endured in my dentist's chair when I was 12-years-old. You know this, and for the last I don't-even-know-how-many-years you have been my dentist and well aware of the fact that I have severe Dental Phobia. As soon as I am in your chair, traumatic memories flood my brain. 😔
This is a real thing.
My sweet son, Conner Bovee, who was ALSO your patient, used to accompany me to your office. He comforted me, held my hand, and could even make me laugh.
When I finally had the courage to make an appointment to return to your office, after being well overdue, but more sadly, after the loss of my sweet Conner, I was very deliberate and informative in making my appointment. 💔
I emailed several times explaining the situation. I also had several telephone conversations with different members of your staff. I was matter-of-fact, informative, and honest. I wanted to ensure that you and everyone in your office knew this was a very sensitive matter. I communicated with no less than 5 people, within your small office, in the two weeks before I arrived for my appointment.
Upon arrival, I was politely greeted -- as usual -- and answered the typical "has your address or insurance changed" questions. Once I was escorted to the back, to my absolute dismay, the first thing I heard was, "So, it's been a while since you've been in, have you just been busy?" 😮
The shock on my face was not apparent, because I was placing my belongings on a table and had my back turned to the speaker. In that moment, I chose not to address the insensitivity of her comment and instead chose to use my 'I-want-to-make-sure-no-one-here-feels-uncomfortable' coping mechanism, so I say, "Yes -- I guess you could say that."
Once I was seated in the Judas Chair *BIG SIGH* she said (regarding the Xanax tablet that her boss, my dentist prescribed and that I took right before my appointment), "Do you just have anxiety, so you take Xanax before doctor and dentist appointment?" 💊
[again....complete and utter shock]
ME: "You know what? I don't want you to feel uncomfortable or bad or anything, but my son, who was also a patient here, died last year. I have severe dental phobia, my son used to come to my appointments with me, and Dr. _______ always prescribes me one Xanax to take before I come in. I think this is all information that should have been passed along to you."
What I expected to hear, i.e., what I "wanted" to hear:
"OHMYGOODNESS....I'M SO SORRY. I HAD NO IDEA...."
What I actually heard: "Oh. Okay. Well, I'm gonna get your X-rays."
[awkward, uncomfortable silence]
X-rays and tears ensue. 😢
[In her defense, a few "Let me know if you need a break" check-ins do occur:]
Having completed my X-rays and without any further conversation, this tech escorts me into the next torture chamber, I mean examination room where I am now with the Hygienist.
I slide into another grooved persecution recliner, I mean dental chair, where the Hygienist -- AND. I. WISH. I. WERE. KIDDING....says, "I see it's been a little bit since you've been in. I know life gets busy, doesn't it?"
WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK?
My brain, my mouth, and my heart have all let go of any coping skills I have amassed, any polite manners I have been taught, and any decorum I have ever known.
I responded, "Yup. You could say my life has been busy. One of my kids died."
Second verse, same as the first.
What I expected to hear, what I "wanted" to hear: "OHMYGOODNESS....I'M SO SORRY. I HAD NO IDEA...."
What I actually heard: "Oh...Okay."
Second verse same as the first.
WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK?
I can't leave because I know, if I leave, I shall not return. I can't stay, but for the Xanax. That's the next letter. An Open Thank You Letter to Anti-Anxiety Medication.
So, Dear Gentle Dentist, I know that grief is ugly and uncomfortable for you and your staff, and believe you-me, I wish this weren't the case. I wish *you all* weren't so uncomfortable with *my* grief. 💔
I'm so sorry, and I want you to know that am here for you. Just, please tell me what I can do to help you through this most difficult time. Even if the only thing you and your staff need from me is to hear me say, "I'm so sorry," then that's what I will do.
But, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND WONDERFUL, the last thing I want is for you and your staff to be uncomfortable.
Thank you for listening. I'm here for you. Well sort of.
Your Former Patient