PTSD Spaciness triggered waiting for letter from mom

Lightning; My First TrySo I’ve been extra spacey lately since the news about the impending letter from my mom replying to the one I sent her three years ago. It’s not like I really notice the spaci-ness myself much, but my wife has noticed and pointed out a few things.

This morning I forgot to feed my beloved dog, and then when reminded, promptly forgot again until reminded a second time. My poor good doggy.

I’ve lost my favourite pair of glasses. No clue where they are. My wife can’t even find them and she’s usually very good at finding things I lose.

My wife tells me things and I forget them. What are they? I forget…

I ran a red light today because I got too distracted when my wife was trying to say something about what lane I was in.

I had a creepy dream where my father was my boyfriend and I was being all nice to him, behaving like his girlfriend. Creepy! The morning I went to the dentist too, as if being triggered wasn’t the last thing I needed before seeing the dentist.

What I did well was to let my wife know that I’m just going to be spacey over the next few days and there’s nothing I can really do about it.  I’m not sure if that’s true. Perhaps if I really grounded or something I’d feel whatever feelings I’m dissociating from and then I wouldn’t need to dissociate. That’s what I’d have tried back when I was a therapist and I was working with a survivor who was dissociating, although it’s harder to do for oneself. I’d book an appointment with my therapist, but really, what is there to say? I saw my brother and it went well, and my mother’s going to send me a letter, but I haven’t gotten it yet. What’s to talk about?

When the letter comes, I’m going to give it to my wife to keep in her locker at work, so it’s not in the house. I don’t know why I want to do that, but it feels better somehow. It will help me avoid the temptation to open it before I have enough support.  I’m likely to freak out afterward, so I need to make sure the timing is right.

On the up side I went to the dentist yesterday and had a filling. I’d avoided making an appointment for a couple of months, because I wasn’t sure I could handle it, but got up the courage. It was way in the back up near the gum and I was worried I’d be on my back with my mouth jammed open in pain for ages, with gunk going down my throat, something I figured would trigger me bad. I explained to the dental assistant that I was concerned I might be anxious with my mouth open for a long time, and that I thought it would help if I could close my mouth whenever  I needed to. She said that would be fine, and pointed out that there was one point in the procedure where the glue wouldn’t stick if I closed my mouth and saliva got on it. I asked how long that was likely to be and said it would help if during that time she explained what was happening. It turned out to be no big thing, ten or fifteen minutes all together and the dentist was told I was anxious and distracted me by chatting about our vacations. She didn’t even have to freeze me, which worked great. Kind of an incentive to make sure I don’t get any more cavities though.

Warrior WomanWhat do I think is at the root of my spaciness? Rage. Having contact with my stinking psychopath-enabling weak martyr of a hypocrite faux-feminist mother really fucking pisses me off. How DARE she want to have ‘a relationship’ with me? How can she really be this dense and want me to f’ing overlook that she didn’t help me at all when she knew that my vagina was ripped so bad I had two tears from one side of my vulva to the other!!!! Who the hell does she think I am? She hasn’t even admitted to the crime and I’m supposed to forget and forgive (ideally in that order)? I want to rip her apart with my bare hands, and I’m going to get words from her, words that will be full of bullshit as usual. I can’t even imagine what she would say that would be enough. If she goes on about how my letter hurts her or something I’m going to freaking blow up!

The parts of me that don’t want to pound her senseless with something heavy, are thinking that any information will be useful, and I don’t even have to respond to the letter, although, realistically I should or she’ll contact me again. However, I could wait three freaking years to respond just like she did and see how she likes it.

I may end up saying “I have now seen the scars on my vagina and vulva.  You knew I was raped. I was too seriously injured for you not to have known. You have lied to me for the last time. No, I will never have a relationship with you.  You can’t come back from this. You are dead to me. Go to hell. ”

Go to freaking hell, Mom!!

What I learned about health care and sexual abuse survivors

I’d like to summarize what resources and history I’ve gathered (or created) that might be helpful to other survivors.

I went from someone who had an 8 year gap in both pap tests and dental work to someone who has had a pap test and a dental cleaning within the past year.  I also successfully asked a health clinician doing my pap test to examine me for scar tissue from the rapes (I have evidence of tearing that no-one had mentioned to me previously.)

Here are my posts about that journey

  1. Warrior Schedules PAP Test– Okay, so I think I found a safe (to me) place to get a gyne exam.
  2. The day before the pap_Yesterday I saw my therapist and we talked about the pap test appointment tomorrow. What’s different about this appointment is: 1) the medical professional will know I’m a survivor. 2) I’m planning to ask if I have scar tissue. 3) …
  3. Warrior Victorious in Pap Test – So the gyne visit went about as well as it could possibly go, and better than I could have envisioned. The nurse-practitioner I saw was very experienced and nice and drew the correct line between warm sympathy and matter of …
  4. In the wake of proof – Knowing I have scar tissue has changed my life I think. It’s like an incontrovertible validation of what I’ve been saying all along. No longer can I doubt or go into denial about the accuracy of my memory. I know …
  5. Icing my vulva – I’ve had pain and itching in my vulva for most of my life.  I’ve worn out holes in the fronts of underwear from scratching. This, I’ve found through some recent reading, is actually pretty common with vaginal injuries like mine.
  6. Hidden Disabilities and Dentists A childhood sexual abuse survivor goes to the dentist, and triumphs over fluoride treatments. Continue reading →
  7. I get an appointment with a gyne surgical specialist and finally get a diagnosis for my sore, itchy vulva, that pretty much always feels like it has a sunburn. I get a biopsy in the first appointment (painful!) and a diagnosis of chronic inflamatory condition in the follow up appointment. After treating with a strong steroid cream for several weeks, I switch to a herbal anti-inflammatory (turmeric taken both internally and as a topical ointment) which has completely controlled the symptoms.  Yay! Autoimmune and inflammatory conditions are apparently common in survivors.

