Sunday, 26 August 2018


As the injection goes into my tooth, the dentist’s words fail to reassure me.

“Charlie, this tooth is shattered, so I might not be able to extract the whole thing. There may be shards of tooth and bits of nerve left behind, in which case I’ll have to send you to the hospital.”

I wasn’t expecting an extraction. I’d made an appointment as the two teeth my dentist’s been nursing for a year or two were giving me gyp.

In the past she’d patched them up and talked about root canal treatment.
Too late for that now. After a brief inspection, she said immediate extraction was the only prognosis.

I just nodded and lay back.

According to my Irish friends I’m fortunate that at the age of 58 this is my first extraction. My postwoman puts it down to being raised in England but I’m not so sure.

I think it’s more to do with the fact that I’m a pervert: I don’t mind going to the dentist.

Settle down. I’m not saying I enjoy it, but as a self-employed person, if I don’t do my work, nobody else will. Hence, when I get the chance to delegate, I love handing over responsibility to other skilled professionals.

I absolutely wholeheartedly trust my dentist, so as I recline on her surgery chair I feel calm. More than happy to relinquish control to someone else, I exhale and relax.

I’m in safe hands.

This woman has looked after my Hampsteads for many years, and as well as showing expertise and compassion, she’s given me excellent advice.

Rather than trying to flog branded mouthwashes and toothpastes, she told me a few years back to prepare bottles of salt water with a few pinches of bicarbonate of soda. 

After eating, I sloosh that around and a few months back had the pleasure of hearing her say:

“All your soft tissue and gums look perfect!”

Ah! The rare bliss of a positive assessment from a dentist, but unfortunately today her opinion has travelled as far as it could in the other direction.

Wasn’t expecting to lose a tooth this morning, but as the locals say: ye’ll have that.

Can’t say I’m surprised though. Over the last two months my life’s been acting out a metaphorical manifestation of pulling teeth, so somehow it seems apt that someone is now physically pulling out one of my teeth.

Personal trauma was followed by notice to quit my house, so forced to flee excruciating Galway rents, I plan to find a home and build a new life where I lived years ago, among the wonderful people and places around Killala, on the Céide Coast of North Mayo.

Guiding me through my emotional bewilderment, a luxury of loved-ones have left me humbled. I give thanks, beyond all bounds of reason. I’m incredibly lucky to have so many people who genuinely care about me.

However I must confess it has proved exhausting trying to explain the truth and depth of my feelings to some, as they encourage me to focus on the positive and embrace the future.

Their motives are wonderful, yet their insistence that I think and feel as they suggest is wearying. I simply end up telling them I’m fine, so they might worry less.

When somebody we love is depressed or enduring emotional trauma, our first instinct as compassionate human beings is to make them feel better.

However, we each deal with life’s dark side differently. Some strive to avoid it, thriving solely on positive energy; others, like myself, do not.

One of my friends has been there for me consistently and remarkably, yet we share polar opposite perspectives on life.

He has himself overcome major challenges, and on occasion he finds it difficult to understand why I choose to dwell in the shadows, rather than seeking sunbeams on which to swing through life’s jungle.

I tell him that I need to be half way down the tree, looking at the ground, staring up at the sky, trying to make some sense of it all.

People like me are very aware of the positives, but by better understanding the negatives I might come through these recent trials as a man still able to love; a man free from the shackles of bitterness and anger.

If you become nervous or anxious around those enduring depression or trauma, don’t try to cheer them up.

It’s very possible they don’t want you to cheer them up right now. They probably just want you to understand that they’re going through a really hard time; that sometimes life can simply be irredeemably cruel and irrationally horrible.

If the victim of trauma can accept that, surely you can too?

Don’t tell them what you think they should do.
Maybe they're not ready for that yet.

Don't say you understand how they feel, if you don’t.
Don’t say “It’s for the best!” even if you believe it.

For that person right now it’s far from the best. Maybe until now your loved-one wasn’t even aware that this worst existed, so no, it’s not ‘for the best’ for them.

Don’t say “It’s meant to be!” or, heaven forbid, “Everything happens for a reason!”

What does that even mean?

If you’re not asked for it, don’t give advice. Simply listen to your loved-one, acknowledge that they are going through a very hard time, and maybe reassure them that they’re dealing with it well.

Oh, and while we’re at it, “That’s one less tooth to worry about!” doesn't help much either!

©Charlie Adley

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