Spiritual Dimensions of Showing Up to Illness

December and January have been deeply healing months.  I knew that I needed to slow down; that I needed to show up to myself more fully.

I wanted my smile to come back.  I turned to nature, knowing that I also needed some time to hibernate, that I needed to let certain things die, without knowing where this journey would end up.  Historically, my healing accelerates in the winter, and so I intentionally have made time to invest in myself at the start of this year.

I intentionally took a 4 week Christmas break.  It was so restful & needed.  I had a session with my therapist.  I set up an individual healing session with a resident teacher at my old yoga studio.  I have been participating in a weekly breathing circle.  I’m learning Qigong.  I traveled to Chicago to attend Mystic Soul and visit with friends.  I celebrated my birthday & came out as an asexual. I took several epsom salt baths.  I loved myself well.

What has been the result of all this healing work is a lot of grief dissolving, allowing creativity to come forward.  I’ve needed time to continue to explore certain spiritual practices in order to figure out how I am going to grow my energy reserve as I continue to grow my business and work more hours.

What this looks like right now is that I’m writing a book!  I have no idea where this will lead, but right now, I’m just focused on my shitty first draft.  It’s a memoir; my journey with chronic illness and the gifts that come along the way.  I wake up every morning, do some breathwork and then dive into writing for about 25 minutes, at the beginning of my day.  It’s becoming a beautiful rhythm, and a wonderful way to start my day, and my resistance to show up to my story is lessening day by day.

Although I still live in my body day to day and am affected my by illness, I’m gaining the skill to look at my life more objectively.

I’m learning to say, “The fact that I have a chronic illness is not my fault, and yet I do have the responsibility to show up in my body and be attentive to the lessons it gives.”

What I keep coming back to is that autoimmune disease is the pattern of the body attacking itself.  There’s a scientific way to describe this, but that’s not what I’m interested in now.  What I’m interested in is that in order for my body to attack itself—I must have moved very far away from my true self.  I must have tried to conform to someone that I was never meant to be.

So I’m learning to stop throughout the day and breathe.  I’m learning to check in with myself, to feel my own energy, to understand my own essence.

At Mystic Soul, we were encouraged to sit with this question:

“Who are you and how do you know?”

In one sense, I will be answering this question for the rest of my life.  In another, I am a healer, a witness, a truth-teller, an advocate, a friend.  I am a work-in-progress–yet there are spiritual dimensions to stepping into my own narrative, telling my own story.  Ultimately showing up to myself, so that I can show up with others.

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To Breathe More Deeply

There’s so much I could say about Mystic Soul, and yet I’m not ready to.

Above all, it was an experience.  A very different experience of spirituality and justice and healing, than I’d ever experienced before–and it was so good.

Maybe all I can do for now is talk about the shifts, speak to how my friends of color across the country are trying to decolonize Christianity.  There was a tangible feeling of healing in the body, for everyone involved.  We all breathed much more deeply together.

We faced each other in a circle, rather than sitting in rows.

We never sat for a full-hour lecture.  We talked to each other, engaged in spiritual practice together, got out of our seats and talked to people we didn’t know.

We told personal stories, rather than just quote highly-acclaimed authors.

We participated in healing silence and ritual in community.

We valued rhythm over time, not prioritizing order & efficiency over healing.

We engaged the reality that sometimes contemplation is quiet & sometimes it is loud.

We returned to the effects of trauma and how we all need to be in touch with our personal narratives in order to heal.

At times, the room of 400 people was silent and we all just breathed deeply together.

I don’t think any of these realities fit into the questions, “How was it?” or “How were you impacted?” or “What are you going to do now?”

I experienced wholeness in community.

I knew I was in a room filled with the leaders of contemplative spirituality for today & tomorrow.  And I want to listen and keep listening.

 

 

Honesty Is a Good Way to Start the Year!

 

 

 

 

I’ve been considering this post for about a year and a half.

In the spirit of starting 2018 being more honest with myself and the world, it’s time to write this post.

I’m asexual.

Yep, it’s the A in LGBTQIA.

Being asexual simply means that I do not experience sexual attraction towards anyone.  That being said, I do experience romantic attraction towards men.

