She’s only just reclining my dentist chair and I’m already a mess, my eyes welling with tears behind the oversized sunglasses I’ve requested.
Vomit waits in my throat as my exam begins.
Outside in the hallway I can hear Wren recovering with her grandmother, sifting through a chest of prizes after completing her visit. Only hers wasn’t a reward for a job well done- but no matter, we are all open to the distraction, even if she still finds herself here in this place where the darkness took hold of her.
And when that happens, I bleed for her. After trying to present a brave face for her, to her, I release when all of my attempts to console her have proven to fail yet again- and now my stoicism is proven to be only a front. And so I cry in the dentist chair throughout my exam, though it has nothing to do with the drilling, or the picks slashing at my gums.
My tears are for my five year old girl who only now is finding herself again, in the waiting room with those cheap plastic distractions and a toothbrush in hand. After the damage has been done.
Recovering one more time from the version of herself that came to be when she was put under the bright lights, with a gentle hygienist who simply wished to count her teeth.
And yet, when her lips went blue and her eyes widened, I knew the gig was up. Pulling myself in closer, I held her hand, but already the panic had set in. Her volume had heightened, and her neck, tight and pulsing, was soaked with tears.
She does not cry in these moments, she sobs- like a lost dog.
She screamed she was scared. She begged me, blubbering repeatedly, to take her home.
One minute feels like an eternity. One appointment, a nightmare.
I told her she was safe, repeatedly. I reminded her I was there with her and that she would be OK, and yet those words only confirmed to me I could survive an episode again. These offerings do nothing for her when hers is a primal response.
And her words got choked in the inhalations in her throat when the hygienist asked what she could do to make it better- there was nothing. Her trembling body told us the only thing that could make it better was to make it stop.
She could not even stand to be touched, and my mom took her away, her four foot body wrapping around her in a tight embrace, gripping on to her neck for a safe space to land.
And with a nod, the hygienist scribbled in her chart that a referral would be made to have a different professional take her on, in another high rise building, at another time. As has been done many times before.
And either that next health professional will get anxiety or they won’t, but of course, I’ll be prepping them and praying in advance that they understand what to expect. Understand that this is not something that can be simply changed. That the usual tactics will do nothing to support her.
She is not just uncomfortable, this is so much more. She is not just another spoiled kid.
But she is scary.
And she scares me too. When anxiety paralyzes her body with fear, all anyone seems to be able to do is watch and wait for the ride to pass- there is no confronting it. And we are all left to wonder how so much crippling fear can reside in the frame of such an unsuspecting small girl, haunting her, debilitating her every move and word.
Those thoughts swirl as I sit crying for her silently in the chair, at my turn. Looking with blurred vision at the posters of flashy smiles, and the pearly dentures on the desk.
I had hoped for a miracle, as I do every time an appointment arises, but it wasn’t to be- again.
From here I can hear her breaths slowing, though she still struggles to formulate a sentence in the waiting room, on my mom’s lap. And the sinking feeling boils up inside of me again, filling my every cell with the hopelessness I feel when I don’t have the answers to offer her the support she needs. When I realize I, as her mother, can’t make things better for her.
And so her fear has won again today. Crippling not only her, but us both.