Asking me to go to the OB/GYN is equivalent to returning to a messy, horrible crime scene. One week ago today (July 20th) I did exactly that and my reaction was as overwhelming as witnessing a crime scene on 48 Hours.
For over a decade, I have suffered with chronic pain. More days than not I feel like someone is tearing away layers and layers of my uterine wall and overwhelming me with nausea while laughing at me. It is a miserable experience but I am not miserable. Overall, I don’t talk about it because people say then go see a doctor. Correct and logical response but for me it is like knocking on Jeffrey Dahmer’s door and asking him if he is hungry.
I could not do enough therapy or pray enough to find the desire to walk into a doctor’s office and seek a treatment plan for my female pain. My fear of cancer was less than my fear of being touched. But I have tried. A decade ago I was in enough pain that I allowed my PCP to give me a pap smear. I was absolutely panicked. She (PCP) has known me for years and I told her about my trauma and I was terrified. And yet once the pap smear started the MOA opened the office door. I politely asked for the door to be closed. She said “No, I have to hear if the phone rings.” I tried to speak and tell of my discomfort but no one heard my words. I left and said never again.
My pain has escalated. It is debilitating but I never miss work or a speaking engagement. I know so many people with autoimmune disorders and how family and friends don’t understand how sick they really are but these struggling people are strong and they keep showing up. So I keep showing up.
Then last February I went to see my PCP, yes, the same one who did the pap smear with the door open (no judgement please) and I told her my pain was now unbearable. She gave the obvious suggestion to go see an OB/GYN. I reminded her that request seemed impossible. I told her I could not imagine being touched in that way and being able to emotionally recover. Never Again! So she reached up and grabbed my right breast. Just to do it. I did what everyone with a central nervous system imprint of trauma does, I froze. It took my three days to stop feeling her hand on my breast. I knew there was no way I could ever, ever go see an OB/GYN. How would I trust? But also how would I ever get better. Never again!
I decided to stop talking about it. To stop telling my friends when I was doubled over or so nauseated I wanted to just cry myself to sleep. I needed for people to stop telling me to go to a doctor. I was now more traumatized by discussing my trauma with my PCP who I had known for 17 years. I stopped praying for the pain to stop. I started praying for God to reveal a safe doctor for me.
Then I texted my friend Ashley and made a commitment to find the right doctor. It was my choice. When you have a trauma that took away your choice, it is important to not feel powerless in your decisions. I prayed and stayed in touch with Ashley about the doctors I was researching. Then while scrolling Facebook, I saw a post that was within the walls of a group of empowered women. The post had 89,000 comments (slight embellishment) but the one comment availed to me without me clicking on it was “Dr. Amy Fletcher with Thrive is the absolute best OB/GYN.” Within the hour of me seeing that name, Ashley was sitting in front of me (we have a friendship update date once a month) and I told her what I saw that morning and she said let’s look her up right now. We did, and I committed to Ashley to email the office about an appointment. I did and the response back from this amazing team was “do you want your annual pap smear?” I responded with “if by annual you mean every ten years, then well no. I don’t want to be touched.” I knew that would end the conversation but it didn’t. My appointment was booked for July 20th. When I left my house that morning I was 47 years old, by the time I parked at the doctor’s office I was 15. By the time the doctor walked in I was a sobbing, very scared 8 year old. I couldn’t stop crying. My adult self knew I could leave. I knew I had choice. But I felt paralyzed and the 8 year old in me was crying out for safety. Dr. Fletcher came in as I was standing against the wall just crying. She offered for us to leave the traditional medical room and sit in a conference room. She gave me choice. She let me know she wasn’t going to touch me and asked me questions to help ground me. I knew her technique.
As a psychotherapist, I employ it all the time. I appreciated what she was doing. We talked for over an hour. She never touched me. She provided me with information that I didn’t know. Her medication of choice that day was compassion. I took it in. She diagnosed me with endometriosis which I had been researching for years. And we discussed a possible treatment plan with may involve surgery. She never degraded me. She made many statements illustrating that she got me. She didn’t add to my trauma and clearly wants to help me be more me. She has the same degree as other doctors who instead of giving me power they only exerted their own.
Today, I am in excruciating pain. I won’t let it stop me from showing up for the life God designed for me but I believe He wants me healed and whole. Dr. Amy Fletcher and friends like Ashley are now my healing team to help me to never again feel like a part of my life is a messy, overwhelming crime scene. My choice many years ago was stripped from me. My “never again” is now a powerful “no more.” No more. No more having to feel powerless. I choose safety for all of me.