Warrior Victorious in Pap Test

Thank the Goddess for Good Medical Care at Last! Photocredit: Great Beyond
Thank the Goddess for Good Medical Care at Last! Photocredit: Great Beyond

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 factness. She said we could take as long as we needed, and she did the history taking and blood pressure stuff first. She explained everything really fully and was very relaxed, egalitarian and friendly.

She was matter of fact, thorough and respectful about asking my history – saying it woudl be helpful to know whatever I told her. I did a good job too, matter of fact and calm. She said she’d mail me copies of everything she put in my chart and all my test results too, so I’d have it as well.

I’d typed up all my questions, so I wouldn’t forget anything and just handed them to her, which worked well.

I did ask about the scar tissue.

She tilted up the exam table so I was sitting up and gave me a mirror to hold and I could see everything she did, which was great. She showed me the parts of my vulva that she thought showed old injuries. Turns out I have some vascular damage where the veins/arteries are really big and close to the surface and the whole area is hot, which she thought spoke to me having been injured and the veins being damaged when I was a kid. She also showed me some tags of flesh (like little lumps sticking out around the opening) around my vagina that to her looked like I’d torn and had healed without being sewn up. At this point I took a minute to hold my wife’s hand and breathe, since I got a bit emotional, but I didn’t really cry or anything till we left the office and were in the elevator. I haven’t really cried much yet, but I expect I will.

She knows some folks at a gyne clinic where care is given to children who have been raped, and she said she’d talk to them about what signs the vulva/vagina of an adult survivor might show as well.  She said she’d never had a survivor patient before (that she knew of, I add silently) and that the mirror and tilted table worked so well she’ll probably make that standard. She said when she was trained to do pap tests (I guess they practiced on each other) they did it with the ‘patient’ (another student) sitting up with a mirror, so that’s interesting, maybe a lot of female doctors or nurse practitioners were trained that way and might be familiar with it.

I’m pretty happy about finally having proof to back up what I remember, and also that she was able to give me some ideas to help reduce the irritation and sometimes pain all this causes me, that nobody’s been able to help me with so far. She’s suggested cold packs to reduce the swelling, which I think could actually work. We might also get an appointment with a gynecologist to see if they can remove the tags of scar tissue flesh, since they get sore.

I’m also really sad and angry for that little girl with the torn vagina and no-one giving medical attention I needed. I’m pissed at my mother, who obviously should have noticed a little girl with a ripped, bleeding vulva.

And finally, I gave her a copy of the ‘survivor safety form’ I made, and a copy of the article about survivors and pap test avoiding. I suggested that if the  health region wanted to put on a clinic for survivors, there were a lot out there that weren’t getting pap tests.  She seemed interested and said she was networking with a group of other women practitioners and they were looking for groups to offer care to (or something like that), I offered to be a ‘community informant’ if that would be helpful (in health region they like to have ‘advisory groups’). She asked me to email her a copy of the form, which I’ll do. So that’s hopeful as well.

All in all I feel blessed and hopeful. Yay!

If any health care providers (or survivors who want to talk to them) are reading this, here are some links I recommend:

*** My survivor safety sheet: http://sworddancewarrior.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/information-sheet-for-primary-health-care-providers.pdf

***[REALLY GOOD RESOURCE] Schachter, C.L., Stalker, C.A., Teram, E., Lasiuk, G.C., Danilkewich, A. (2008). Handbook on sensitive practice for health care practitioner: Lessons from adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/pdfs/nfntsx-handbook_e.pdf

Helping survivors of childhood abuse through labour: http://www.gentlebirth.org/archives/abuselbr.html

Prevalence of sexual assault history among women with common gynecologic symptoms. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9790390?dopt=Abstract

Health risk behaviors and medical sequelae of childhood sexual abuse.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1434879?dopt=Abstract

Effect of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Gynecologic Care as an Adult http://psy.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/48/5/385

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) I’m planning to ask about all the wierd things I have going on with my vagina.

It feels incredibly vulnerable to do this this way, consciously, asking for the compassionate care I want, especially when I didn’t have any care that I remember for my vagina when I was assaulted as a child.

I have duly printed out my ‘survivor safety lecture’ pap test sheet and marked the appropriate boxes. I also have typed up all my questions, and the rationale behind them on a single sheet of paper so that if I can’t deal with asking verbally, I can just get her to read it.

At my therapists suggestion, I’m going to reserve the right not to go through with the exam if I don’t like the nurse or her responses, so the questions have a dual purpose. I get to see how she handles them. My therapist also offered me an emergency session on Thursday or Friday if I need one, an offer which brings tears to my eyes even now.

It was good to talk it over with my therapist, and more importantly cry it over, cry over the body of the 5 year old girl with the injured vagina, cry over the lifetime lack of anyone to ask questions about my injuries or to care about them. Cry about the shame and fear of judgement / condescension / freak out of a nurse or doctor knowing my history examining me.

So, I’m going to watch some nice, anethesizing tv or read my new book.

On the up side, I’m still meditating 8 minutes per day and still practising either singing or guitar daily. I also started a tai chi class with my wife yesterday. So in general, things are good.

Wish me luck.

The Pink Gang – Warrior Women

This is a video I found made by an Indian woman about the Gulabi Gang – women who are fighting government corruption and male violence and promoting women’s empowerment in an empoverished area of India. The woman who leads the group was sold into ‘marriage’ as a child, bearing her first child a few years later. That makes her a child sexual abuse survivor. Good for her fighting back! You go warrior women!

“A rambunctious and fearless posse recognizable by their pink-colored saris, the Pink Gang is the nemesis of violent husbands and inept government officials. Having personally suffered abuse, members of the vigilante club thrash abusive men, wife beaters and rapists, confront and shame wrongdoers and storm local police stations to accost lackadaisical cops.

Formed in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, 45, who was sold into marriage at nine and became a mother at 13, the gang challenges everything that is unfair and unjust, like some gang of desperados for justice on India’s wilder fringe. “Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law into our own hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers. But we’re not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We’re a gang for justice,” Devi told a TV news channel recently.

Fed up with a corrupt system and social discrimination, what finally drove Devi to launch the Pink Gang was the tale of her sister, who was dragged by her hair around a courtyard by her alcoholic husband. This last straw led Devi to “teach erring men a lesson.” She rounded up other women in her neighborhood and confronted the abusive brother-in-law with whatever “weapons” they could muster — walking sticks, iron rods, a child’s cricket bat. He was then chased into a sugarcane field and thrashed by the women.” Full story here

Warrior Schedules PAP Test

Photocredit: Francois et fier d l'Etre
Photocredit: Francois et fier d l'Etre

Okay, so I think I found a safe (to me) place to get a gyne exam. I found out through some friends that the community health centres have nurses that do pap tests, who are allowed to schedule longer appointments than doctors (who under our health system are allowed 15 minutes, if you can believe it!) .  Somehow a nurse seems less scary than a doctor, anyhow. Less hierarchical power.