This post is not going to be a Q and A or what asexuality is or isn’t (but you can check out AVEN if you are interested!)

This post is about acceptance and visibility.  I’m going to reveal the questions I asked myself as I considered if I wanted to come out publicly.

I considered for awhile, “Why add another label?”

It took my awhile to realize that this wasn’t really my deepest question; it reflected what I thought other people might ask me.  Especially because this was true when I started speaking up and writing about chronic illness.

When I first started owning the fact that I indeed had a chronic illness, and started speaking that way, I inevitably faced the question, “Why do you so closely identify with your illness?”

For those who were Christians asking this question, it was in the context of “Why do you put your identity in your illness rather than in Christ?”

Simply stated, I needed to identify with an unknown illness, then to be Hashimoto’s, so I could integrate it into my being.  Acceptance could not come without integration.  But not to identify with it in some way, meant to ignore this part of myself.  It also meant leaving people to assume that I was a healthy, vibrant mid-20-something when I wasn’t.  I needed a label to say “I am sick, and this is lifelong.  I may manage it well, but it’s something I do manage every day.”

Also, notice how odd it would sound if I started asking people, “Why do you so closely identify with your health?”

A label simply says, “I experience life differently than you and both of our experiences are valid.” 

However, those with illness navigating living in a world of health, which can often feel foreign to us.  We want our experience validated as we live on the margins in a society that glorifies health and young able bodies.

Ok, back to sexuality.  Asexuals comprise 1% of the population and most people don’t accurately know what asexuality is.

So why a label?

Because I experience sexuality differently than most people.  And that’s okay. And it’s valid.

Labels have to do more with “the majority” (and that can mean many things depending on the context) accepting diversity which means changes in language to depict that diversity.

Another question I thought for awhile about was, “Why come out when you can pass as a straight person?”

Deciding that I needed to come out publicly is a personal decision related to my own emotional health.  I felt like I was hiding a vital piece of who I am, which was just breeding shame and self-contempt.

Also, for celebrating my uniqueness.  For visibility. To challenge assumptions. For a more complete acceptance of myself.

I experience my life as a white cisgender asexual woman, living with chronic illness.  I could add other identity markers like Christian, middle class, American. These are all true.

Labels can be seen as over-kill or they can be seen as an incomplete, yet important way to talk about how we experience the world differently based upon race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, religious affiliation, health.

For we all have labels if we bring them out.

A white cisgender heterosexual Christian male born into an upper-middle class family are all labels too.  We are just taught that this is the norm.

Here’s to 2018: more honesty, more listening to the perspectives of others, more love, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness.

The Waiting of Advent

 

My melancholy side naturally resonates with Advent on the Christian church calendar.  Waiting.  Longing. Questioning.  How long? Sitting in pain without knowing when it will stop.

If I make it more personal and actually ask myself the question,

“What are you waiting for?” there are so many answers I could come up with.

All would be valid.  None would be wrong.

I want healing for my body, for our nation, for division to stop, for pain to end, for all those who feel forgotten would be welcome, for the lonely to find meaningful community and friendships.  The list could go on and on.

What is at the top of my list though is:

Silliness.  Laughter.  Adventures. My smile.

I miss these parts of myself that have been suffocated by grief.  I miss the parts of my personality that have changed drastically in the process of illness.

You see, when I was 14, I was the happy-go-lucky kid.  It’s hard to believe that now.  I was silly.  I smiled and laughed all the time.  Yes, I was young and not so rooted in the world’s pain, and yet I miss her.  I miss the part of me that wasn’t so acquainted with grief, with pain, with fatigue.  I miss the girl who was always trying to make someone’s day just a bit brighter.

I know she’s still there, trying to emerge.

Some people today compliment me for my smile-and say, “I never would have known that you live with a chronic illness.  You make it look easy.”

I take this compliment for what it is, and yet in the back of my head I’m also thinking, “I miss my old smile.”

My smile now isn’t forced, but it’s weightier.  I can actually feel my jaw using more effort.  There’s more resistance now.  It doesn’t come quite so naturally.

