THAT Exam

My doctor has suggested it.  My therapist has suggested it.  My psychiatrist– if he were so inclined– would probably suggest it, too.  When she was just a bit older than me, my mother went in for a routine pap test and found that pre-cancerous cells were forming in her uterine lining.  Now, I need to get a bloody pap test, and I cannot seem to even schedule the appointment.

For those of you who don’t know, pap tests involve using a speculum to expand the vaginal opening so that the doctor can see the lining of the cervix.  Then, cells are brushed off into a specimen jar.  To end the exam, the doctor inserts two fingers in the vagina and presses on the lower pelvic area to feel for the size, shape, and location of reproductive organs.  ‘Written out’ it seems fairly innocuous.  Why, then, have I had to pause this post to go and be sick?

For me, the panic starts when I have to lay my head back.  At that point, I can’t *see* the person touching me.  As I was often tied up and blind-folded during sexual trauma, this is terrifying for me.  I don’t want to lie there with my head back unable to see this person who, at that point, will feel all-powerful to me.  That utter lack of control makes me physically ill.  I don’t want anyone even thinking about that area of my body, much less concentrating on it and even touching it.

Logically, I know this is a very simple medical procedure that will be performed by a female physician who has probably done thousands of these.  I know it only takes a few minutes and isn’t likely to cause me a great deal of pain.  Yet I cannot bring myself to even set the appointment.

Any strategies, dear readers?  I know this is incredibly common amongst women with sexual trauma histories.  What has helped you through?  Thanks in advance.

Maladaptive Progress

Yesterday was supposed to be my first therapy session talking about sexual trauma.  We did discuss it in very academic tones, but a great deal of the session was devoted to preparing for this.  We had to discuss a safety plan of sorts for the self injury.  The therapist suggested that I write out affirmations about how my body deserves to be nurtured because of what it has been through and that I read those when the urge to cut gets strong.  At the time, it seemed very helpful.  Now it just seems like a lie I’ll be forced to tell myself.  Perhaps that was the point– to keep reading it until I believe it.

The problem is the urges are getting stronger and are actually ‘progressing’ to suicidal feelings.  All day today I’ve concentrated on how I could go through with it.  I’ve thought about the knife slipping a little deeply down my forearm, about the pills in the drawer that could help me slip away.  I’m fighting the thoughts, but it’s difficult when they are so present.  I’ve emailed and texted friends, not mentioning suicidal feelings.  Just making connections and distracting myself all at the same time.  This is not a healthy or safe place to be.

As I told the therapist yesterday, I feel like an adolescent girl with a razor and a Sylvia Plath book.  A request for you, my dear readers– if you are in your mid-twenties or older and have a problem with self-injury, email me at ec1_englishrain@yahoo.com  Only if you feel like sharing, of course.  I feel very alone in terms of struggling with this issue as an adult, and I’d like to hear from others who are dealing with it.  Many thanks in advance.  Also, remember that your emails will be as confidential as you want.  I don’t even need your actual age if you’d prefer not to give it.

Peace to us all.

Into the Fire

It’s the title of a Sarah McLachlan song that fits well with the upcoming new twist in my therapy journey:  ‘I will stare into the sun until its light doesn’t blind me.  I will walk into the fire until its heat doesn’t burn me.  And I will feed the fire.’ 

At a recent session, it occurred to me that I’m through part of the trauma processing.  I can think of the physical abuse and not shrink back in horror (most of the time).  When memories get triggered, I’m good at picking a coping skill to lean on (most of the time).  And most of the time is the best I’m going to do.  Therapy is about learning to cope with memories, not erasing them.  The scars of my past will always come back to haunt me.  The thing I’m proud of now is that, when flashbacks and negative feelings about the physical abuse surface, I can force them in to submission before they take over.

All of that said, I asked the therapist if we could re-assess my treatment plan and go over new goals.  A major part of our journey together is done.  Now, the time has come to deal with the sexual trauma.  Even thinking the words causes me to feel nauseous.  Saying them aloud makes me physically ill.  Still, I’ll never get past this if I keep avoiding it.  When there was so much physical trauma to contend with, trying to deal with this bit was too much to consider.  I go kicking and screaming in to this new part of my journey, but I go nonetheless.

Already, I feel dirty inside and out.  I feel hopeless and want to shrink away from any source of light, lest someone notice this secret of mine.  Any time I think closely about this journey I’m taking on, the memories swirl all about me, and I start to feel like a spoiled little child who is whining because things didn’t go her way.  I feel like hiding somewhere dark and quiet so that no one even notices my existence.  Shame.  Fear.  No good.  Hopeless.  Alone.

