Embracing Fear with Dissociative Identity Disorder (repost)

Wanderingnome CC:BY-NC-ND Flickr
Wanderingnome CC:BY-NC-ND Flickr

Sometimes I feel like a baby bird.  I take a few nervous strokes of my wings.  I feel the wind beneath me and I marvel.  Then I crash.  Owww.  Since last Thursday there have been a couple crashes.  I got triggered.  I cried harder than I have in quite awhile.  I worked hard in therapy by which I mean allowing myself to feel the pain instead of pushing it away.  Feeling the pain and working through it is so important, and so hard.  I am feeling a bit battered and bruised.  But I will try to fly again. . .tomorrow.

Part of the difficulty this past week was a visit to the dentist.  That is getting better, but it is still hard.  So today is a re-post, but maybe a new post for my newer readers, Welcome!  This is post is about my last dentist appointment 6-7 months ago.

Embracing Fear and Conquering

I have a severe phobia of the dentist.  I mean severe.   It’s the chair.  Yes, not the shot, or the drill, it’s the chair.  Lying in the chair represents submission, and as you can imagine that terrifies me.  You sit back in that chair and open your mouth, and then trust.

Trust is a big issue for survivors of childhood abuse.  It is really a struggle for me.

My fear started when I got the reminder call about the appointment.  It increased as the time approached. I was emotional and distracted. The day of the appointment I was a basket case, I couldn’t concentrate.  I wish I was exaggerating, but I am really not.

As I sat in the lobby filling out the new patient paperwork, I knew that as soon as I started walking toward the chair I would become, emotionally a child.  I would be paralyzed by fear and unable to speak up or advocate for myself.  I know this because it happens every time I go to the dentist.  So I wrote a note to my new dentist and explained my situation.  The dentist, bless him, read my note and then came out to the lobby and sat and chatted with me for a moment to put me more at ease.  That was wonderful, but still when he said, “Come on back.”  It happened.  The paralysis set in.  I was like a helpless child.

I sat in the dreaded chair, and the hygienist began the cleaning.  That’s when it hit me.  I forgot to ask for laughing gas for the cleaning.  I hate metal touching my teeth, and what do they do in a cleaning but scrape your teeth with metal…argh!  As an adult, I would just put up my hand to stop him and ask for laughing gas, but I was not an adult at that moment.  I was a helpless child at the hands of an “authority figure”.  I could not make requests I could only wait helplessly until it was over.

My body tensed, and my heart rate increased as my panic grew.  How could I get myself through this situation.  Desperately, and with frustration, I thought, “Why can’t I dissociate myself out of this?”  Then a glimmer of hope came to me, “Why can’t I?  Where should I go?”

I was ready to mentally transport myself somewhere else.  I figured I have been doing it unconsciously since childhood, so this time I would do it consciously.  That was my only goal.  As I considered where to go…it would have to be somewhere I felt comfortable, and somewhere well-established.  Some how I felt that I would not have the “strength” to go to a new place, I needed to go to a comfortable place in my mind I had been to before.

I chose my DID Landscape.  This is a common thing among people with DID, to have an organized space in one’s mind for all one’s parts.  I don’t want to give too many details about my DID landscape, but suffice it to say that even though there are parts there that have painful memories, and one part in particular that I am avoiding, it is still a beautiful place that I created for traumatized parts to heal.  So I went there myself as I have many times before in therapy.

I stood at the entrance and thought, “Now what?”  Then, an idea came to me to go to the part of me that holds the memory that causes most of my dentist phobia.  That part is a  young girl, 4 yrs old (she has a name, but I am not comfortable sharing that).

William X CC: YB-NC-SA Flickr
William X CC: YB-NC-SA Flickr

I approached her and took her in my arms, lovingly.  I rocked her and stroked her hair.  I spoke to her quietly, “I am so sorry for what happened to you.  So, so sorry.  I know you are scared, but what is happening now is different.  Feel what the body feels now, and see that this is different.  I promise, I will never let anyone hurt you again.”

Something amazing happened, the terror I felt eased, a very peaceful, healing feeling replaced it.  I felt so good.  I marveled at it.

At that moment, the hygenist (who was very gentle) slipped and that sharp metal hook hit my lip.  I thought, “Buster, if you do that again we are done.”  And I meant it.  If that happened again, I would raise my hand and simply say, “I’m done.  I can’t do any more today.”  No explanation needed, it’s my body and if I say stop, it stops.  That is when I realized, I was back in adult mode!!!  I can’t express how incredible that felt.  I was no longer a terrified child helplessly submitting to whatever the “authority figures of the moment” subjected me too.  I was an adult that could speak up for my needs and defend my boundaries.  I was exhilarated.  I could hardly believe it.

When the cleaning was done, I glanced at the clock on the wall.  I was stunned. How could I have been at the dentist for an hour?  It literally felt like 15 minutes.  As I got up from the chair, my leg muscles, knees and ankles were so stiff and painful that it was difficult to get up (I hadn’t had pain when I came in) but emotionally and mentally I felt like I could fly.

Ina Widegren CC: BY-SA Flickr
Ina Widegren CC: BY-SA Flickr


  1. So very nice to read that self-care is working for you. It will become your greatest asset.

    • Thanks Robert! When people (others with DID) first told me, “You have to parent your own littles”. I thought that was hardly fair or reasonable. But I am learning to see the wisdom in their words.

  2. It is wonderful isn’t it when we connect to a part and manage to calm their fears. The relief just spreads throughout the whole system, throughout your whole body. Can be hard, but definitely rewarding 🙂

    • That quote certainly fits in this situation, thank you. My fear is from something that happened a long time ago, so yes, it is the fear itself that is the problem. Thanks for that!

      • I just have to like, breathe in and out reyllayyy slowly and think about something random. Like if i think about something i dont particularly like or a bad situation it’ll get worse obviously, but then i find if im mid panic attack and i try to think of something happy or exciting my emotions are all jumbled and i just feel sick and worse! When I think about something COMPLETLEY weird and random, and breathing deeply it tends to get a bit better.I thought about the Wizard Of Oz recently.. by the time you’ve got to the hurricane bit it’s probably gone!I sound like i’m taking the mick, or i’m an absolute nutter . believe it or not i’m actually not! Just try it sometime

  3. Just thought I’d leave a note. I’ve taken it relieatronacy on very rare occasions, at the K hole level. Last one being a few days ago. I’m on the web now because I’ve noticed that I feel quite lighter about things, as I had on other tries. I’d never heard of such an effect, so that’s why I’m just learning about this. In the past I’ve worked with doctors about dysthymia with a variety of drugs to no effect. I’m not in any way feeling drugged, just not having those persistent negative thoughts and feelings and generally what I think would be more “normal.” No insomnia, for a change, too. As I say, I never heard of this, so placebo effect seems unlikely. Well, I’ll be paying attention to the duration of this this time. I’m guessing it was short of a month last time, but that was some years ago. The other thought was just that the experience is such a dramatic temporary shift in perspective that it just kicked me out of my little worries for a while, even though the experience is difficult to bring back “here.” I suspect it may be more to do with what the researchers cited here are suggesting.

  4. I hope you’re ready for the warm weather here in AZ! Still gets a liltte chilly at night, so bring a jacket/sweater.I don’t know what your plans are when you visit, but there’s lots of great places to see. Also, not sure what area of AZ you’re visiting but here’s some recommendations:Good ol’ Grand Canyon if ya wanna be touristy. Downtown Scottsdale offers shopping and is great for nightlife. Mill Ave is more of a college scene (right next to ASU) but they have some yummy restaraunts and cute shops down there. Let me know if you’d like any other info!

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