One day (hopefully in the near future), I will write a book with a title something like this:  When Your Personality Changes Overnight: Chronic Illness in Your Teens and Twenties.  I will talk about that weighty smile and the laughter that seems to come with a small hesitation.

I’m back in therapy right now reprocessing trauma, helping my neural networks to find another route in my brain besides fear.  That seems to be the route most traveled.  Because of the length of my illness, and several traumas piled on top of each other, I’m spending this Advent season coming to accept the fact that I have a minor form of PTSD.

Living with PTSD is a humbling experience.  Learning to heal from PTSD is a stretching experience.  It’s taking all of my drive to go even deeper, to heal just a little bit more.  To be patient and kind to myself, as I mess up, as I cry (yet again!), as I long so deeply to be well, that I think I just can’t take any more pain.

Simple things make me profoundly happy.  A card.  A compliment.  An unexpected text. A drive down Meridian to see my sister.  On Saturday, we went to Winterlights at the IMA and it was wonderful.

Lightshows.  Bantering about why we hate taking pictures.  Going the wrong way into the Lilly House and being told we had to go around.  Watching kids run and teenagers dance to the Nutcracker.  Trying to find a place to park.  Deciding that we didn’t want $4 Swiss Miss and going to The Best Chocolate in Town 10 minutes before it closed to get Ghiradelli in our hot chocolate instead.  Laughing about how we should have brought in bags of our own marshmallows to sell so we could have made money for all those people wanting the perfect Christmas outing roasting smores at the IMA.

My night was a whole lot lighter because of laughter.  That’s what I’m waiting for this Advent.

Thankfulness and Apple Pie

I had a very restful, beautiful Thanksgiving.

The healthiest I’ve felt in a long time, even though fatigue came and went.

I was able to share cooking with my mom and I cooked for half the day on Wednesday and enjoyed eating and playing games on Thursday.

This Thanksgiving was more quiet.  I read a book on Native American wisdom this year and was outside more appreciating the land where I live, and grieving the exploitation of many.

And this year, Larry Nassar pled guilty for molesting young female athletes. I felt glad that in this long case, there have been glimpses of hope and justice.  And yet I grieve the fact that as a woman, assault is so rampant, and that so many women had to come forward for it to seem “believable.”

It’s a both/and world of thankfulness and grief.  I suppose you can’t truly be grateful unless you’ve grieved, or at least be grateful in a way that goes down deep.

As I’ve reflected on the past year, and all I’m grateful for–the list is long.  There are many people, and places, and lessons learned, and decisions made.  There have been new practices, new travels, new friendships.  Yet at the top of the list–I’m thankful that I’m discovering my voice.

I like what I hear and I’m discovering the rough edges that I need to integrate into my being and not suppress any longer.

You see, when you’re a victim of sexual assault, you start to distrust your body.  And if you can’t trust your body, you can’t trust your voice.  But that’s not the only piece of the story.

I’m also unraveling layers of being a woman in this culture and all the messages I’ve taken in about being too sensitive, too smart, too athletic, too intimidating, etc.  I don’t want to fit into the box of the “I can do it all-woman but still appear quiet and servant-hearted when the situation calls for it.”  I’m breaking those rules.  I’m learning to forge my own path and not just be in solidarity with a group, although that feels more comfortable.

I recognize how difficult it was to navigate the medical system as a teenager, when I had symptoms but nothing to show on lab tests.  I wanted a doctor who would believe that my body wasn’t lying–who would listen to me over science.  That’s hard to come by.  I internalized that I must edit my story to be believed, that I must fight to be seen.  These beliefs have wreaked havoc in my life–and yet I’m aware of them, and I’m learning just to be.

I’m thankful for yoga, for helping me believe in my body’s messages again.

I’m thankful for other body workers who believe that energy work changes lives.  It has changed mine.

I’m thankful for how my theology has expanded and grown–where the body must be in the picture now-or the belief is too narrow, too abstract, too ungrounded for me.

I’m thankful for a retreat in Omaha where I learned how to hold difference in silence and stillness.

I’m thankful that I started a business, even though it’s changed a lot of how my life looks.  I’m learning as I go 🙂

I’m thankful to connect with female small business owners who thrive on collaborating, on mutual sharing, and on wanting everyone to succeed.

I’m thankful for this journey of fighting for my health, of meeting others along the journey and letting our limitations enrich our friendship.

I’m thankful that I live in an apartment where I’m not reacting to mold.

I’m thankful for being able to eat apple pie.

 

 

To Be a Walking Contradiction

Fall is truly here; and I’m glad.  I love the weather changing, the leaves turning.  I can even embrace all the rain and the short nights.  I enjoy the countdowns to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  On my more reflective days, I think about a year ending and another year starting.

I think about how 2017 has been a year of tremendous growth, and yet a year where I’ve seen my own grief erupt and almost overtake me.  It’s been a year of confusion, of decisions I had to make too soon, and continuing to learn that my health fluctuating is my new normal.

I’m back in therapy working with a medical trauma specialist and last session she asked what I was taking away from this session.  My response was, “I can see all the hard work I’ve already put in, and I see that I still have the drive to put in more work and heal.  I want to heal so badly.”

You see, I’m learning to realize the effects of my illness in new ways.  With all of the mold reactions I had this summer, both from my home and my workplace, I suffered some brain damage.  Since it was prolonged enough, new neural networks formed in my brain while I was living in fight-or-flight mode for several months this summer.

I lived in different homes, bought air filters, quit my job, moved, started a business.  My body is still tired–but not just fatigue-tired.  My brain is tired, and I still have days where I don’t remember words or routines or how to get somewhere.  I notice that after I spend 5 hours lesson planning on the weekend, my brain is completely wiped out.  And I just hope on Monday that I’m ready to go, and have enough energy to get me through the day.

The new neural networks that formed were challenging all my beliefs-ones that I have challenged often in this health journey:

  • Do I have what it takes?  How do I find the strength it takes maybe to wake up and not remember much about the day before?
  • Will people still be around?
  • Do I believe that I’m worth it?  Can I find even more grit to trust that every healing step is worth it because I’m worth it?
  • Is joy attainable?
  • If I have to quit my job, where do I go next?
  • Can my pain be transformed into a life that I think is beautiful and fulfilling?

Some days I feel pretty good.  I like my work, I feel confident, and joyful.  Other days it’s hard to get out of bed, and I get through work, crash and hope I have energy to get out of bed the next day.  Both are me.  Both are true.

The hardest negative belief to observe, notice where I feel the tension in my body, and to breath my way through it is, “You are alone in this.”

Here’s the thing.  Intellectually I know that I’m not.  I have friends who struggle with chronic illness.  I have taken meals to hospitals, and made allergy friendly Christmas cookies.  We have talked about doctors not believing us, and the struggle to be seen and heard.

And yet, in those moments where it feels like my brain is firing in all directions, my body feels alone.  My brain and body are fighting with each other.

Part of chronic illness is realizing along the journey, ways I have over-compensated because of being sick.  So when I was physically fatigued, there were many years, where my mind was the strong suit.  I overcompensated intellectually, because while I had to lie in bed for many daylight hours each day, I could still think.

The hard part currently is some days I can’t think.  My brain isn’t always my strong suit anymore.  I have to do everything I can to stop the inflammation from forming in my brain, but I also have to accept what’s happening.

It’s both/and.

And both/and is messy.  There are tears out of nowhere and things that take 3 hours longer and cancelled plans and small moments where I smile at the sunrise and feel like I’m an 85 year old who’s just happy to be alive.

My relationships slowly shift.  I have to say no to things I used to say yes to.  I stop yoga for a time and start therapy.  I learn to listen to my body before my mind (because the mind can only put language to what the body knows anyway).

This both/and world is unpredictable.  It’s both wonderful and scary.  It’s freeing and frightening.  I see both the ugly and beautiful in myself.  It’s a place of kindness towards myself and my limitations and celebrating my strong, persevering stance in the world.

Even writing this post has been emotional, because yesterday I couldn’t do this.  But today I can.  And for that I am glad.  Yet the gladness does not wipe away the sadness of yesterday.  They co-exist and always will.