How to Book a PAP test for a survivor in 10 not so easy steps:

Step 1: Look up on the web the community health centre my friends recommended. Read web site. Like web site. Find out I live in the wrong area to access this centre.

Step 2: Find out what community health centre I am allowed to go to for my location. Find that there is no website, no way to check out much about what they’re like. Hmmm…. Find short brochure for local community clinic with single helpful phrase: “Ask us what you’re looking for and we’ll help to connect you” and a phone number.  Give up for the day.

Step 3: Go back to web site. Re-read brochure. Print out brochure and put on desk. Give up for the day. Look at brochure several times over the next few days-week.

Step 4:  Call number on brochure. Say “I read in your brochure that I could tell you what I was looking for and you’d try and connect me, is that right?” Answer: Yes, I’ll try.  (Deep Breath) “I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault and I haven’t had a PAP test in 8 years. I need to find a place to get a PAP test that will be compassionate.” Listen as woman on the line hems and haws a bit (albeit with sympathetic voice), and then when prompted with what I’d heard about the nurses, she says that they did have a nurse that came in briefly for a couple of times a month. She gave me a name and a phone number and apologized that she couldn’t make the appointment for me.  Write number down, thank her and leave room to go to the bathroom, cry, have a snack and tell my wife.

Step 5: Call number. I’ve been given the wrong number and get voicemail that says nothing about the person I’ve been referred to. I call back and ask for the switchboard operator, who confirms that that person is supposed to be at that local. I call again and get a live secretary, who tells me that person has moved to another local, gives me the local. I let her know the operator still thinks the other person is at this local in case she wants to change it.

Step 6: I call the local of the person I was supposed to call. Her voicemail doesn’t say her name or any department that seems related to what I want so I’m still not sure I have the right person, but I leave a message with my phone number.

Step 7: I call back the community clinic and let them know the nurse’s number has changed and give them the new number. The reception nurse remembers me, thanks me for letting her know, and takes my phone number so she can follow up and make sure the other nurse gets back to me, which I appreciated.

Step 8: I get a call back from the secretary for the nurse I’m trying to book an appointment with. She wants to book me in at  9:30 in the morning. I don’t think I can do 9:30, I don’t think I’ll be steady enough by 9:30, since mornings aren’t great for me emotionally. I tell her that I don’t think I can do 9:30 and that the reason I’m booking with this nurse is because I’m a sexual assault survivor  and mornings aren’t a good time for me for this sort of thing. She wisely accepts this without comment. We work out that 10:30 would be a lot better. She begins large amounts of hemming and hawing, and proposes a date two months from now when she can fit me in at 10 am. I accept, and then she says that the nurse I was referred to isn’t going to be there that day and someone else will be filling in for her. She asks if someone else would be okay and I say well, I asked the health clinic for someone who would be compassionate and this is who they recommended. I suggest that she root through the schedule and call me back when she has something. She seems relieved to agree.

Step 9: Nurse’s secretary calls me back and can put me in at 10:30 am two weeks from now. I accept. I put it in my computer calendar with lots of reminders and my cell phone becasue I’m likely to ‘forget’ about something that freaks me out. 

Step 10: Cry a little in kind of safety-relief.

 

Related posts: “Pap Test, Anyone?”  ” Hidden Disabilities and Dentists”  “The day before the pap “,”Warrior Victorious in Pap Test “,  “In the wake of proof

Related Link: The impact of a history of child sexual assault on women’s decisions and experiences of cervical screening

Predators

I’ve just finished reading “Predators,  paedophiles, rapists, and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ouraelves and our children” by Anna Salter, PhD.. This is not a book to read lightly, as it has quotes from abusers that can be pretty disturbing.

However, I wanted to understand my family a bit better and it certainly helped. I took the author’s suggestion and didn’t read the chapter on sadists, but the rest I read.

[This post might be triggering for survivors. I’m going to quote some stuff from the book that talks about why child molesters do what they do. I found the book validating and only manageably triggering, but your mileage may vary. So I’m going to put a picture here, and if you don’t want to read on,  here is your warning. ]

Great nurse sharks look dangerous but are harmless to people. Paedophiles are the exact reverse. Photocredit: Richard Ling
Great nurse sharks look dangerous but are harmless to people. Paedophiles are the exact reverse. Photocredit: Richard Ling
Polygraph Test Photocredit: Spiralstares
Polygraph Test Photocredit: Spiralstares

Wierdly, I found myself even laughing occasionally, mostly at some of the things author Anna Salter says. She has a matter of fact, no-nonsense way about her that survivors will find refreshing and familiar. She interviews these assholes and backs up what she says with a lot of research studies and analysis. I found myself really liking her.

The parts I found personally useful were these:

She explains really well why people blame the victims, why we aren’t believed, and how these shitheads get away with it again and again.

It apparently is really common for abusers to abuse children while other adults are in the house, without the other adults finding out. It is so common for a father or stepfather to abuse his kids while mom sleeps or in another room that my situation, where my mom claimed not to know, is more the rule than the exception. Child molesters rely on people’s unwillingness to believe someone charming and likable could be a monster an awful lot, because it works for them.

She has the same analysis I do about how people don’t want to believe that bad things happen to good people for reasons that are not their fault. She explains why they persist in the face of overwhelming evidence to not believe that abuse is perpetrated by people who seem harmless or good to them. It’s because abusers are so intent on appearing normal, and put such energy into grooming people into seeing them as good guys.

She talks about why even experts can’t tell reliably when paedophiles and abusers are lying (polygraphs are the only halfway reliable method). After reading her book, I think we should use polygraphs routinely whenever there is any suspicion of child abuse, since in the absence of physical evidence there is no way to tell.  Even if you watch a child and her abuser together, the body language might not be a give away, because of all the grooming that goes on.

She analyses the whole manipulativeness thing in depth, how even prison guards who know these guys are guilty get sucked in all the time.  This part is definitely worth reading.

She talks about the strategies that child abusers and rapists use to get access to us and our kids and how to deflect them.

