The only thing to fear

“The only thing to fear is fear itself” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Which with hindsight dear Mr Roosevelt, is, in fact, total bollocks.

Fear is fear, we all fear something… Some folks are afraid of spiders, some folks are afraid of flying… Meet someone who tells you they fear nothing? Then, my dear reader, you have met a liar.

Fear has been a major factor in my life for pretty much as long as I can remember… Fear of the sight of blood was an absolute blinder of a fear to have when you’re a kid… Y’know.. A kid… Those small things that get into scrapes and end up injuring themselves… Which as we all know usually ends up with a decent splash of blood… My fear of heights made its debut in spectacular fashion when I was on a school trip, just after I had decided to play on an adventure play park and was walking along a rope bridge… Yeah, that was great.

I don’t so much as have a fear of rejection (yes folks I may appear as standoffish, but the fact is I’m actually not… I just don’t approach people because deep down I’m afraid they’ll tell me to piss off)

There are of course other fears… Fear for other people, fear that we can’t make a bill payment… I’ll categorize those as “worry” tho… Today I’m waffling on about “fear”.

I’m afraid of needles, I can’t watch TV shows where needles are involved… I always look away… I know needles don’t actually hurt… Every time I have an injection I always go into a panic and then after the needle is finished with I always have the same thought “Oh, that didn’t hurt” but again, every time I need to have a needle… I go into panic mode.

My fear of needles mutated into a fear of dentists… So now I have another fear… Dentists.

I currently think I’m Being a bit greedy on the fear front… Maybe I should stop hogging them all to myself eh?

So yeah… Dentists… And this my dear reader is where this particular blog is heading.

Be warned… It may not be pleasant to read… And I may lose some “man points” along the way.

“Man points” yet another load of bollocks.

So… In the past I have needed to visit the dentist… Not by choice… But by being crippled by a toothache… On one visit the dentist had to sedate me, for his own safety or mine, I’m not entirely sure… Either way, I began the procedure by being given an injection in my arm which put me in a semi-dream state which allowed the dentist to remove a decidedly painful tooth. I have no memory of the dentist causing me any pain… But still my fear continued… Continuing in fact, past my teens, into my twenties, sailing through my thirties all the way to now in forties.

At some point in my thirties while on holiday with Jo I took a bite out of a bacon sandwich (trust me, this is relevant) as I bit into the sandwich I became aware of something hard inbedded in the bread… I fished it out with my finger and discovered a tiny bit of tooth… My tooth.

Now, a normal person would have trotted off to the dentist, had the tooth repaired and carried on with the holiday… This is not what I did… I ignored the tooth (and the subsequent other occasions of finding bits of tooth in my mouth) and carried on with my holiday… Carried on with my life… Carried on avoiding the dentist.

Fast forward ten years or so… I was at work, it was breaktime and I was eating a sandwich (maybe it’s sandwiches I should be avoiding) while eating, I became aware of a piece of bread stuck in my tooth at the back of my mouth… During the break time I used my tongue to remove the little piece of bread, but while doing this I Found a small lump on one of my gums… I initially gave it no thought, but during the rest of the day my tongue kept finding its way to the back of my mouth and to that small lump… This continued for a few days and eventually my tongue forgot all about it and I carried on with life…. A month or so later while at work, my tongue randomly went wandering and found the small lump… The problem was, this time the lump felt a little bigger.

I was worried… I had no idea what it was… I chose to ignore it and hope it went away… However, even though I had chosen to ignore it, my tongue would continue to find its way back there… And as the months went by the lump became more pronounced… My dear reader, I convinced myself it was something serious… “So you went to the doctor?” I hear you cry… No, I did not, because I’m bloody stupid AND a fucking coward.

This went on for months… The lump became more pronounced, I worried more and more… Then one night (Actually Me and Jo were at a Lady Antebellum concert) I had a mini breakdown… The music was great, the atmosphere was great, I was loving life when suddenly it hit me “If this lump IS something serious…” The world seemed to slow… I looked at the crowd dancing, I looked at Jo enjoying the show… A wave of depression hit me… It WAS something bad… I had royally fucked up by not going to see a doctor… This is the end… when from out of nowhere a voice (which sounded an awful lot like mine) said quite clearly somewhere in the darkness of my mind “have you ever considered the fact that it might be a wisdom tooth?”

