For women without trauma in their backgrounds smear tests feel invasive and embarassing for most. But for those with a background of trauma they can be retraumtising and violating.
Some of the things people say to "encourage" people to go aren't helpful to trauma sufferers at all. Like "you would get it out for a man" and "women get waxed all the time,its no different". But for trauma sufferers many DON'T at any rate "get it out" for men they don't know well, and being in a vulnerable, exposed circumstance is terrifying even if they do. Terrifying enough not to go at all, which places a woman under mental duress also in the reach of real physical harm.
However all is not lost! I have found ways to cope with mine, I go on schedule now, and don't think its not hard for me. Smears are very difficult for me and even if I do allll of the things Im about to list I still feel icky afterward. BUT I go.
smear test coping strategies
Ask for a double appointment (this way things don't have to be rushed. If you need to wait a few minutes here and there because you feel extremely triggered you have that extra breathing room)
wear headphones and play comforting music
ask your doctor for a single diazepam for the procedure if you are having panic attacks at the mere thought of it. This is safe for most people, much safer than not having a smear.
tell your care provider that you have a history of trauma
remember, you are the one in control. If anything feels too uncomfortable or you feel like you are about to cry or panic you can ask the nurse or doctor to stop
If you have any surgery due ask them to perform the smear while you are under. Ive had this done. The hospital were very understanding when I explained my problem and agreed right away!
practice some mindfulness breathing techniques to help keep you calm and give you a focus. In the days leading up try the coping skill listed under the section of this blog by that name.
Bathe and (if you do so) shave beforehand. You will likely feel more confident about getting it all out if you are happy the "gardening" is up to scratch
given the above.... remember...they have seen it all before. I know this is not at helpful when it comes to dealing with the fear but if you have any confidence issues it helps to remember that the smear provider has done this hundreds of times. Its a traumatic experience for you but its another day at the office for them. They might remember your smear if you dye your pubic hair bright pink...but otherwise..they will have forgotten all about it by the end of the day.
Wear a long skirt or dress. This enables you to maintain maxiumum dignity. It really does help me and is probably actually the only time I wear one.
Remember, you have a legal right to have your smear performed by a nurse or doctor of the gender of your choosing. I have NEVER heard of a UK surgery being difficult about this, but if they for some bizarre reason try to be awkward you do NOT have to go along with anything you are uncomfortable with.
For more information about coping with smears I recommmend googling Jo's Trust, or hopping on over to twitter on the hashtags #AtYourCervix_x or #Jo'sTrust.
Looking up NHS guidance on smears will help prepare you too.
Come on over to the Facebook group Ptsd, Bipolar and ouchies, oh my! For more discussion (and a vent if you need it) on this topic. I am there if you feel like messaging me.
good luck! Remember, you are an important person and your health matters just as much as someone who hasn't experienced abuse or trauma.