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To the Woman at the Pharmacy Who Brought Me Back When I Was Triggered

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Colposcopy. I thought I could handle this alone. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. After a hard year of therapy working through rape, sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I wanted to feel “normal.”

• What is PTSD?

I showed up to find out it was probable I had uterine cancer and that my day was going to be very different than I thought. I explained to my new doctor my past and the PTSD, but my words fell upon her deaf ears. Due to scar tissue, what was a very uncomfortable procedure turned into literally having my cervix and uterus ripped open — no meds, no warning. I tried climbing off the table with the instruments still in place. I had a flashback, in which I lost my ability to speak, on top of the trauma. To me, it was worse than being raped.

I still had to get pain meds. Since it was a narcotic, I had to take the prescription in person. At this point, I was like an animal who chewed her own foot off to get out of the trap. Triggered and traumatized, I stood terrified and bawling waiting for my number to be called.

I walked up and said “I have to tell you more about myself than I want to. I’m a rape survivor, I have PTSD and I’ve just been something incredibly painful and traumatic. I’m triggered and terrified of everyone and need to be away from people. Please rush this order to I can get away from here and go home so I can feel safe.”

“Look at me,” you said. “Stay here with me. Stay at my window until your meds are ready so that way you only have to look at me. Just stay focused on me and I’ll will help you.” You talked me through every step you were doing. You put your hand on mine when I was leaving and said, “My heart is with you.” I didn’t even get your name but I think it was Joanna. That moment of kindness soothed me. It brought me back to my own humanity.

You were a woman in a white coat, just like she was. I will never forget either of you.

Originally published: March 24, 2016
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