Mostly, so far I’m not too freaked out.  Okay, a little bit, but the validation around my dad was worth it. He’s utterly normal for a sociopath. One freaky thing was how many victims more paedophiles have. My father almost certainly did not abuse just me. There could be a hundred other victims out there, if he’s typical. Knowing that if a man has molested one child (and particularly raped one) he’s almost certainly abuses tens or hundreds of others, do I have a moral obligation to do something? Festoon his neighbourhood with ‘danger child molester lives here’ posters? Hire a private investigator to follow him around? [hmmm… that’s not half bad. ]

When studies were done that were structured to eliminate any rewards to claiming to being abuse survivors, and interviews were backed up with a polygraph, only 30% of convicted violent sex offenders reported having been abused themselves as children. This is only a little bit higher than the general populations. So what creates abusers? Nobody knows. However, we do know that paedophiles abuse children for some of these reasons:

“There is a subgroup of child molesters who molest children simply because they are sexually attracted to them. There are others who molest because they are antisocial or even psychopathic and simply feel entitled [I think this is my dad here]. There are still others who use children for the intimacy they are too timid or impaired to obtain from adults. And there are others who molest for reasons we don’t understand at all. But make no mistake, whether men molest because of sexual preference or other reasons, their compulsiveness can be extraordinary.” (page 75)

“Whatever the reasons people develop such a fixation, it tends to be chronic and resistant to change. The people who have such patterns are not a small number, more like an invisible army that cannot be recognized on the street. Certainly, some of them are unemployed, take drugs, and fulfill the stereotype of the street criminal. But there are others considerably more successful in life, and they may be equally goal-oriented and driven in pursuit of children…These men — and they are usually men for reasons we also don’t understand — are part of our communities, part of our network of friends, worse yet, sometimes part of our families. …. No one has all the answers on how to stop them, nor even why all of them do what they do. But at least we should have the decency as a people to stop making excuses for them.” page 76  [ See why I like her?]

The bulk of child molesters are straight men, and she writes about the various types of paedophiles and the various types of women who abuse children as well.

Abusers will iether not care about the moral implications of what they’ve done, or have rationalizations.

Even the best treatment programs for abusers only reduce the reoffense rate slightly. There is no cure. At present, the only effective thing to do is lock them up for life or kill them.

She had some practical recommendations:

  • All predators can and do pass reliably and frequently for nice, harmless men, so take precautions anyway. Most will take pains to establish themselves as nice, harmless upstanding citizens and will be indistinguishable from those who really are.
  • Don’t open your door to strangers, no matter how harmless they appear, when you’re home alone.
  • If you date a stranger you met on the internet or through a dating service for example, make sure you know things about him that are verifiable and verify them. Find out where he works and find a reason to call him at work to verify. Meet him in a public place and have a friend there for the first while minute or two – perhaps you were meeting her for coffee first? Tell your friend(s) everything you know about him and find a way to slip it into conversation that you’ve done so. [This is where being a lesbian is pretty convenient. Since only 3-5% of sexual offenders are women, it makes blind dating a lot simpler and safer.]
  • Psychopaths tend to collect in cities, rather than small towns since it’s easier to not get caught in a lie there. They also tend to prey on religious communities and other environments where people assume they’re good just because they appear to be.
  • The best way to catch a child molester lying is not by talking to them as they are usually excellent and practiced liars, but by verifying the information they give you. They will normally mix some truth in with their lies. Always check references and do criminal records checks if you are hiring someone in a job they’ll be interacting with children in.
  • If you get into a fender bender and are alone, don’t leave your car. Rapists use this as a way to get you out of your car. Lock the doors and window and call on your cell for help.
  • Put a deadbolt on some doors inside your house so you have a safer room with a window to retreat to and escape from if you need to.
  • Keep your cell phone by your bed so if the phone lines are cut you can call for help. That combined with the deadbolt gives you a safer place to go, a way to call for help and some time for help to come.
  • Assume that all workers in child-centric professions are high risk to be child molesters – these professions attract them and they work hard to look trustworthy. They’re not all or even mainly child molesters, but you won’t be able to tell which ones are.  Of particular concern are persons without adult sexual relationships or who spend a lot of their time with children of a particular age and sex. Be involved in your child’s life. Go to their team sports practices and games, chaperone their field trips. Involved parents make for children that are less desirable targets. If you are a single mom, don’t let guilt about lack of male role models make you give some guy lots of access to your kids. Don’t permit people overnight or unsupervised access to your children.
  • Most women who get raped as adults are young – 16-30 yrs.
  • Houses with dogs are apparently way safer – houses with dogs don’t as a rule get targeted. It doesn’t have to be a big dog, just a watchful one. If  your dog barks at night, pay attention.

Garter snakes, also the reverse of paedophiles. People mistake them for something really dangerous but they're really harmless. Photocredit: Via Moi

My Older Brother

Photocredit: H KoppDelaney
Photocredit: H KoppDelaney

A few weeks back I called my older brother, and left a phone message. I want to talk to him about some stuff to do with my father dying and also to ask him for information about the first house we lived in. However, we’re somewhat estranged, which started happening around the time I started being in relationships with women. I’ve seen him once since my wedding two years ago, which was the first time he’d met my wife, who I’d already been with for several years prior to that. He claims he’s not homophobic, which in Canada is considered almost as bad as being racist and would get him a lot of flack in my family. Nice to have their support in that, anyways.

So yesterday I was having a good day in general, in part due to my new meditation practice. I’m finding my skills at ignoring intrusive thoughts and images on the survivor front stand me in good stead at staying focussed on my breath in meditation. It’s nice these skills are good for something else! I got an email from my brother saying that he didn’t seem to have my correct phone number and had deleted my phone message, so could I send him my number. I replied with all my phone numbers. On the way to my therapist  a couple of hours later, I realized I was nauseated. I put on a ‘sea band’ I happened to have around and continued on to my appointment. I was a bit early and sat outside on a bench enjoying the day, I realized I was weepy and could not for the life of me figure out why. Not my time of the month, nothing else going on.

Well of course it turned out to be a reaction to my brother’s email – grief at missing him, being touched he was intending to call me back. How starved for family regard am I, that an email from my brother and the suggestion he might want to speak with me makes me weep with comfort and recognition of loss.  Funny how the body knows before the mind does.

We talked over what I would say to him, and came up with some strategies when we speak on the phone. My fall back is to ask him about his kids, which is a nice safe topic, and then talk about my work and renovating the house. If I get an opening, I’ll ask him how he’s doing with our father being so ill. Later on, probably only if we meet in person, I’ll talk to his wife, and explain to her that I’d like some time alone with him to talk about some family history stuff and ask for her support. Now that I write that, I’m sure that she won’t give us time alone together (she tends to include herself in these things and then do all the talking, which means I don’t hear from my brother), but maybe that’s okay. I could at least point out that I’d really like to hear his perspective, which might keep her from butting in.  

I’m also making up index cards with things I want to accomplish in my life that I feel like I procrastinate on and putting on each card what’s ‘juicy’ or passionate for me about each thing. The idea of that part is to try and do whatever will get me in contact with the juicy part of the activity as soon as possible. Then I’m going to order them according to what I feel like doing that day, or what is most important to me. So far, it seems to be moving something. I did vocal exercises, practiced the piano and meditated so far this morning. I seem to be a bit unstuck. Yay!

Happiness

Photocredit: Miracle Moods
Photocredit: Miracle Moods

Yesterday, I was in my therapy appointment telling my therapist how happy I was about how confident and strong I’d felt at the conference over the weekend.

But really, I’m not paying her to listen to me be happy. So I ended up talking about my older brother, how we’ve been sort of estranged for about ten years, and how I’d like to talk to him about our dad dying and find out what he remembers about the first house we lived in.

