‘Ugly crying in the back of a taxi? My mother said there'd be days like this'

Róisín Ingle: I do not think I was just crying about my dental pain this week

 

I got into a taxi earlier this week and said to the driver: “Do you mind if I cry in the back of your taxi?”

I’m sure taxi drivers see it all these days but it still felt like I was taking a bit of a risk. Maybe he’d think my sobs would distract him from driving or maybe he was having a bad day himself and didn’t want me adding to the misery. But I needn’t have worried. “Of course you can,” he said kindly and I ugly cried, loudly, gratefully all the way home.

My mother told me there’d be days like this.

My tolerance for pain must be extremely low. I’d had this raging toothache for a week. I wasn’t sleeping properly and now it felt like my whole head was on fire. I needed to lie down. Dr Taxi Driver prescribed whiskey. The antibiotics had run out and the painkillers weren’t working anymore. Earlier I had called and made another appointment with the dentist.

“It says on your notes, if it hasn’t settled down, it’s a root canal or extraction,” the receptionist said. “You’ll have to decide.” One of these options was quicker and less expensive so it’s an easy decision for an impatient, not cash-rich person like me. A far easier one than some healthcare decisions I’ve had to make. The tooth is toast.

Maybe my judgment is clouded by pain-relief medication, but I trust our Taoiseach

I don’t think I was just crying about my tooth this week. Sometimes physical pain helps you access less tangible, no less real or traumatic pain, Eventually, when I had stopped crying and was laying down in bed, rubbing medicinal whiskey on the area and catching up on RuPaul’s Drag Race for distraction, I reflected on how a sore tooth is nothing when you think about some of the things going on in this country at the moment.

CervicalCheck letter

There was a letter on my windowsill. It was from CervicalCheck. I’m not a good role model when it comes to smear tests but I had endured one last month, trying to be more responsible when it came to my health. And then I read the extraordinary and enraging story of Vicky Phelan, the terminally ill Limerick mother- of -two who brought the cervical cancer scandal into the open. As she said herself, “they fecked with the wrong woman”.

I didn’t want to open my own letter but when I finally got around to it, it was “good” news. No abnormalities. Still, like women all around the country I wondered what to believe.

Despite everything she has been through and what she has left to endure, Vicky Phelan is still urging women to go for cervical smears and to get private smears if possible. So I will because I trust Vicky Phelan who by speaking up has become another hero to add to our list of Irish women heroes. I trust all the women of Ireland who have been mistreated in so many ways and who have bravely spoken out about their ordeals.

Maybe my judgment is clouded by pain-relief medication, but I also trust our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and our Minister for Health Simon Harris, grateful that for the first time we have leaders who are acknowledging the terrible wrongs visited on women and girls over decades by State and church.

If we are going to fix something, we need to name it first. Misogyny and gender-based discrimination is finally being named by people who have power in this country. This will have huge and positive repercussions for the futures of our daughters and our sons.

I lay in bed and read the CervicalCheck letter and thought: if trust is lost what else do we have? But I trust the good and kind people of Ireland. The kind taxi drivers and patient receptionists, the enthusiastic young men and the wise older women. And, crucially, given my current predicament, I trust my dentist.

Whatever else happens, I know she’ll see me right.

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