A conversation with my father when I was 19. “Becky, you just had a baby and you are going to sit there and cry over getting a tooth pulled?” Shame was the name of the game in my family. As a child, I was terrified of the dentist. So terrified that my parents took me to the doctor to get tranquilizers for me to take before a visit. The effects of the trauma I went through as a child at the health department in Hapeville, GA may linger a lifetime.
The filling came out of my tooth when I was 18 and I was terrified. I had only received three fillings my entire life and I HATED the dentist. I decided I would ignore it and hoped it would miraculously go away. When it began hurting the year after I got married and had a child, my father offered to take me to a dentist in downtown Atlanta and get it pulled. I agreed because the dentist would put me to sleep. What a mistake! The tooth probably could have been easily fixed if my fear had not taken over. It was the last tooth on my left side so I thought, “What would it matter?” Now, after being educated by my dentist, it matters. Every tooth has a purpose.
My experience as a child was excruciating. When it was time to fill a tooth, the dentist did not give me novocaine. He would yell, “Sit still! I’m not hurting you!” At one point, my father came into the room and took his belt off, and stood at the end of the chair. That was painful enough but now I also know there were other things that caused me excruciating pain as a young child. These are discussed in my newly released book, “There Is A Reason: When Pain Keeps Knocking At Your Door.” All children are afraid but there was a reason my reactions were over the top.
As an adult, I have experienced tremendous emotional healing through years of therapy and allowing God to enter my pain and bring healing. I have forgiven those who have hurt me. But did you know that our brains and emotions cannot distinguish time? Trauma can get triggered and your physical self can feel like what happened 5o plus years ago is happening right now. I knew that fact, so I’m not sure why I was so surprised to experience it today.
I was told the past two visits to my dentist that I needed two crowns. Again, I decided I”ll ignore that fact and it may miraculously go away. This week it was time again for my 6-month cleaning. I was told again, “Rebekah, after Christmas you need to get in here and get that tooth fixed. I’d hate for it to break.” I left my appointment, went to eat lunch, and felt my tooth break off.
My first thought, “No way!” My second thought, “Well, it is 2020!” Honestly, I could not believe it. So I called the dentist and today I went and received my first crown. I was scared but nothing like I was as a child. I trusted my dentist and just wanted to get it over with. After the third shot was over, tears began to stream down my face and my body began to shake. “Where is this coming from?” I wasn’t feeling tremendous pain or fear but I was reacting. I could not stop crying. And of course, I was embarrassed. After deciding I needed one more shot I was asked if I would like to get laughing gas. “Yes!”, was my response. To be honest, I use to get laughing gas to get my teeth cleaned when my children were little. But it had been years and I didn’t even know if this dentist used it. It helped tremendously and she finished her part. When her assistant was finishing up with getting pictures of the tooth for my crown, tears began streaming down my face again. “Good grief! What’s wrong with me?” I honestly believe the forced wide open mouth and the procedure was triggering more stuff from my past.
I”m so glad that emotions do not determine truth. I have healed from my past trauma’s but my brain didn’t know it. Triggers can happen when you least expect it. As I was sitting in the dentist’s chair I was praying and remembered something I learned from my friend, Barbara Moon. Jesus suffered well. We can suffer well. “Lord, help me to suffer well.” Again, I wasn’t suffering physically. I was suffering emotionally. HE was with me. HE helped me. And I got through my day.
I don’t know who needs this story but I hope it’s helpful. There is a book entitled, “The Body Keeps The Score.” by Bessel Van Der Kolk M.D. It’s a great book that explains in better terms what I just explained. First, know that your reactions do not define you. Your trauma does not define you. Your feelings do not define you. Emotions come and go but only Jesus defines you. I am thankful that I made it through some tough things and am here to help others do the same.
So I have a redeemed tooth. It didn’t get thrown away like my other tooth. Now on to the next tooth to be redeemed. 🙂