My older brother was once the only good relative I had. All those 14 years of being apart from my family, he and his wife were my family. We spent Christmas together, I was one of only two guests at their wedding. He met my wife for the first time on our wedding day, after we’d been together 6 years. He didn’t meet the woman I was with before that, and I was with her for almost 3 years. But in between, when I was single, he was willing to see me. I flat out accused him of being homophobic, and he denies it, and I suspect its something more complicated anyhow.

I feel grief that he doesn’t seem to value me or want to see me anymore. Me healing and being a survivor freaked him out at first, but he got over it, me being gay didn’t seem to freak him out as long as I was single. Then I came out as pagan. It’s like the combination of coming out as survivor and lesbian and pagan did him in and he just doesn’t trust me. I tell myself that he’s afraid of his own feelings and injuries that I put him in touch with, but really my hero older brother is gone. He’s cold and critical and distant now that I’m no longer a helpless mess of a younger sister. It’s like he’s afraid of me. And so I became sad. Was it right to go into those feelings at a time I felt good?

There’s this Buddhist thing about just being where you are and how you are. I expect that’s the way to go. There’s always a choice, though. Do I practice guitar and code sheet music for the choral piece I want to get ready, or do I watch TV all night? Do I force myself to keep working hard on days I don’t feel like it, or realize I’m still probably a bit wiped from the weekend and take it easy?

Be where you are, but I can often choose where to be. Sitting here wondering where to focus my attention, I solve my own problem. Just be where you are. Grounded. Feel the rain on your skin.

Blues

Photocredit: Kwerfeldein
Photocredit: Kwerfeldein

So today I feel really crappy. Sad, depressed. About half is probably my provincial election results (which happened yesterday) and the other half is feeling sad and a bit afraid about what I remembered yesterday.

My poor six year old self. She’d begun being raped at five, and now had something horrible happen to her in the basement she tried to escape from (brave little amazon!).

She would have had no-one to go to for help. In those days,  a father could do anything – hit a child in public, publicly berate her, even had someone walked in on him catching me scrabbling up the stairs, in the abscence of some pretty suspicious blood or evidence,  they would have scolded me for not being a good girl and doing whatever it was my father wanted. Who am I kidding, it’s still like that now.

[possible trigger here, nothing graphic]

I’m afraid there’s more to come. Two big pieces. The second I haven’t mentioned so far, involves my father forcing me to kneel with my head down with his foot on my back while he forced me to agree with something he was saying, some rationalization about the abuse.

[end of trigger part]

I remember watching US politics, the way George Bush jr stole the election that one time and then it was close the second time, and all the truly evil things they were/are getting away with doing – patriot act human rights violations, torture at Abu Graib and Guantanamo bay, invading a country without a real reason other than oil (no WMD, remember). It took so long, and so much blatant evil to get that bastard kicked out, because he was rich and entrenched.  The Dixie Chicks almost had their career ruined for saying something most of the rest of the world already knew to be true – George Bush was a bad guy and someone to be ashamed of. Four years later, people are ready to kick him out, and they pick someone who seems mostly good, and whose election fights racism in a really powerful way,  to replace him. But really, why does it have to get that bad? People died (and die) to get unions for something as morally right and sensible as fair pay and safe working conditions. Women were beaten and killed over getting women the vote in some countries. Why does it have to be so hard to do good?

Well our current provincial leader and his buddies are not invading or torturing anyone, but they have lots of documented corruption, and their policy decisions are hurting people and the environment in severe and irrevocable ways, and they’re now entering their third term in office.  How can people be so stupid?! Is it denial? Perhaps it’s something like this: “It can’t be as bad as this, we voted for the guy. If things are this bad we’re in serious trouble. Best to believe the guy that tells you it ain’t so.”

We had a referendum and were going to reform the way we did voting, to make it fairer, a system chosen by a democratic grassroots assembly of citizens, the most hopeful and positive thing I’ve ever seen in politics in my lifetime, and I campaigned for it hard. The other side had no volunteers, no popular support, but spent a load of money on attack ads to make it seem scary and confusing to uninformed (and in some cases, stupid) voters and the thing didn’t pass.

Photocredit: Pandiyan
Photocredit: Pandiyan

I prayed for it to pass, I planted hopeful seeds and plants and burned candles on my altar with fervent if, I now realize, unfocussed prayers. When I found out it didn’t pass, something hopeful and Earth positive and good that surely was in the Gods’ plan and influence, I felt deeply abandoned. The message I get back, is that this will take time. Perhaps a setback is part of the eventual solution.

People are always slower than I am at spotting abusers, and implementing solutions. They eventually figure out I’m right, but it takes sooo long. This is part of being a survivor, I think. We know what an abuser looks like, in politics or in life and are often not believed at first. Even if not enough people are ready to believe yet, they will be. I hope it will not be too late.

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Mahatma Gandhi

….all human wisdom is summed up in these two words,–‘Wait and hope’.
Alexandre Dumas

Hunting down the fragments

After my success last week with the intrusive imagery, I decided this week to hunt down other pain in the ass residues of being a survivor that are persistent.

I have a fear of walking up stairs from basements. I manage to do it on a regular basis, in fact my bedroom is in the basement and my bathroom is on the main floor, so I go up the stairs at night frequently. However, pretty much every time I have to bat away a monster, a flashback fear that something is going to grab me and haul me back.

This week in therapy I went hunting to figure out what this is and eradicate it.

(Following may be triggering, but is not graphic)

So I’m in session doing stuff like talking about the fear, the feeling that someone is hovering right behind me, and trying to trace it back to the earliest I remember having this fear (I’m about 12) and where I think it came from. I don’t remember the basement of the first house we lived in, which is a red flag to me, since I remember the kitchen, front yard, side yard, front carport and living room. I also have no memory of the inside of my bedroom  there. Sound suspicious to you too?

Hunting something I’ve been batting away for years is a bit hard. It’s like trying to get inside a sweater made of clouds, you’re never really sure if the images or sensations are real. My therapist says, trust the body memory (the part of the memory that is sensation, that I do have, the sensation of being afraid, being on a stairs, and someone being behind me and dragging me back by the ankles. Also behind me is dark and in front of me is a lit doorway. I’m on the lower of two flights of stairs, near the landing. This is pretty much all I’m super sure of. Then the feelings come. I’m trying to get away, I’m running up the stairs to the landing where the door to the outside is. The door is partially open and I can see the light outside. As I’m sitting in the therapists office, my left toe and foot curl under like they’re retreating away from something – I moved my legs to avoid his hands and get free. I almost escaped, another sensation snaps into sharper focus, I can see the edge of the stair tread, I’m holding on with my hands to the top stair tread to resist being pulled back.

I’m less than 7 years old at this point, since that’s when we moved from this house.