After the show, Jo drove us home… As she drove I was using my phone to google “wisdom teeth”… We got home and I rushed up to the bathroom and for the first time since this had all began I actually tried looking at the lump in my mouth… I stood in front of the mirror and opened my mouth wide… Shit! I couldn’t see anything… Fuck it, I thought and put my finger in my mouth and tried to find the lump… There it was… And low and behold it felt like a tooth… My life-threatening lump had been a wisdom tooth all along.

This all took place while I lived in England… I’ve been in Bangkok for a little over two years now and the wisdom tooth has finally pushed it’s was way through and lives quite happily at the rear of my mouth, thankfully currently not causing any problems.

A few months ago while eating dinner with Jo (not a sandwich this time) I felt something strange in my mouth… A small portion of a previously filled tooth had cracked and had moved out of place… What followed was a couple of months of me not chewing food on that side of my mouth or having to use my tongue to push the tooth back into place… This was not an ideal situation to be in.

As the new year approached and with me now trying to be a little fitter (I do not want a repeat of the heart attack scare I had earlier in 2020) I decided that 2021 is the year where I will do my best to be a “better version of me”… I will work harder to build my fitness, lose weight… But I had also decided that at some point in 2021 I was going to (pardon the pun) bite the bullet and go to see a dentist.

Just after the new year (and as if she had been reading my mind) Jo decided to go to the dentist for a scale and polish, and she decided I should come along too… I told her about my improvement plan and went along with her… The dentist understood my fear and let me watch as Jo was treated… I told him then that I needed to make an appointment, and as quick as a flash he suggested I get X-rays taken so as they knew what they were dealing with.

I told him what I thought was wrong “I have a cracked tooth that I think will be removed… And I have a partial tooth that I KNOW will be removed” silently I was thinking “I’ve not been to a dentist in twenty years… My teeth are fucked and I’m dreading this”

The -Rays were done and I was informed that I have Periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease… Great.

An appointment was made with a specialist who would be performing a deep clean of my teeth and gums… I would be given injections to numb my mouth because without numbing I would be in pain, being as the dentist would be cleaning inside the gums as well as the outside… “Imagine it as cleaning dirt out of your pockets’’ is how the dentist explained it to me.

As the appointment day approached I found myself getting more and more anxious… Scared… But I knew that if I didn’t follow through with my appointment I would never get my teeth sorted out… I would end up toothless and probably wifeless… No way would she stay with a toothless wonder.

Appointment day arrived and Jo took me to the dentist, the room was full of dentists and nurses, at the back of my mind I thought they had filled the room so they could restrain me if I freaked out… I had my headphones and devised a series of hand signals for Jo and the dentist… This means “stop”… This means “Skip the track”… This means “turn the music up”…Random shaking and hyperventilating means “I’M FREAKING OUT!”

I was laid back in the chair, a cover was placed over my eyes and the dentist began the first of (what I think was four) injections… I hated this… I hated the feeling of the needle… I hated the taste of the anaesthetic… I held onto Jos hand tightly… Failing dramatically at being brave…. After the injections were finished I was allowed to sit up and rinse out my mouth…. “When will it start to work?” I asked… “Isn’t it numb yet?” they asked… “Nope” I said… Fuck! They gave me another injection!

In my panicked state, I managed to swallow as the injection was put in.. Forcing the horrible taste right down my throat… I thought I was going to be sick.

I turned up the music and the procedure began… A few minutes in and my throat felt odd… I suddenly had the panicked thought that “maybe the anaesthetic I swallowed has numbed my throat… Fuck I’m going to choke and die!”… I raised my left hand, the “Stop” signal” … I rinsed my mouth and mentally reassured myself that I was not going to stop breathing.

Despite now having a totally numb mouth I could still feel some of the procedure… I could feel the vibrations of the drill, I could feel the tools they used to scrape away forty odd years of crap off my teeth… I had to stop them a further two times… It was not a pleasant experience.

Thankfully after half an hour or so it was finished… I sat back up and took a deep breath as they showed me my X-Rays and explained what needed to be done to my teeth to make them healthy again.

