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Childhood Overcoming Flashbacks and Feelings of Violation during Medical Examinations

GCH

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A bit of background, I was sexually molestered between the ages of 7 and 11 by my babysitter. He was a close friends older brother (18 when he started looking after me) and at the time he was the only person I was able to be left with as I missed mum and dad so much but because I knew him, I felt more comfortable around him. I never told anyone about what he would do to me and make me do to him but turn the clock forward to when I was 25 and things got out of control. I was admitted to hospital and stayed there for 4 months where I was diagnosed with CPTSD. One of the worst, but oddly the best times of my life - being surrounded by people who understood, who didn’t get annoyed when you were having a down day, a place I felt safe in. I still see my physiatrist every 4-6 months and she’s been a great help. I’m grateful for being able to get the help as I know so many are not. However I’ve stopped seeing my therapist which is possibly not the best idea.

Anyway, I digress. Today I needed to have an internal ultrasound. I was bricking it. I didn’t really want it but I knew I needed to have it to see what was going on but that didn’t stop me being terrified. I have huge trust issues and it takes me months to trust anyone, let alone anyone in an intimate setting which I suppose this was. As soon as I entered that room I froze, shaking and crying uncontrollably. It didn’t help that there was another person in there (as well as the sonograhpher). That alone freaked me out. The lady said she couldn’t leave as she was the chaperone for the person doing the ultrasound. I get that, but I hadn’t been told so my brain went into overdrive. My mum was there thankfully and she managed to get me onto the bed (with a lot of persuasion and encouragement). However once the scan was finally over I collapsed to the floor where I had another flashback. I honestly thought I was getting passed having them, and especially not this bad. I feel completely deflated and feel slightly violated again. I know it was all done for medical purposes and they weren’t there to hurt me but I can’t stop this feeling. My brain keeps reliving everything and has done all afternoon. Why is this happening when I felt like I was moving forward? I had a smear a few months back which a similar thing happened but a nurse who had known me since I was 11 did it so I didn’t feel as violated. Is that normal? I don’t know what to do, I feel like Im not as far on as I thought and that I’ll never be able to have an intimate test where I feel not only safe, but comfortable.
 
I don’t know what to do, I feel like Im not as far on as I thought and that I’ll never be able to have an intimate test where I feel not only safe, but comfortable.
Ever gone to a trauma-patient-focused doc?

OB/Gyns & Dentists are the most common to run these practices, but some proctologists, GI, ENTs, & other specialities also either center their practice on patients with trauma histories, or have done advanced trainings / volunteer with victims groups, & similar, and welcome/encourage patients with trauma histories.

I went to my first one toooootally on accident, and wow. Talk about raising the bar! Ever since? I intentionally seek them out. Amaaaaazing standards of care.

Why is this happening when I felt like I was moving forward?
Because learning to manage PTSD & processing trauma? Is not like learning how to read or do math. It’s not linear. It’s a survival mechanism that’s gotten a bit stuck, but. is. still. trying. it’s. BEST. to. save. your. life.

That means, sometimes, we alert to a threat where there isn’t one. Triggers & Stressors, Panic Attacks & Anxiety Attacks, Flashbacks & Intrusive thoughts? Getting flooded? Happen sometimes.

Just because a moment is brutal? Doesn’t mean you’re not moving forward, and making progress. It just means you have PTSD.
 
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I had my last smear at a clinic for survivors of sexual violence. Do you have something similar?
What they did is: a psychologist and a nurse met with me first and went through my care plan with me. I had written (as they encourage this) a plan of how I wanted the event to go (where I wanted people to stand, what position I wanted to be in, what I wanted said and not said, etc). And they asked questions about dissassociation and emotional regulation and words to say etc. So that we were all fully informed of what would happen and what too much for me looks like.

If a clinic like that isn't available, my advice is to form a care plan for yourself and talk that through with whoever is doing the procedure. You are in control and you get to say what happens to your body when and how. And you can stop the procedure at any point you wish.

Things like:
Asking who will be in the room
Can you insert equipment yourself?
Can you see the equipment before it is used?
What size equipment will be used and can you pick the size?
Will lube be used?
Can you clean yourself afterwards and what does that look like?
Where will people stand?
Can the people doing the procedure talk through what they are doing before they do it and during it?

Etc etc etc

Those questions above are based on what triggers me. Someone inserting something whilst pretending they are not and distracting me with questions about holidays and the weather: triggering for me. Tell me what you are doing instead. Having lube on me is triggering and I need it off me asap so I need to clean myself thoroughly before putting my clothes back on.

So, what things will help you?
You don't need to explain your trauma to the people , you can set out and take control ofbthe procedure though. It really really helps.
 
I'm so sorry that sounds like a horrendous experience.

Practically, the best thing I've ever done is learn to start saying 'I apologise ,I have CPTSD which is very active in this environment'. So far I've used it twice , and both times the people have been very understanding/ aware and did their best to help me access the appointment and adapt where they can. I've tried to reassure myself that I have some control now, I'm allowed to say no/ stop or ask to pause. I'm allowed to walk out.

Progress I think is going to look different in comparison to people without complex trauma. It's called complex for a reason... It does weird stuff non of us can always anticipate/ manage. Being terrified but turning up I'd count as a decent win. I had a dentist appointment, the first in years. I turned up, smelt the antiseptic smell and immediately turned round and walked back out in a dissociative panic. I was gutted and spent a long time punishing myself...but I turned up, I tried, I can try again, and again and again. Progress is all the little steps too
 
thank you for your responses. I’m UK based so I’m not sure we have trauma-focused- patient docs. I’ll definitely look into it though as I didn’t know there was such a thing! We have clinics for survivors of sexual abuse but I’m not sure they can offer check ups. Again, something to look into!

Writing down a care plan is definitely worth giving a go. Anything to help the processes go a little bit more smoothly.

I think we all, maybe just me, get stuck in the sense of recovery is linear, and we forget that that doesn’t always happen, and that’s ok. Celebrating the little things is sometimes more important.

You guys have been a huge help, your advice and support is something I really appreciate.
 
Yeah, it's totally destabilising and upsetting to have a set back like that. And so frustrating that things aren't linear.

I suppose it's acknowledging that at certain times some things will trigger more than other times? I don't know if you have additional stress in your life at the moment that is making these triggers more likely?
And maybe at times when life is less stressful, these intimate medical things are easier. And will be easier again in the future.
 
ALL clinics and clinical situations are hellish for me. No ifs and's or but's. Dentist doubly so because of possible restricted breathing.

But those visits are nessecary.

So? Find a way.... Find a way through them. For me - benzo's. Get's me through the appointment, out the door and on my way. It's not a bad thing - it's just how it is. Yes there is still whatever to deal wiht after and tomorrow but - I get through my appointments - get home - and start mitigating for tomorrow.

Meds are not a bad thing unless they are abused. Meds can make it easier to get through things you have to do that put your PTSD over the edge.....
 
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