Tonight, when I go up the stairs to the bathroom, instead of swatting the monster feeling away, I’m going to tell myself. “This is a physical memory of something that happened. You know what happened now. Thank you for holding this for me, body. Thank you for telling me. He had no right to hurt you. You’re safe now. ”

I’ll let you know how that works.

I put in a call to my older brother and got his machine. I’m going to ask him what the floor plan of the basement is. It will be awkward, since we don’t talk very often, but I’m going to try. He’s five years older than I so hopefully will remember something.

~Sword Dance Warrior

Rage

Now, probably some folks will think that with name like SwordDanceWarrior and a project like planning to dance on my fathers grave, I have no issues with expressing my anger. Quite the contrary.

I finally got in to see my therapist today and figured out the intrusive images of being abused by a woman. We stayed in the ‘I don’t know’ place with them and did some EMDR with the images. If you’ve never had EMDR before (I hadn’t), its a technique where you basically get distracted by a visual or kinesthetic stimulus while you’re paying attention to the intrusive image, flashback or whatever. The idea is that it makes your brain integrate it better and reduces the level of anxiety/emotion/gunk attached to it. It’s a bit like when you’re in therapy re-living some crappy thing that happened to you, but you have part of yourself watching and comforting or analysing or just being aware that you’re an adult and okay at the same time.

I’ve always thought that it was not fair to turn down the volume emotionally on a memory or flashback until I’d made meaning of it, but today I didn’t really care.

So my therapist sits in front of me and to the side and waves her fingers back and forth in front of me while I’m supposed to call up the intrusive images. She stopped and grounded me whenever I couldn’t focus on both at once. It worked a bit better when we tried the tapping method, where you cross your arms and tap one side and then the other. I couldn’t do the staying open to the image and at the same time look at her finger thing, but the tapping I could do.

Anyway, my point, rage.

I’m enraged at my mother. I’m angry at her for allying herself with my father yet again by not replying to my letter. It’s been a couple of months.  But instead of feeling my rage at her (I’m thinking I needed to maintain connection with her as a child, and she had a thing about anger – I was not to express even annoyance in her presence), I create an image of her hurting me instead.  Helpful, huh?

I’ve done this to myself before.

When I was about 20 my best friend got assaulted and narrowly escaped being abducted by a truly evil man who was a serial abductor/rapist. She escaped, thank Goddess, and thank herself for being a fierce and resourceful amazon, before many of the truly evil things happened to her that happened to the other women. This guy got caught and tried and it was a big media circus. He was also rightly sentenced as a dangerous offender, which I understand means they’re never letting him out.  It was all over tv and radio, announcers describing what had happened to my friend and what had almost happened to my friend.

I was angry, but I didn’t feel it. I was extremely stressed out, but my best friend was in hiding from the stinking media so I couldn’t talk to her, and besides she was in worse shape than me. I also couldn’t talk to other people about my connection with the situation to preserve her privacy. Instead I sort of hallucinated (I say sort-of, because I knew it wasn’t there, but it was still pretty damn real seeming) a guy hanging from a rope in my bathroom who talked to me saying he was going to kill me.  I’ve never experienced anything like that in real life, so it wasn’t a flashback. It was me projecting my rage, like a movie, in my bathroom, but having the man I wanted to kill threatening to kill me instead. It was terrifying. Crappy, eh?

A therapist finally figured it out for me. She said “You’re having revenge fantasies. You’re in a murderous rage.” This made sense. I figured out eventually that the sure-fire way to make these images go away was to say to myself ” I’m angry, I’m really angry” and to intellectually figure out what I might be angry about and say that to myself. “I’m angry at shithead rapist abductor for hurting my friend” “I’m angry at my father” etc… and the monsters (as I called them) just dissolved. The more I could feel the anger in the correct place, the less power these projections had. I eventually stopped having them.

Needless to say I’m not real open about having had these experiences. I also want to note that a boyfriend concerned about the monster experiences I told him about got me in to see a psychiatrist, who confirmed that I was a garden variety survivor, not coming down with a nasty case of schizophrenia, which is a relief.

I haven’t had them in so long, actually  that I’d kind of forgotten what they were like. I get a bit triggered by scary movies and such and sometimes have intrusive images, but not nearly as persistent (and disturbing) as these ones recently.

Labelling them as repressed rage against my mother feels right in my bones, and is frankly a bit of a relief. I’m too fricking old to remember another abuser. I don’t want to go through all that again. 

I am angry at my mother. She’s chosen shithead over me and she is so fucking clueless about what she’s missing. I’m quality daughter material. I’m a woman to be proud of birthing and she blew it. She’s a disappointment to me, again and again, stubbornly sitting down to the occasion. I repeat – I am enraged at my mother. I hate her. She betrayed me and she’s going to keep betraying me. She doesn’t deserve me as a daughter.

And while I’m on it, why the fuck isn’t my father dead already?!!! liver cancer 5 years ago with recurrences last year, necrotizing fasceitis, .4 blood alcohol, flail lung, chronic alcoholism, chronic heavy smoker, 68 years old, living in a town with a lot of air pollution. What is his problem? Die already!! I had a nice murder fantasy going on in my therapists office, where I go into his hospital room and remove whatever tubes or masks or whatever is keeping him going and bludgeon him to death.

I’m that angry.  

And this, as my friend Butterfly would say, is why you shouldn’t fuck kids. (Or fuck them over, in the case of my mother).

Obsessing about all the ways I’ve come out as an incest survivor, rather than sleeping, at 5:20 am

It’s 5:20 am and I can’t sleep.
I’m not one of those poor people who actually gets up at 5 am for work or the insane ones that get up at 5 am to do yoga or something.

My bedroom is hot, the comforter is too warm, my stomach is upset and I’m running over in my head all the people I’ve come out to in the last week or so. I’m having a cumulative sense of shame and fear about it, analyzing their reactions at the time and since, feeling afraid that my credibility has been damaged.

I really should get out more if I care so much what a few people think, some of whom I don’t even like. There’s nothing I can do about how others perceive me – I can only be a good, honest and reliable person and let the rest fall as it may. It’s hard to go out and be sociable when you feel crappy.

However, it’s important to me to be taken seriously. Having a history of being the scapegoat of my family has reinforced the necessity of making sure people don’t slot me into that role. I will not be blamed for having the normal effects of being assaulted. I feel like that has happened too much already.

At 5am what is it I’m worried about? I’m feeling less able to be honest on this blog, for fear someone I know will read. I have two non-cyber friends who have this URL, plus I my wife has occasionally read it when it’s left up on the screen. Since I’ve complained about her a bit, that’s kind of dodgy, but I let myself out of that one since she knows it’s anonymous and she’s really not that interested in my abuse stuff, so is unlikely to read much.

I think she’s worried I’ll fall apart. I did once, from her perspective, when we were living together in a shared house with some other people. We’d invited a new roommate to move in, someone I considered a friend. I knew she’d had problems controlling her anger and had been fired for yelling at colleagues on the job. I knew she had a violent fantasy life. I knew she had impulsivity around money and food. But I’d known her for years, she was a survivor, and I thought she’d be an ally in my home of 12 years. What was I thinking?

