“It’s no use screaming …”

“It’s no use screaming, there’s no one to hear you.”

These words are still as true today as they were the day they were said to me by the person who abducted and assaulted me.

It’s been 47 years and still no one can hear me as I scream my way through day after day of humiliation, shame, ordinary fear and abject terror mixed up with the knowledge that I must do the right thing if I am to obtain the assistance, on every level imaginable, that is provided to those who have never had a bad thing happen to them.

Recently, in the words of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, I ‘screwed my courage to the sticking place’, and managed after more years than it should have taken, to visit the dentist. Many things prevented me from carrying out, what to many others is a simple thing, suffice it to say, I did it and I did not fail.

What I did find was that with all my research, all of the techiniques I used to ensure I had the best dentist, and best dental practice for my needs, it still went very, very badly wrong! It took a year of slowly familiarising myself with the place and their practices before I finally managed to make an appointment, attend that appointment and come out the other side.

Unfortunately, even though I had prepared typewritten notes for those who would have my personal care in their hands, those notes were ignored by the dentist. It seemed as though he, the dentist, who I found out later, was NOT the experienced with anxious clients dentist I had asked, for but a freshly minted dentist having been a student less than six months previously. I’ll call him X. Even though I’d mentioned time and again the stress being tilted backward in the chair caused me, X did it repeatedly. I’d ask him to bring me up higher and he would, but not with the care and attention I’d been promised I’d receive.

X did so many things that he should not have. Too afraid of not being able to complete the procedures in my formulated time frame and financial capabilities, I allowed X to complete the basic set of treatments I wanted done in that first time frame and set another appointment for the following week to finish the treatment plan. However, the levels of anxiety were such throughout the following days that I chose to change from X to another, more experienced dentist for the remainder of the treatment. I was so glad I did. While things were still not performed as well as they could have been, Q, the new dentist, was adequate under the circumstances. In other circumstances, without the influence of X, things might have gone much better. X poisoned the way I would be perceived by all who would go on to read his notes. I was able to see and read these notes as Q worked on me, and reading X’s misguided perceptions to my anxiety caused me great stress.

I did communicate my displeasure to the practice manager in a point form report and while I received no actual recompense for anything, I knew I had been heard and understood regarding my complaints. I have not yet finished with following up with that practice, we’ll see where things go.

In one of those things that happen with peculiar timing, the night following the final dental visit, I found the amazing work of Dr Sharonne Zaks and her trauma informed dental care approach for those who have experienced sexual assault. This is the first time I have ever heard or read of anyone truly understanding the way I feel about invasive experiences, like having dental work done. I recommend reading her work, watching her videos and taking putting in to practice what she recommends, both for practitioners and clients.

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