I had to have a stress echocardiogram yesterday. I’ve been having chest pains, and my primary doctor wanted me to see a cardiologist to rule out anything heart-related (my lung issues put me at a higher risk for certain heart conditions). My PCP is aware of my PTSD and my issues with medical stuff and warned me that it wasn’t going to be easy for me to do. She even said that I may have to be sedated to get through it. I thought she was joking. Now I don’t think she was joking at all.

When I went to my cardiology appointment a few weeks ago, I wasn’t expecting anything major to happen. I thought the cardiologist was going to tell me I was okay and send me on my way. I think he may have thought that, too, when he looked at my record. A 30 year-old with no high blood pressure, no diabetes, and no high cholesterol. No risks. But then he started asking me questions, and by the end of the medical interrogation, he told me I had a lot working against me. Smoking, drug use, medications, family history, and past overdoses were all fucking me over in that moment. There was enough concern to schedule more testing.

I didn’t really know what was going to happen aside from getting hooked up to wires and running on a treadmill. It didn’t seem like much, so I tried not to stress about it. I didn’t even bring it up in therapy the day before because I wasn’t expecting anything bad to happen. I thought I had it all under control.

I didn’t even make it to the first part of the test before breaking down and crying.

A nurse took me to the room and gave me a gown to change into. I knew I had to do it, but it was difficult. My layers of clothes help me feel safe, and now I had to let them go. I stood there, completely naked from the waist up, trying to wrap myself in the gown and holding it closed. But the nurse had to get in. She had to put patches on my skin so I had to uncover.

I stood there, completely vulnerable, trying to hold myself together. I felt the skin of her hands touching the skin on my chest. I wanted to tell her to stop but I couldn’t. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I froze. Then she reached her arms around me. I felt her against my body just like I had felt my mother just years ago. And I lost it.

I felt so sick. I couldn’t say a word. I just cried. All I could think about was my mother. All those times I would stand there and let her touch me and I never said a word. I never told her to stop. I never made her stop. I must have wanted it. 

How sick am I to have let this happen. Does she think I wanted this? I wonder if she know. Does she see how disgusting I am? Does she know what I’ve done? 

I don’t even really know all that went on during the test. I was so lost in my mind that my body became automatic. I know I stopped crying after a while. I finished the test. My heart was okay. My cardiologist was happy. I remember him asking me if I was excited to have a perfectly healthy heart, and I couldn’t answer. All I wanted to do was run to the nearest bathroom to throw up. And I did.

I needed to wash the filth off. All I wanted to do was scald my skin in the hottest water. But I was afraid to go home, because I knew I wouldn’t be safe being alone with my memories. So I took the bus to clear my mind. I fiddled around on my phone. I went to the movie theater to distract myself, only to end up crying in the bathroom stall for half an hour instead.

I wandered and cried for hours until I finally ended up at home before dark. I got in the shower and cried even more. I washed myself a dozen times but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to rip off all of my skin and scrub away all of the filth hidden underneath. I felt it everywhere. I just wanted it to go away. But it wasn’t going away.

I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I needed clean. I couldn’t clean my body anymore, so I started cleaning my surroundings. I washed everything down with vinegar. I scrubbed the baseboard. I spent hours wiping every surface. I got a garbage bag and threw away everything that was dirty. Dirty clothes. Dirty shoes. Dirty knick-knacks. I needed everything to be clean. I rid myself of everything dirty because I couldn’t get rid of the dirtiest thing of all: me.

I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking. I can’t eat because my stomach feels so sick. I’ve taken four showers today and I still feel so disgusting.

I don’t think any amount of showers in the world would make me feel clean right now. I just want to feel clean.

17 thoughts on “Clean

  1. OH, KJ,

    You are clean. I know you don’t feel it. It sounds like you froze while being abused and this test had too many similar elements. she is dirty for doing dirty things to you and your body. I find it helps to remember that the body’s cells renew every seven years.

    May you find some peace and clean feelings soon, sl


    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, sl.

      I’ve heard that cell renewal tidbit before. That might actually help, to think that there will be a time when all of the body’s cells will be undamaged by her. Thank you.