She moved in and left the living room filled with boxes and furniture for several weeks. She was bossy and cut me down. She started yelling at me and intimidating me when other people weren’t around. She was like living with my father again. I was terrified, I was triggered and because of that I couldn’t seem to access my amazon assertiveness or my brain to think of a way out of this.

For complicated reasons, one of my other housemates wanted me and my wife gone from the house, so I think she was secretly delighted I was so miserable. She would not consider kicking this woman out. I complained, again much more ineffectively than usual, at house meetings, but was not supported, perhaps because people interpreted my desperation and overreaction (I was triggered) as dishonesty or being high maintenance. My wife came home one day while this woman was in full swing standing over me and yelling at me, and took charge of making her stop. After that she believed me (why did she need to be shown?) but being my partner, was expected to be on my side anyway so didn’t have much influence.

It was right during the last time my father was seriously ill, about five years ago, and I was already at my wits end about that. It’s like all ability to be assertive, to stand up to this woman had been sucked out of me by that and I ended up living in fear, walking on eggshells. My housemates choosing this clearly belligerent and abusive woman over me knocked me flat with betrayal and shame.

I was ready to give in. I made a ‘date’ with the housemate who wanted me gone, to tell her we were moving out. She beat me to it, which surprised me a lot, by telling me first she was leaving. The balance of power in the house shifted with this, making it possible to force this woman out. The woman flatly refused to leave. Finally, my wife came to my defense, although she resented it deeply. Since the household was run as part of a coop, she told the woman that she and I would not be endorsing her for membership, which meant that she would be publicly embarrassed at the membership meeting by being an unwanted person who wouldn’t leave.

The woman left a couple of weeks later and during that time I went and stayed at the apartment of a friend of mine, another survivor. Because of our dog, and perhaps because she was mad at me, my wife stayed at home.

We were down two housemates and had worn out a third with all the fighting. It was really hard to find new ones, especially since we couldn’t honestly tell the new housemate that things were good at the house. We limped along for another year or so and then got our own place, which was much better.

With my father sick again (could he please DIE already and get it over with!) I’m back into feeling vulnerable and off-centre. I’m sure it scares her a bit too, waiting to see what will happen to me, needing me to hold it together since I earn a lot more than she does and we have a mortgage. I have held it together under a lot worse conditions, but I don’t know that I’m willing to pay that price again.

All I want is to be understood, to be validated by the fact that someone else sees me and doesn’t think I’m hopelessly damaged and embarrassing. I’m ashamed of things I know logically I shouldn’t be ashamed of.

When I told my chiropractor I had PTSD it went down like this:

Her: Something about not being in my body.
Me: Well I do tend toward dissociating a bit. I have PTSD and it’s part of it.
Her: (Concerned, awkward look) Do you take medication for that?
Me: {in my head: That’s a weird question. Surely other patients have had PTSD before, from car accidents or whatever. Is she trying to ask if I’m on psychiatric meds? Does that mean she thinks I’m really nuts? or does she just not know what PTSD is?} aloud: “No, I’ve never needed them.” [changes subject]

Here’s how the coming out at the work meeting went down as far as I can remember:

Me: [to guy with PTSD who runs a self-help CBT group for anxiety disorders] Do you know of any CBT programs specifically for PTSD?
Him: Well, there’s our website, have you seen it?
Me: Yes. I found it a bit high level, PTSD is a bit different from other anxiety disorders.
Him: Yes, I have PTSD, I know what you mean.
Me: Me too.
Stuff I don’t remember, with him saying his PTSD was from childhood abuse and me saying yeah, me too. Here’s where I imagine the ears perking up around the room with the people who are still drifting out.
Him: Are you looking for yourself or someone else?
Me: [Awkward] Well, I’m really well, but I’m getting to the point where I’d like to find some ways to help others and give back. [nobody think I’m defective please here!]
Him: Mentioning something about how there is some stuff with PTSD and CBT and I could do a literature search.
Another woman: Has anxiety too, involves self in conversation.

Now around the table I know that two manage a mental illness (depression I think, including the woman with the anxiety) and one has a daughter with anxiety. All have disclosed these facts during meetings, so you’d think this would be a normal, basic conversation to have. The meetings are somewhat adversarial (non-profits competing for funding) so maybe it’s just that I think at least one of them would try and find a way to use it to discredit me if she could.

Here’s another one:
Me: [talking to friend with intense history of mental illness] I’ve been blogging about the stuff with my dad dying.
Her: [not knowing much about blogs, that’s interesting, you should give me the url and I’ll check it out]
Me: (actually why did I say that, I don’t want to give her the URL) It’s helpful and supportive and I really like the writing I’m doing, like real essays and stories and song and poetry. [Changing topic]
Later as we’re saying goodbye:
Her: About your blog, you could send me the url and I could look at a poem or something. I’m not a therapist but I could look at it as your friend. [Why did she say that “I’m not a therapist”? I’m the one that was a big part of nursing her through a serious breakdown where she had to be hospitalized and she’s warning me against being overly self-disclosing or needy? ]( I realize as I write this that she was probably just disconcerted by me shifting the role between us, since I’m usually the normal okay one.)
Me: That’s not what I’m looking for, I just want to be honest about my life.

Maybe I’m afraid I’ll fall apart again. Listing up all those reasons why my dad should have died by now from cancer, or flesh eating disease or alcoholism made me think, yes, he really is going to die this time. I know I’ve been saying it, but it sunk in a little more. I’ve got no updated information about his health, and it seems victimy to just be waiting helplessly for him to die, like waiting for an earthquake that is predicted to be ‘the big one’.

Now, the wise part of myself would say – what would she say?
You are a good person and people will either see that or they won’t. There’s nothing you can do about it, so turn it over to the Goddess. You are powerless over other people and what they think. Stay in your body, trust your inner knowing and things will be all right. This is a big time for you, you don’t have to achieve anything but keeping going and nurturing yourself through this and putting one foot in front of the other. Eat well. Take your vitamins. Do your work. Slow down a little on taking over the world. Just do one thing and complete it. Listen to a relaxation recording. This is just the anxiety talking.

Running out of steam

I seem to have run out of steam.

My therapist is out of town and I accidentally missed last weeks appointment so I have no-one to debrief the yucky images that came up last time I had sex. I find myself not even really remembering them, which I don’t know how I feel about. I do sometimes have intrusive images that aren’t related to actual abuse, like when I replay images from scary movies in my head involuntarily.

My wife just doesn’t get it. Does anyone have a relationship with a non-survivor they think actually gets it? Over time, I’ve trained her to hug me and stroke my hair when I cry, but I’d really like to feel understood and valued.

