It is only very recently that I have come to understand that I have suffered from PTSD and anxiety for quite some time and although there is still a stigma around mental health I actually feel comfortable knowing that there is a reason I feel the way I do and that there is support available.
I have been hyper-vigilant ever since the attack by P & Co, I never feel comfortable in a room unless I can see the exit, I do not like people sitting or walking behind me and am often jumping at my own shadow, in the past I had always put this down to being a “born worrier” and it was no big deal but when I had my first flashback episode I thought I had gone totally mad.
I understand now how it was brought about and why it happened but at the time I was terrified and it led to me avoiding any dental treatment for over 20 years.
It was a few days after my interview with the Police that I went to the Hygienist for a clean which had been recommended after my latest check up appointment, I had been to the Hygienist before so I knew what to expect and was no more anxious than usual despite the conversation I’d had in the preceding days. Whilst in the waiting room I saw another patient reading a story in the local newspaper about P & Co’s recent arrest, I have no idea why they wanted to engage me in conversation but when I sat down they started to rant about what “evil b*st*rds” P & Co were and how had no one done anything about it, surely someone knew about it. I know they were just incensed by what had happened but I felt like they were asking me to answer for it, almost as if they were saying, “Why didn’t you say something? You could have prevented this! Why did you not speak up?”
I started to feel sick and dizzy, I wanted to ask for a glass of water but just as I was about to approach the receptionist to ask I heard someone call my name and looked up to see someone I didn’t recognize; she introduced herself as the new Hygienist and invited me into the treatment room. I am guessing that she had not read any background notes about me as she told me to sit down immediately which was not the way I usually did things, whenever I had attended previously I would have a brief conversation with whoever was treating me and then sit down. I remained standing and she got quite short tempered with me and said, “Come on, I haven’t got all day you know, let’s get a move on.” My anxiety levels were approaching stratospheric levels by this point but I sat down as asked and she gave me a disclosing tablet to chew on. Once I was done she looked into my mouth and started “tutting” at me, I can’t remember exactly what she said but it was something along the lines of, “Have you not learned your lesson yet, you’ve had all this work done and still your teeth are coated in plaque. This will take quite a bit of cleaning, you really should take better care or you’ll lose all your teeth if you’re not careful.” She then handed me the mirror so I could see for myself, I looked in the mirror and all I could see was red dripping from my teeth, like they were bleeding and then all of a sudden I could taste blood in my mouth, the next thing I knew I was transported back to the day P & Co turned on me, I re-lived the whole thing again like I was actually there – it was a full sensory experience which included smells and sounds, the only way I can describe it is that it was like I had been put into a time vortex and spat out on that very day.
When I came back to reality I was sitting in the waiting room and everyone was staring at me, the receptionist had a glass of water in her hand that she was trying to give me but I couldn’t move, I felt frozen with fear and my mind was racing with questions – how had I got there? What did I do? Had I said or done anything I shouldn’t have? The receptionist kept repeating my name over and over but I just stared at her like a mute, eventually she said, “I think you should go home now and come back another time, we are way behind scheduled thanks to your silly antics.” I got up without saying a word, left the building and never, ever returned. It was some 20 years later before I got the courage together to visit another dental practice.