Day 96: Deepening Understanding of Doctor Fear **trigger warning**
My homework from my therapist is a continuance of the 50 statements exercise. When she gave me the 50 statements assignment I wanted to focus on my thoughts about doctors. I am sure these thoughts reflect ideas I have about other areas of my life. However, I might end up redoing this whole exercise with a different focus (such as sexual abuse or neglect). We'll see where this goes.
The assignment was for me to select the 15 most important statements and write 6-7 sentences about each. In no particular order, but numbered so I can keep track of the statements:
1. I don’t like being under their control . . . doctors or any other healthcare provider.
Throughout my life, it seemed if anyone was touching me, they were hurting me. When they were touching me they had control over me. I was frozen. I was an object. I was a stone. When doctors touch you, you’re expected to do what they say, to lay still, to have no reaction, just like with my abusers. They get to touch me however they want and I have to just lay there and take it.
2. I don’t like being judged by them.
They form judgments about you that determine what will happen. If they decide you’re hysterical, then you don’t get the help you need. If they think you’re exaggerating, they don’t recognize what is happening to you. If they think you just want attention, they don’t hear what is being said. They judge you and then they can’t see or hear you. Their judgment makes you invisible.
3. I don’t trust them.
Because of what I just said. I don’t trust them because I’m invisible to them. I’m a chart. I’m a problem. I’m a train wreck. They objectify patients. They oversimplify patients. Providing interventions is what they do and to them the work is about how doing interventions makes them feel, instead of how it makes you (the patient) feel.
4. Shame is admitting to feeling shame.
You cannot admit to feeling shame as a general rule in our society. Even people who have done something truly awful are expected to deny their shame. Our system is set up to celebrate and encourage that denial. So, if the culpable cannot express shame, then the victims certainly cannot feel it. Our society is completely two-faced about this. If you are victimized, everyone wants to know what you did to put yourself at risk. They make your victimization your shame instead of the abusers’ shame.
5. Shame is showing who I am on the inside.
I am in pain on the inside. Showing pain is shameful. It’s OK to have physical pain. Society allows that, has compassion for it. People will sign your cast, but they will do just about anything not to see your emotional wounds.
6. Shame is anyone else’s condescending predictions about why I do any of the things I do.
- “People go through this sort of thing at your age.”
- "You just started coughing because you were losing."
- "If I take you to the doctor there had better be something wrong.”
- "She makes it out to be much more than it was. She just wants attention."
- “This must be your first child.”
- “If you really had that serious of a stricture, you’d have a lot worse problems than you do.”
- “I should inseminate you now because you’ll regret not having children.”
- “It’s just a bump on the head.”
- “I don’t care how much blood there was. You’re fine to go to school.”
Again, this is our society. If you go to the doctor when there isn’t something serious wrong, you are deemed a “hypochondriac.” It is better to be seriously sick than to be given this label. It is nearly impossible to overcome the label once assigned. I have heard many conversations about hypochondriac patients. Additionally, women are more often given this label. The bias is so strong that women generally have to first disprove “hysteria” before any other diagnosis can be considered. My years in my line of work have done me no favors in terms of being so thoroughly exposed to how health professionals are taught to think.
8. Shame is about doing anything that shows a lack of confidence, surety, or strength.
I was very quiet and withdrawn as a child. I didn’t play with or talk to other kids at school. I was just in my head. I didn’t understand other kids. The world inside my mind was far more interesting and less confusing. Other kids just didn’t make sense to me. Because of this ‘shyness’ I was viewed as weird or lacking confidence. I was a target. Additionally, I was very small, which made me even more of a target. I was bullied many, many times. I had to learn to fight violently to get people to leave me alone. They had to see that I was willing to severely injure them in order to make them leave me alone. Eventually, I learned to smile at people and ask them questions about themselves. Once I learned that (and I grew 10 inches) the bullying stopped. I also learned to spend time with people, to act like a friend. But, I never really had feelings for them.
