Posted by: Kate | March 11, 2008

A $117.80 Reminder

You’re in a small space, only a few feet in diameter, with limited sightlines – it’s late, and in the woods somewhere, and you’re still half-asleep – and you can’t move very well. You’re not fully restrained, but there are things in place – a rope, a knife, some kind of cloth – that impede your ability to stand up and walk – run – away.

There’s a bright light aimed at your eyes – is that his flashlight again? the full moon? is it morning yet? – and closing your eyes only makes it all turn a bright red beyond your eyelids. Your forehead starts to ache from the effort of squeezing your eyes shut, and a tear escapes down the side of your face. No one notices when it travels into your ear, and the effort of capturing it only draws an unwanted – painful, alarmed, panicked – response.

You can’t hear well to begin with, and there’s so much muffled background noise – trees? more people nearby? just the one person, doing something just beyond your line of sight? – that it’s disorienting. You can’t read lips, because of the mask – a ski mask, but you recognize his eyes and glasses, you know who this is but you don’t know why – and you’re helpless and frustrated because you don’t quite understand what’s going to come next, but you know it won’t be pleasant.

You’re told to open your mouth as wide as you can, and you’re scared and shaking, but you try to – not good enough, open all the way, you’ll take what I give you – and soon there is a hand holding your head at just the right angle and pulling your lower jaw open just a bit more. Fingers touching your lips, putting things inside your mouth, and you can’t move – mustn’t move, the knife is near your ear, don’t move – and it’s hard to breathe, so you focus on getting each new breath and keep your eyes shut tight.

After a while, the shaking slows down, and you start to feel lightheaded. It’s actually a relief, to feel a bit removed from the whole proceeding, as though it’s happening to someone else. Occasionally there is a sharp stabbing pain, a pinch or a scrape – or a shallow stab wound to leave a scar where he wants a scar to be, you won’t tell anyone anyway, you agree, you just want to be left here, no more of this – but you’re mostly able to stay in that dreamlike, floating ether.

It takes time. You’re not sure how long. When it’s done, you don’t quite believe it’s actually done, at first. You sit still, stare at the ground – don’t look up, don’t make eye contact, don’t want to see those eyes again – and wait until all of the shaking and nausea passes. You’re pretty sure that throwing up wouldn’t be well-received – knock it off, that’s just stupid – so you wait, even after you’re alone.

Eventually, you get up and gather your things. Someone – but he’s a counselor here, he’s supposed to protect you, not help his friend – helps you to leave. You can’t cry until you get home – you can’t stop, you don’t have any control, something is broken inside – and eventually, some of the pressure eases. Eventually, it fades.

I had an emergency dental appointment this afternoon. I couldn’t rearrange the schedule for a time that Willem could take me, so I went alone. I did take two Ativan about an hour beforehand; it wasn’t enough, but any more would have made driving myself impossible. It’s astounding to me how strong the associations are between the dental experience and a rape at 12, because the two certainly didn’t happen in similar environments or circumstances. But it’s a huge trigger for me, and I know it is, and sometimes it’s not avoidable.

I’m drained now. PTSD can go away, it can stop being a part of your daily existence. But to imagine that it’s all the way gone, that it’s never going to be a problem again, is to dabble in a dangerous and unrealistic fantasy world. I’ll be better again soon, because I am better, because I am surrounded by loved ones who know me and accept my slips and falls. I’ll find my happy face for the children, and within a few hours it will feel natural, not forced. It will be OK again.


  1. Oh, Kate, you bring us all into that horrible time with you, and what can we do, what can we say, to lessen that awful legacy?

  2. Oh honey.
    I really wish you didn’t have to go through that, that you’d never had to go through it.
    I think the fact that you share it with us, and possibly use it to help someone else is amazing.

  3. Ugh! and to think you PAY for such a reminder. I am so sorry you had to go through so much and to have to relive it everytime you see a dentist. At the very least somehow you should get paid for every visit at least to cover the recovery time and fees.

  4. I wish I was close enough to hug you.

  5. Ditto Lisa.

  6. This was a very, very powerful and disturbing post. I could barely read it. I wish I could give you a big, long hug and make it all go away. mk

  7. Kate, you are not alone. A dear friend of mine has similar issues at the dentist.

    *sending you much love, hugs & positive energy*

  8. I’m in tears for you – I wish I could have helped that 12 year old girl, made it not happen. I’m so sorry.

  9. Kate–I have no words. Just a virtual hug from down the road.

  10. Oh, honey. No words, just another hug.


  11. More hugs from too far away Kate.

    Powerful moving stuff hon.

    thinking of you

  12. […] don’t do so well with the dentist.  We could chat companionably enough at a cocktail party or a knitting circle, […]

  13. […] actually, to notice some of the little emotional blips that don’t get filed under “because PTSD sucks.”  Like the fact that somehow Willem and I managed to get our signals crossed for […]

  14. […] Bites. Who Knew? So, yeah, that wicked dental phobia? In full force, as of 4:43 in the […]

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