Auntie SparkNotes: I'm Scared Of Being Touched
I know you recently already answered a letter about a gynecologist, but this is different. I'm not quite 15 yet, and not sexually active, so I haven't started my once a year check-up routine. However, my mom occasionally brings up that I ought to see the gyno, because I have irregular periods, and always have.
There are a few problems with this.
First, I think that the main reason I have irregular periods is that (while I'm not diagnosed and not claiming to have the actual illness) I have some eating disorder symptoms. She knows about it a little bit, but I think she thinks I'm better, isn't the kind of person I can talk to about it, and would make it worse if it were brought back up. Also, I don't think that I have a hymen, so I'm scared that the gynecologist will either think I'm lying about not being sexually active, or think that I masturbate. But my worst fear—and no one knows about this except a few very close friends I've told—as a young child, I went through what might be considered sexual abuse. It happened regularly for a long time, and I can be weird about people touching me now, and am VERY afraid of the idea of actually being touched in that area again. I know that it wouldn't be the same, but I know it'd still affect me, and I feel like I'd be likely to have a panic attack. Should I see one anyway? And if it's not too much to ask, I guess the bigger problem is how to get over some of my issues caused by the molestation?
Okay, Sparkler: the good news, if there is good news, is that your two problems are actually one and the same. Your fear of the gyno is just part and parcel of the much bigger issue of your painful past.
Unfortunately, that's also the bad news. Because—and I mean this in the nicest possible way—you're a mess, sweet pea. You're scared of your own sexuality, and your letter is a multi-faceted cry for help. You're afraid of being touched, you're afraid of your own body, you're afraid the gynecologist will think you're touching your own body... and while I can't say so with any certainty, I'm guessing it's not a coincidence that you've also developed an eating disorder that just happens to keeps any and all physical aspects of your sexual development at bay.
And considering what you've been through, none of this is surprising—or even unusual. You've got no frame of reference for sex, and sexuality, that doesn't include feeling scared and violated. And while there are some people who could experience what you did and come through it without lingering issues, those people are... weirdos. At least statistically speaking. And you're not one of them; if you're going to get past what happened to you, you're going to need help.
And if you're going to get help, then you're going to have to ask for it.
It's time to tell someone—an adult someone—about what happened to you, and about all the ways it continues to affect you now. And so, before I do anything else, I have to ask: is your mom really unapproachable, distant, and given to making bad situations worse? Or is that just what you've been telling yourself because it gives you an excuse to avoid telling her the truth? Because based on your letter, she doesn't sound uncaring or unapproachable so much as clueless—and unless you have real, valid reasons to believe that your mom won't take you seriously, she's your best option for getting the help you need.
So, if you can, go to her before you try anything else. Tell her you need to talk—you can ask her in advance to not freak out—and then tell her a) that you've been reluctant to go to the gynecologist because you're afraid of being touched, and b) the reason why. (If the idea of saying this face-to-face is too much, you can also put it in a letter.) Or, if you really can't go to your mom, choose another adult—a relative, a family friend, a religious leader, a guidance counselor—and tell that person. And if you need help figuring out what to say or how to say it, you can get guidance and support (anonymously) by calling RAINN at 1.800.656.HOPE.
And please, please do this. Do it now. Don't wait. Because in the end, this issue so much bigger than whether or not you're comfortable at the gynecologist (although yes, you should go—and doctors are trained to deal with issues like yours, so make sure to be honest with yours about your history and anxieties.) It's about giving yourself the chance to be okay, to live free from fear, and to live a life in which you embrace and appreciate your sexuality as something wonderful, not something to be feared and avoided. You deserve nothing less.
Got something supportive to say to our letter-writer? Leave it in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.