The Breast Exam

My doctor quit practicing medicine over a year ago. Since I never go to the doctor’s I put off finding someone else until I absolutely had to go. It’s hard to get in to see someone half decent, it seems like the good docs aren’t taking new patients. I’m lucky enough to have a connection in the medical community and after a series of phone calls was able to make an appointment.

He knew some of the back story – that I’d had the misfortune to have trouble in therapy – which I thought was adequate for him to provide appropriate medical care. After all the family history questions he asked about current concerns. When he asked about suicide, I froze for a moment. It’s hard to talk about it – he said that it must be hard to reveal that, which was true. I said that I didn’t think about it much and when I did, it was in terms of how much better I am. That seemed to surprise him a bit, in a good way. But I’ve been feeling a bit more sad and depressed than usual. My guess is that I need more exercise and more sunshine, but still. Feeling depressed scares the living shit out of me, so I asked him to consider bumping up my anti-depressant. That seemed an okay idea to him and we proceeded to the exam.

And here’s where my incredible recovery is most evident. I’m almost 10 years past the age when a woman should have her first mammogram. Most of my friends have been getting them every year for quite sometime. I’ve never had one. So part of this doctor’s visit included a breast exam.

About two hours before I was having my breasts palpated, I got a phone call from a beauty salon where the guy who cut my hair has a paraphilia that involves a combination of voyeurism and frotteurism. My guess is that he’s been looking down women’s shirts and rubbing up against them for years – getting progressively worse. I thought when I went in that there was an awfully high level of sexual tension in the shop, but put it off to paranoia. I hate, absolutely hate having my head touched. And all that stupid small talk; trying to push the latest perm or dye. Ugh. But there was no mistaking this man’s behavior and the charge he got from it. For such a “small” invasion, it had a profound effect on me. I felt so dirty and ashamed. I was worried that I’d some how projected some vibe that this guy had picked up on, but my current therapist thought not. I decided not to beat myself up because I didn’t make a fuss in the salon and that I’d never return. But then the idiot called, probably to offer me some deal on a perm or something. I immediately hung up the phone, self preservation rather than cowardice, I think. But boy was that a nasty trigger.

So I was definitely primed to have a melt-down over the breast exam. And it was pretty awful, not the exam itself, but all the thoughts swirling around my head during the exam. There is a particular vulnerability when you’re sitting on an exam table wearing a paper shirt. But amazingly, I was able to deal with the present reality rather than all the related psychodrama, particularly my pathologic fear of being vulnerable. That counts a victory in my book!

Interestingly, when I’m in a vulnerable position and another human being treats me with kindness, I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude that it’s difficult not to cry. Hmm. Somewhere along the way, I must have developed a world view where vulnerability goes with danger and abuse, not love and compassion. Gee. Maybe this might lead to difficulties with intimacy.

Deeper questions about intimacy not withstanding, that’s a pretty stressful day, and I flew through with flying colors, if I do say so myself. Well, as long as you don’t count having nightmares and being up most of the night. Two years ago I’d have been completely zoned in front of some sort of Internet porn after raiding the fridge. Tonight, I had a nice little cup of peppermint tea and read a sci-fi novel for awhile before deciding to write about the day.


One comment

  1. Hello strong woman in recovery,

    Thank you for writing this, I smiled all the way through, not at your pain but of the knowingness I felt from inside me. I think that you write very well and manage to get your feelings down amazingly. Thank you.

    With care and respect

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