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When I heard that I would need to get at least two of my wisdom teeth removed, I panicked. That might not seem odd to you. Having two teeth pulled would make anyone panic. But, living with an anxiety disorder, I panic just thinking about having to drive to the grocery store so the panic I felt was on a whole new level.
I’m telling my story for two reasons. One is that I know that there are other people like me out there who don’t know how they can get through wisdom teeth extraction if they have an anxiety disorder. But also, because I want to be able to look back at this experience and know that I made it through, even though it seemed impossible at the time.
Since I have a lot to say, I’m going to break this up into a few posts. Let me start at the beginning.
The Day Before
I tried to put this appointment off for as long as I possibly could. But when my gums started to hurt, I knew I couldn’t wait anymore. The pain was keeping me from doing things I had to do. Since my wisdom teeth were not impacted and had grown in straight, I had the option of getting them pulled at my dentist’s office.
I went back and forth trying to decide if I would go to an oral surgeon where they could put me to sleep or going to my dentist who would give me local anesthesia. The idea of being awake and knowing what was happening was terrifying but the idea of being asleep and not knowing what was going on terrified me too.
The biggest trigger for me and my anxiety disorder is knowing that I’m not in control. So, ultimately my decision was that I would stay awake. I had three c-sections so I figured getting two teeth extracted should be a breeze.
The night before I had already come to peace with my decision. I really love my dentist and the staff. They are friendly and knowledgeable and make me feel safe. I knew I would be in good hands. Of course, nothing is ever that easy when you suffer from an anxiety disorder.
The Day Of
I woke up on the day of the extractions and I couldn’t breathe. My heart was racing. I found myself googling every single thing that I could. I looked up what I should expect, what the procedure was, how I could prepare, what could go wrong… You name it, I googled it.
When you have anxiety, it’s best to fill your brain with what if’s and be prepared for them all. Of course, all of those what if’s are also what amplifies the anxiety. It’s a double-edged sword.
I took a shower, I got dressed and then I spent the next hour in an anxiety spiral. I paced back and forth, tried to calm myself down, thought of excuses to cancel my appointment, meditated for 15 minutes, and then finally convinced myself that I had to do this so that I felt better.
I hate falling apart in front of my kids, but I did it that day. Over and over again. My oldest could see it in my eyes. I didn’t even have to say a word. She found a charm I had made with my Nana’s face and put it on one of her chains and told me to wear it. She hugged me and told me I was going to be okay.
She was right. I knew I would be okay but inside, I was so shaken I thought I might pass out. My heart was beating out of my chest. I was sweating. I wanted to get it over with but also wanted to call the whole thing off.
I finally got inside the car and my husband turned on a song that my friend Meg had shared with me and told me to listen to when my anxiety is at its highest, The Breakup Song by Francesca Battistelli.
As soon as she started singing, I lost it. With tears running down my face, my husband grabbed my hand and reassured me I was going to be okay. No words were going to calm me down.
We were already 10 minutes late, but pulling up to the dentist’s office, I knew I still wasn’t ready to walk in. I put on my mask, stepped out of the car, and then asked if we could go home. I made up my mind. The pain was better than fear. Or was it?
I took a deep breath and pushed myself to go inside. I couldn’t even give my name at the front desk. I must’ve looked like a deer in the headlights.
I sat down in the lobby, my legs shaking and my t-shirt drenched in sweat, and tried to stop myself from running out the front door.
And then I heard, “Heather? Are you ready?”
Read more here: Wide Awake During my Wisdom Teeth Extraction.