It’s cervical cancer prevention week and we are inundated with reminders to book in for our smears all over social media . This is a good thing , we know the Jade Goody effect is long gone . Smear test take up is the lowest it’s been for years and lives will be lost because of it .
Sometimes though there are reasons beyond a bit of embarrassment at whipping off your pants and laying legs open in front of a ‘seen it all before ‘ nurse .
If you’ve suffered abuse or sexual violence you may feel like you just cannot do it. The triggers of being that vulnerable and being touched that intimately may simply be impossible for you to even contemplate,let alone do . I know that and I understand . There are so many ‘normal’ situations that involve being touched that I simply can’t do or that I’ve had to overcome for the sake of my health. I’m not going to order you to get down that doctors for your smear right this instant or patronise you with the consequences of not doing , because you already know. Bloody hell I can’t tell anyone to do anything , I can’t even manage the hairdressers as my hair being touched is a huge trigger of panic and traumatic flashbacks. What I can do maybe though ,is talk about how I manage with smears and maybe you could try out some of my tips. Hopefully they might work for you or at the very least help you come up with a solution that’s right for you.
* Talk to your GP or nurse
I know talking about previous sexual violence or abuse isn’t easy , but if you talk to a health care professional before your smear , they’ll know your history and they can take this into account when the time comes .
I missed many , the Jade Goody effect was lost on me . Yes I knew women died but this wasn’t embarrassment or fear of pain this was a mental block that I just couldn’t overcome . Until my sister had an abnormal result with her smear and something just triggered in me that I had to do this. I spoke to my GP , all the while apologising for wasting an appointment on my fears but she was so good ,told me this was certainly not a waste and between her and an amazing nurse created an environment where I felt in control with what was going on. I didn’t even realise that’s what I needed but the professionals did.
If you discuss your history and past trauma with your GP or nurse and you don’t feel reassured or you feel misunderstood or dismissed or not listened to then go elsewhere.
*Take a friend
Again opening up and talking about how debilitating your past trauma is can be hard , I know this . Having someone to just be with you in the waiting room when you’re tempted to just run away could be helpful though. Obviously some people (like me) find overcoming something so huge as something they can only do alone .
*Seek help for healing after past trauma
Again all these words of advice come from telling people what you’ve been through and I know that’s far from easy I promise I do. It really is the only way to truly heal though. My mental health has been screwed for years because I didn’t deal with the past and it’s not an easy thing to do but ,on this one , the ends justify the means.
*Seek alternative advice
Speak to someone at Jo’s Trust , look on their website. It’s full of advice on how to make something potentially triggering and traumatic easier. Speak to other survivors of abuse who may have their own tips . Personally I choose meditation , now I know there’s hardly enough time to get into deep relaxation as it’s over with pretty quickly but the breathing techniques that go with meditation I find helpful because I can concentrate on that totally and almost leave my body temporarily whilst folk are fiddling around with my vagina .
I guess my advice , on the whole, is talk to someone. There will be someone who can help you through.There’ll be advice somewhere that may just connect with you as a possibility. Your past has had a huge impact on your well-being already , don’t let it rob you of your future too.
I’m not being all holier than thou either here . I’m just saying I understand sometimes it’s not just a case of gritting your teeth and getting on with it because than can feel impossible. As well as my hairdresser thing , I find the dentist problematic something vulnerable about that experience. If I forget to request a female GP and have a strange man touch me doing something as simple as taking my blood pressure I can descend into to panic.
I know it’s not easy to overcome something so huge but ,for me and I can only ever tell my story , there’s something empowering in taking control and not letting the past win over my present .
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