I pre-paid for a bunch of acupuncture treatments. I’ve got about 8 left. I’d like to have them use them to treat my anxiety, but I don’t know how to ask. I mean I don’t have any classic anxiety disorder symptoms, and I don’t want to get into the child sexual abuse stuff. I’m just not sure how to ask for what I want without feeling hopelessly embarrassed, especially given the language difficulty (The two acupuncturists/TCM doctors speak English less than fluently.).

I’m not practising the guitar, or singing. I slept in till noon today. I’ve been stress eating enough that I’ve gained a pound, which is no big deal, but still a bit disheartening.

I don’t think I’m actually depressed, just a little anxious and frayed. Worn out by all the intensity lately, which, as I write this I’m thinking is probably normal and fine.

I feel like I need to stop. Just stop and nourish myself till I feel full. Hopefully I’ll figure out how to do that.

The train has stopped.

Runaway train

This morning I went for an hour long massage.

Photocredit: Cindy47452 on Flickr
Photocredit: Cindy47452 on Flickr - or is my life like this? This looks much more appealing...

I really like my massage therapist. I don’t see her that often, but she’s this nice, smart woman and we have lively conversations while she unknots me.

Today she commented on my back, how profoundly solid and unmovable with tension it was. I seem to be in a ‘coming out’ frame of mind lately, and so I said in the plain calm and collected (I’m just fine) voice I use when telling most people anything about the abuse “I’ve been under some stress. I’m a child sexual assault survivor, and my abuser, who is a relative, is dying. I expect I’ll be on high alert for the next year.” I still can’t believe I said it. Sometimes I’m excessively honest when I’m stressed or tired.

She said “I’m sorry.” and I changed the topic, saying “I’m trying to just be matter of fact about it.” Later on in the massage she was working on my neck from the front and I was starting to feel uncomfortable. I could have numbed out, but instead I said “I’m starting to get triggered, could you tell me what you’re doing?”. She removed her hands and said “sorry”. I said “no problem, I just need to know why you’re doing that? She said something about fascia, which helped,  and did it a little more, but moved on.

I did the “I’m a perfectly capable person and am not going to get all needy on you” thing and immediately started a conversation about politics.

I just want to be able to tell the truth about my life.

Yesterday I was in a meeting – I have a client who is a mental health agency, and all the people at the table were representing mental health agencies. We were talking about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which looks to be pretty effective, actually, for anxiety and depression mainly. Anyhow, there were these two guys from an anxiety disorders organization. One of them I’d met before and knew he had PTSD like me. At the end of the meeting, I asked him collegially if he knew of a specific CBT program for PTSD, we ended up getting into a conversation about it, with some of the other people in the room listening in, and couple involved in the conversation. During the conversation I outed myself as having my PTSD from child sexual assault. You have to understand this is a business environment where it is fine to disclose you’ve had mental health stuff, and I knew the health status of several people in the room. It went over just fine, with the sense that I’d made some allies, but was a little stressful. Sometimes I just do these brave things without thinking about it, and then afterwards wonder ‘what the hell was that?’ However, it’s usually something that I can stand behind, in retrospect.

I seem to be busting out. Last night I had the ‘our marriage is in trouble’ talk with my wife, and it went better than I thought it would. There’s something about being married, that makes it safer to talk about how dire things really are, since we both know we are too committed to make any hasty decisions.  We came up with a plan to fix things – both with some ideas to work on our non-sex life, and to find some things that are fun to do together that she can do with her injured foot. We also agreed that going back to couples counselling might be a good thing.

This morning before the massage, we did one thing we’d agree to do to work back into having a more regular sex life. Part of the problem is she’s too tired to have sex at night (and doesn’t feel like it) and I’m too spacey to have sex in the morning (and don’t feel like it). When we were first together the hormones take care of such trivial matters, but after eight years, there aint no hormones left.

I found out something I didn’t know before, the real reason why I don’t have sex in the morning.

My abuse happened late at night. I tend to prefer to have sex then, and sleep better afterward. It’s a wierd thing like, “now that the sex is over, it’s safe to sleep”. It’s not quite as creepy as it sounds, and for the most part, when I have sex at night, I can keep stray abuse images out of my head and concentrate on the here and now.

However, whenever I have sex in the morning, if it’s at all intimate or intense I end up crying or near tears. For years I’ve thought of it as being that I’m kind of raw in the morning, but now I don’t think so. This morning, I couldn’t keep the flashbacky stuff out of my head, but the unwanted intrusive images were not of my abuser, but of someone else. A woman.  I’m pretty sure the person I thought it was did not abuse me (please Goddess, no…), but the images were ghastly and intrusive. I managed to fend them off finally after a bit of a silent struggle and my wife ended up holding me as I cried. I didn’t tell her.

It’s like morning is safe time. I always feel good in the morning, raw yes, open yes, but more because it’s safe to be open and raw that out of anything raw.  This likely accounted for the brick-back I brought into the massage therapist an hour later.

It’s really going to piss me off if I was abused by more than one person. I’m not even completely sure who these images referred to, I’m used to just batting away flashback stuff during sex, like horseflies. “Yes, yes, you’re trying to terrify me, let’s think about something else. What was I doing again? Sex, right. Back to that.” Sex must be so simple for non-survivors. I can’t imagine it.

I was trying to come up with a title for this post and what came to me was ‘runaway train’. It feels like things are just progressing in my life just slightly ahead of me, gaining speed. No wonder my body is trying to put on the brakes. I don’t want to lose positive momentum, but I don’t want to go any faster. I’ll have to think on how to do that.

Photocredit: Jeff McCrory
Photocredit: Jeff McCrory Is my life like this?

Songs to dance on an abusers grave to

The concept of dancing on your abusers’ grave seems to have some resonance for survivors I’ve talked to. Not all of us are of Scottish heritage, or even interested in learning the sword dance or Ghillie Callum used for this purpose.

For those of you lucky enough to have dead abusers with graves ripe for dancing, I thought I’d provide a list of suggested songs. Perhaps between this and the comments we can come up with a nice long list.

