Day 51: The Gynecologist Consultation
FinallyHere gave me a miraculous insight today: although the experience was difficult, I was able to describe what happened, which means I remained present! I'm so grateful to you, FinallyHere, for pointing that out to me!
I made it through the appointment today. My heart was racing throughout the appointment and I was dizzy at first. I used the breathing techniques, and tried to be as open as possible to let the doctor know how I was doing. She was very warm in her manner and tone, her eyes shone with compassion, and it convinced me she's kind and caring. I was sick to my stomach before, during, and for about two hours afterward. But afterwards I felt incredibly relieved as well.
It was scary, but not terrifying. It was difficult, but not awful.
As I approached the clinic I paused in the hallway and considered backing out. I felt dizzy and had to hold myself up by leaning against the wall. I thought for sure I was going to throw up right there on the floor. But, as that sensation was building up in the back of my throat, two things went through my mind: (1) breath out slowly; and, (2) Pandy's friends are in my pocket and they're telling me I can get through this. The hallway was empty. No one came or went. It helped that no one saw me.
I took a few breaths and went into the clinic. I wasn't sure if the staff would know about my history. I said I had an appointment and they asked if it was for a checkup. I wasn't sure how to respond. I said, "Not today. Just a conversation." They seemed unbothered by that answer and gave me the paperwork to fill out.
As always, I struggled with certain parts of the paperwork. Where it asks about sexual functioning, for example, I don't know what to put. No, I don't think my sexual functioning is healthy. Do I want to talk about it? I don't think I want to mark on my chart that I want to talk about it. I don't enjoy sex anymore. I can't imagine having that conversation with a doctor!! For me, of all people I can't imagine talking about that subject with a gynecologist.
Do people talk about that subject with their gynecologists? Is that common?
They brought me back and into an exam room. I paused in the doorway and felt a constricted scream in the back of my throat. I stood there for a second looking around and taking in the surroundings. For about 5 seconds I felt trapped. I could see myself laying on that exam bed with my eyes squeezed shut. I could see the white sheet over my knees and feel the stabbing pain.
I grabbed the doorway and took another couple breaths. The medical assistant (MA) sat down and looked at me. I'm sure she could see I was hesitant. But, I closed my hand into a tight fist, digging my nails into my palm. The pain helped me pull out of the flashback.
I set my purse and coat on the exam bed and thought about the crinkling of the paper. The tearing sound it made when my body was shoved upward.I looked out the window and told myself, "I'm not there. It's not happening. I'm here; and here is safe." Thank goodness there was a window. The room where I was r---- had no window.
This room was light, with light colors. It wasn't gray like the room where the r--- happened.
I took a few more breaths and then looked at the MA. I don't know how long I looked out the window. It might have only been 10 seconds. I think that's the case because she started asking questions without seeming to notice my delay. I answered her questions. There seemed to be hundreds of questions. I'm sure it was more like twenty.
She took my blood pressure and pulse. My heart rate was 90. I had been trying to slow it down and I'm pretty sure it slowed down a lot before she took it. But, it was still moving pretty good for a resting rate. My normal resting rate is between 70 and 75.
As we sat there I got increasingly nervous about the doctor coming in. I kept telling myself not to think about it. Not to be afraid of the door opening. The MA finished with me and left to get the doctor. She was in the hallway and came right in when the MA opened the door. I'm glad I didn't sit in the room alone, waiting for her, waiting for the door to open.
She shook my hand and apologized for hers being cold. She said my hands were quite warm. I said my racing heart was helping with that. We were able to both chuckle at that.
She sat down and we had a long talk. It actually took longer than I had expected. She visited with me for about an hour, maybe longer. She was more open with me than she would be with patients typically, she said. She told me a fair bit about herself and her philosophy as a doctor. We talked politics and the health care system. She did a lot to help put me at ease so I could answer her questions. As we talked I felt less and less afraid; I felt more in my body and in the room with her as the hour went by.
She didn't probe into my SA history, which was a big relief. She said she really appreciated the letter I gave her detailing my history. And, I was able to add a couple experiences that weren't on the list (being held down while being examined and having my health information privacy violated at work). These were important, it turned out. We made several decisions based on these pieces of information.
She arranged for a number of lab tests, which I expected would be necessary. She let me know, because of my history, I will require annual exams (even though I have had a hysterectomy). There's more to my history I need to tell her that will affirm this further, but I didn't get into that with her today.
I told her I'm committed to taking care of my health, to caring for myself. So, if that's what I need, that's what I'll do.
We agreed the initial exam appointment to be in two weeks. Depending on what she finds, we'll see what is required after that. We are going to talk about changing my treatment for my chronic condition. So, it's possible I will see her every 6 to 12 weeks for a while until that's stabilized.
She walked me out to the lobby and stood with me for a few minutes while I made the next appointment. She shook my hand and thanked me. Her hand shake was warm and felt safe to me. It felt very genuine, like she appreciated me coming to see her. I didn't sense at all that I was a bother to her. I sensed that she wants to help me.
It was a great comfort today knowing the people I have gotten to know here in Pandy's were in my pocket.
Thank you all for that. Your voices were there!
Beyond me and my needs, there is something cool happening through this process.
The doctor is going to go to lunch with my therapist. They are talking about how to work collaboratively and coordinate their care for other SA patients. It's an interprofessional approach. Because of what I do for a living, words cannot convey how pleased I am about this! Something really good, that matters to me very deeply, could come from this. I'm really lucky to have come across these two practitioners!
After the appointment I went to work. I realized I needed the distraction of work; because when I am alone and quiet I am much more likely to have a full blown panic attack.
Toward the end of the day one of my co-workers asked if I was OK. She said I seemed like I was drifting out every so often. My gaze would shift away and my face would fall, like I was afraid of something.
I was stunned.
But, she spends almost eight hours a day with me. We work closely together. Of course she'd notice something being off. She said it was subtle, but she could tell something was bothering me. I said I have something difficult going on that's personal. She said she didn't expect me to tell her. She just wanted to know if I was OK. I said with some obvious doubt in my voice, "yes, I'm OK . . . but in some ways I'm not." She said she understood and said she'd be OK with me telling her what's going on if I wanted to do that. I said I appreciated it and might tell her at some point. I said that I do need to learn how to talk about what I'm going through.
We left it at that.
So, a new countdown begins tonight. On Feb. 13 I will have the physical exam.