I’m going to talk about something really personal today. It’s considered widely controversial and brings up feelings of personal shame. By some people’s standards, it may seem like I’m being overly-sensitive or drawing undue attention to an isolated, unprecedented incident. But for me, the event was very real and distressing. As much as I try to deny it, dismiss it, or make sense of it, the trauma I experienced by the hand of a licensed gynecologist has perverted my sense of safety and sexual proclivity. I’ve never had someone force themselves on me and I hate to draw a correlation to rape, but nearly four years ago- as I lay in my crisp hospital gown with legs separated uncomfortably in stirrups, I was violated.
The procedure was a routine exercise. Following a decade of ingesting little white pills, I was ready to experiment with a more natural form of contraception, namely, the non-hormonal intrauterine device (IUD). The insertion was said to be slightly uncomfortable, but tolerable and swift. Had I known that I would be in indescribable physical and emotional pain, I would have arranged a ride home at the very least.
For reasons beyond my control, such as the physical orientation of my reproductive organs, my body rejected the first several attempts at insertion. But the gynecologist’s lack of expertise and questionable bedside manner made the situation even less bearable. Multiple doctors had to restrain me as my body convulsed uncontrollably and I cried out in agony. I begged them to stop, but they continued to poke and prod with false assurances that it would all be over soon. The objectionable meddling of my womanhood went on for an incomprehensible amount of time. No longer connected to by body, I shook on the exam table for another thirty minutes before I was asked to leave. In the privacy of my car, I sobbed violently. I did the only thing I could think of doing to relieve the pain: I called Mom. It would be several days in bed before I could face the world again.
For nearly three years, I endured laborious periods, painful intercourse, and habitual infections out of fear of facing the gynecologist. Reports of fellow sufferers promised that the negative effects of the IUD would diminish over time, but I clung to their testimonies to avoid my problem, rather than as a lifeline for hope. Finally, when the romance of making love got lost in the tactical strategy of dodging pain, I put my big girl pants on and faced the doctor (a new doctor). Removing the source of my pain was quick and nearly painless, but she had to repeatedly remind me to relax. Even when the mind is willing, my body’s memory of injury has created a bastion for intruders. I think of my poor husband whose loving attempts to gratify me are thwarted by this unforgiving barrier.
Today, my concern is less about avoiding physical pain, and more about confronting my emotional anxiety and relationship to sex. Like the inexperience of a teenager, I am learning to navigate the terrain of my body and discover my sensuality. Slowly and timidly, I am braving the path back to health. But it begins with telling my story- one that I hope will inspire others to begin the process of healing.
If my recovery in AA and SLAA has taught me anything, it’s that we are not alone. While this subject may not be recovery related, I know that I don’t have to face this by myself. And even though the operation was not motivated by a lust for sex or didn’t lead to inebriation, it doesn’t qualify as any less of a problem that I can face with my brothers and sisters in the program. Conversely, this is precisely the type of real-life obstacle I can take to the rooms. After all, sobriety is not merely the cessation of addiction, but a design for living. Together, openly and honestly, we confront our troubles and learn how to deal with life successfully.
If you’ve had a similar experience or have felt emotionally or physically violated in some way, I invite you to share your experiences here. This is a safe place. May the truth set you free!