Why a Dentist’s Option for Fixing My Teeth Triggered My Suicidal Thoughts
“You have no other choice, this is just where you’re at.”
My brain lit up like a Christmas Tree as the words of the man sitting across from me confidently crossed the desk to where I sat, ready to crumble. My heart seized and, for a minute, felt as though it was ready to stop beating right then and there.
For most people, it would just be an uncomfortable visit with a dentist where a heavy load of work topped by even heavier finances would be discussed. It might tank their day or just make it suck a little bit more but for myself, it was a day where once again I heard that same message come barreling through my head.
“You don’t have to keep going; you can quit.”
“You’ve fought enough; maybe it’s time to give up.”
“This year has been bad enough; it’s time to end it.”
As the dentist sat there, trying to be gentle and kind, he stressed again that I was out of options. Never taking care of myself, always putting myself in last place had caught up to me and under the stress and neglect, my teeth were starting to fall apart. Under the weight of the heaviest year of my life when all the trauma from the past came back to play inside my head under the brand new post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, topped with the depression and anxiety diagnoses, it was just too much. Life was too much as it was but now I was out of options, or so he thought.
No one sitting in that room — a friend to support me, the dentist who wanted nothing but to encourage me and his assistant — knew that while they thought he was just laying out my options, an even louder one was crying out in my head. Their version of, “you’re out of options” presented a darker option in my head than they had even considered.
At that moment, I wanted to die. I wanted to pick that final option.
Some friends would have yelled at me and told me how “selfish” I was being for having those thoughts. I know this because I had told them before and heard them yell in unbelief back to me, “You’re being so selfish. Your kids will grow up without a mother! You’re going to take their mother away from them! That’s the most selfish thing you could possibly do!”
For me, at that moment, leaving this world was the least selfish thing I could possibly do.
Living meant putting my children into $20,000 worth of debt just to fix my teeth. Living meant more nights of them seeing their mom locked in her room because she couldn’t cope with the world any longer. Living meant I would slowly be destroying them bit by bit if I never recovered. Living meant hurting them more and more each day. Living meant leaving them to deal with memories of a mother who might one day haunt them and put them in my own shoes. Living meant giving them my ghosts and pain.
At that moment, suicide didn’t look selfish to me.
I never spoke up. I sat there and listened as he ran through his plan — three teeth pulled, two implants, several root canals, several crowns and then fillings, bone grafts, gum treatments, possibly a bridge or another implant. It was $20,000 worth of work that would be taken from my kids and wasted on someone who wasn’t worth it.
The previous dentist I had gone to weeks before had stood over me and demanded I tell her what habit I was doing or had done in the past that had caused so much decay to my teeth. She treated me as if I was a drug addict. She certainly didn’t believe I was worth it, why should the next dentist? Why should I?
She never asked my story. If she would have, I would have told her my mother chose alcohol and pills over me. That when I blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in my knee, she got me a knee brace and told me to keep it on for six to eight weeks, and then made me try to walk when she thought it was healed enough. The emergency room would have cost too much to take me to it. I might have told that dentist that any time I asked for anything, I was screamed at for being selfish; even the littlest life necessities were too much to ask for, but then I didn’t even know you should take your kids or teens to the dentist. If she would have taken the time to know me, I might have shared with her that food was scarce but I could afford junk food from the convenience store for dinner at night or the cheapest items on the drive-thru menus. If she would have asked rather than judged, I could have broken her heart into a million pieces as mine has been the entire year as the traumatic memories slowly resurface and play in my head on repeat. But that dentist never asked; she assumed and in that assumption confirmed my worthlessness, once again.
I wasn’t worth it, so why do it? Why take care of trash?
No one knows the silent struggle that can rage inside someone’s head when they are at the end of their rope.
As the consultation ended, I gathered up the papers and stuffed them into my bag, the price tag too much to take in, the horrible thoughts dancing in my head like the floats at Mardi Gras. I hugged my friend who had come with me goodbye without saying anything because she was one of the ones who thought those thoughts were selfish. I climbed into my car, ready to plan out the final option.
But before I could come up with a plan, the phone rang and my husband’s voice came over my car speaker. “Just remember,” he said, “you are worth this and no matter what, we will find the money. You would find the money for me and I will find it to take care of you.” He didn’t know the darkness of the thoughts in my head. I struggle to tell him when I am having really dark days because of the soul-crushing look that comes across his face, but somehow he knew. On that day, he knew I needed to be reminded that just because I wasn’t worth it to my mother, it doesn’t mean I’m not worth it to him or many others. His words gave me the strength I needed to reach out for help that day.
I had an option. I decided to take the next step forward in recovery and fix my teeth. It wasn’t a joyful dance to the finish line. There were still dark days. There were still days I questioned whether or not I was worth it. A hiccup with that dentist I had planned on using almost sent me into a darker spiral.
Then, the week before the first surgery, I had a final choice to make. If I went forward with the first surgery, it would mean investing several thousand dollars into myself. From that point forward, I was telling myself I was worth living for and I was investing in myself. Killing myself would be a loss of that investment. It sounds crude, but when battling severe depression, you learn to let go of the filters and just deal in facts. The question is, was I worth it to myself? And do I believe in myself enough to know I am working toward overcoming the darkness that tries to steal me away?
Yes. I am worth it. And I am strong. I am not the story of the neglected child; I am writing a new story.
Some people may read this and think, “it’s just so silly. It’s just teeth.” But those of you who think that need to read this the most, and then reread it. Because yes, it’s just teeth, but it’s really a story about someone who was ready to die just for teeth. It sounds silly to you, but on the inside, I was so destroyed while projecting success and happiness on the outside that I was ready to take my life.
In a world full of influencer-fueled perfect selfies and always striving to be the perfect mom or parent, you need to know the person standing next to you who appears totally “normal” and healthy might be dying on the inside.
The person you look at and say, “it’s your only choice,” might have another choice they’ve already chosen.
Suicide is real. You might think it’s immature or ridiculous but when someone’s soul is being crushed day-in and day-out, it’s the option that relieves their pain, a pain you might never know about until it’s too late. The littlest things can be the final push for them.
If you’re in that space, the one that lies to you and tells you leaving this world would be easier, don’t do it. Keep writing your story because I want to read it. I want to know your story. Others do too. We need to hear about how you kept fighting and overcame. Don’t give up; keep going.
I’m still going. Soon, I’ll have the next part of the surgery. We’ll be in debt but not forever. There might be more dark days but I have friends who have been brave enough to ask me what I need on those dark days. Together, alongside my therapist, we’ve made a plan to keep me safe.
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash