Things have been pretty much the same as always with me. I’m inching closer to graduation, and cannot wait to have a job that allows me to sleep at night like a real human being. I’ve been working on doing breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques, which are difficult but seem to be helping me to feel more grounded. I’m focusing on trying to truly feel what’s going on with my body. Too often, I am disconnected from my body, so it feels unnatural to me to focus on the sensations that are occurring.

I’m reading a book by Babette Rothschild called “The Body Remembers.” It is about the psychophysiology of trauma and how to integrate the body into safe trauma therapy. It has been a great read for me both personally and professionally. I’ve gotten some better tools to use with my clients who have experienced trauma, and have been able to put them into practice in my own life. My anxiety and dissociation has seemed better recently.

I haven’t done too much work with my dilators yet. I made two attempts to get the smallest one in and got it halfway each time (it is about the size of my pinky finger), which at first seemed like a failure until I realized that that’s the biggest thing that’s been in there since my doctor’s horrific attempt to do a pelvic exam a few years ago. In some ways, the response to trauma is paradoxical: I know based on what happened to me as a child that things can go in there, because they did, but that having happened makes penetration nearly impossible.

My biggest struggle right now in terms of using the dilators is my partner, but not for the reasons you may think. She is my biggest support and has been absolutely amazing in terms of being aware and respectful of my history and boundaries. In fact, she gets so upset and worried that she will accidentally hurt me that we sometimes have to just stop even though nothing bad has happened. The first time I tried a dilator, she was in the room and I hadn’t told her what I was doing. When she realized, she went into a full-blown panic attack because she thought I was hurting myself. I assured her that I wasn’t, but she was still really upset and was sure that there was no way I could use the dilator without experiencing excruciating pain. I explained that when you use dilators, you stop and wait at any sign of pain, because the idea is to teach your body that penetration does not hurt. So, if I’m doing it correctly and responding to my body’s cues, I will not feel any pain while using dilators. I think she’s worried that I’m going to push myself too fast and end up hurting and being retraumatized.

I understand and appreciate her concern for me. She wants me to use the dilators and get better, not for any selfish reason, but because I want to be able to do things like use a tampon, get a pelvic exam, and have penetrative sex. At the same time, she is so worried about me hurting myself that the thought of me using the dilators makes her very anxious, which then makes her feel guilty because it has gotten to the point where I don’t want to use the dilators for fear of making her upset or anxious. How can I help my partner so that she can tolerate what I need to do to help myself? Does anyone have experience with this?