The more I heal, the more I deeply know that trauma and transformation must live side by side.  There’s really no other way.

My illness has taught me more about humanity than anything else has.  It’s taught me about paradox, about this both/and world.  That’s it’s okay to be in progress.  I’ve learned about structures and powers that do not listen to the weak and about my own anger at injustice the the doubling power of trauma when you stay in the state of victimhood too long.  I’m learning to see myself as a walking contradiction, along with everyone else.

A Return to Rest

I need days of solitude.  I took a complete day off in solitude and silence this past weekend for the first time in 7 months.  Note to self: 7 months is too long.

I could feel my off-centeredness.  My body was aching from all the transition of my job, of moving, of my body reacting badly to this Indiana summer.

I needed silence.  Silence to feel what I needed to feel in a safe space.  To discern the questions that I’m asking in this season of my life. To dream and laugh, but to do so from stillness.

I needed community.  I’m realizing that as I continue to practice contemplative spirituality, it is not just a desire, but an actual need that I experience sacred silence with other people.  My soul longs for this, and I would be unwise to block this cry.

I needed to listen more intentionally.  I needed to block out other voices to listen to the voice that truly matters.  I needed to see all the ways I yearn for control and external affirmation.

In living with a chronic illness, I feel more connected to the Divine in a community of silence and stillness.  Why?  I feel like my body is welcome to feel however it feels.  My entire life with God can come to the forefront; my interior life with God matters.

To be honest, in my experience thus far, my female body in its illness, has been left outside the church.  I come back to this reality often, as my old ways of doing faith have been stripped away.

Some questions I got to ask this weekend included:

  • When does the church celebrate and esteem the weak Christ, except at the crucifixion?
  • If a main call on my life is to live gratefully in a weak, vulnerable, limited body-how do I re-engage with the church calendar in a way that resonates with my experience?
  • How do I want to address my experience of patriarchy and the unbalanced masculine?
  • Right now, do I need more solitude or community?
  • What are my deepest raw emotions surrounding the fact that I must choose a worshipping community somewhat based on the building it is in because of my mold sensitivity?
  • What has come of all the things I’ve said no to?  How has this made my spirituality more robust?

Maybe I will write more about these questions in the future.  For now, I’m just grateful I had a full day of spacious time to ask these pressing questions.  And to those of you reading, may you find time, in your own unique way, to ask your questions, even as they differ from the groups you are in.

Autoimmune Disease-Result of Neglecting Feminine Consciousness?

These thoughts I’m writing in this post have been in me for awhile; I just didn’t have the words.  I needed to wander around for awhile before things started to make sense.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s 2 1/2 years ago.  I dove into my healing with tenacity-my anger had a healthy place to be channeled.  The first many months revolved around lifestyle changes, doctor appointments, food prep and food reintroductions, and finding a supportive health community.  The first 6 months after my diagnosis I took care of myself full time.  I had no idea yet of how these practices were forming me.

After the physical changes seemed manageable, I dove into emotional healing–through spiritual direction, writing, therapy, yoga and meditation.  Finding friends who could compassionately listen to the fact that chronic illness takes a heavy toll on my body.  And being sick in a world created for healthy people is a daily challenge even on a good day.

What has taken the longest to articulate are the drastic spiritual shifts that have occurred.  No doubt that all these aspects are interconnected.  The combination of going back to therapy, starting a meditation practice, re-entering the world of bodywork as a patient, and writing publicly about my assault have launched me into the question, “Where is my intuition and vulnerability leading me?”  I don’t really know the answer to this question, but at least for now, I’m writing this post.  And this post speaks of the beginning of my journey into the Sacred Feminine.

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75% of those affected by autoimmune disease are women.  Researchers now know that in order to get an autoimmune disease, a “perfect storm” must present itself.  25% can be “blamed” on genes, yet 75% comes from a variety of environmental triggers-be it diet, leaky gut, a parasite or gut infection, stress, environmental toxins or mold.  Someone could have the genes for an autoimmune disorder, but not have the disease “turned on” because the gut micro-biome is in good shape.  (That is, my belief is that all autoimmune disease starts in the gut.)