  2. Oh dear, I can see how the preparation for the test would be entirely triggering! I am so sorry! It sucks when you go into something thinking it won’t be a big deal but it fact it’s a nightmare. I had this happen to me last fall, when I had to have a bladder study before my pelvic organ surgery. I didn’t realize it would be so invasive and would expose me the way it did. On the outside, I went along with things but on the inside, I lost it.

    After talking it over in therapy, I ended up writing a letter to the gynecologist and explaining what it had felt like to me. I didn’t give her any details, just said I had a history of the abuse, and standing in the exam room naked from the waist down with sticks and measuring devices stuck in my vagina and the nurse’s face right in front of some very personal parts… well, it sucked beyond words. And to be able to go forward with any future work, I needed to know exactly what was going to happen ahead of time. And no one was allowed to touch me until I was ready and confident that I understood what was going on. That did help for the rest of our time working together and made me feel more in control.

    But the thing is, you never know ahead of time, going in to a new doctor for new tests. I’m still trying to figure out how to handle that.

    Anyway, probably the most important thing I want to tell you is that YOU DIDN’T WANT IT and YOU AREN’T DIRTY OR DISGUSTING. I am 1000 percent sure about that. You had no choice and no way to get away from what your mother was doing. She had you trapped and had two other people cooperating and enabling her. It was absolutely not your fault, and nothing she did has changed your worth. Sometimes you won’t always feel that you are clean, blameless, and quite wonderful, but I assure you, it’s true. Really. When you doubt it, please borrow my faith because I am so, so sure.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for your assurance. I try to take it in, but it’s so difficult because it’s still unnatural.

      I discussed this experience with my therapist today. She actually suggested writing down my needs much in the way you described. So now I have to write a letter to my doctors before my next session this Thursday. Your input has helped me get an idea of how to proceed, so thank you for sharing that.


  3. Dear Dear Heart: I am absolutely ***sure*** of this: You, KJ, Beautiful Wonderful Girl, did NOT “want it.” This monster terrified you and you froze because that was the ONLY way to keep SAFE. I am so so so happy you kept yourself, your sweet self, SAFE. I am so so so glad that your heart is so strong, in all the right ways. Sending you good, clean love – TS

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for the good, clean love, TS.

      I am still struggling, even after talking about some of it today in therapy. Because I wasn’t a child I’m having a hard time believing that it couldn’t be my fault.


  4. You are clean. I know you are. I know that dirty feeling and I’ve learned that no matter how covered in filth I feel, I’m really not. That’s how I know you’re clean, not dirty, not gross. You’re just you and you are a warrior.

    Medical stuff sucks. Even the most innocent sounding stuff can be so triggering. And we are so vulnerable. A woman doing my mammogram once reached out and squeezed my nipple without telling me she was going to. She wanted to see the discharge I’d been having. It hurt like hell, as it turned out my breast was infected, but I could not say a word. I had to go back again a week later for a recheck and I ended up with the same technician again. I had practiced with my therapist and when she put her hand out to check the discharge, I said stop so loudly she was visibly startled. I told her that I would do it myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh I’m so sorry for what you experienced. How were you able to say stop in that moment?

      That’s were I get stuck. I can’t assert my needs in the moment.


      1. KJ, lots of practice. Again and again and again. Telling myself that it would probably happen again and I was going to stop it. But, you know, it’s practice and not perfect by any means. Last September, I had a PAP smear that nearly did me in and I could not say stop in that moment.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I am 100% sure of three things. That you did not want it, that you are not dirty, and that medical professionals need more trauma training.

    I had an echocardiogram and it was the most exposed and vulnerable I had felt in a very long time. I am glad your heart is strong, and I hope it carries you through this and much more as you heal xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks PD.

      It definitely shocked me. I probably should have prepared myself better and researched what was going to happen, but I don’t like delving into Google and getting myself more worked up than I usually am already.

      Medical stuff scared me before, and this only seemed to strengthen my fear.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That experience sounds horrific, I am so sorry that it’s had this affect on you. You are clean. You really are. Sending healing thoughts your way. x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That sounds horrifying. I am so sorry you had to feel those feelings and you were so vulnerable and scared. I wish I could just wrap you in safety and love and give you peace. My heart feels for you

    Liked by 1 person

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