Fear of the unknown

There are some things in life that strike irrational fear into the sanest of minds. A best friend of mine is one of the most practical people you’re ever likely to meet. He has a socket-set in the back of his car in case of emergencies for goodness sake. But, put a wasp in his vicinity and he turns into a desperate and panic-stricken lunatic. Once, when we were sitting in a pub garden on the west coast, a curious wasp smelt our lager and homed in. Our pal was up as if we were under shellfire. He put on the most impressive display of arm flapping and swearing ever seen (until the Ukraine coach after their not-given goal against the English last night,) before legging it out of the garden and off up the road.

I’m not overly bothered by wasps – can’t afford to be really as we have at least three nests on, and around, our garage that I just can’t be arsed to do anything about.

I am prone to contracting “the fear,” although this usually follows a particularly heavy bout of drinking and can be treated with a careful dosage of more booze.

Over the last few years my most prominent irrational fear has been the dentist. Until a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t been for over a decade. I’d known for quite some time that I really needed to go – the obvious black holes on a number of my teeth and the searing pain every time I bit into something sweet were tell-tale signs. But, I had built the dentist up to be like something from a horror film. Every time I thought about picking up the phone to make an appointment, an image of a psychotic, white-coated, drill and needle wielding freak, laughing maniacally as he causes me unimaginable pain flashed into my head. I knew this wouldn’t be the case as Jessie (wife) has been going to the dentist every year without any reported cases of sadistic torturing. Also, others I’ve spoken to who’ve taken an extended holiday from receiving regular dental work have told me there’s been nothing too desperate on their return to action. But still, I’ve put it off and put it off.

When Jessie told me she’d taken the children to get a check-up and had booked me in for a preliminary appointment, I responded with nonchalance.

“Oh great, yeah, about time I went really.” But I was a duck on the surface of the pond: calm on the top, legs going like crazy underneath.

I thought about cancelling the appointment and making up some fictitious excuse to tell Jessie before, somehow, failing to make another. But then, I spent a few minutes with a little torch in front of the mirror examining the rotting rows of gravestones in my mouth and decided I had to bite the bullet. Well, actually I’d probably just have to suck gently on the bullet. My teeth weren’t up to biting it.

The preliminary appointment was rather pleasant really. The dentist turned out to be a lovely chap – totally un-psychotic and interesting to talk to. He had a quick glance around my mouth and said some letters and numbers to his assistant. I heard the odd word like “decayed” and “significant cavity” that had be sweating a little, but I managed to keep calm and I’d like to think I played the whole thing pretty cool. I was totally casual as I made three further appointments to come back and have the work done that he had deemed necessary.

It was only when I left the surgery that the reality of this sank in. Three further appointments! And he’d said there would be drills and needles and protective glasses and all sorts… The fear was back.

Yesterday was my first session to have two fillings done on the left side of my mouth – one on the top row, one on the bottom. My appointment was early afternoon so the morning was a total write-off. I sat at my desk researching on the Internet for dental procedures and complications until I’d reduced myself to a state of near paralysis through fear. I’ve never driven as slowly as I did on the way to the surgery. It’s only three miles but I reckon it took me about half an hour, I was overtaken by an old man on a bicycle at one point.

But, there were no major traffic incidents or acts of god to save me and I arrived only a few minutes late.

When I got in there I somehow turned on the, “doesn’t bother me, do your worst,” smokescreen. It’s amazing how good I am at that: Outward denial of any problem when internally the problems are all too obvious.

I had a skiing crash once and suffered a pneumothorax – basically a burst lung. I passed out then came to. I told everyone I was absolutely fine despite the fact I could feel air bubbling around inside my chest. It wasn’t until three days later, after we’d got home, I passed out again on the way to work and was forced to admit there was an issue. It turned out the air was compressing my heart and causing it to go from 80 to 200 beats per minute and back again every few seconds. They thought they were going to have to crack me open but, luckily, decided that if I didn’t move for a few days the air would slowly re-absorb itself into the bloodstream. Anyway, I digress…. The dentist.

So what was it like? It was totally fine of course. I hardly even felt the needle for the local anaesthetic and the drilling was barely noticeable. He was finished before I thought he’d even started and my left-side teeth are now hole free. Yesterday evening I ate some sour snakes I found in my glove compartment – I chewed them extensively on the left side and felt nothing…. Hooray.

So, the moral of the story is: Fear nothing, it’s all in your head. No, wait a minute, that’s not a very good one, how about: Know your enemy. No, maybe: Try everything once. Oh sod it, there’s no moral.


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