Where Medical Trauma and Sexual Trauma Meet
By Sav Schlauderaff
I know I have written somewhat extensively about my own experiences of sexual assault and violence      , extensively about how impossible healing feels    , and also about my experiences with doctors around my chronic pain & fatigue      .
This last weekend I presented a paper I wrote about my experiences as an egg donor, and how that has bled into my experiences within the last 7 months of colposcopies and biopsies due to cancerous cervical cells.
Epi-logue: When the Cancer Comes
Will you inherit my pain?
Or, will the vessel of the surrogate; the home you will live in be enough?
Epi- is upon, upon the codons, a triplet makes a gene
Folded and twisted into a double-helix
Multiplied Trans-cribed Trans-formed
Unzipped and broken apart, to re-combine anew.
Will my mutant parts become un-methylated?
Will you feel it when the cancer comes?
Was this destiny predetermined?
The labs said ab-normal, said ex-cise the unwanted flesh away
The hyper-proliferative hyper-productive flesh away
Take it away
Take it out
Isn’t the cancer like my fertility? Too much to be held in the confines of my body
Straining to ex-pand, ex-plode.
Too much life, is another way of saying death.
A take-over of “healthy” tissue by ex-cess.
Again my legs find their place in the stirrups, hot pink gloves (or are they now black?) are donned. Insert the cold metal instruments and re-open the extraction wound.
The cycle starts over again.
Re-peat again in 6 months.
This wound will never heal.
What is missing from this narrative is the layers of pain and trauma of sexual assault. That the extraction site for egg donation, the biopsy site for cervical cancer, and the trauma site of sexual assault are all the same. Bleeding together (quite literally) to create a wound and part of my body that I want gone.
What’s missing from this narrative is dysphoria, and the real physical and emotional and spiritual pain that sex causes me. And yet, I find myself returning to the desire to have sex without pain, hoping that it might exist for me somewhere. That it might exist somewhere without tears, without dissociation, without grieving, without fear. I have been afraid to have sex because I feel disgust and discomfort toward my cancerous cervical cells. I feel betrayed and hurt by my own body. I think about how perfect my cervix has embodied this pain during the biopsies through its/my inability to stop bleeding. How my blood coated the floor, the table, the instruments. How concerned the doctor was at my body’s inability to stop this profuse bleeding--how she called my cervix testy and sensitive.
What’s missing from this narrative is that the past three years have been overwhelming. There is too much happening and I’m just trying to keep all the pieces together.
Everyone always sees me as someone who is/was successful in sorting out their traumas. Really good at not having a breakdown. Really good at not losing their shit.
Perhaps I’m just really good at hiding it.
Perhaps I was taught from a young age that you can have pain and trauma and sadness, but you can’t let other people see it. Don’t show your scars, don’t talk about your feelings, it’s embarrassing.
I think about dying every day.
I wonder what parts of me hold on to these thoughts?
Hold on to these images?
What am I keeping them for?
I feel like I’m fighting myself and just
But, what would be the winner’s prize?
What is life after trauma?
What is healing?
Because happiness and pain easily co-exist.
Is the ability to live with ourselves after trauma the only goal?
The ability to live in a bodymindspirit still aching/bleeding/mourning years later?
What’s missing from this narrative is that three people who I considered friends sexually assaulted me last year.
What’s missing from this narrative is that now that I am more visibly disabled, people don’t compliment me or often times even want to directly talk to me. That these changes to my bodymind have also shifted how I relate to myself.
What’s missing from this narrative is the fact that I haven’t dealt with or attended to any of this.
I don’t know how.
What’s missing is that I’m sad, and lonely, and scared, and exhausted. And this web of pain has tangled itself around me and I can’t breathe.
I’m terrified of therapy.
I don’t like verbally talking about my traumas.
If you don’t say something out loud you don’t have to hear it, don’t have to feel the vibrations of your own pain escaping from your mouth. I’m much better at articulating my thoughtfeelings through writing, speaking about my pain has only ever ended in more pain, in violence. My voice has never been my strong suit. I shut down. I cry.
I don’t even tell my friends or family the truth about all my pain and sadness and trauma. Because I also just don’t want to hurt people I care about with the pain of knowing about my pain.
Then also they feel entitled to your pain, to your story, to checking in on you, to monitor your ‘progress,’ to feel anger for you when you’re not even sure you feel anger yourself. And then all of the sudden you’re left with your own pain and all of theirs. Now you need to make them feel okay about what has happened to you (and continues to happen to you). It’s just too much, but I also know I’m not doing a good job of holding my own pain.
And maybe this is just me being scared of intimacy
Scared of vulnerability and being honest with myself and others
This doesn’t mean that I think that people who were my friends in the past are bad people, rather they were just doing their best with how they knew to deal with trauma. Which is to say that we all have a long ways to go in figuring out how to actually support each other through trauma. We have a long ways to go in figuring out how to support, care, and love ourselves through trauma.
Where medical trauma and sexual trauma meet.
This meeting place isn’t a perpendicular intersection. It’s the multiple overlaps the twists and turns and spirals. The intersection just becomes more pronounced when the bodily location is already a site of so much pain. It becomes more pronounced because of the entitlement so many medical professionals feel to my body, because of the entitlement so many many people have felt over my body.
All these foreign and undesired objects entering my body, and all leaving with parts of me.
Leaving me questioning what wholeness and holistic healing mean when parts of me are already gone.
Questioning when I’ll be able to feel entitled to my own body.