I had a dream the other night that we moved back to New York City. It’s no secret in my marriage that I very much wished we still lived there and Ben is thrilled to be out of there. That, and the fact that I want a cat and he doesn’t, is one of our biggest viewpoint differences. In the grand scheme of possible points of contention or opposing opinions, these, thankfully, are relatively minor. Oh, and our views on the existence of God are different, though Ben has always affirmed his view with unwavering conviction, whereas I’ve had different beliefs over time.

The main reason that I miss living in NYC is because of the easily accessible near endless list of opportunities and goings-on at any given time. Since I essentially don’t drive and I keep highly unusual hours for someone my age, it’s nearly impossible to find things to do here, make friends or visit friends on my own, and transport myself wherever I want to go independently.

With all of my sensory processing issues, it surprises most non-New Yorkers that I could tolerate living in such a bustling city, but the reality is that we lived far from crowded touristy locations. New York City, like all cities, I imagine, has plenty of diverse neighborhoods and options for various “vibes.” We lived right along the river in a relatively slower area. I was rarely overwhelmed by too much stimulation close to home and while certain subways were overcrowded and certain destinations clashed with my sensory needs, I avoided those places with ease and still had tons of viable places and things to do a walk or subway jaunt away.

I also enjoyed the energy of the city, the diversity, the availability of highly specialized medical professionals and niche groups. That said, I know I’ll never live there again, so it’s a loss I’m learning to make peace with. The irony is that I’m the one who forced us to leave abruptly as we did when we did, as the scene of the attack, our apartment, was paralyzing me with panic and illness. Continuing to live in that home was further damaging my psychological state at that time.

Like many of my dreams that are not traumatic nightmares, the move to New York City dream was bizarre. What began as a realistic storyline, quickly morphed into a fantastical, wonky world. In the dream, we apparently forgot that Ben works in Connecticut, so after we moved there one weekend, he realized on Monday morning that he’d need to commute two hours north to his current office. (For completeness, my job involved feeding kittens out of eye droppers on the roof!) Instead of driving, Ben took an inner tube ride on a huge purple water slide to his office.

In contrast to this funny, light-hearted dream, last night I had a nightmare about a tortuous gynecological visit. Although I’m so many multiples more anxious about getting a preventative women’s healthcare Pap smear and exam now post-rape than beforehand, it’s never been something I’ve been comfortable with. Not only do I fear doctors and exams, but it’s obviously quite invasive and uncomfortable. I’ve only had one such routine exam in my life, and that was several years before getting attacked. Afterward, I had a non-routine injury-related medical appointment, but other than that, gynecological exams have been completely avoided.

I recognize the risk in ignoring this aspect of preventative health care. Many of the female-specific cancers can be relatively asymptomatic, so their detection is only possible through the Pap smear and related exam. I knew a young woman from college who actually passed away last year from endometrial cancer that had gone undetected and metastasized to multiple organs. With full sincerity, I say that the world lost someone really special with her passing. Although I know that it’s more of exception than a likelihood, cancer can strike anyone and it’s important to take advantage of the screening tools that have been developed to reduce the risk of an advanced disease state.

I have scheduled and cancelled two gyn exams in the past three years. I seem able to muster the courage to ask for a referral and set an appointment, but then I back out the day before. I become overcome with anxiety that it will hurt and be re-triggering of the most personal and intimate type of privacy invasion. I know that doctors are there to keep us healthy and safe and have only good intentions, but I seem unable to convince myself that it’s worth the fear and potential pain to do the exam.

As it stands now, I have an appointment in the calendar for early April. Although it’s a male practitioner, which is inherently more scary and awkward, as far as doctors go, I’m fairly comfortable with him and I trust him.

At least that’s the case consciously. There is obviously some degree of subliminal doubt and dread still in play because last night, he was in my dream (nightmare is a more appropriate term) and was an evil box cutter-wielding maniacal doctor! It’s unnecessary to go into what happened in the nightmare, as only the resultant emotional impact and its likely subconscious causal thinking is important. I’m thinking that I’ll ask my doctor for a mild sedative or short-acting anti-anxiety medication to get through the exam. At least I have two months to plan, yet in some ways, I wish I was getting it over with sooner so that I don’t have two months to fret over it! I’m anticipating needing to bribe myself with an alluring prize for braving the exam; external motivation can be helpful when the internal drive is insufficient. I’d like to think I’d be mature enough that the importance of going and looking after my health would be a sufficient pull to endure the appointment, but alas, I’m still childish in many ways and my sheer terror overrules and drowns out that ability. Hopefully, I can use the next two months to better harness my anxiety so that I can approach the exam with more composure and emotional control; this will likely put the gyn-exam nightmares to rest as well!

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