9. Shame is about being predictable, responding as expected, having the usual problems but thinking they matter.
I’m not sure why, but one of the things I hate most of all is when someone dismisses my experience. “Oh, you’re just cranky because you didn’t get enough sleep.” Or, “you must be PMS-ing.” If someone says I’m going through something because I’m at that age (I heard that one a lot as a kid), I want to throttle them. So, if I can’t get past this perception expressed by someone else that something I’m experiencing is genuine, then I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed for letting them see that I was bothered.
I never want people to know something is bothering me.
10. Joy helps me forget.
Joy is the main reason I survived. Joy helps me set aside thoughts of ending my life. I know, without a doubt, I can have fun. There will be something to make me smile tomorrow or the next day. Furthermore, by focusing on the joy, I forget the sorrow. I don’t know how to explain this, but I am able to scrub painful memories by replacing them with happy ones. I can forget what happened by doing something riotous.
11. It sickens me that I didn’t understand what happened to me when I was raped by the doctor, that I accepted him hurting me because it was the “usual thing.” It’s what always happened.
When people ask why I didn’t report my answer is simple, it’s because I didn’t recognize what happened to me was wrong. I don’t know about the first rape, though. Because I did tell. I told and the reaction was more harmful to me than the rape itself. I think I was taken to the doctor. I believe this because I remember being given a medicine that had to be inserted down there. I remember screaming and being completely terrified. I fought with everything I had but I wasn’t able to stop it from happening. I didn’t fight the rape because I didn’t understand what was happening. But, I did fight the treatment afterward. Somehow, after the multiple sexual assaults I endured subsequent to the first rape I just accepted that sexual abuse happens. When the doctor raped me I didn’t tell anyone. Anyone at all! Not for years and years. I didn’t even realize it was rape. I didn't tell about my step-father either. It was my sister's reporting to caused my sexual abuse to come to light.
12. Trouble is a good outlet, especially when it’s caused by someone else and I am simply responding.
I wonder now if I kept working at hostile workplaces because trouble is a good outlet for me. It distracts me. It focuses me. It keeps my defense skills sharp. It gives me an outlet I can justify. I can respond in defensive ways when I am reacting to someone else’s bad behavior. It is an outlet for my stored up anger.
13. No matter how much I realize what I’m feeling isn’t real, I can’t shut it off. And, part of me doesn’t want to shut it off. Part of me wants to let the rage come to the surface. Part of me wants to just be real. If I shred myself I will be real.
I am so full of rage I feel like it’s the only thing that’s real inside of me. Or, rather, it’s more like 80% of what’s in there. I know I have other feelings too. I spent a lot of energy contending with the rage, finding outlets, controlling it, quieting it. So often I want to be violent. I want to crash my car. I want to run someone over. I want to shoot someone. I love the idea of carrying a gun so when the moment comes, when it’s time to defend myself or someone else, I would have a reason to use the gun and experience the ultimate expression of rage. I love those moments when someone is being belligerent and I am the one who steps up into them. I can use my wits to disarm them. I can embarrass them and make them look foolish. It’s a form of being violent using words to hurt their self-esteem. And, I feel justified because they were out of line. Other people view it as heroic.
14. This is the pathway to my destruction. Not the doctor, but letting myself go into the dark space inside. Going to the doctor sends me into the dark space. I have only ever been harmed by going into that place. I makes me want to be harmed, to make my outside look like my inside, make my outside feel like my inside.
I did self-injure during the time coming up to the doctor appointment. Sometimes I do this consciously, and other times unconsciously. When I am experiencing the emotions I have stored up inside, when they make their way to the surface, I can’t cope with them. I have no outlet. I also become incredibly angry because my appearance does not match my reality. When I injure myself my appearance does match my reality.
15. Shame is seeking help only to learn later I didn’t need it. That’s probably the biggest shame!
I live in fear of this all the time. You go to the doctor and they find nothing wrong. This proves you’re faking, you’re a hypochondriac, and you’re just seeking attention. You go to therapy because you’re bored and listless, but you think your problems are a big deal. This shame is unbearable to me.