Last week, I went to the dentist. It was my sixth visit in four months, and I sat in the chair for almost three hours getting a bunch of fillings. I have my next several appointments already on the calendar, as well as my semi-annual cleaning this fall.
Yes, that is many more dental appointments than the regular two cleanings a year. See, for years my teeth were neglected as I grew three people (and made their food, too). My three babies took all my calcium and tooth-enamel-building vitamins for themselves while they were both growing and nursing, and poof, my teeth were ruined.
(Sidenote: I was telling this story at our (in)courage contributors retreat last month, and one of the gals got totally wide-eyed at this new-to-her information. Yes, babies (and nursing) really do cause this issue, and it’s actually very common. Yes, babies will drain every last inch of your everything — including tooth-and-bone-building calcium and iron. Yes, of course, they’re worth it. But we gotta tell the truth about babies and pregnancy and postpartum and parenting so that we know things like this are normal and common and not because we’re lazy or terrible. End of sidenote.)
Compounding the issue, I’m pretty skittish about the dentist and require a light level of sedation to get in the chair, which wasn’t possible during pregnancy. So I didn’t go for a cleaning or exam for years, until I started bringing my now older kids to the dentist themselves. I figured if they went, so should I, so I scheduled my visit. During that cleaning — my first in four years — after scrubbing my poor teeth, the dentist gently said, “Let’s get your next cleaning on the calendar before you leave today, ok?” We also booked additional x-rays and a consult to create a long-term plan for fixing my damaged teeth. Thanks to my husband, the Gilmore Girls (what I watch during my appointments), and that aforementioned sedation, I’m exactly halfway through that plan . . . and have yet to shake the shame.
Thoughts — most of them untrue and unkind — roll through my head. How could I have let this get so bad? How could I take such intentional care of my kids and not of my own self? Why do I have to be so scared of this? No one else has this issue! This is dumb. I am dumb. I’m costing my family so much money as we fix this mess! What began in fear grew into a mountain of despair so unapproachable that I hid from it for years, and the shame built up.
Last week, I trudged to my appointment. I didn’t want to go. Not because I was fearful, though I was. I didn’t want to go because I was embarrassed. So after parking in my favorite spot in the dentist’s parking lot (after so many appointments, I have a whole parking routine down), I messaged a friend. I told her about how ashamed I was feeling, how embarrassed I was by the product of my own neglect and fear. My friend replied right away that she understood, that due to a situation of her own, she could appreciate my feelings. And then she said that while she understood the embarrassment, shame, and fear rolling around my heart, I could be proud of myself because I am doing the work. I am making (and keeping) all of my necessary appointments. I am fixing the situation. I am doing the hard work of repair, and I can be proud of the future I’m living in and working toward instead of being swallowed up by the shame of what got me here.
Naturally, I teared up (hi, I’m an Enneagram four), and then I started to shed the shame spiral because there is no shame in taking care of ourselves, especially where our health is concerned.
Going to the dentist is self-care. Taking a walk is self-care. Taking care of yourself is self-care. It’s not pedicures and lattes, as so many social media posts would tell us. Those things are great (make mine a double with skim milk and one pump of hazelnut), but they aren’t lasting, intentional care. The dentist isn’t fun, but it gets me closer than lattes do to becoming my healthiest self.
Real self-care, the kind that actually takes care of one’s self, is scriptural, and one of my favorite things to talk about.
See, way back in the beginning of Genesis, God created. God worked hard. God made all of creation, including His children. And then, God rested.
So the heavens and the earth and everything in them were completed. On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation.
Genesis 2:1-3 (CSB)
God takes care of Himself with a rest day, a sabbath. God didn’t go to the dentist. God didn’t go shopping. He didn’t drive through at Starbucks or read a book. I know that’s a bit facetious, but you get the point, right? God took a day of real rest so that He could better care for His creation and children.
There’s no shame in taking care of yourself, be it rest or the dentist. It’s never too late to start good, healthy, care-filled habits.
Make the appointment you’ve been putting off. Drop the shame. Take care of yourself. We can do this. And like my friend offered to me, I’ll be here to give you a pep talk if need be.
It's never too late to start good, healthy, care-filled habits. Make the appointment you've been putting off. Drop the shame. Take care of yourself. -@annaerendell: Click To Tweet