I lost so many things — things I cherish, things that made me who I am.
Dear robber, do you know you’ve done to me?
You took away the best things in my life. You away my happiness. You took away my peace of mind. You took away my rationality.
You left me in the darkest corner in my room, hiding from the world you exist in. You made me fear the slightest blow of air behind my ears. You made what seems so harmless, my darkest nightmare. You left me in disquietude.
You made me less than who I actually am. You turned my flowers into monsters. You turned my deepest fears into a reality. You constantly whisper into my ears the most cynical and misanthropic lies you can think of.
You drowned me in your pool of fears and worries. You left me gasping for air and struggling to stay afloat with only the slightest hope of surviving.
You tore me up into pieces — pieces so fine I can no longer patch back, pieces so fine I forgot what I was.
You pushed me down so hard, I struggle to stand again. You suffocated me so long, I no longer know what breathing feels like. You made me forgot what being “normal” feels like.
Dear anxiety, I will be back for you! And this time I will be stronger than I ever was. I will show you I have so much more than what you took from me. I will show you I will no longer bow to your self-proclaimed superiority and your bogus authoritarianism. I wish you all the best.
I have never met anyone who likes going to the dentist. It is not something that is generally thought of as “easy” or “fun.” It’s a necessity of life. Some people have been known to go to great lengths to avoid a trip, but everyone will go to the dentist at some point.
I didn’t grow up afraid of the dentist. In fact, I wouldn’t phrase it quite like that even now. I love my dentist. He’s a family friend, we go to church together, he’s kept my teeth healthy all my life. I didn’t have to have a single cavity filled at all until I was in college. I’m not afraid of him. But my body acts terrified whenever he or a hygienist comes near my mouth. I grew into my fear.
I’m fortunate in my dentist. He knows my health problems and how I got them (he’s always treated my mom whose phobia of the dentist rivals mine!). He listens to me. That it so wonderful, but not everyone has that luxury. I’d like to give you some ideas on how I get through my dentist appointments and hope you can start your own self-care practices regarding “dentist anxiety.”
1. If you have prescribed medication, use it. If you have anti-anxiety medication prescribed to you, like Ativan, Xanax, or Klonopin, and you know you will be anxious at your appointment, take one 30 minutes to an hour before the start of your appointment. Because this is a medical appointment, I am always sure to tell the doctor if I’ve taken my meds or not.
2. Headphones are a must. Make sure your phone or player is fully charged and your headphones are on! I use my wireless ‘phones so they are sure to not get in the way of what’s going on in and around my mouth.
3. Music. Prepare a playlist that is full of relaxing music. If you have frequent anxiety you may already have a go-to list. Use it! If music doesn’t relax you or isn’t your thing you may consider downloading a calming podcast. Many dentists’ offices have TVs set up for watching and the option to listen to the show that’s on. I choose not to because it can be more distracting than it is calming.
4. Discuss nitrous. I have a conversation with the dentist or hygienist before sitting down about nitrous for all my procedures. This includes getting my teeth cleaned. (Fair warning: This usually costs extra and may not be covered by dental insurance. Discuss this possibility with the office and they will help you make an informed decision. I always pay extra for the nitrous.)
5. Talk to your dentist. I tell my dentist every time I go in what to look for when I start to freak out. For me, it’s my feet. My feet carry all my anxiety while I am focused on keeping my head still. I ask the hygienist to glance at my feet every once and a while to see that I’m OK. I just left the dentist, and in the middle of a filling I said “Ow” and he exclaimed that he knew it hurt more because he saw my feet jump around! Maybe it takes them seeing it a couple times to remember (plus, unfortunately for me, I’m not his one and only client), so I do tell them this every time.
These five tips keep me fairly anxiety-free at the dentist. While they are definitely good tips if you have extreme anxiety about the dentist, like me, using some of these, like listening to music, may be beneficial even if you have very mild anxiety about the dentist.