Wish me luck, folks.  This could get interesting.

Blogathon for RAINN

I was contacted by someone from the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) regarding the 2009 Blogathon.  Blogathon is a charitable event in which bloggers pledge to post every half hour for a consecutive 24 hour period.  It’s a great way to support this organisation and to raise awareness for their cause.  I’m not able to participate this year– interrupting my sleep/wake cycle that much is likely to go very badly for me– but I support RAINN’s efforts whole-heartedly.

If you’re interested in participating, visit RAINN’s 2009 Blogathon page.  The deadline to enter your blog is 22 July. For general information on Blogathon 2009, visit the official Blogathon page.

Happy blogging!

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Disclaimer: I do not work for RAINN.  I’m simply trying to gain support and awareness for an organisation that has helped so many people affected by sexual violence.

Trauma and Sexual Response

This is a difficult subject, but from what I’ve read and heard among other survivors, it’s important.

Rape is sexual contact.  In my opinion, it isn’t sex.  I count sex as part of a consensual relationship between adults.  Classifying beyond that is not my call.

Victims of sexual abuse and/or rape are not responsible for what happened.  We did *not* want those things to happen, nor did we create the circumstances that led to our abuse.  The mind makes the emotional connection that this feels wrong.  The physical body, however, does not always make that distinction.

Right.  I can see that I’m not going to get through writing this post without starting to bumble on incoherently.

My point is, if you’re a survivor of sexual abuse and/or rape, you are *not* responsible, even if your physical body responded as it would under normal sexual circumstances.  That’s actually not uncommon, and it does not make you anything less than what you are now– someone working towards the difficult transformation from victim to survivor.

A Feminine Question

My mother was roughly the age I am now when she developed uterine cancer.  She survived fine with a partial hysterectomy, but it’s still a bit worrisome to think of.  In spite of that, my last PAP smear was 10 years ago.  I cannot bring myself even to make an appointment for the bloody test.  I found a clinic and dialed the number once, and that sent me in to a full-on panic attack, complete with shakes, sweats, and dizziness.  Not fun.

Time for a little from the too much information file– my periods have been incredibly irregular lately.  Considering I can usually count 28 days ahead and know exactly when the next will start, the irregular bit is bothering me, as is the slight pain in my right breast that has been there for about a year now.  The sensible, adult thing to do, then, is go to an OB-GYN and get a look over.  I can *not* seem to take that step, though.  I know I need to have the test.  It just feels like a violation. It feels like that word I still can’t bring myself to say.

For those of you who are female survivors of sexual assault, regardless of your age at the time, how do you cope with tests like this one?  Gynaecological exams overall?  I’d really appreciate any advice you can offer.  Please feel free to email me as well if you aren’t comfortable replying on the blog.  Thanks very much.

My Operating System Froze

Usually, that phrase is used in terms of computer software.  In multiplicity, I suppose it could stand for system-wide strife.  In this case, however, I mean it almost literally.  I got a bit stuck in the recent ice storm and have been unable to write for the blog in quite some time.  Now, I’m safely tucked away at my FOC’s house a thousand miles away from the Southern American Tundra and happily typing away.

Hmm…updates then.  Our area is slowly starting to recover from the damage caused by the ice.  We’re still without power at my house, and I’m hoping that will be remedied by the time I return on Thursday.  My local friends do have power now, so things really are getting better.  It was quite the mess!  I must say, though, I’m proud of the way the communities worked together to get through a really difficult time.

The meeting with the new therapist, which has almost worked round to a second meeting by this time, went reasonably well.  I remain cautiously optimistic.  I made the mistake of telling her in a very forthright manner that there was sexual trauma in my past.  I say mistake because the ramifications have been a bit far-reaching.  Even here,with my FOC, I’m feeling quite in danger.  Logically, I *know* there is no danger.  However, some rather interesting flashbacks involving that ‘r’ word I still can’t say, have left me feeling incredibly self-conscious and unsettled.  Never one to relax, you know.

My sister-of-choice and I are planning to visit the shore on Tuesday with her biological sister.  Absolutely everyone is looking forward to that.  We *love* being near the ocean.  It’s so calming and puts everything in to perspective.  Everything, us included, seems small against something that majestic.  It makes me feel like my past isn’t so all-consuming after all.

On Wednesday, I’ll board a Greyhound bus for the 20+ hour ride back, an interesting experience in itself.  Perhaps I’ll even post a few bus stories.  It’s truly a different, and typically hysterical, world.

Best to all of my readers!  I’ll try to remain in the blogging world a bit more often now that we’re nearly dug out of the ice.