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The Trauma of a Chair

There’s this intense dread that overwhelms me every time I hear the word “gynecologist.” I haven’t been able to sit in that chair, put my feet on the stirrups, spread my legs wide in over two years. The thought makes my hands shake, my mind race, and my knees wobble.

The memories of that chair haunt me.

The feel of the cold metal speculum sliding inside of me; the flashbacks of pain and terror and heartbreak and guilt. I cannot escape them. I’m instantly taken back to that very moment, the realization of my greatest fear becoming a reality. Rape.

I first sat in that chair in a hospital room in Downtown Charleston at 5AM on a Sunday. The white sterile walls mocked my bruised and confused self — a stark contrast to the horrors of the night. A numbness overwhelmed my being, and I found myself merely existing. I could see my body hunched over and small from above. I was a spirit in the air; a simple spectator for the poking and prodding, disassociated from my own being. No emotions. No fear. Just numb.

But as I saw myself put my feet in the stirrups and spread my legs, I was dragged back into my body, kicking and screaming as I plunged into the terror that was attached to my earthly self. My legs shook. My stomach dropped. And as she slid the metal device inside of me I cried out, the trauma flooding into my consciousness so abruptly that I lost control of my being. My subconscious blocked out the rest.

For the first time in almost two years, I’m sitting in that chair again waiting on my doctor. While I may have spent ten minutes outside her office struggling to gain the courage not to walk away and give up; while there may have been countless nightmares and flashbacks and panic attacks leading up to this very moment; while I may be visibility shaking with a few tears sliding down my cheeks, I am here. I have finally walked through those doors and sat in this chair, something I truly thought I would never be able to do again.

There are so many aspects of sexual trauma that aren’t often discussed. The lifelong struggle to overcome that one moment of vulnerability and fear, and the countless struggles that ensue because of it. Like grief, trauma hits in waves. It takes weeks and months and years to fully heal, and even then there will be moments of remembrance and anxiety. Relationships are hard. Simply finding a way to enjoy sex and overcome the fear and guilt attached to it is hard. There’s so much to unpack and work through and heal from –– it takes time. You can’t expect to heal in a week.

I am not the sum of my trauma; I am not defined by what happened to me. But at the same time, in moments like these I’m reminded of my past and the strides I’ve taken since those lows. No matter how far I get from my trauma, a part of me will always be affected by it. As time progresses and I work on healing, the small, nasty voice in my head gets softer and fainter, until hopefully it will become a mere speck within the crevices of my mind.

For the first time in my life, I’m aware of my own strength, and damn am I proud of this woman I’ve become. l’m ready to get to know Juliette in her entirety. I’m ready to put in the work and welcome her with open arms, with all of her scars and bruises attached. Learning to love yourself is the hardest thing to come by, but it’s the most important thing you can do. With the guidance of the moon above and Mother Earth at my feet, I cannot wait to embrace every aspect of my psyche and to love her unconditionally and endlessly.

I hope you can find peace as well in 2021.

Keep your expectations low, but your optimism high.

Wishing you all the best.

xo, Juliette

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