Like many people with PTSD, hopping in the car to see my gynecologist is one of the LAST things in my heart’s desire. So, when it became apparent that the bleeding I was experiencing for over 14 days wasn’t planning to stop soon, I begrudgingly accepted my fate….follow by the exact thoughts of:
Damn it, damn it, damn it!”
While no woman is probably excited about the idea of a pap/gynecological related things, when you have PTSD relating to a sexual assault, the effects are a million times worse. They’re traumatizing. They’re horrible. Insert more words of terror here.
I had drafted a post about how to handle a trip (as if its a vacation hot spot) to the gyno a few months ago when I was worried I’d have to have a pap before IVF round 2. I’d planned on including some helpful hints I’d read about and even tried in the past. The tricky part with PTSD, however, is whether or not you’ll actually be able to use said tips. In my experience today, I wasn’t equipped because my anxiety pushed me out of the driver’s seat & hijacked my brain. The only thoughts that were left pertained to physical things I needed to tell this physician.
Through fault & error (sometimes the best way to learn), I can now think of a few things I could’ve done differently, as well as a few things I did right during this experience.
- If possible, make an appointment with a female provider. While this may not be the case for everyone, I feel 1000000000 times more confident & less triggered by women in these situations. Thankfully, I had this going for me today &, even though it was still hard for me, it did help.
- Tell them you have PTSD. As you read above, this was a failing on my part today. I was so busy nervously talking about what was physically going on with me, I left out the fact that I had something that could potentially get mentally stirred up during the exam.
- Try to relax your muscles. I laughed while writing that one, if we’re being honest. It also happens to be something the poor nurse practitioner kept telling me today. She did kindly add, “I know it’s hard,” to be fair.
- Do something good for yourself afterwards. For me, it was getting a flat white from Starbucks after I sat in the parking lot a bit to calm down from earlier events-IE my vajayjay being a scavenger hunt again.
- Enlist support. If possible, have someone go to your appt. with you. If you don’t want them in the room with you, at least they could be waiting outside in the event you change your mind-or just wait to provide support afterwards. If this isn’t possible for you, like it wasn’t for me today, enlist support in other ways. Yesterday, when I saw my therapist, I let her know that I had my appt. today. She told me I could always call her if I got really nervous/upset the night before, as well as after the appointment. Just knowing that I could call her made me feel better and helped in calming me down.
- Stay present. Again, everyone is different, but something I’ve noticed that helps me keep my cool (as much as is possible) is keeping my eyes open. I closed my eyes ONE time during a pelvic & that was the LAST time I’ve ever done that. It ended in my legs shaking and me crying. I do not recommend going there, friends.
- If you feel comfortable, ask the nurse to hold your hand. This wasn’t something I felt like I could do today but, once during an IUI at our RE’s office, the nurse scratched the inside of my leg to distract me & it really helped. A lot, actually. So, if it’s something you are able to do, ask a hand holder or thigh scratcher.
Any kind of gynecological event is never easy for someone who has PTSD in relation to sexual trauma. However, there are some things we can do to make these events a little easier. I hope these tips are helpful for you. ❤