Yesterday I did something I have been putting off for several years . . . I went to the dentist and had some work done on my teeth.

Self-care is an elusive thing, and for me, taking care of my teeth is probably the most difficult aspect of caring for my own health. It’s not that I don’t take daily care of my teeth. In fact, my teeth-brushing and flossing habits have been described as “compulsive” by more than one of my friends. I am meticulous about my daily dental hygiene. But there is a reason for that:

I lost the genetic lottery when it comes to teeth. I avoided braces. But I come from a long line of family members whose teeth have had major issues. It is not unusual for people in my family to get their first set of false teeth in their 40s. Despite how well I maintain them, I am prone to cavities and tooth decay. I had my first root canal at the ripe age of nine years old. I am already rocking several crowns, and am in need of two more.

In addition to having genetically bad teeth, I also grind my teeth at night. So I need to repair several teeth I have cracked from constant grinding.

None of this is a picnic in and of itself, but then you add the fact that I have a massive phobia of going to the dentist and it becomes A Thing It started when I was young, and had a terrible reaction to the laughing gas. Apparently this is a fun experience for most people? At least that is what YouTube would lead me to believe. For me, it pushes me over the edge into paranoia and anxiety. As a young child, I completely flipped out in the dentist’s office after receiving laughing gas, and had to be physically restrained. That memory left me with intense fears about going to the dentist. It also doesn’t help that I have some serious sensory integration issues, and abhor the feeling of people working on my teeth.

So, all that has left me with a crippling anxiety about going to the dentist, despite the fact that I really should be going more than most people. A couple years ago, I finally broke down and went in for a check up. And despite my best efforts at home, I needed about $5000 of dental work done. Both the cost and the fear of having the work done let me to avoid this reality completely for about two years. Every month or so, I would think about how much I needed to take care of it. And then I would quickly recoil back into my shell of denial.

I finally decided, enough is enough, I’ve got to buckle down and do this. So I made the first of several appointments. And then I proceeded to reschedule that appointment. Three times. But finally, the day came that I had no more excuses. That day was yesterday. I took an Ativan, I did relaxation techniques, and I tried distracting myself with a podcast. And I did the best I could. But the best I could still meant that I was jumping out of my skin, and had to ask for a couple sanity breaks, and by the time it was over and I went to pay, my hands were shaking so badly I could barely get my debit card out of my wallet.

But still. I did it. I survived, and I did the Hard Thing, and I feel a sense of accomplishment about that.

I think we all have areas where we find self-care to be difficult. This is definitely one of mine, and as traumatic as it was it feels REALLY GOOD to have that appointment checked off. I’m can forward to checking them off.

Do you have any areas of self-care that are difficult for you? Any things you avoid doing even though you know you should? And if anyone has a similar dental phobia, I would love to hear what you do to cope.