I think it’s the feeling trapped that’s worst for me.  Feeling like I can’t get out and I can’t say no.

My NP was not insensitive or ruthless.  I think my post yesterday made her sound that way, and she wasn’t.  It just felt that way to me, and my feelings do not always reflect reality.  In reality, she was kind and understanding.  I know she recognized that the discussion about an exam triggered me.  I mean, we went from joking about Star Trek and debating the merits of particular knitting patterns (seamless sweater patterns FTW) at the beginning of the appointment to me staring at the floor and giving one or two word answers.  She knows I have a history of sexual abuse, although she doesn’t know the severity.  (She may have guessed from the severity of my reactions that it was pretty bad, but we haven’t discussed any details.)

She tried to make me more comfortable with it.  She said she wouldn’t do an internal exam because she knew I couldn’t do that (yet).  She said I could bring someone with me, and they could stay with me but not see anything.  (I didn’t tell her I’m so pathetic I don’t have anyone to bring.)  She said some people take Valium or Ativan right before the appointment.  She even said that if I couldn’t do an exam, we could just talk about how things were going with the Nexplanon.  She said it was my choice.

But for me, it never feels like what happens to my body is my choice.  I lose the ability to say no to people in positions of power and authority.  It feels like they’re going to do whatever they want to me anyway, so it’s better to agree to it.  Then they don’t get mad, so they don’t hurt you as bad.  So I say yes and okay when what I mean is I’m so scared you’re going to hurt me, and I really need you to be kind and gentle with me, and I need you to make me feel safe.  Since I can’t say what I really need to say, it never feels safe.  It never feels like my choice.  No choice, no voice.

I felt trapped in that exam room yesterday.  I guess I could’ve said, “I’m sorry, I just can’t deal with this right now.  I need to go.”  Or I could’ve said, “I’m feeling really overwhelmed, and I’m starting to dissociate.”  Or I could’ve said, “I’m trying to work with you, but I need you to slow down even more with me.”  Someone could’ve said those things, but I don’t think I could’ve.  It was taking everything I had not to go into a total dissociative shutdown.  My vision kept going blank, and I kept blinking over and over to bring it back.  My ears were ringing.  I couldn’t be articulate; one or two words or a nod was all I could get out.  And then she wanted me to look at her when I said I’d come back in three months, and I don’t think she understood why I couldn’t make eye contact.

People who don’t live with the extreme shame can never quite understand it.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  They don’t understand the intensity and persistence of the shame of someone else abusing me, even once I’ve accepted and come to believe that it wasn’t my fault.  Then there’s the shame of having a body, which is impossible to explain since everyone has one, and I don’t find other people’s bodies shameful.  The shame of not having anyone close or trusted enough to bring with me for an appointment.  I couldn’t explain my shame that instead of being my normally intelligent, articulate, adult self, I couldn’t help shutting down and turning into a terrified, barely-verbal child.  None of that makes sense to normal people.

I was trapped.  In my reality, I couldn’t leave or say no.  I couldn’t even communicate the depth of my distress, so I was completely alone with it.  And now I’m alone with the aftermath.  The acute trigger has subsided, but I’m still feeling raw and vulnerable.  Body memories, phantom touches, intrusive thoughts and memories, severe anxiety about an appointment that’s not for three months.  A feeling that I was violated, even though I know I wasn’t.  And the incredible shame crushing my chest.


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10 responses to “Trapped

  1. It has been a while since I have been triggered like that, but I can relate… awful horribleness. ((hugs))

  2. mandy

    Shame is such a disabling thing. As much as I’ve healed, the shame lingers. I try to accept it. I’ve never heard anyone say they felt shame over not having anyone to bring…I know the shame from that, too. I will probably always know it. All the times I had to fill out forms and they needed three names and phone numbers of next of kind, friends…to call in case of emergency. (THREE? Really?) I always had to make up names and phone numbers. When you don’t have names or “someone to bring” you feel you aren’t loveable or worthy or else you’d have these people. I think it’s pretty great you had someone who understands your trigger and seems willing to work with you.

    • I just leave the emergency contact blank. I used to put my boyfriend, but since he stopped talking to me several months ago, I just don’t have anyone else.

      It makes me feel defective. I try to explain it away: “Oh, my family lives in another state,” but most people at least have one or two close friends. I don’t, at least not ones who live near me. But more than the shame, there’s sadness, loss. I wish I had someone I trusted enough to take with me. I want to have someone who can occasionally take care of me when I need it. I don’t want to have to be alone all the time.

  3. So sorry you feel so bad Kyra. Sending hugs. I agree with Mandy, shame is tough to deal with, very tough. Try to focus on something you like to defuse the trigger, knitting, politics, anything…anything to try to normalise things for now. 3 months is a while to wait. I hope when you do have the apt it goes ok for you. XX

  4. What I admire the most about your blog is the way you are able to describe
    the everyday experience of living with PTSD and CPTSD.

    I know this feeling of being trapped.

    I am able to write my political views but I wonder if anyone can understand how it feels
    to depend on treatment providers you don’t trust.

    Everyone in my life tells me that I am De-stabilized.

    I must attend an intensive outpatient program and I must do it to preserve my
    partner’s sanity.

    How shameful it feels to feel as if I’m at the mercy of people who wonder why I
    can’t condition a more “positive” point of view out of not really having a single
    point of view about anything?

    This is just one more blow in a series of blows that have left me feeling
    defenseless, and yes, trapped.

    The shame of being “survivor” is rarely discussed.

    Most people don’t understand that we survived something that many of us were taught to believe we caused.

    It’s shame on shame.

    It’s a horrible feeling.

  5. Dear Kyra… you are amazing. The way you write, the way you express how you feel and what you are thinking.. I read this, and I am THERE. I am YOU, in the exam room. What a rare talent you have.

    Shame. That’s the worst part of PTSD, for me. Of all the trauma, pain, and sorrow I have lived through, shame is by far the most painful. Shame just for being ME.

    Like you said, the shame doesn’t make any sense. Intellectually, I know it doesn’t make sense. And yet I feel deep, soul-shriveling SHAME because my mother tried to gas us all to death when I was a kid. SHE did that, not me! But *I* feel ashamed of it. WHY? I have no idea. it’s stupid, it’s crazy, it’s ludicrous. But I can’t stop feeling this horrible shame about what my mother did.

    No one I know explains these things like you do, Kyra. I second what Robert M. Goldstein said: “What I admire the most about your blog is the way you are able to describe the everyday experience of living with PTSD and CPTSD.”

  6. “the shame of having a body” — I get that.
    Many days I find the mere factness of my body baffling…

  7. mandy

    Hope you’re doing okay. thinking about you. ❤

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