I’ve been feeling like a raw, exposed nerve lately.

ptsd

I’ve been dealing with a particularly ugly batch of memories lately, one that I should have dealt with sooner: the sexual abuse/coercive rape in an otherwise abusive relationship I was involved in during my teens, and a sexual assault that occurred last summer.

Let’s back up. I had my initial consultation at a local pain clinic last Thursday, and while the attitudes of the doctor and his PA were certainly off-putting and had me feeling as though I was on trial, guilty of something, it was one particular portion of the physical exam that triggered me.

From what I understand, physicians are supposed to begin with “neutral voice, neutral touch” when approaching “private” areas. The first portion was okay, though the pressure on my lower abdomen caused quite a bit of pain (I have endometriosis, which is why I was there in the first place). The problematic part came when the doctor instructed me to sit up. Then, instead of letting me know what he was going to do before he did it, he slid his hands up my skirt, onto my inner thighs, pushed my legs apart, and then sat back to wait.

“Push your legs together and let me know if it causes pain,” he said. I did; no pain. There wasn’t any actual inappropriate contact; it was just the circumstances (abrupt touch and being in a closed room with two men who had already put me on edge with their accusatory attitudes) that happened to trigger me. The part that baffles me is that he kept referencing my bipolar disorder and (especially) my PTSD. He had a problem with the fact that my mood stabilizers put a damper on most of his plans for treatment and wasn’t afraid to tell me so.

The worst part was when, upon noticing my escalating anxiety, began commenting on my PTSD and saying that I need to find coping methods, need to work with a therapist, and so on. As he was heading out the door at the end of the visit, after we’d discussed a procedure involving a nerve block (which he had initially said would require only a local anesthetic), he looked over his shoulder and said, “Oh, yeah, we’ll want you very sedated for that procedure.” By this point, I was a nervous wreck; my hands were shaking and I had pushed myself as far back in the chair as I could, trying to make myself as small as possible.

I’ve put in a call to the complaint department and have asked for a new doctor, though I haven’t heard back yet on either count.

Moving on, I finally confessed (is “confessed” the right word?) to my family about the rapes and the assault. My mother and auntmom were infuriated but not surprised, considering they hated the guy I was dating at the time and knew I was being abused, though they never really tried to intervene. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering I wouldn’t have listened at the time, anyway; as we all know, abusive relationships come with a lot of brainwashing. On Sunday, I also “came out” to another aunt about many of the things I’ve kept hidden from my family for the past seven years, including the sexual abuse, the trauma I suffered as a child, the bullying, and the miscarriage I had at five weeks when I was 19.

Needless to say, it’s been a trying couple of days and I’m struggling to get back on my feet and regain my characteristic toughness. But dealing with all of this so directly and all at once has definitely taken its toll; I feel anxious when left alone and, unfortunately, have found myself feeling apprehensive around men over the last few days. D. and I were unloading bags from the car this morning and there was a portly man in overalls, a stained t-shirt, and a John Deere cap—basically, the stereotypical “farmer” type you see around here—standing next to his pickup truck in the parking space two away from ours. He was staring at me. He didn’t move, he didn’t smile, he didn’t say anything. He just stood there and stared.

Normally, I would have met his gaze fearlessly and unflinchingly until he looked away or left, but today, I just….couldn’t. I put my head down and kept my eyes locked on the ground as I walked as quickly as possible toward the building, thankful that management recently added locks to the outermost doors as well. D. followed close behind and agreed that the guy had been creepy, but the commiseration didn’t help much; I felt dirty for a while and hated myself for bitching out, for not being able to act like the bold broad everyone seems to think I am.

Right now, I feel vulnerable, exposed, weak. That incident on Thursday ripped me wide open and I don’t know how to close it up this time. I’m not sure why my mind decided now was the perfect time to deal with things that happened six years ago (though the sexual assault was last summer), but at least I have the wisdom to know that all I can do is cope to the best of my ability and ride it out.

If any other survivors of rape/sexual abuse/sexual assault/whatever you want to call it have any tips for coping, I would love to hear them.

Stay strong. Stay beautiful.

Insensitivity.

endometriosis, stigma

There’s been a recent influx in the amount of ignorant and downright insensitive comments made to me about my endometriosis, and I’m not quite sure how to deal with them.

They range from the hopeless (“You know, at some point they won’t be able to do anything more for you and you’ll have to learn to live with the pain flares”) to the uninformed and offensive (“At age 30 or 35, they’ll probably tell you it’s time for a hysterectomy”), and all carry the assumption that I am being irresponsible for not being able to work and unreasonable for wanting more than living life at a daily pain level of 7+.

Even when I try to educate or simply shut the person down by sharing actual facts about this horrible disease, I’m treated like I’m just making excuses or don’t know what the hell I’m talking about because I am young (24). And to be honest, I’m running out of energy to deal with these people, which is unfortunate because 90% of the comments come from relatives. I used to be able to come up with snappy comments to shut the person down before things got out of hand or affected me too deeply, but now all I seem to be able to do is internalize it and watch helplessly as I self-destruct.

What do you do when people just plain don’t want to learn about your affliction and prefer their own misinformation to the hard facts?

It’s true that there may not be a lasting solution for this illness that will allow me to return to work and live pain-free, but I feel that actually saying those things to me is cruel, amirite?

D. finally snapped tonight after watching me struggle to explain the disease for the umpteenth time and said, quite bluntly, “Think of it as cancer without the cancer.” Endometriosis is terribly invasive; it feeds on estrogen and burrows deep into the pelvic organs. It has even been known to grow on other organs, such as the kidneys, lungs, and brain in more severe (and admittedly, rarer) cases. It is incredibly painful, and the level of pain experienced by the sufferer is not always proportional to the disease’s stage. And while the growths are benign, the disease causes a host of other health problems along the way in addition to wreaking emotional havoc on the sufferer and her* loved ones.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot worse physically and very hopeless. I can’t even remember the number of times I’ve said, “I don’t want to live this way anymore.” All I can do is hope for a better tomorrow, that I’ll be able to see a pain specialist soon and that he or she will be able to help me come up with a long-term solution for managing the symptoms. My ob/gyn is against operating because my first surgery (a diagnostic laparoscopy performed in March 2011) only gave me about a year and a half pain-free. As it stands, I’m at pre-op levels of pain; I’m just better at functioning while I’m in severe pain because my body has had time to adjust.

It’s frustrating that despite my best efforts to educate, to frankly discuss my personal experiences with a very sensitive, personal illness, people still continue to assume and make hurtful comments. It’s not that I’m thin-skinned; it’s that this disease has exhausted me to the point that I can’t help but take the rudeness and insensitivity to heart.

People exhaust me.