Day 114: A Doctor Touched Me Today
I work with physicians every day. I spend a lot of time around them in settings outside of clinics and hospitals in meetings. In these settings they are just co-workers. They aren't wearing lab coats. They're just people who want to make the world a better place. We work toward that purpose with great enthusiasm. I have been in my field of work for 15 years, but I have never quite connected with my colleagues on a personal level - except once that turned out disastrous because of a betrayal of my trust.
My workplaces have been hostile, unstable, and even borderline criminal. I am starting to unpack how I ended up at such places in light of my abuse history.
As I have written recently, I changed jobs last July with the vigorous intent of working someplace that valued kindness and taking care of its people. I found that place, but not long after arriving I began to experience extreme agitation. And, as I have said before, this contributed to me stepping onto the healing pathway.
Not only has this new workplace contributed to awakening my readiness to heal, and my readiness to access health care, it has awakened my readiness to connect with other human beings.
I have been living with a wrist brace on my left arm for the last few days. About five or six weeks ago my wrist started hurting. The pain became severe enough that I switched to using my nondominant hand. Then, I realized I probably had carpal tunnel. I arranged for an analysis of my workstation and I bought a wrist brace to tide me over.
A few times people have asked me what happened and I have said, "Oh it's nothing. I'm one of those people who puts a bandaid on a paper cut." They always laugh. It's great to disarm and distract them because they're doctors. They can't help themselve from asking what's up with you. But, when I say this they usually stop asking questions.
Well, my disarming humor (no pun intended about my wrist) didn't work as always on one of my colleagues today. I had a one-on-one meeting with one of them. She's someone I like really well and enjoy working with. We're pretty friendly with one another, which means I'm pretty comfortable with her. I don't mean that we're actually friends. Though, that might change after today.
Toward the end of our meeting she asked what was going on with my hand. She asked, "Do you have carpal tunnell?" I gave my canned response and she chuckled but then asked her question again. I said I didn't know what was wrong with it. We turned back to the subject of our meeting and I was engrossed with the issue we were meeting about. But she asked if she could examine my wrist. I didn't want to display my nervousness and I realized she was only going to touch my wrist. So, I decided to allow it.
Honestly, it didn't feel like a big deal because I was just in her office, not an exam room. We were talking about a different topic entirely. So I kept talking about our meeting topic and she examined my wrist. She asked if I would let her do a release on my wrist (which is a manipulation procedure to get the muscles to relax). I didn't give it a second thought. I wanted to finish with what I was saying so I just said, "yes." She held my hand and wrist in her hands for a good five minutes working on the soft tissue and then adjusting it. And, it helped relieve the pain. When she was done she said to ice it and to let her know how I'm doing tomorrow. I agreed and we finished our meeting.
As I was walking back to my office I realized I didn't panic when she was touching me. I was nervous, but I didn't dissociate. I felt OK. In fact, I felt good. I had less pain and someone touched me in a safe, comforting way.
When I had this realization I felt immediately proud and excited. I was elated.
After a time in my office my wrist went back to hurting. I had to put the brace back on in order to keep working. I had a training meeting at that point. As it turned out, she was in that same meeting. After the meeting she asked when the pain returned. She said she could tell I was pretty uncomfortable because I was unconsciously cradling my arm. I wasn't aware I had done that. She asked if I wanted her to look me over and figure out what's going on.
At that moment I did become anxious. I knew that would mean more of an exam. My immediate internal reaction was to come up with something to convince her it wasn't necessary. Something like, "Oh, that's very kind. I appreciate that. I already have a doctor appointment to get it checked out." Or, "I have to get to a meeting right now. Maybe another time. Not to worry, though, I have an appointment to get it diagnosed." -- the appointment part would have been a lie.
Then I heard the voices here in Pandys who would encourage and support me. I knew I could choose to say no, or I could choose to take another healing step. I also thought about telling this to my therapist. I thought about my recent commitment to honesty and to allowing myself to be vulnerable. I thought about the fact that I like this colleague and could possibly develop a friendship with her if I let her in.
So, I said, "Can we talk about this privately?"
She agreed and we arranged to meet at the end of the day.
She came to my office, which helped me a great deal. I felt less anxious in my own space.
I decided to tell her the whole deal with me. That I was r* and molested as a child, I was r* by a gynecologist. I wanted to accept her offer of help but let her know I have certain needs because of my fear of doctors. When she came in I felt immediately dizzy and short of breath. She shut my door and I stood behind my desk for a moment holding my stomach, breathing slowly and deeply.
She asked if I was OK and I said I was nervous because of what I needed to talk about. I asked her if she minded me sharing something personal that would explain how I was feeling. She said she didn't mind and she sat back to listen.
It took me three or four tries to find the words. I started and stopped. I looked out my office window. I stammerd. Eventually, I said, "I'm afraid of doctors."
She said she was sorry and asked if she had caused me anxiety by touching me earlier. I told her that I was amazed how OK I was with her touching me. I said that was the reason I agreed to have this conversation. I said her touch felt safe to me. I told her this was a really big moment for me. She then thanked me for sharing this with her and said this is why she's a doctor. She seemed deeply moved and it felt like a powerful moment for both of us.
I went on to say, "I want to explain why I'm afraid of doctors." She sat back again, giving me the space and her time to listen. I explained my history and she again offered condolences.
We talked for about 45 minutes. She asked if she could ask questions and I said it was OK. I said if something was too difficult I would let her know. When we were done talking about my history she asked if I would allow her to work on my neck and back. She said there is a lot she can do to help with my anxiety symptoms if I felt comfortable. She said I could come see her in clinic and she'd work on my spinal and neck structures, which would help with my wrist.
I decided I wanted to do this. I want to have less pain and to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. I told her I want to try. We agreed to set up a time and I could keep the appointment or not. It would be completely OK if I didn't. She would understand.
She then asked if she could check out my neck and shoulders to see if the problem with my wrist was what she thought it might be. She explained it would only take a few seconds. She told me what she would do. She said she wouldn't touch me until I said I was ready.
I felt completely safe with her in that moment. I felt open and comfortable. So, I agreed. She did as she said she would and it was fine. She confirmed her suspicion about my neck and shoulder being the cause of my wrist problem. She said it's likely the anxiety I carry is causing a number of problems. Then she listed things and asked if I experience them. She was correct every time. She said she can help me with it and it will help me with my anxiety as well as the physical symptoms.
She didn't come across as at all judgmental. She came across as caring and helpful.
A doctor touched me today and I am fine. I'm really fine. The therapy and the healing work are leading to genuine progress. I know I'll be scared to let her treat me. But, I am doing better. I can see that I'm doing better.