By A. Hosack & P. Berman & K. Hecht
I’m not fired, I’m not fired, I must get back to work. I have to help my next patient!
Claire still feels like a total failure and is struggling to do her job. She forces herself up from the chair and notices she still has the full cup of coffee the dentist gave her. She tries to take a sip, but it just makes her stomach hurt more; she throws it into the trash and walks quietly to her workspace and cleans everything up to be ready for the next patient. How can she do this? Will her next patient be as dissatisfied and angry as the last one?
Claire finds herself beginning to hyperventilate. She can’t have a panic attack now. She just can’t. She tries to use her deep breathing exercises, but she can’t focus her attention inward. She pulls her picture of Davy out of the pocket of her work smock where she always keeps it.
It is such a cute picture of Davy with his arms around her legs. I will get back to work- for my Davy
Focusing her attention on how much she loves Davy, helps her breathing to slow down. The panic attack has been shoved away. Claire walks with determination out to the waiting room and calls her next patient, fortunately it’s an adult – she just doesn’t feel ready to try face another child and parent. Claire is very lucky. This woman patient is extremely friendly and talks nonstop. Claire doesn’t have to say much of anything. When she’s done cleaning the woman’s teeth, Claire is fully calm and back to her routine. As Claire escorts her back to the waiting room, she feels a genuine smile on her face as the patient waves to her gaily as she walks out the door.
I did it. I did it for Davy.
Claire is able to feel proud for a moment. She has overcome a panic attack. However, she doesn’t have time to think about herself. She calls in her next patient who seems to be a very withdrawn adult. She isn’t sure if she is ready for a challenging patient but then, she notices how much he is sweating. She wonders if he’s scared about having his teeth cleaned; some people are afraid of the Dentist’s office. Claire knows what to do, she trained for this in school. She is going to explain every task that she is about to do and smile at him before she does it. The dentist walks by to hear her carefully explaining to him how she will be cleaning his teeth and shows him the tool that she will be using. The dentist smiles to herself and walks past the room. She has seen that Claire is doing her usual very fine job; she has no idea how hard this was for Claire to due after being yelled at.
Claire has been sweating profusely under her work smock; fortunately, it doesn’t show. While she has not gone into a panic attack, the day has been a constant struggle for her. She needs to be home where she feels safe- one more patient.
This is my last patient. I can go home soon.
Claire looks down at her schedule and recognizes that her last patient is a little boy. Can she handle it? It’s Gregory, thank goodness. She’s worked on his teeth before and he really likes Claire. When Gregory bounces through the door, he shoves a picture in her general direction as his dad encourages him to slow down and remember his manners. Claire looks at the picture and a big smile erupts on her face. The little boy has drawn a picture of himself with a huge mouthful of teeth. Gregory looks up at her and says, “do you like it? I made my teeth big so it would be easy for you to clean them.” “It’s wonderful Greggory, you are right, these big teeth are going to be so easy to clean!” His dad scoops him up and puts him in the dental chair and then says, “see you later munchkin, once your teeth are shiny.”
Claire smiles at Greggory, opening her mouth wide to show her teeth. “Now it’s your turn Greggory, let me see those huge teeth of yours!” The time goes by swiftly. It is her usual, fun time with a child. Will the pain of that one bad experience evaporate now? The Dentist has forgotten all about it. But, Claire has not. The moment she is out of the office and alone, fearful thoughts flood her mind. She walks off in a daze, forgetting to cross the street to her bus stop sign. It is only when it starts to drizzle that Claire wakes up to her surroundings.
Where’s the bus stop?
Claire looked around –nothing looked familiar. Where was she and where was the bus stop? “I am so stupid,” she said out loud. She noticed a bench on the sidewalk up ahead; she went and sat down trying to clear her head.
I know how to get home. I just have to calm down. I’m going to close my eyes and imagine my fish.
It took five minutes for Claire to focus her attention and really see her fish in her head. She smiled and opened her eyes. She didn’t see the bus stop sign but it was getting dark and hard to see. She stood up and turned in a wide circle looking for the tall building that housed the dental office where she worked. There it was! She started walking towards it while slowly looking around until she saw the bus stop across the street. She hurried across and looked at the posted schedule carefully. She’d missed the bus by about 10 minutes.
I hate myself I am such an idiot to have missed that bus. Such an idiot. Such an idiot.
Time passed as painful thoughts once again took over Claire’s mind. But, when the bus came, the noise and the wind of its arrival woke her up. She stepped onto the bus and sat down quickly became lost again. The words were so clear in her head. They began with the child calling for his mother because she was hurting him. Then, his mother was screaming for the Dentist, and finally the most painful and powerful words of all- her mother screaming that she was a waste of space. Claire was so lost in her head that she didn’t hear the bus driver announcing her stop.
At the end of the line, the driver looked back at her and said she had to get off the bus. Claire was at least two miles from home. What could she do?
Have you ever been so lost in your thoughts that you didn’t get off a bus or a train on time? How did you get yourself back on track?
Should Claire ask the bus driver for help?
Would this be a safe choice for a young woman who finds herself alone in a strange place