Two things happened this past week that make it imperative to write about the connection between two traumas: sexual abuse and pelvic mesh injury.
First, Melynda, a dually-traumatized woman wrote a tearful story of her trip to get a transvaginal ultrasound:
I arrive at my scheduled time, make my way to radiology and wait for someone to take me back to the room. My pain is an 8-9 at this point and I am starting to shake because, goddammintalltohell, I am so exhausted of having strangers fiddling with my lady parts, I can’t even sit down and relax. (Remember also I am a survivor of child sexual abuse/incest and rape when I was 17 and have had all the wretched trauma of mesh, too).
In walks this older gentleman in scrubs and says, “Are you here for an ultrasound?”
I was so confused. Why is there an old man telling me he is going to be doing my transvaginal ultrasound!!!!??????
I started crying right then and there. “No, no, no, no, NO. I can’t do this with you. I am so sorry, I need a woman tech.”
He tells me it’s him or I will be forced to reschedule. I lose it. I tell him I need some time to calm myself down and then I go lock myself in the bathroom and sit there for 15 minutes while I sob uncontrollably and struggle to breath.
Before this mesh disaster, I wasn’t like this. I could have pelvic exams with no problem. I have been to years of counseling to help me overcome the abuse/incest and rape and I count myself as a survivor of both of those things. But these mesh injuries and the resulting treatments I have to endure. That is what left me sobbing in the hospital bathroom, shaking so hard I couldn’t even hold my phone.
Two days later, Buzzfeed published a document written to an arrogant rapist. The letter set off a maelstrom of outrage. The valiant victim described those hellacious moments when she slowly came to the realization she’d be brutally raped:
I … went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policemen used scissors to cut them off for evidence.
The physical and psychic numbness, immeasurable pain, wanting to shed her own body, and begging for time to process her trauma; while her attacker and the judge continue to intensify his horrific attack by turning the spotlight of blame onto her instead of him. Her words set off a campaign to remove the judge and, at the same time, further ignite the opprobrium of pelvic mesh-injured women who suffer so many of the same symptoms. A pelvic mesh-related injury feels like a rape in the aftermath. For all intents and purposes, it is rape, sometimes with genital mutilation.
For sexual assault victims, mesh pain takes them right back into a post traumatic state. Pelvic mesh victims are offered little redress while the device makers are permitted to increase sales, rush new versions to market, and continue to profit unfettered.
You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice…
How many pelvic mesh victims have uttered these same words? And these:
I am no stranger to suffering. You made me a victim. … For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to … relearn that this is not all that I am. … I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold …
My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable. You cannot give me back the life I had before that night either. While you worry about your shattered reputation, I …hold … spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I can see.
I … excuse myself to cry in stairwells. I can tell you all the best places … to cry where no one can hear you. The pain became so bad that I had to explain private details to my boss to let her know why I was leaving. I needed time because continuing day-to-day was not possible. I used my savings … I did not return to work full time … My life was put on hold for over a year, my structure had collapsed.
There are times I did not want to be touched. I have to relearn that I am not fragile, I am capable, I am wholesome, not just livid and weak.
If you would like to join a small support group for people with both mesh injuries and a history of sexual abuse/assault, join here. ,–LINK UPDATED
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is common to both injuries and healing involves stages. No two women are ever alike and no healing patterns are identical. In hopes for your continued, safe, comforted, and thorough healing, here is a list of the stages:
Peggy Day is working on a book to combine all these stories. This is an excerpt from Pelvis in Flames: Your Pelvic Mesh Owner’s Guide. Your input is welcome to help make Pelvis in Flames the book you need to read.
If you’d like to join an online support group and learn about erosion, partial removals, surgeons, or just find out that you are not alone, join my group, Surgical Mesh or check the list of support groups here.
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