Tag Archives: Child Sex Abuse

Doubly Traumatized: Pelvic Mesh & the Sexual Abuse Survivor

Dual Trauma

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.

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Freedom is for women, too.

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:

Stages of healing from sex abuse

Page 1

Stages of healing from sex abuse pg 2

Page 2

I’d like to hear from you if you are helped by what you read here or if you need to know more about any particular topic. Comment below or email me privately at daywriter1@gmail.com.

Pelvic Mesh -> Pain Part 2. A Personal Story

Thank you to Martina Lopez (not her real name) who generously offered to allow me to publish her story (with a little editing) about her battle with pelvic pain:

“I heard a Nigerian-American woman, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, say in a speech, that Americans talk about pain differently from Nigerians. Americans, she said, have an expectation that pain can be anathema [something you absolutely cannot stand or you ban from your life]. In Nigeria, she said, pain is expected and nurses aren’t solicitous of patients who complain about it. It lead me to think about how my own journey with pelvic pain has changed my expectations about pain.

“Starting out using narcotics was out of the question for me by the time I was implanted with a bladder sling. I had some very bad reactions to them and a duodenal ulcer meant that all NSAIDs [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] were out. I was left with Tylenol at the same time when high warnings about  liver and kidneys damage came out. I tried physical therapy but one visit was enough to send me running for the hills–it was not for me.

“I saw a Psychologist/Pain Specialist who did not prescribe medication but who taught me not to let my mind run from the pain but to turn into it and pay attention to it. He said to learn about its qualities, locations, movements, and what made it better and what made it worse. Doing this was extremely difficult because I was changing my lifetime of attitudes about pain. It took a few months but having someone to report my discoveries about my pain to really helped. I learned there was one position I could put my body into that eased the pain up a bit and discovered that just knowing I could get into it helped me. Unfortunately, the only position that worked was in deep water so I had to wait until I found a pool to get into it. I have get into the water, lay on my back, drop one leg down and let the other stay floating near the surface. Afterward I did a few very slow and gentle stretches in the water. This routine acted like WD-40 on my pain and could help for almost 24 hours.

“The pain specialist taught me not to look for the pain to go completely way but to learn how to make it easier. I had to figure out what things set me up for another attack of severe pain. For example, I cannot sit straight up for more than 2 hours or I will feel an intensity of pain for 2 days. Walking, resting, soaking all help my pain and allow me to get some exercise.

“There is just no way to avoid every single emotional distress in my life and I know stress increases pain. When emotional stress happens, I need to double down on my pain-relieving strategies.

“It’s been a long time and the pain has changed but never goes away completely. I continue to respect it. I take small doses of Tylenol for the hard times and on a “bad pain day”–when the pain makes every fiber in my entire body scream out–I make myself tough it through until about 9 at night and then I take one eighth of a dose of a narcotic pain killer along with the Tylenol and go to bed.”
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If you’d like to join an online support group and learn about pain, erosion, partial removals, surgeons, or just find out that you are not alone, check the list of support groups here.

Subscribe to MeshTroubles.com to learn more about pelvic mesh. I’d like to hear from you if you are helped by what you read here or if you need to know more about any particular topic. Comment below or email me privately at daywriter1@gmail.com.

Pelvic Mesh -> Pelvic Pain Part 1.

When I was eighteen, I lived in the home of an accomplished general surgeon, Dr. Stephen Magyar, as a nanny for his children. During the brief time I lived with the family, I was fortunate to be the beneficiary of his many kindnesses. Sadly,  just after I moved in, he was diagnosed with liver cancer that had metastasized to his spine and he only lived a few more months. During those precious days, his hospital bed was set up in the living room where his many colleagues, patients, family and friends could stop by and visit. I could see that he suffering severe pain as the disease took over his body.

I often stopped by his bedside to tell him how the kids were and he offered me many jewels of fatherly advice—something I missed out on in my own home. He looked up at me one afternoon with his yellowing eyes and said, “I wish I could go back and take care of my patients all over again. I regret that I didn’t take their pain seriously enough. If I could just go back now, I’d would give them more pain-killers than I ever did.” His words guided my actions during my 20 years as a nurse. I always put the patient who was in pain at the top of my priority list.

As many as one in four women suffers from pelvic pain after a mesh implant.  The vaginal area has a complicated design that even the best researchers don’t understand completely yet. The spaces that surgeons open up when implanting meshes were intended to have many functions and cutting into those spaces leave unintended consequences, consequences that are often misunderstood or ignored by too many surgeons. The area that is cut for transobdurator tapes or pelvic slings is part of the process a woman uses to hold back or start her urine, to engage in sexual activity and to evacuate her bowel. Those spaces also connect to her legs, a crucial part of weight bearing exercises which keeping a woman’s body healthy.

Too often, we hear complains by defeated and depressed women who just left the doctor’s office and felt their doctor was demeaning and dismissive of them and their pain. The women know the doctor was in the wrong but have no power to turn off his/her arrogant attitude. The woman often can’t go somewhere else because that doctor is the only one her insurance will allow her to see. Four years ago, Dr. Boortz-Mart told Pain Medicine News, “Our society cannot continue to afford multiple procedures that have no outcomes data aligned with them.”  Trouble with mesh is, there have been no pelvic pain studies with outcomes for physicians can rely on.
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Treatments include over-the-counter and prescription pain, anxiety, and experimental medications. All of these medications have passed the same lax FDA process like plastic mesh. One should become extremely cautious and skeptical with prescription medications these days. Having said that, the ACOG American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published a recommendation for non-mesh related pelvic pain which you can link to here with the caveat that it relies heavily on prescription medication.

Non-drug related pain interventions include physical therapy, ultrasound, electrode stimulation therapy, ice or heat applications, warm soaks, regular gentle exercise, and nerve blocks. Full, complete mesh removal alleviates pain in many but not all mesh implantees.

Pelvic pain in those who have suffered childhood or adult sexual abuse in addition to the polypropylene mesh injury is a special circumstance. New pain can intensify emotional trauma causing new post-traumatic symptoms. Injuries sustained as a child can alter the physical organization in the pelvis lending to more frequent complications. Unfortunately, lawyers have been encouraging those dually-injured victims to remain silent, not talk to other survivors, in a questionable attempt not to compromise cases. This is wrong because there is a theory of law that if your skull is only as thick as an eggshell and someone hits it, they are still responsible for the injury just as if you had been normal. If you have a preexisting injury, that does not make the manufacturers less liable. More on legal issues coming up soon on MeshTroubles.com.

If you are suffering chronic pelvic pain for any reason, it is important not to isolate yourself, even though the pain limits your activities. I recommend joining discussion groups with people who are dealing with pelvic pain. You will find many more helpful suggestions as well as personal encouragement. Many regions also have group therapy for chronic pain sufferers which can be helpful.

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, check the list of support groups here.

Subscribe to MeshTroubles.com to learn more about pelvic mesh. I’d like to hear from you if you are helped by what you read here or if you need to know more about any particular topic. Comment below or email me privately at daywriter1@gmail.com.

(Part 2. Personal Story of Pelvic Pain.)