Tooth Decay and Mental Breakdowns
A while back I visited a dentist for the first time in years. I went in, not because I actually wanted to spend time and money on my teeth, but because I had an incredibly horrible toothache that made it impossible to do anything other than take action. I remember how embarrassed I was when the dentist looked at me and said, "Melody, you could have prevented this from getting so bad you know. I'm sorry you're in pain and that this is going to be an expensive and complicated issue now, but use this experience to make better choices for yourself in the future." I could sense his frustration toward me but I knew it wasn't personal. He was frustrated that he had so much to offer and knew how people could prevent the very situation I was now in, and yet day after day he witnessed his patients coming in suffering the consequences of their ignorance and/or failure to be proactive in taking steps to avoid those very consequences.
A root canal, porcelain crown, and couple grand later, I left the office contemplating how I let myself end up in such a condition. What an incredibly painful experience; physically, emotionally, and, of course, financially. And to think, it very likely could have been prevented with a little better oral care, a few nutritional tweeks, and those darn six month checkups the dentists are always trying to invite us to take advantage of. I saw a billboard a while after with a big bright smile of white teeth and words reading "Dental work is not expensive- Neglect is!" I cringed to know I was the target of that bold statement.
Benjamin Franklin offered us some pretty seriously awesome wisdom: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Despite the fact this wise role model offered us this advice sometime in the 1700s, here we are in the 21st century still living our lives ignoring all signs and symptoms that issues are arising and then acting surprised when those issues hit us full force and cause a lot of pain and drama.
When blood is gushing, we do everything we can to stop it. When there is a fire in our home, we call the fire department. When a child comes home with an "F" on their report card, we ground them or take away their privileges. When we can't breathe, we immediately seek a doctor's care. When someone is standing on the ledge about to jump to their death, we call 911 and beg them not to jump. And when we are in severe pain, we do what it takes to relieve that pain.
We are conditioned, as a nation, to react after things get bad. It's time to do better than that. Let's learn to act, rather than react. Let's learn to think ahead. Let's learn to proactively avoid pain and suffering whenever possible. Let's choose prevention and thwart the evils that are sure to come otherwise.
Since becoming a hypnotherapist I have reflected on my experience with that sweet dentist. I understand his frustration now much more than I did then. His frustration didn't come from anger or haughtiness. It came from love. It came because he cared and really wanted what was best for everyone he was trying to serve. It came from not being able to help people see how much better things could be.
As I observe people now, I have learned to see their inner pain. I've learned to sense the burdens they are carrying. I can feel the weight of the world pressing down on them. And more often than not, I see them carrying those burdens alone.
How many of us live in a world full of people and yet feel alone? How many of us would do anything to help a friend, or even a stranger, but feel unworthy of receiving that same help? How many of us believe we have to carry each burden and trial on our own, that if we call out for help we've failed in some way?
We're dying as a nation because we are living alone in a world full of people. We are not meant to make it on our own. God didn't send us to an Earth full of people in order for us to prove we could make it through life independently and emotionally isolated. We are stronger when we are willing to share not only our strengths, but also our weaknesses, fears, and inner burdens with one another. When we are willing to be real, we can make true connections with people. When we are willing to give and receive, we can become our best, healthiest, and happiest self.
No one bats an eye when we tell them we're headed to see a doctor for our migraines. No one thinks twice when we have surgery for a burst appendix. But what about our mental and emotional health? And even our spiritual health? Why is it somehow taboo to openly talk about our depression or anxiety? Why is it not typical to hear someone discussing their desire to seek therapy for addictions, phobias, sorrows, or fears? Why do we keep quiet about our stress, strained relationships, and emotional pain? Why does seeking help from a professional therapist make us feel like we need to hang our head or keep it a secret? We look around and think everyone else is doing so well and that we are the only one who has issues and secrets. Well, the truth is, everyone is fighting battles. Everyone has pain that no one else sees. Everyone has hidden emotions and trauma. I believe it is evil's greatest victory when we stay silent in our pain; when we continue to isolate ourselves and feel alone in our struggles.
When we wait to seek care until the pain is unbearable, we do ourselves a great disservice. If it were my choice, every person on earth would have a therapist from the time we are little. We would have someone to listen to us without judgment. There would always be someone to go to with our pain and confusion. There would be someone to help us reflect and analyze. We would know where to go when we felt alone and out of control. We would learn to express and experience our emotions in healthy ways rather than burying them inside where they begin the process of mental, spiritual, and even physical decay. We would feel heard and understood. We would develop life skills early on and therefore gain freedom from negative cycles and patterns of abuse and addiction throughout later years. We can do that for our children, we can help them now. And those of us who are already grown, its time to take action for ourselves as well.
It's time to be real. It's time to drop the facade of perfection and show our vulnerabilities. It's time to seek help, and to do so with heads held high. No one on this planet is living here alone, let's stop pretending we are meant to be. No one is perfect and invincible, let's stop thinking we need to be. I am amazing simply because I am a child of God; no pain, weakness, or struggle I have changes that. The same is true for you. Let's stop waiting until we are on a ledge ready to jump before we are willing to be real and seek help. Let's stop reacting and start acting- with wisdom, foresight, and humility.
I don't want to have rotten teeth and I don't want you to either. I don't want to have a mental breakdown or have stress wreak havoc on my mind and body, and I don't want that for you either. I don't want to wear a fake smile while crying and broken on the inside, and I would love if you weren't doing that either. Let's change the world by changing our own perception of seeking care for emotional and mental health. We are physical beings and we need medical care at times. We are also spiritual and emotional beings and need to seek care for these parts of ourselves with just as much vigilance.
Neglect is much more expensive and painful than regular maintenance- this is true for our teeth, our vehicles, our homes, and every part of our self. Let's act now rather than react later. Good ol' Ben had it right, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
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Just a note for my readers who like to analyze: Yes, I know that not all tooth decay is the result of neglect. And I know that not all mental and physical conditions are preventable by early intervention. However, the percentage of those that are is high enough that I feel the comparison is valid. If there's even a chance of preventing deep levels of pain, it's worth the effort!