How Not to Healthcare in America

We all know our healthcare system is not great, along with all else in this country at the moment. As a trafficking survivor, informing my doctors of such is something that seems pertinent to a healthcare provider especially given my specific experiences. My primary care doctor took the information and uses it appropriately, to make informed decisions about my care. He occasionally asks how I am doing with self-harm as it is one of the things that is important to my care. And he asks due to real concern and desire to support in the best way possible not for any malicious reason. This is the same doctor that has filled out all of my paperwork for short and long term disability though my job since my strokes. And the same doctor that is temporarily handling my pain due to issues with my pain specialist that I will discuss. My primary care doctor, is by far the best doctor that I have ever been seen by. He has been my doctor for about 2 years and will be until he no longer practices.

There are several things that work against me in terms of healthcare aside from being a trafficking survivor; I am a woman, I am plus-size, I am gay, and I had strokes at 25 years old. The only thing in my favor is that I am white, my whiteness gets me to be listened to even if not necessarily heard. My whiteness gets me to a room in the ER whereas the black woman across from me who’d been there for hours with a VISIBLE ailment was still in the waiting room. Our healthcare system was built by middle aged white men FOR middle aged white men.

Rewinding a bit to being in the hospital with my strokes for most of July 2017. While in the hospital I spent one night in the ICU (intensive care unit), 5 nights in the IMCU (intermediate care unit) and several in the stroke/neuro unit. During my stay I saw several neurologists as they do rotating shifts and they all thought I was being dramatic, if not for the scans I do not think they would have believed me at all. One neurologist in particular, ordered a psych eval because she literally thought I was crazy, this is what she told the psychologist. The psychologist and I had a good talk though, about my history being a trafficking survivor and with self-harm and my mental illnesses. We talked about the fact that my anxiety is a contributing factor in my pain and vice versa, which I stated not the psychologist. I think that is when he realized the neurologist was being judgemental and not professional. This is also the neurologist that withheld all of my medications for almost a full 24 hours including the blood thinner that I was put on because I almost died. This is when I was labeled drug-seeking because I was in pain. As if a tear in ones artery isn’t painful!

As someone with chronic pain, I learned quickly that you almost have to play dumb when it comes to medications otherwise you are seen as drug-seeking. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia originally in 2011. This was the beginning of my journey with a diagnosis of something that, at the time, I didn’t know was not seen as a real disease. Since then so much has happened resulting in many other diagnosis, a multitude of ER visits, and several specialist visits. I taken about 100 different medications through the last 7 years, most of them not working. Each time I’ve seen a new doctor, it’s been the same introduction, leading with my trauma history, into the laundry list of diagnosis, my current medications and providers, and lastly what I’m seeking from them. This last part is where you have to watch what you say. You can’t go into a doctor and state you need pain medication or even an antibiotic. This request has to be thought about, refined, and stated in a ‘correct’ way. If you get upset, cry, or seem anything but calm, cool, and collected you get labeled as dramatic, drug-seeking, and crazy.

The dreaded pain scale. Anyone who’s ever been inside an ER knows what scale I’m talking about. This 0-10 pain scale is what is standard in our healthcare system, 0 bring no pain, and 10 being the worst pain imaginable. First off, as humans, I don’t think we ever have a 0 level pain, not this day in age at least. Secondly, they define worst pain imaginable as someone sobbing not being able to make out words and curled up in the fetal position. Yet, if you present like this you are told to calm down and use words and if you don’t talk to them they can’t help you etc. Then you are labeled as dramatic, drug-seeking, and crazy as mentioned above. So here we are at this crossroads of a no win situation. When you factor in chronic pain, you have to take in consideration the definition of chronic which is something that is never ending or relentless something that has lasted for more than a few months. When one lives with this pain, they develop a higher pain tolerance the longer they live with it. That being said their pain scale changes, when comparing the pain of someone with chronic pain to the pain of someone without is not only unfair but also unrealistic. Those of us live with a pain level that is higher than most people could function with. For example, my average pain level on this arbitrary scale is at 8 but in reality when compared to someone who doesn’t have chronic pain it would probably feel like a 12-15.

