10 Ways to Beat (Read: Hide) Your Phobia (as an “Adult”)

This past week, I faced my greatest fear: the dentist.  Though I gave myself multiple pep-talks, rationalized, and even texted my friends to demand their support, it didn’t go quite as planned.  In fact, it was pathetic.  I silently cried; my tears were only silent through brutish will power.  I had to use every ounce of strength I had to keep myself from shaking too hard… but it was still hard enough that the dentist had to stop a few times.  I almost hyperventilated twice, but I didn’t all the way.  It wasn’t a total disaster, but it was pretty sad.  Ultimately, I got through it.  It was embarrassing, but I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t scared, I couldn’t hide my shaking, I couldn’t convince anyone that I was just fine.  The dentist was able to perform the procedures I needed.  She comforted me with words of wisdom, general cooing, and music.  I had to be treated like a slightly stoic child.  The key to my “success” in overcoming my intense, phobia-level fear of the dentist can be found in this list…  Also, flossing helps.  Keep flossing.
  1. Be upfront.  Warn the people around you.  For me, that meant warning the dentist and her staff that I was afraid, and that I had hyperventilated previously, and that my fear would be a silent, but dramatic experience for us all.
  2. Make jokes.  Specifically, make self-effacing, situational jokes.  I had to address the fact that I was sitting there, mouth pried open, tears rolling down my cheeks, shaking like a Kardashian in the presence of a talented person, whimpering like a baby, while also attempting to be an adult.  No, really, I have my own insurance.  I have a full-time job.  I’m actually not a child… I think.
  3. Laugh at yourself.  If you don’t, you’ll look like a tool.  It was friggin’ hilarious to see me in that chair.  I had to accept that.  Plus, me laughing at the situation helped the dentist to know that I wasn’t angry, or terrified beyond reason.  I knew I was being ridiculous, and acknowledging that was important.
  4. Address yourself as a crazy person.  When facing the notion of dentistry, I must remind myself that I am crazy.  It helps.
  5. Remember what the benefits are.  I just kept reminding myself that people go to the dentist all the time, and that I care about my ability to chew.  Chewing means eating watermelon.  I cannot live without watermelon.
  6. Talk to yourself.  A LOT.  Whilst undergoing my drillings and fillings, I had a little mantra going.  It went like this, “Breathe slowly.  Don’t bite her.  You’re not in pain.  Breathe slowly.  Don’t bite her.  You’re not in pain.”  When that failed, I had to remind myself that my actual fear was that I would be hurt, but that I’d felt much worse pain that actually possible from dentistry.
  7. If you must cry, do it silently.
  8. Thank everyone around you, often and sincerely.  Those poor people who had to work on me.  I was awful.  I was scary.  I apologized 400 times.
  9. Limit exposure to humans, especially children.  If you think you might scream, cry, yell, flip-the-eff-out, you should make sure you’re passing your fear on to as few people as possible.  I didn’t want some poor 5-year-old to be sitting in the waiting room, listening to me panic, and think, “Holy moly.  They’re torturing people back there.”
  10. Take all the medication you are offered.  From laughing gas to Novocaine, I was drugged up, and it really helped.  Accept all numbing concoctions, pills, gasses, and creams.  Don’t pretend you’re stronger than you are.