  • Flinty Kind of Woman – Dar Williams – this upbeat country song tells the story of a bunch of upscale New England matrons garrotting an attempted child molester in a bog.
    “Going east of Mississippi got a flinty kind of woman And you don’t act smart and you don’t touch my children If the young man wants to see the sun go down” Here’s another sample (the words are great)
    “And by the “Welcome to New England” sign
    Got him with the fishing line
    In the dark smell of brine
    Betty said “This one is mine.”
    She is ruthless ”
    Here’s a link to the lyrics: http://darwilliams.net/music/tabs/flinty.html
  • Independence Day – Martina McBride – story from a grown child’s perspective of her mom burning down the house to kill herself and her batterer.
    The Chorus:
    “Let freedom ring,
    let the white dove sing
    let the whole world know that
    Today is a day of reckoning
    let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
    roll the stone away, let the guilty pay, its independence day.”
    Click here to watch the video
  • Concrete Angel – Another Martina McBride Song – more a grieving song about an abused child who died.
    “Through the wind and the rain,
    She stands hard as a stone in a world that she can’t rise above;
    But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place where she’s loved.
    Click here for full lyrics
    View video here
  • Goodbye Earl – Dixie Chicks – the story of two best friends who kill the battering spouse of one of the women after he disregards a restraint order and get away with it.
    Well she finally go the nerve to file for divorce, she let the law take it from there.  But Earl walked right through that restraining order, and put her in intensive care. Right away Mary Anne flew in from Atalnta, on a red eye midnight flight. She held Wanda’s hand as they worked out a plan and it didn’t take long to decide that Earl had to die.”
    Click here to watch the video – worth it to watch the gleeful dancing when he dies Celebrative and upbeat. Good for a grave-dancing.
  • Testimony by Ferron – not super overt, but about strength among women after sexual assault, very pretty.
    ” But by my life be I spirit
    And by my heart be I woman
    And by my eyes be I open
    And by my hands be I whole”
    Click here for full lyrics

I don’ t have any good incest survivor pride songs yet, but maybe you have one.

One’s own nature

Photocredit: Ricmcarthur
Photocredit: Ricmcarthur - "Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures."~Henry Ward Beeche

I made music last night with a guitarist I’m now working with. We worked on some covers and one original song from each of us.

I brought my most successful song, a song with no survivor content, about euphemisms for the word vagina/vulva. I’ve performed it many times, and gotten a lot of approval for it, so it’s ‘safe’.

I don’t really have any others that I like that aren’t about being a survivor. One of the hardest things for me about being an artist/songwriter/writer (not by any stretch my whole identity or even my job), is that that topics that have my passion are the ones that are at least coloured by my experiences as a survivor.

I believe it’s important work, to say the things that need to be said about being a survivor, in ways that are passionate or beautiful enough to overcome people’s discomfort with the topic and help them understand. However, it’s not easy work, and it exposes me when I share it.

It’s a bit like being a vocalist.

When I was in music school (A college program, I dropped out after first year) I found every one of the other vocalists in the bathroom crying at least once. It’s because using the voice as an instrument is so personal. Playing another instrument can be emotional, but the voice is one’s body, and there’s no separation between the self and the music if you’re doing it right.

My throat is still sore and I’ve got a wicked ear ache, but I was able to sing a bit.

This guy I’m collaborating with is great. He’s a good guitarist and seems passionate about it.  I like the songs he writes. He’s married, and I met him and his wife through some lesbian friends, one of whom is his ex. Since he’s still on good terms with her and has met my wife, I’m pretty confident that he’s fine about the lesbian thing, which is nice to have nailed down.

However, it’s a bit of a reach to sing the vagina song with him, let alone songs about being an incest survivor. Perhaps the ‘anyway‘ song that doesn’t mention it overtly. I really am going to have to learn to play the guitar.

It was harder than usual to find a picture to go with this post. What I found was incomplete somehow. I think that’s because I don’t understand what’s going on well enough to have a metaphor for it yet. Perhaps I’ll add another picture later when I do.

Pap test, anyone?

Sheila na gig - these are Goddess images honouring the sacredness of the doors of life. This one was found at Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire. Photocredit: Ben Grader
Sheila na gig - these are Goddess images honouring the sacredness of the doors of life. This one was found at Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire. Photocredit: Ben Grader

Okay, so I went bravely forth today on my quest to find a doctor to do a pap test. Like many survivors, I haven’t had a gyne exam in several years, in my case, about 8.  I haven’t had (or thankfully, needed) any other medical care during that time. I have recurrent yeast infections (or something that behaves like it) that I’ve learned to manage with home remedies.

As a childhood rape survivor and taxpayer, I believe (silly me!) that I have a right to medical care that respects my needs. I would like to have an appointment with a doctor who looks me in the eye when she talks to me, treats me as an equal, tells me what she’s going to do before she does it, answers all related questions fully and allows me to sit up while doing the internal exam. I would further like the impossibility of a doctor that can do all of the following in a warm, friendly, matter of fact manner that doesn’t make me feel like I’m crazy for needing any of the above.

I called my local incest counselling agency to ask for suggestions. The intake clinician called back to say that they don’t have a list of doctors and I should try my provincial medical association. I dutifully went to the website of the provincial medical association. As is typical, they are actually a doctors advocacy group, so they don’t have any info for patients looking for specialized medical care.

Then I began having fantasies about becoming a health care advocate for survivors – doing the calling around to find a doctor with a clue, accompanying survivors to medical appointments. What I really need is for someone to do that for me.

I did a bunch of internet searching on the issue. Yes, survivors avoiding gyne exams is a known and documented issue. It’s particularly bad for survivors who get pregnant and have to deal with all the intrusiveness and insensitivity that can happen. In my region, you can hire a doula, or birth support person, who can help with that at least. I wonder if I could hire a doula to come to my pap test appointment?

A research group in Saskatchewan has put together a guide for doctors on how to offer sensitive care to survivors. It’s good, but what I really want is a one page ‘survivor safety lecture’ on some nice authauritative medical association letterhead that says. “the patient who has handed this to you is a child sexual assault survivor. She/he would like the following accomodations in the care you provide to accomodate her/his condition”, with a bunch of check boxes for things survivors commonly want. Maybe with a paragraph at the top explaining how these practices, if selected by the patient,  are recommended care for patients who have been exposed to childhood sexual assault with a nice official medical association signoff.

I’ve mocked uf an Information Sheet for Gynecological Care Providers to use since I couldn’t find anything like it. I don’t know if I’ll use it, but you’re welcome to, if it’s helpful. The suggestions are based on the document quoted near the top.

My wife has said she’ll come to my appointment , if I can find a doctor.  Oh, and by the way, women family doctors are in short supply in Canada. Apparently over 150,000 people in my province can’t find a family doctor. It’s hardly a buyers market out there. I’ve been to a woman doctor who explained in the first session that she had a part time practice and was there only for basic medical care. I forget her exact words, but in essence, if I was the least bit high maintenance I should find another doctor, if I can. I had a problem with painful ears which turned out to be blocked eustacian tubes. She did a quick exam and sent me for hearing testing, when really all I needed was to gently clear my ears and apply moist heat.  The ear specialist was cold and basically told me I was making up not being able to hear well (my ears weren’t blocked that day) and when I figured out what I needed to do on my own using the internet, I wrote my doctor a letter of complaint for not having spotted this simple thing. She called me in to discuss the letter, which essentially was her being defensive and blaming and I left her office in tears. I haven’t had a family doctor since.

I’ve gone to the drop in clinics, which are easier to get an appointment at, but a doctor I didn’t have to explain things to every time would be a blessing.

I’ve given up for today, maybe for awhile. I can only take on so much.

Photcredit: Ric e Ette, title: Lost (Perdito)
Photcredit: Ric e Ette, title: Lost (Perdito)