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.