In 2014, my primary care physician referred me to an Ob-Gyn; conveniently, she practiced as part of the same network and worked in the building, about a 15 minute walk from my job.
Sitting in the waiting room before the first appointment, I numbly completed the intake paperwork. Therapists, psychiatrists, primary doctors, neurologists, specialists, they all had the same basic forms with similar questions. The sections on past diagnoses and current symptoms held my attention, checking boxes and scribbling in the margins. When I met with her, waiting in a hospital gown on the exam table, swinging my legs back and forth as she skimmed through my paperwork, I silently thought about how much I lamented pelvic exams: your butt and vagina exposed, the hard, cold metal, the pinch and general discomfort as a stranger poked around.
“What do you have PTSD secondary to?”
“I was abused.”
In my head, I awkwardly explained that I had been in a few different abusive relationships, sexually abused, mentally, physically, that the pain and cramps from whatever was going on didn’t compare to being forcibly violated, that my screams fell on willingly deaf ears; I was diagnosed with PTSD but didn’t really know what that meant. Ijustcheckedit;itwasontheform.AmItalkingtoomuch? Outwardly, I remained silent, assuming I knew what to anticipate.
I wasn’t expecting what she said next:
“You’re going to feel a slight pinch; this is just me using [name of medical instrument I forgot] to open up your cervix.
This part is slightly painful; you’re going to feel my hand move here.
If it’s triggering or you need to pause for minute, just let me know.”
Huh? How’d she know- I never said the extent of the abuse? Gynecologists considered past trauma?
Home later that evening, I considered how mindful the doctor had been. It wasn’t her words that shocked me- it made sense to give a trigger warning when unasked for objects were going up a vagina. It was the action, the motivating thought, that caused me pause.
I didn’t realize until that day how often previous doctors had questioned the validity of my symptoms. A certain medication made me feel light-headed; the doctor labeled it impossible and the dosage was increased. A doctor told me waking up dizzy with a headache mimicking a tumor was nothing more pills couldn’t fix; I fainted a couple of days later. Or the outright, are you lying? You don’t look like you’re in pain. The automatic belief that I was abused and now my brain worked a lil differently because of it was not something I encountered often.
I still see this same Ob-Gyn, deciding after the first visit that I appreciated having the option for a trauma-informed vajayjay exam.