There I was, twenty-four years old and I’d never had a vaginal exam. I don’t like being touched in the first place, let alone being poked and prodded in my sacred areas. I had avoided the pap smear for years.
Going to the doctor should be simple, right? I mean, all I had to do was book an appointment and go! Women do this all the time. But it wasn’t so easy.
My intellect and emotions were at war. One was telling me to face this – that I was worrying over nothing. The other had me struck with this overwhelming fear that I would never have kids. I imagined the doctor sitting me down after the procedure and telling me the bad news. “Bethany, I’m sorry to say this, but your female organs have been damaged beyond repair. There is nothing we can do.” Deep down I believed that the sexual abuse had caused irreversible damage. My uterus was thrust somewhere above the heart, my ovaries had been twisted together into an unrecognizable ball of matter, and the walls of my vagina were scarred beyond recognition.
I dealt with a lot of the pain from the abuse and thought I was out of the woods, but it made me realize that my abuser had given me a fear that was still affecting my life in a very big way. I can heal from the emotional scars, but the physical effects can not be undone.
It sent me through a variety of emotions. There was this possibility that my father’s selfishness could have stolen something so valuable to me – my ability to have children. I applaud people who have the desire to adopt children, but my desire is to be pregnant and give birth to my children. I have pictured for years exactly what it would be like to have children of my own and was distraught at the idea that the invasive abuse could have prevented my dream from coming true.
[pullquote]Sometimes the thing you’re most afraid of is the thing you most need to do.[/pullquote]I knew it was something I had to face, so I hesitantly booked the appointment. It was too late to turn back. I soon found myself spread eagle across the exam table – a far too vulnerable position. After the exam I sat there for what seemed like an eternity waiting for the news. My teeth were clenched as the doctor came back in to speak with me. Everything was fine. “Really?” I thought. “There had to be something wrong.” After what I’ve been through I somehow came out unscathed physically. It felt like a miracle.
Although I was relieved to have a clean bill of health, I was disturbed by how affected I was emotionally by the fear. It forced me to examine the other affects the abuse had on my life and realize, I had more healing to do.
Sometimes the thing you’re most afraid of is the thing you most need to do. It was a daunting task, but without overcoming that doctors visit I could have never overcome many of the other issues I have faced. What is it that you’re afraid of facing?
Bethany, along with her mother, Christina Enevoldsen, is the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Besides helping abuse survivors see the beauty within themselves, she enhances the beauty of others as a professional make-up artist and has worked in television, film and print. She lives in Los Angeles.
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