I do seem to have a recurring theme of regret in my life; there are many things I wish I hadn’t done but the worst regrets of all are the times when I should have taken action but failed to and in doing so I let people down.
The one thing holding me back each time has been fear, it has held me frozen in it’s grasp time and again but things have been changing recently and I am learning to overcome my fears; albeit in some instances I have been too late to right the wrongs of the past.
Most recently I have started working on overcoming my fear of having Dental work done and I finally made it into a Dental Surgery last June (2015) after a 20+ year absence. Since then I have had a number of deep cleans and a broken filling replaced. My one overwhelming regret about this is that I didn’t take action much earlier, if I had then I wouldn’t have ruined what was our last chance to get a family portrait done.
About 7 years ago I was at a dinner party with friends when I bit into an olive and felt something break in my mouth, I felt around with my tongue and sure enough there was a gaping hole in one of my front teeth. I was overwhelmed with panic and felt sick, most normal people would have contacted a Dentist and got it sorted out but not me!
Although I could feel that there was a bit of tooth missing I couldn’t bring myself to even look at it for a number of months, I avoided mirrors when brushing my teeth in case I caught sight of it, I started to press my lips together when smiling and putting my hand in front of my face when laughing in case anyone else noticed it. No one seemed to notice, or if they did they didn’t mention it. Eventually I decided I had to face up to it and one day I took a deep breath and looked in the mirror, it was horrific, not only could you clearly see that the tooth was chipped it was also turning black. Despite this I still didn’t take any action, I knew it would only get worse and I was well aware that there was every danger that the rest of the tooth could fall out but that somehow seemed more preferential than visiting a Dentist.
About 2 years later my Grandmother decided that she would like a family portrait as her Christmas present. I was mortified by the idea as I knew the black tooth would show up on the pictures, I tried to think of every excuse I could to delay the photo shoot but it only served to annoy my Grandmother.
In the end it was my Grandad that twigged what the problem was – he had noticed the tooth (there wasn’t much that he missed) and guessed that this was the real reason I was trying to avoid getting the portrait done. I admitted that I hadn’t seen a Dentist for some time but I lied and told him that I hadn’t been due to being short of money rather than admit that my phobia had returned. I felt awful about lying to him, more so when he gave me an envelope and told me that I was to use the money in it to pay for the tooth to be fixed. He also offered to accompany me to the appointment and hold my hand as he had done all those years ago.
I was on the verge of tears as I left my Grandparents house that night; knowing I had lied to my Grandad and was letting down my Grandmother once again, at a time when we had barely begun to get back on an even keel following my divorce. As I left I promised my Grandad that I would keep the envelope and only use it to pay my Dental bill, that I would get it done as soon as I could after the Christmas holidays and when he saw me again I would have got the necessary dental work done.
In my defence I did try to do something about it, I got in touch with the Dental Practice I had walked out of years ago following my meltdown (I wrote about that here) to see if my old Dentist was still there but he had moved on and they wouldn’t tell me where he had gone. I tried to search for him using the internet but I could only remember his first name and so I got nowhere fast. I then tried to look at some Dental Practices nearby but I couldn’t bring myself to go near them – what would I even say? I tried to search for a Dentist that would use general anaesthetic as I thought that would be the only safe way I could be treated but no one offered such a service.
A few weeks later I took a call from my Mother, she told me that my Grandad had suffered a stroke and was in hospital, he was unlikely to regain consciousness again. My Grandad passed away about two weeks later, he died peacefully having never regained consciousness. I was devastated, not just because I knew that I would never see my beloved Grandad again but also because I had let everyone down thanks to my inability to act like a normal person. I put the envelope away without opening it, swearing to myself that no matter how bad things got I would never open the envelope unless it was to pay a Dentist to fix the tooth.
I finally opened the envelope last September (2015) when I used the money to pay for the tooth to be fixed. By pure coincidence I had the procedure performed on what would have been my Grandad’s 90th Birthday; I hadn’t realised the significance of the date until a few days beforehand when I was once again feeling like running away and giving up on my attempts to overcome my Dental Phobia. I had been on the brink of cancelling the appointment but when I realised the significance of the date I had been booked in for I went ahead with it. I know it doesn’t change the mistakes I made but my Grandad was very fond of reminding me that, “Now is as good a time as any to start” and although I sometimes think that it might be too late to start I know that I owe it to myself to at least try.