Here are some great information resources I found:

Handbook on Sensitive Practice for Health Care Practitioners: Lessons from Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (applies to doctors, nurses, massage therapists, physiotherapists, dentists etc…) This report is a good read for both survivors and practitioners and is linked below. The one thing I would add is a one page disclosure and accommodation request form, so I created it. This document was written by university professors in the departments of  social work, physical therapy, nursing and medicine of several major Canadian universities. (I love Canada a lot. ) So it’s got the ‘clout’ to be influential with your doctor or dentist.

Here are some links to some other good resources:

And last but not least here’s a resource I created:

I’m really proud of this one. Wouldn’t you like to just hand your doctor a form with checkboxes for the accommodations you need to be able to tolerate a pap test? No working up to disclosing abuse just before getting into the stirrups, no worrying your voice will break or you’ll lose your nerve. All you have to do is hand over a piece of official looking paper. Look no more, here’s my survivor-designed and field-tested version, made using some of the recommendations from the sensitive practice guide linked above: SwordDanceWarrior’s Information Sheet for Gynecological Care Providers Providing Care to Childhood Sexual Assault Survivors I’ve used it. It works beautifully. I ended up in my own clothes rather than a gown, sitting up with a mirror so I could see what she was doing, with everything explained as she went along, and with my partner present. It was way less stressful than a regular pap test. If you use it, I’d love to know how it went.

Hidden Disabilities and Dentists

My dentists booking secretary, Judy, got snotty with me because I hadn’t booked my cleaning on the required schedule, like my wife had, every six months.  She wasn’t overt about it, but I got the message and was pissed off. I booked the apointment anyhow since my wife was going in and I could have my appointment at the same time.

The thing I hate most about going to the dentist is the part about not being able to close your mouth, and all the guck that drools down your throat, despite the suction thingie. The very worst part is not the pain, which I can dissociate from, but the damn fluoride treatments in trays, since you have to sit there with them so long and the thick, gooey liquid always ends up going down my throat without my consent.

Photocredit: Only Alice on Flickr,who titled it "I am just a mouth" (this is not a picture of me)
Photocredit: Only Alice on Flickr,who titled it "I am just a mouth" (this is not a picture of me)

Without my consent.

I’m not going to get graphic here, but I’m sure you can guess, given the theme of this blog what kind of thick liquid went down my throat without my consent as a child.

I knew I didn’t want to go to the dentist, but I didn’t really know why clearly until I was sitting in the waiting room, almost in tears at the thought of those damn fluoride trays and what the sensation was too similar to.  Then for good measure had a hastily squashed mini-flashback about it in my dentists waiting room. I thought “I can’t cry here / I can’t do this!”

Then I realized. I don’t have to do it.

I don’t care whether it’s good for my teeth. I’ll let them scrape my teeth but no frigging trays. I have fluoride mouthwash I can spit out when I want to. Just say no to trays! I felt immediately a lot better. Adulthood gives one the blessed right to be irrational. I’m paying for this after all!

So, I follow the dentist in to the treatment room and before she starts I tell her. “I have a sore throat, and I have some personal reasons as well, and it’s very important to me that nothing goes down my throat.” She was a lot less snotty than her receptionist, but I still felt a bit like she must be thinking “oh she’s one of those difficult anxious ones…” I’m sure there’s something in my file about it. 

However, she said she’d get her hygenist in there to wield the suction so nothing would go down my throat. It’s not the bits of tartar or whatever I’m worried about, it’s the fluid, so this wasn’t a complete success, but enough to keep me from iether vomiting or sobbing during the cleaning. The TV mounted on her ceiling helped a lot too. Dissociation is my friend.

After the dentist had finished her scraping, the hygenist came back to do some more stuff, and I had to give my little survivor safety talk to her as well. She clearly thought I was being difficult but gave me the suction thingie to hold.

At last she asked me what flavour of fluoride treatment I wanted. I sighed inwardly, and said to myself “I think I can handle this.” I said outwardly “mint”. She handed me a little cup and asked me to swill it around my mouth for a minute. No g’dammed goopy trays! I was all prepared to balk at the trays but blessedly, didn’t have to.

So this is why I don’t go to the dentist every frickin six months, Judy. If you think it’s awkward to have an anxious patient asking you to be extra careful, you have no idea how awkward a flash-backing sobbing vomiting survivor would be.

Photocredit:  patries71 on Flickr
Photocredit: patries71 on Flickr