When a Medical Treatment Triggered Memories of My Childhood Trauma
I’m struggling with the symptoms of a prolapse, which is when the walls of the vagina become lax. In fact, when I saw my surgeons for the results of my proctogram their exact words were “everything is coming down.” I do hope to share my story at various stages. This is not that post.
But that appointment does play a part. You see, it culminated in the surgeon I’d never met before telling me I would be fitted with a pessary, which is a device placed into the vagina to support the uterus, bladder or rectum. I told him I didn’t want this. I’d been told I’d need surgery. I stuck up for myself. But no. He thought a pessary was the way forward, and that’s what was to be done.
Ordinarily in this situation I’d feel disgruntled to say the least. Royally pissed off would be a more accurate description of my feelings when doctors steamroll me into things. This time I didn’t. This time was different. This time I was devastated. Completely and utterly devastated. I felt something inside me well up. Something I hadn’t felt for many many years. Something which I wasn’t ready for.
I told myself it was disappointment. I’d been hoping for a surgical fix. But yet again I had landed myself with a condition to be “managed” rather than cured. Something that would need long term treatment rather than an end date, a fix. I lamented this fact to my husband. He was sympathetic, but also confused. This was a non-surgical option, surely that was better? He had a point. So I saw my general practitioner. I asked questions. I looked at diagrams. I researched. The results were good. The pessary was less invasive. No recovery time. I may be able to cope with it for a long time and only need smaller surgery. The side effects were minimal. If it didn’t suit then surgery was still an option. I even spoke to women with a pessary. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. I feel I need to point out that for many women the pessary would be a wonderful option. But not for me.
For a while there I put it to the back of my mind. Then my letter arrived. My letter with the info on the pessary. My letter stating I would have my appointment for a pessary fitting “in due course.” I read that letter and I sobbed. I cried long forgotten tears. Once I started I just couldn’t stop. I think I sobbed all night. Quietly in bed. My back to my sleeping husband and wonderful baby. I broke my heart time and time again.
Eventually, in the dark, I picked up my phone and emailed my “nice” surgeon’s secretary. I wrote the words I wasn’t ready to speak. I wrote the words I didn’t even realize had been the problem. I spoke of a tragedy I thought I’d long since gotten over. I wrote and I hoped. I hoped for understanding. I hoped for compassion. I hoped for a new option.
Soon after I saw my general practitioner for an unrelated issue. He innocently inquired if I’d had my prolapse appointment yet. I think he was surprised when I broke down into a puddle of tears in his office. He almost cried himself when the words came tumbling out.
Fourteen. Virgin. Rape. Violated.
It was at that point I knew 100 percent I could not have the pessary. I could not, and would not, force myself to go through all those emotions again. After so many years of counseling, healing, regression and then finally progress, I wasn’t going to step back into the dark. My demons have been long locked away. I thought I’d gotten rid of them altogether. Clearly not. Clearly they still exist in the darkest depths of me. But that is where I intend them to stay.
I feel weak. I felt pathetic. I felt downright silly for allowing something from so long ago to affect my health today. But my GP didn’t. He understood. He understood that childhood trauma becomes engrained in your soul.
I was a child. Until that day in my GP office I’d never seen it like that. At 14 I’d felt like a grown up. I was independent. Strong. Fearless. But now, 15 years later, I finally see I was a child. That was a hard pill to swallow. So that’s where I am now. My GP has written to my surgeon stating he feels the pessary is not an option for me. My truth is out there, and now I’ve shared it with you.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard. I’m still struggling. I’ve dredged up a part of my past I never wanted to face again. But I’m glad I spoke those words. Because had I not I know I’d have ended up being railroaded into something that just wasn’t right. Not for me. And now I have a doctor to vouch for that.
So ladies, and gents, if you have a past experience that still impacts you today, something you dare not speak of, something which affects the way you may view medical examinations or treatment: I implore you, find someone you trust and let them know. Because they can and should help.
If you or a loved one are affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-0656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
Follow this journey on This Little Life of Mine.