(The following post mentions non-consensual anal penetration as well as discussion of others’ ungood reactions to my triggers.)
I’m getting to the warrior stuff, I promise. The video for my next post is queued up in another tab, where it will patiently wait for me to finish this post.
I had an appointment with a new doctor yesterday, and to say it did not go well would be an understatement. I left feeling both angry and triggered, and pretty soon after I got home (and played with the dog; she is good for this sort of thing), I started composing a “venting letter” to my now former doctor. Admittedly, this letter was not polite, nor was it ever intended to be. Indeed, most of it was pretty sarcastic because those are the words I had at the time:
So, admittedly, I was already a little leery as we approached the topic of scoping and other diagnostic procedures. You mentioned that colonoscopy was your preferred method, on account of it let you visually examine (and biopsy!) the length of the colon and get the best idea of what’s going on in there — which makes a lot of sense. With a different provider, I could see this working. But with you, when I expressed my concerns about the procedure, specifying that I have PTSD due to a sexual assault that included anal penetration and the immediate and long-term resulting medical care and that some of my triggers still included doctors and folks messing with my anus–
You laughed and said, “I’m sure no one’s ever gotten PTSD from a colonoscopy.”
This is when I became sure you were never, ever coming near my rectum.
In case I need to spell it out for you:
- Patient with a history of past trauma.
- By virtue of a couple of factors, you have associations that bring to mind aforementioned past trauma.
- When I brought this up, in light of a situation where I may well have been relinquishing some control and exposing myself to potential dissociative triggers, you laughed at me.
Can we see how this was the Wrong Response?
Because I also wanted some support, I posted this letter to a sexual health community of which I’m a longtime member. Generally speaking, most folks are pretty great when it comes to understanding assault and related issues, even long-after issues, which was reflected in most of the discussion I had there.
However, despite that I thought I’d made it pretty clear that I didn’t intend to sent this letter (though I may well send a letter), some folks decided that I was “joking” about and “belittling” my situation.
Which, no. Just… no.
When I respond to my triggers with sarcasm, it’s because I’m pretty desperately trying to do something to process the situation and my resulting emotions. The sarcasm may be evidence of cognitive dissonance, certainly, but when it’s that or dissociating entirely, I’ll take what I can get. In this particular situation, the “must protect self” part of my brain has a few options:
- Construct a sarcastic response that insinuates this medical professional might just Not Get It. This response doesn’t have to be explored too deeply because I don’t really believe it for myself, but I do sort of want to keep the facade.
- Examine the possibility that a medical professional, someone who has extensive training in health care and who is ostensibly trusted by society to provide this care every day, may be so poorly informed about rape trauma and PTSD that he thought the possibility of triggering me was so unlikely as to be laughable. Extrapolate this to the number of patients he may have seen over the years, a certain portion of whom may have had similar assault experiences or triggers. Imagine what would happen if a patient ended up feeling even more triggered or violated after a physical procedure with this doctor; imagine that this patient might have been me.
- Repeat #2, this time examining the possibility that this provider’s actions may not be rooted in ignorance but in malice.
And sometimes, I just cannot deal, in an “my conscious self is about to hit the road” kind of way. So, um, fuck yes, my sarcasm is a coping mechanism. However, it’s not evidence that I’m not treating my situation seriously but is rather evidence of just how serious this is for me.