Now here’s where it gets odd…. I’ve not been to a dentist in over twenty years…. How many cavities do I have to be dealt with? None… Except for the one that is cracked…. I was told I need the broken tooth removed and the wisdom tooth (poor wisdom tooth… So young, so full of hopes and dreams) removed also… I explained (all the time having a numb mouth) how I’d been avoiding eating on the side of the mouth with the cracked tooth, and I asked “if the tooth does break before I come back to get it fixed… Is it a major problem?” The dentist explained that fixing the tooth was quite urgent… “OK” I said and decided to make an appointment ASAP…. Outside in the waiting room while talking to the dentist I felt something in my mouth… Shit! The fucking tooth had broken! I was taken back into the dentists' room and examined… I was told to come in the next day and get it fixed.

Saturday night was a no alcohol night for me… We had a friend over for a movie and dinner, I spent the night making extremely strong drinks… Fuck it… Just because I can’t drink doesn’t mean everyone should suffer… Right?

I awoke early on Sunday morning… I was anxious but nowhere near as bad as I had been the previous day… In fact, as the day wore on I found myself calming… That is until we approached the dentist surgery and I felt my fear begin to raise its ugly head again.

I was taken to another room within the surgery, I sat down in the dentists' chair and explained that I am afraid of needles and afraid of dentists… The dentist responded by saying “It’s ok… I’m afraid of patients”… Touch’e Mr Dentist… Touch’e.

I was laid back, my eyes were covered, I signalled to Jo to turn my music up and prepared for the injection… An injection that actually didn’t hurt… An injection that didn’t flood my mouth with horrible tasting anaesthetic… I panicked slightly when my tongue began to tingle and the panicked voice in my head said “He’s stabbed your tongue with a needle the bastard!” (He hadn’t by the way)… Ten minutes of me listening to Queen as the dentist drilled into my poor broken tooth followed…. Actually, I’ll correct that… Ten minutes of me PAINLESSLY listening to Queen as the dentist drilled into my tooth followed, then I was put back into a seated position and told to wait as they would be taking scans of my tooth… A few minutes later a young nurse was placing a plastic wand in my mouth in order to scan the tooth… All the time I managed to remain calm… The scans were taken and I was told to wait in the waiting room for an hour while they created my new tooth… Not too bad eh?

At some point during the waiting process, the man I spoke to the day before appeared and showed us how they design and make the crowns for teeth… Which to be honest, he didn’t really have to do, but it did break up the waiting time for us.

After an hour or so I was taken back into the room and the dentist fitted a partial crown to my damaged tooth… I felt no pain at all, I was quite amazed at how relaxed I felt.

After the crown had been fitted and the dentist did various checks to make sure it felt right I asked him when I should have the other broken tooth removed (Y’know the tooth that got murdered by a bacon sandwich over ten years ago)… He laid me back down, poked around a bit with some of his dentist tools and proudly told me “No need to take out… Can do the same as the other tooth”

Shit. After all these years of me worrying about this partial tooth exploding when it’s removed (yes that was an actual thought) this dentist now tells me that he can fix it… Bloody hell!

I waited in the waiting room as Jo paid the bill, the man who showed us the tooth making process appeared and asked if I was interested in having implants fitted to replace the removed teeth, after my first visit with Jo I had done some research into implants and quite frankly the whole process looks terrifying… Plus I don’t think our medical insurance would fork out for the procedure anyway…So I said that no, I really don’t want implants… To which he replied “if you don’t want implants, then no real need to remove other teeth”

Basically, my situation is this… Once I’ve got the bacon sandwich tooth repaired (my jaw and gums have taken a bit of a battering so I’m giving them a month to rest), and once I’ve got the Peridentitis sorted I will have a clean bill of health in regards to my teeth… If the wisdom tooth causes any issues, then I will have it removed… It’s not an emergency… Regular check-ups (which my dear reader I fully intend to keep up with) and a regular scale and polish regime should be all I need.

I sit typing this with a smile on my face… A smile I shouldn’t be afraid to show people… A smile I can be proud of.

Can I control fear? No.

Should I let my fear control me? No.

Oh, it will fucking try to though, won’t it?

Ah well, until next time…

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ade Cox

A working-class man from The Black Country, plucked from the factory and now living the best life in Bangkok