If you have a job (especially a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 sort of job), every work day you wake up and decide to go to work. Maybe you don’t think about it this way. Maybe you just wake up and go to work because it’s the obvious thing to do. It’s part of a pattern in your life, it’s habit, it’s obvious that you have to go because you have to make money and live.
But you do decide to go to work because you could just as easily decide not to go to work. On Monday when I woke up, my anxiety was debilitating enough that I could not make the decision to go to work. For those of you who experience anxiety, you may know the feeling. Do you brush your teeth or not? Do you wear the black sweater or the white one? Do you put on pants or not?
Every little “regular day” thing you do suddenly becomes as overwhelming as making huge life decisions, and it becomes impossible to move through your day. Your anxiety physically makes everything harder.
So as I was sitting on my couch, watching “Community” (a show I find weirdly comforting on bad days like this) looking at this meme, I could feel myself getting frustrated.
Don’t get me wrong – I am all about being positive. I believe in mindfulness and living intentionally. Fortunately, I am an able-bodied individual in good physical health and can use yoga and other physical activity to help manage my mental health. I know my coping mechanisms and strategies. Most days, even if I am feeling anxiety, I know how to talk myself through it. I can still function.
But as much as I use these strategies, as unusual as it is for my days to get so bad that I don’t feel like I can go into work, they still come from time to time. I know life gets rocky, that applies to everyone. But while many can turn around and change their mindset, for people with depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges – it’s not so easy.
I’m not calling for an end to positivity memes, only for an understanding that for some of us, we can’t just flick a switch. For some, an average day can be transformed into an impossible one with no external factors. It’s not as easy as taking charge of the way I feel.
That day I managed to do a half days’ worth of work from home, do a small yoga practice, and eat. I was proud of this. Sure, there were a lot of moments where I started panicking about something trivial I had to get done and then forgot it two seconds later, but I managed and even accomplished some tasks despite the way I was feeling. I didn’t just go back to bed and sleep to escape the nerves. This was a definite win.
Some days, I can be positive. It’s good to be. But some days I can’t be positive. Some days, I just need to accept myself for where I am at in that moment and learn to live there.
Balance and progress.
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While music isn’t a magic “cure” for mental illness, it can be a powerful coping mechanism for people who struggle with both anxiety and depression every day. When our own minds are constantly feeding us negative thoughts and worries, music can take us to a different place — whether we need a pick-me-up or something to cry to, it’s always there.
“This came on in my van as I sat contemplating suicide. It sounds cheesy, but listening to the words along with thinking about my beautiful babies gave me the courage to let go of some of my demons, even if it just meant having enough courage not to end my life.” — Carleigh W.
“Let it go, let it go / Turn away and slam the door / I don’t care / what they’re going to say / Let the storm rage on. / The cold never bothered me anyway.”
2. “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
“Hey, don’t write yourself off yet / It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on. / Just try your best, try everything you can. / And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.”
“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell/ I know right now you can’t tell/ But stay a while and maybe then you’ll see a different side of me.”
4. “Breathe Me” by Sia
“This song is honestly so relatable and it’s always really nice to hear a song that you can relate to and to know that someone so loved can relate to the kind of things you go through daily.” — Hollie W.
Ouch, I have lost myself again / Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found, / Yeah I think that I might break / Lost myself again, and I feel unsafe.
5. “Holding On to You” by twenty one pilots
“This song is what kept me alive last year. It was so comforting to know someone I admired and respected struggled with the same thoughts I did and managed to fight them.” — Abigail W.
“Time is slowin’ and it’s rolling still / And the windowsill looks really nice, right? / You think twice about your life / It probably happens at night, right?”
6. “A Moment’s Grace” by Boy & Bear
“The lyrics swept me off my feet and got deep in my bones. I highly recommend giving it a listen. The words metaphorically speak to me.” — Cheryl P.