Navigating the healthcare industry is a minefield already, and then you throw in Donald Trump’s election, the healthcare “reform” he’s done, and the laws he’s set in motion in terms of discrimination make this an impossible task. This has given doctors the ability and validation to be jerks. This has allowed them to label us as these things and corner us because of the things we have no control over with no legal recourse. Slugging through this broken system is dangerous, anxiety inducing, and costly. Please take someone with you when at all possible so you not only have a witness but also someone to help you remember what was discussed in terms of treatment.



I Am Not Ashamed

From victim to survivor.
Sure I’ll speak your language.
Since you refuse to learn mine.
I was sold by my mother.
Wait that’s not what you want to hear.
My pimp was the woman whose body grew mine.
Whose body God knit together my soul in.
I was sold for sex as a child.
I was a victim of sex trafficking.
Because then you can have that layer of denial
Of cognitive dissonance
You don’t have to hear the words come out of my mouth
The words that would strobe graphic pictures in your head are too much
You don’t want to know what really happens
You can’t believe it would happen in your city
It happens in your city
No matter how big or how small
Do you have a gas station?
It happens in your city
Do you have a hotel?
It happens in your city
Do you have internet?
It happens in your city
I was a victim of sex trafficking. Trafficked in my home town. By my parents. By a national gang. I saw too much death way too young. I was born on drugs, literally, my mother had meth in her system when she gave birth. And Throughout my life she would shoot me up. Regularly. I live in pain every day, because of a pattern of things in my life that were there when I got here. I wish I could tell you it happened for only a year or two and then I was rescued. But that is not my story. My story is not a story of rescue. This is where sugar coating or speaking your language doesn’t really cut it. People bought me for years. As a child. This was all I knew. This was my normal. I knew it wasn’t normal, but it’s what I was conditioned to do. When I ran away. I was lucky in some ways. And not in others. I’ve been followed. I’ve been raped. I’ve been kidnapped. I’ve been beaten and shot up. I’ve been stocked. I’ve been ran over. And I’ve run away. I’ve sold myself. And for a long time felt a lot of shame about this. But you know what. I’m done with that. I was a sex worker. I was forcibly sold. And then I sold myself. I refuse to continue to wear the shame our society puts on the consensual selling and buying of sex. I refuse to allow the anti-trafficking movement to make me less of a trafficking survivor, because I later made the choice to sell my own body as others had done to/for me, for my entire life. One does not negate the other. I am a trafficking survivor. I was sold forcefully. I am a former sex worker. I sold myself, consensually. I am more than either of those things though. Life, my life, is worth more than any of those words. Those things are part of who I am. I am also a wife. I am a friend. I am a parent. I am a sister. I am a coworker. I am a neighbor. I am a writer. I am a student. I could go on, but you get the point. Being a trafficking survivor doesn’t define me. It is a big part of my life though, as an advocate (such a problematic word), for trafficking survivors, sex workers, DV survivors and many more. As Walt Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well; I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”

It was rape…

It was rape, even though he was was my dad.
It was rape, even though he claims it was cause he didn’t know better.

It was rape, even though my mother was paid for it.
It was rape, even though some were women.
It was rape, because I could not consent.

It was rape, even though he was my boyfriend.
It was rape, even though we’d had consensual sex before.
It was rape, because I did not consent.
It was rape, even though I was coerced into saying yes.

It was rape, even though I knew her.
It was rape, even though I was penetrated with a gun.
It was rape, even though it was in a car.
It was rape, because I screamed no over and over.

It was rape, even though it only lasted a couple minutes.
It was rape, even though I’d been drinking.
It was rape, even though I knew him.
It was rape, because he held me down after I said no several times.

It was rape. Period. None of this non-consensual sex bullshit. There is sex. There is rape.


Abusive Love

Lauren was my first love. And I believe some part of me will always love her. She was a very important part of my life…[un]fortunately that was only for a season. Things ended very badly…

I never thought it could happen to me

Not because I’m above it

But because I thought I would notice the signs

I thought I would see the subtleties

I thought my horrific past made me immune

I thought

But my past made it easier

And the subtleties were everywhere

I excused them as love

As someone who really cared for me

When things progressed beyond subtle

I was already stuck

I was already making excuses for small things

The big things followed suite

And it was easy

It was easy to be ok with being screamed at

It was easy to hide my emotions

It was easy to let her control

It was natural

And I found reasons I deserved it

I was bad

I was dirty

My emotions were irrational

I needed controlled so I didn’t get out of control

I deserved being held down

Talked down

And my needs pushed aside

I was ‘paying my dues’

