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September 24, 2010

Health Care and Trauma Survivors

Survivors of sexual violence often have a hard time going to the doctor or the dentist. Doctors have a job to do and a limited amount of time to do it in. They are authority figures and often don't meet the patients until they are in a gown in an exam room. The quick nature of the exam with the added emphasis on the power of the Doctor can be triggering for survivors. 

Survivors struggle to be full participants in their health care. Those who survived the trauma by dissociating may end up dissociating during the exam. They may not remember the conversation afterwards and then left to take care of themselves without the value of what they discussed with the doctors.

For survivors, I would recommend taking a trusted friend, partner or family member into the exam with you. If the doctor doesn't follow a protocol that leaves you feeling safe and able to fully participate in the examination having that person there will help you have the information you need to take care yourself.

For doctors, I would recommend that you meet with new patients in either your office or exam rooms before you have the new patient change into their gowns. Discuss why they are there and discuss what options there are for proceeding on that day. When You do an exam, always discuss the exam with the patient and let her know what you are about to do. Before you proceed, make sure the patient says it okay. Do this for each step of the exam. If the patient says no, then stop. Discuss what happened and don't proceed until you get an okay. If you the patient is triggered ask if they have someone with them that they would like to have in the room. If not, then reschedule the appointment.

This may seem like a lot of work but it will be empowering for your patient and lead to a more productive partnership for you and your patient.   

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September 15, 2010

How could a parent hurt their child?

Olga playing in the back yard with her brother's truck

I get a lot of questions about my father when I present on my personal experience. What would make a father hurt their child the way my father hurt me? Its been something I've struggled with for the past 17 years. I don't know but what I saw was a man who thought he had every right to do what he wanted to us. We were his family, his possessions.

What I figured out for myself is that my father was very proud, too proud really. He desperately wanted to be respected and treated like he was someone. But his world was very small and he terrorized me to try to get my respect and love. He terrorized me because he could. He wasn't all bad. But he did some really bad things.

When he died he had long lost my respect and love. I felt sorry for him. All he had at the end of his life was some meaningless little trinkets and little to no respect from his family. 

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September 12, 2010


On the Farm

I just finished writing two chapters where I describe some of the sessions I had with my psychiatrist in the first couple years of my work with him. He was very skillful in illustrating the process of recalling memories and identifying parts. The hardest part has been and sometimes still remains accepting the parts when they come up. Its hard to have a consciousness that is separated and to think or act in ways that don't feel like me know. On the other hand I know that if I hadn't split off my consciousness and then layered it in this very creative way, I wouldn't have survived the violence and chaos of our home. Its a blessing and a curse.

In the next chapters I'll be writing about how I learned to manage my life after more fully accepting my diagnosis. I've learned to pay very close attention to my thoughts and to my body and respond. I've learned when I don't I end up with a panic attack. So sometimes I can't go places I want to go to. 

Its a lifetime process. 

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