Since lockdown was announced, other than the obligatory grocery and medicine run to the local neighbourhood store, I have been following all the rules and recommendations. Last week was different. I had to get out of my comfort zone. It all started during a quiet dinner. I bit into a slice of sourdough bread and felt a filling come undone. Luckily I was not in immense pain, the tooth was tender but not causing me major discomfort.
What should I do? Try and get it filled or wait it out? Was it a ‘need’ or a ‘want’ to attend to my tooth? Going out potentially put me and my family at a heightened risk. Ignoring the problem was inviting bigger, in time to come. After much debate, first with myself and then with my better half, I decided that going to a hospital would probably be higher risk, so if I could go to a private clinic, then getting it done would be the best course of action.
A series of calls led me to a clinic that was not in a hospital. Now begins the story of my least productive day at work. (All because I could not find a way to control my anxiety). My appointment was for 12.15 in the afternoon. I was told to be there by 12.10 not earlier and not later. My anxiety levels were at an all-time high from early morning. Even on a good day, a visit to the dentist is tough. In these unusual times, it was even tougher.
Several strange questions came up in my head ahead of the visit. What should I wear for instance? Should I get properly suited and booted? By which I mean would long pants and a long sleeve shirt be better along with closed shoes? Or would shorts, a t-shirt, and slippers be the smartest option? Should I just go to the clinic or club it with a trip for supplies, since the clinic was close to a market? Did I have to inform my condo about this visit or not? Even though it was my lunch hour, should I inform my colleagues or not? The amount of mind space this simple visit to the dentist took up was enormous.
A few things I learnt once I was out there. Carry exact change for the parking attendant. Try and park in an open area, if the option exists, and take the stairs if it’s not too many flights up. Both of which I managed during my visit. On arrival, I was greeted at the front door of the clinic by a gloved and masked attendant. A squirt of sanitiser and strict instructions to take off my shoes got me in. So wear shoes that are easy to take off and put on. Answers to some of my morning musing started falling into place. I was asked to fill in a form declaring a fairly detailed medical and travel history as well as acknowledging that I understood the risks associated with the procedure. Note to self, carry a pen next time. Note to self. Next time I head out, ask as many questions as possible beforehand to know what the to do’s and don’ts are.
By the way, attendants were not allowed in with the patient either. Which brings me to the story of a man who hung around outside and had 3 long and loud phone calls in the corridor, where I was waiting. Adding insult to injury he was not wearing a mask and had his phone on speaker mode. Luckily my turn to go in came just about when I had got to the point where I was considering getting into an altercation. That would not have ended well. But another note to self, what is the right thing to do in such a situation? When someone is not wearing a mask in a public space and being excessively loud – Speak up or stay at a safe social distance?
I walked into the dental chambers and saw a sight from a movie. A man in blue. Suited and booted from head to toe in PPE with a face mask so thick that I could barely see my doctors face. While taking all of this in my first question was – can I have some hand sanitiser please, as I just touched your door handle. With that out of the way, I settled into the dentist chair.
Doc then explained to me that the dental association had advised against any drill work, so this would be a temporary filling. This sounded like music to my ears as I hate that damn drill anyway. Five minutes later I’m all filled up and paying the bill. Double the normal charge just as an FYI. But relieved and happy to have got this far.
The best part of the visit was my doctors ‘chair-side’ manner. He was positive, solution-oriented and practical. Explained everything to me. Gave me choices and options and advised me on what he thought was the best course of action given the limiting circumstances. The even better part of those 20 minutes was that he was playing some awesome music from a lovely Bose sound system.
Sooner or later we will all need to venture back out into the world. Either prompted by a need or a want. It will induce anxiety. Thinking through how best to re-enter. Learning from others’ experiences and finding ways to deal with the anxiety is going to be key. It will also be the key to ensuring employee productivity as we get ready to reboot.
It is mental health awareness week and the theme for this year is #kindnessmatters – this is me reminding myself and all of you, be kind and do your bit to bring anxiety levels down. Do your bit to lift the spirits of the world. Time to get suited, booted and up and about with a spring in your step and a smile behind the mask. Equip yourself with knowledge, plan, prepare and you will find it’s possible to keep that anxiety at bay.
Which brings me to the moral of this story. As I look back on this experience it’s a reminder that every day is to be savoured and enjoyed to the extent possible. It’s not just about getting through these anxious times safely. It’s about living through them in the best way possible. Time to suit up, boot up and get out there.
It’s time to re-boot and turn on the music while we are at it.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.