Day 55: Naming my Fears about the Gynecologic Exam
I completed an exercise yesterday that I realized was kind of a warm-up to what I need to do today: untangle the fears I have related to the gynecologic exam.
- Are they realistic fears, or are they fears that you would be happier without?
- Where did the fears come from?
- Are they healthy to retain?
- How can you move past them?"
- I fear she and/or her staff will think I'm hysterical.
- I fear the exam will be painful.
- I fear my body might react with arousal during the exam.
- I fear they will not provide the best possible care because they will believe my PTSD is the only health issue present.
- I fear they will have negative opinions of me because I am out of shape and overweight, and this will compromise their clinical judgment.
- I fear I will slip into a full panic attack during the exam. It's the humiliation of it that I fear.
- I fear there will be gossip about me, even if they never mention me by name, they will nonetheless talk about me in judgmental terms (such as blaming me for my promiscuity, meaning they deem me unworthy of compassion for any complications resulting from my promiscuity).
- I fear there might be a health problem that will require further treatment.
- And, very oddly, I fear it will be no big deal at all. I will have no reaction to the physical exam. I fear a non-reaction because it will show that all of the anxiety I have expressed up to this point has not been real.
The health professionals involved with my care could have all kinds of insensitive, unhelpful, uncaring reactions in my presence or away from me. My fears about their behaviors come from my career. I see doctors and health care providers reacting to patients outside of their earshot all the time. They very often engage in the kinds of behaviors that I listed above. Even though these things are upsetting to me, these fears are also not healthy for me to retain. I need to let go of the shame I feel about people's judgments. People do this; and there's nothing I can do about it.
What I can do about all of this is keep moving ahead. Access health care and follow up. If I don't get through the full appointment 10 days from now, that's OK. I can schedule another one.
I can talk to the doctor about experiencing arousal. I might only need to hear from her that she will respond appropriately. By that, I mean she will stop touching me. I guess we'll need to define our terms about what arousal is like for me. I know there will be lubrication, that's healthy and normal. But, anything beyond that will be the boundary I will need to keep. (I need to put this in my appointment plan.)
About the last fear, I need to let go of my internal anger about how I react to things. I need to get beyond the programming from my childhood about not drawing attention to myself, or feeling ashamed of showing any feelings. I am not responsible for providing any specific reaction that will make the health care providers more comfortable. My feelings are paramount in this situation. I need to be OK with that.