“And when it comes back heavy /You’ll be more than ready/Like you should / Cause I am not/Gonna die this way”
7. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley
“I used to be in a mental institution. I used to play that song all the time. Apparently all the other residents liked it and we used to sing it in line before going somewhere. Hearing everyone sing that song and having smiles on their faces just made the day a lot better.” — Melissa M.
“Don’t worry about a thing / ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright / Singing’ don’t worry about a thing /’Cause every little thing gonna be alright.”
8. “Something Wild” by Lindsey Stirling ft. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
“You’ve got a big heart / The way you see the world / It got you this far / You might have some bruises / And a few of scars / But you know you’re gonna be OK / And even though you’re scared / You’re stronger than you know.”
9. “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine
“I like the idea of just having enough and doing whatever it takes to get better. I hear the song and it’s like, I’m not going to forget my struggle but I’m done letting it define me and who I’m meant to be.” — Lauren H.
“It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back / so shake him off.”
10. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf
“This may sound silly, but… it is upbeat and so much fun to sing along with! For those few minutes I’m having a blast singing along, and I forget about everything.” — Wendy P.
“Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night / I can see paradise by the dashboard light.”
11. “Let It Be” by The Beatles
“And when the brokenhearted people / Living in the world agree / There will be an answer / Let it be.”
12. “Be OK” by Ingrid Michaelson
“It’s simple, upbeat, and so appropriate.” — Lauren C.
“I just want to feel today, feel today, feel today / I just want to feel something today / I just want to feel today, feel today, feel today / I just want to feel something today.”
13. “A Little Too Much” by Shawn Mendes
“It’s like it was written about my life.” — Emma-Jane L.
“She would not show that she was afraid / But being and feeling alone was too much to face, / Everyone said that she was so strong / What they didn’t know is that she could barely carry on.”
14. “Breathe (2 a.m.)” by Anna Nalick
“I would listen to this song over and over and over during my depressions (and periods of bad anxiety).” — Jen S.
15. “Human” by Christina Perri
“But I’m only human / And I bleed when I fall down / I’m only human / And I crash and I break down / Your words in my head, knives in my heart / You build me up and then I fall apart / ‘Cause I’m only human, yeah.”
16. “Iris” by The Goo Goo Dolls
“There’s something cathartic about listening to someone who also has trouble conveying to who they really are to other people.” — Sharon E.
“And I don’t want the world to see me / ‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand / When everything’s meant to be broken / I just want you to know who I am.”
17. “Pursuit of Happiness” by Kid Cudi
“Tell me what you know about dreams (dreams) / Tell me what you know about night terrors, nothin’ / You don’t really care about the trials of tomorrow / Rather lay awake in the bed full of sorrow.”
18. “Let Her Cry” by Hootie and the Blowfish
“And just let her cry if the tears fall down like rain. / Let her sing if it eases all her pain. / Let her go, let her walk right out on me. / And if the sun comes up tomorrow, let her be, let her be.”
19. “Obsessions” by Marina and the Diamonds
“The song is about those things that are bad for us but we can’t cut out of our lives, they stay with us all the time, hurting us but comforting us when no one else can. It talks about those everyday problems people with mental illness face, like how anxiety makes you rather go a week without food than having to go to the supermarket. It helps me a lot to know that I am not alone with my feelings and that my role model has also felt the way I do.” — Annika M.
“We’ve got obsessions / I want to erase every nasty thought / That bugs me every day of every week.”
20. “I Want It” by Blue October
“It’s such an empowering song and lifts me up. The line ‘everybody owns a scar to show us how we got this far’ is my favorite! It helps me to step back and look at everything that has happened to me and realize that all the trials and tribulations have made me what I am today!” — Lindsay W.
“Here’s to the ones who said that you couldn’t win / Here’s to the crazies getting under your skin / They’re always gonna talk / But I’m never gonna stop / I won’t walk away / (I want it, crave it, bottle up and save it) / I’m here to stay.”
What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.