The next question that surfaces is: “Could our lifestyle help these genes to not be “turned on” and have a full-blown autoimmune disease surface?

Well, if this is true, we have a lot of culturally pressures, that we must learn to resist, even if it feels almost impossible.  But generally what do we as Americans give into?

Our over-structured, over-scheduled pace of life.  Productivity.  Efficiency.

Stress.  Fear of Missing Out.  Accumulating Stuff.  Hiding Our Emotions.

Our body wasn’t meant to be this busy.  And people intuitively know this if they would be honest with themselves.  And this isn’t just about sick people.

We don’t know how to rest anymore.  And most of us, feeling hopeless, just assume we have to succumb to the busyness and connectedness of the world that isn’t going to change.

But I want to step back and say that the subconscious of our nation is toxic.  We have valued to the extreme, masculine ideals and neglected the feminine to our demise.  Pushing harder and doing more and making money isn’t ultimately fulfilling.  And my generation knows this.  We long for authenticity, for stories, for ritual, for meaning.


What aspects of the feminine consciousness have we neglected?

(And when I say feminine consciousness, this exists in everyone!)

We have neglected the earth, our bodies, rest, emotions, intuition, and friendship.

When we neglect the earth, when we decimate forests, when we throw chemicals on crops, when we mistreat animals, we endanger ecosystems, create contaminated soil (rotating crops and not just making corn for high fructose corn syrup would be a good idea!) and contaminated food.

When we neglect the body, we live in a dull, numb, and painful state.  We push too hard to be productive, to “make it” in today’s world, but we become deaf to our bodies’ cries.

When we neglect rest, we can no longer live in the moment.  We lose the ability to cultivate gratitude and to unplug from external and internal demands the mind is constantly making.

When we neglect our emotions, we hold in or lash out in anger, bitterness, and resentment. Forgiveness of ourselves becomes impossible.  Forgiveness of our enemy unthinkable.

When we neglect our collective intuition, we graduate smart people who have no empathy.  We have doctors who believe that many women in this nation are hypochondriacs.  We create a nation where many people suffer alone, because we don’t have guides of people following their intuition, or we don’t know how to find those people.

When we neglect friendship, work or family takes over.  Neither work or family are bad–yet we have more needs and desires than these.  We need different experiences.  We need to laugh.  We need people to keep showing up because they want to.


How do we wake up?

I feel like that question can only be answered in honest community, not just by reading this post and giving it a minute’s thought.  I’m confident though that in honest community, through stories and fights and listening, through prioritizing women’s voices-you might just find your way to an answer.  Investment will be involved though.

On a personal level though, I will speak of the practices that have been part of my “awakening.”

  • A mindfulness practice.  There’s plenty to pick from.  Choose one.  Stick to it.  Pay attention to the subtle changes.  Warning: no instant gratification here.
  • Yoga, or another form of mindful exercise that brings you into your body and out of your head.
  • Friendships with people who are open to growth and change.
  • Deep soul searching of ways we are harming the earth.
  • Listening to the answers to these questions:
    • What do I want?
    • Where do I hurt?

Having Hashimoto’s has shifted my spirituality in that I no longer have a choice whether or not I want to neglect my body or not.  So I’m letting my body speak, and I’m listening.  I’m integrating the feminine into my culturally-conditioned, unbalanced masculine soul.  I’m more willing to let my personal journey lead me into the unknown.

75% of people with autoimmune conditions are women.  That’s  a hard fact to come back to.  For in fact, the unbalanced masculine,  wanting to dominate nature has in fact harmed women most.  For women intuitively know that the health of the earth and our bodies are interconnected.

Yet if our collective longing is healing and wholeness, maybe then we will have enough courage to say, “We are all sick.”  Not broken, but in need of healing.  Maybe then we would lean on each other in friendship and tell our stories.  Speak of the evil in our own hearts and how we want to dominate the “other.”  Maybe then our relationships would be mutual, separated from roles of “giver” and “receiver.” Maybe we could learn to be quiet in community again, not needing to fix, but simply being present.  Maybe we could risk being awkward and breaking social norms.