It wasn’t until it cost me a job that I realized

It wasn’t until she didn’t want me anymore that I realized

It wasn’t until my heart was already so in love

Yet so broken that I realized

This is not safe

This is not healthy

This is not what I want my life to be

Abusive love

~ ~ ~

Why does my playlist symbolize

All the good times I thought we had

What you led me to believe we were

Why did you lie to me

Why did you hurt me

Why did you give me a single red rose

Explaining that you were giving me your heart

I held it so gently

While you stomped on mine

While you drug me through the mud

And told me it was all my fault

That it was all in my head

Even the thoughts in my own head

Started to reflect what you told me I was

Though I had worked so hard to think for myself

You swooped in

At a vulnerable time

And made me believe

That I was still on the right path

In reality

You had taken charge

You placed yourself in my head

Not a single thought I had after a while was mine

You made me believe it all was

Oh, you are good at your game

You brought me in

Wrapped me tight

Tight enough

To suffocate most of me

Tight enough for me to release control

For one last breath

You let me keep the illusion

That you loved me

Until I wasn’t good enough

Good enough for your love any longer

And then you said “let’s be friends”

And it was downhill from there

Those three words released me into the world

But you wanted me to fight for you

So you could turn me down

You wanted me to beg for you not to leave

Beg you to stay

Tell you I needed you

When I didn’t do those things

You got angry

Had I done that

The result would have been similar

But you would have taken me back

To keep the control

There was no winning with you

I always lost

You always win your game

And when you don’t

It’s “poor Lauren”

It always happens TO you

You don’t take responsibility

And you refuse to see reality

The Journey of Love

All my life I’ve had trouble dreaming of my future, which probably seems weird for anyone who knows me because I am very strong willed, sometimes to the point of stubborn, and I have such huge goals. The struggle I had was where I saw myself in my personal life, relationships, kids, home-life, etc. It’s always been something that seemed to change and be at odds with each other.

I knew from a very young age that I was gay, I was 5 when I remember my preference for women becoming something I struggled with. As a very young child, preschool and kindergarten to be exact, my grandfather and father would tease me about boys; asking me if I kissed them behind school or on the bus, or if I thought they were cute. When I would show embarrassment they didn’t understand that I was embarrassed because I felt like it was wrong to like girls in the way they were asking me about boys. They saw my embarrassment as, ‘cute,’ as a reinforcement that I did in fact like boys. – With the religious background that my fathers side of the family has, there was no way I was ever going to admit that I was gay, not to them at least. I remember times where my grandfather and father would talk, “homosexuality is of the devil. You will go straight to hell if you even think about being gay.” They thought of it as a decision….

There was a time in my life when I wanted to live in downtown Manhattan. I wanted to be a writer and have a white and silver, all glass, sky rise apartment with my cats. I didn’t want anyone in my life.

There was a time in my life when I wanted to be a lawyer, live in a big house with a big family. I wanted to somehow be superwoman and also be a stay at home mom with my kids, go to the gym every morning, and have a partner…and that is where it stopped. That part would never form, because I had this impeding thought that I was suppose to marry a hard working man, be a stay at home soccer mom, barefoot in the kitchen 9 months pregnant cooking dinner for him. Driving a minivan, running errands all day while the kids are in school, having the house clean when daddy got home.

…As if who we fall in love with is a decision we consciously make for ourselves.

And then I decided to really listen to myself…And everything changed. Literally my entire life did a 180. I started taking note of all of the things that have ever held me back. There is a saying, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” What we take in matters. – As a child I didn’t realize all that I was taking in, to many negative things to list. I was allowing the negative and horrible things that were said and done to me my entire life, to continue to ruin my life and my future. I was allowing my past to hold me back.

In the midst of this realization…Lauren walked into my life. I had only begun this journey, of undoing all of the negative and rebuilding my life from the ground up. She helped me find direction, I was wandering around a little lost and she came alongside me in the most amazing ways. She was my friend, when I needed it most. She is the woman I love. – I am starting to get a picture of what our life together is and will be, it’s so beautiful and amazing. I cannot describe the hope and peace and love and confidence I feel on a daily basis. Yes, there are days where life sucks, but I have my best friend and the love of my life by my side. I wasn’t ready for this change in life when it started, but it has been the greatest journey that I have ever been offered.