My SAAY 4

 

Jeannie is a sexual violence program advocate at 2nd Chance. She likes boots, her truck, Pokemon hunting, candy, and has a fierce determination to help those who have been victimized transition into warriors.

 

Note from Jeannie: So, I haven’t written a blog since, like MySpace.   Good luck to me and here’s to hoping I don’t use obnoxious amounts of bad grammar.

 

Becoming a Warrior for Medical Care (and Self Care) after Sexual Violence Trauma

I refer to myself as a girl with a hard backstory. In a movie you sometimes need the backstory. Maybe in this blog you need some backstory. If it traumatizes you to read about someone else’s hard back story please scroll past the next section.

Trigger warning: Sexual Violence, I hate when trigger warnings have triggers in them! Will someone please fix that?

At age three, I began experiencing sexual violence perpetrated by my biological father. The violence escalated until it became rape and sodomy. At 13, a friend pushed me to speak up and I became a ward of the courts. I had physical damage that anyone with that a young body that has experienced rape and sodomy would.

In the last few years, I have had to repeat some reconstructive surgeries I had performed in my early twenties. The myriad of tests and medical procedures were overwhelming.

For me, having to be in public in front of others without all of my clothes is traumatic. Going across a hall without a bra in a hospital or doctor’s office is awful. Taking everything off and putting on a gown horrible! I’m not talking about, “Oh, I’m uncomfortable.” I’m talking about my chest clenches, tears threaten a public display, and I sit in a chair or on a table consumed with my physical safety compromised. (You can handle a street fight when you are not worried about not having clothes on.) My head fills with what ifs and “I really, really, really want to be back dressed, safe, layers covering me just in case I need to fight my way out of a bad situation.”

I would hear things like:

“Well, everyone in the room will see you naked once you are asleep…” To which I actually hear, “you will be 110% powerless, and you will be 110% vulnerable, ” and then I’m scared more. Will they try to make things harder because I am not cooperating? You know not quite as gentle with the IV?

“Everyone has a bottom, I see it every day, and I don’t even notice…” Gee thanks, I’m barely holding it together, but it’s no big deal for you, well must be nice…

“I’m a professional, and I am not looking at you as a woman- just a patient. I’m offended that you even feel you can’t have a male nurse, you have a male doctor…” Hey, buddy, it’s not you it’s me, but you may have just been an insensitive jerk. Do me a favor and try helping out with that whole gender equality stuff because I really wanted a female doctor too.

“Nobody can see you. You have a gown on…” Really, because it feels like I’m naked, covered with a thin cheap sheet, my nipples are showing and no, it’s not just nurses here.

“How did you ever have sex to get pregnant if you have this problem?” Well, I had five years of therapy and then married someone who respected my needs in that area, you should try that whole respecting my needs deal.

“When you get far enough into labor, you won’t care.” You bet your sweet rear end I will care. Do me a favor and protect me even when you think I don’t care. I think you just scared me into a C-section because I’ve now been stuck dilated a three for seven hours thanks. I now look like a scared animal who has stopped laboring, jerk.

“It’s not a big deal.” Okay then, you get naked too! Oh, really that’s different, and you can’t work naked in a gown, guess it is a big deal after all.

I’m sure there is more. These things they said, their signs of impatience, all took a toll. In my twenties, I froze and did what I was told. In my forties it dawned on me, I am paying for a service. I came to realize, that though they may have a lot of other patients, I am my only patient, and because of that I want all of my needs met. All of them! I am paying for this, and with insurance, I still am paying you thirteen times what I paid for my last car (I buy really cheap cars last one was $600, but that’s a whole other blog post).

I have a right to dignity and respect. It should be provided without me asking, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that I get it.

Instead of leaving my providers without the backstory (because I want control of that part of me) I started to speak up.

When the nurse asked me, “What meds do you take?”

I replied, “Well, I take Lamictal. I know it’s a bipolar or seizure medication, but I take it because it helps control my PTSD. In fact, let me tell you more; not every minute detail but let me help you understand what and why. I have PTSD because I experienced a severe sexual trauma. It’s been a while, but this is unbelievably hard.”

The nurse looked at me for a moment, but even with my voice shaking a little, I kept on, saying, “Here is what helps me, please keep me covered, as much as possible, as long as possible, leave my advocate with me until you can’t anymore. Approach me in my line of vision, it really helps me. If you don’t and I’m medicated heavily during a procedure, I might become combative. I would never want to hurt you and tying me down for your safety in that situation is reasonable, but it will also to further traumatize me.”

At that point, things changed.

By sharing my backstory and letting them know what I need in these situations, I reclaimed so much control. It’s become a part of my self-care. I became a warrior for myself.

EVERY single person involved in my care did every single this I asked. I was covered, accompanied, allowed to redress to go in public spaces, isolated from other patients’ view and no one’s bored, nosy husband was able to see me or listen in to my care plans. It worked. For someone who has the life experiences I have, it was a win, the scoreboard went from 0-100 me down in the first quarter to me walking off with a total 100-110% because they made a 110% effort to help me.

It happened again when I let know my needs, at the OBGYN’s office, and again at the hospital (with the next five doctors, the next three separate surgeries and four separate wins, every person who walked in gave 100%). I was in control. I got what I asked for and figured out if I didn’t, I was still in control. I am the captain of this ship and I don’t have to pull into any old port. I am a warrior for me. If they don’t appear to be willing to change course, I remind them that I am in control, this is my body, and I choose what I permit them to do. I also let them know that there are other providers.

You should not need to share your sexual violence trauma with anyone if you aren’t ready, but there is power and freedom in taking an active role in your recovery when you can. Your experience is yours. You aren’t obligated to anyone’s rules, directions, attitudes or ignorance. You taking care of you is critical and worth fighting for. I hope you are able to become the warrior you need to be, for yourself.

I believe in you. You are a warrior. It is inside you, you survived the worst. You are stronger than most. You’ve got this!