Maybe, just maybe the swarms of chronically ill women in this country, as they commit themselves to healing–will be the wise healers, one of the most sought after female archetypes.

Vignette #4

This is my fourth post about my sexual assault by a doctor.  The posts do not necessarily go in chronological order, but it’s helpful if you first read my post on healing ,  Vignette #1 , Vignette #2, and Vignette #3.

I went to talk with a female lawyer, based upon a referral.  I sat in a big conference room in her office building in downtown Indianapolis, and waited for her to enter.  With warmth and ease, she greeted me, and told me that I could take my time and she would be taking notes.

She noted every comment of sexual harassment, the assault itself, and any detail about the setting and the doctor’s demeanor that I could remember.  Then came the dreaded question, that I knew was going to be asked, although she pulled it off well.

“Did you tell her to stop?”

“No, I didn’t.  I told her I was in pain, but I didn’t tell her explicitly ‘No’ or ‘Stop.'”

“Why?”

“I knew that she wouldn’t.  Two sessions before, I told her that she was using too much pressure when she massaged my leg, but she ignored my comment and kept using the same amount of pressure. She didn’t seem to have too much consideration for the amount of pain I happened to be in.”

Before I was left, I was told that they would contact the clinic for my medical records, especially from that session, and that I would be getting a letter stating whether or not they would take my case.

I waited several weeks.  No letter.  I knew that the lawyer’s assistant, who was a nurse, had research to do about whether or not what was done to me was a “legitimate” medical procedure.  So I waited some more.

Finally, it came.  About a month later.  She would not take my case.

I remember just staring at the letter for about 5 minutes wondering,

What do I have to do to be believed?

How do you live and heal with a lack of justice?

I felt in my body extreme tension, especially in my jaw and shoulders.

The weight of being a victim.

The weight of feeling powerless.

The weight of knowing that choosing to tell my truth would be an uphill battle.

Vignette #3

This is my third post about my sexual assault by a doctor.  The posts do not necessarily go in chronological order, but it’s helpful if you first read my post on healing , Vignette #1, and Vignette #2

After I sent my letter into the clinic, the HR person reached out to me and told me that she, the head doctor, and the physical therapist would like to meet with me.  She told me that the physical therapist wanted to apologize for any harm she may have caused, and was sorry that I misconstrued what she was doing.

I took a few deep breaths and told her that I would only come into the clinic if the physical therapist was not in the meeting and that I wouldn’t see her at all in the building. I didn’t want to hear an apology from her.

I went in a few days later to the meeting with an advocate, who mainly just listened, as she could stay more objective than me.

I hated the huge feeling of pressure, that what I said could potentially be used in court, that notes were being taken.  That I was supposed to be objective, but I was still living in trauma.  It was hard to sit in the room I was diagnosed in, to just be back in the building in general.

Honestly, I don’t remember much of the conversation.  That’s also very true of trauma.  Some parts I remember every detail, some parts are hazy, and some parts I remember almost nothing at all.  This meeting fits into the hazy category.

The doctor asked me if there was anything else I wanted to say outside of what I said in the letter.

“I felt violated.  I believe that I was sexually assaulted under the title of medical treatment.”

Then I heard a detailed speech about how intravaginal techniques can be used to treat the pelvic floor and that it was a legitimate medical procedure both in physical therapy and osteopathic medicine.

“Why was she alone?”

No answer.

“Why didn’t she have clear consent? Why did she spring this on me mid-session and not explain what she was going to do? Why didn’t I fully understand how this treatment fit into why I was seeing her?”

I started to cry and I didn’t have any more stamina.  I wanted to try and get through the meeting without crying, but I couldn’t stand to hear her defended again and again.

Once I caught my breath I asked:

“If you don’t believe I was actually sexually assaulted, then do you believe there was sexual harassment occurring?

“I believe that she should have said some things differently. I will make sure I talk to her about the comments she made.”

I was done.  As I kept crying, the head doctor wanted to give me a referral to a therapist.  I said, “I already have one.”

And in my head I thought, “I will never take a referral from you ever again.”

I left knowing that I must leave this clinic and never come back.

Even if that meant I got more sick and had to wait a long time to see another doctor.