Right. Confession time.
In all of my 31 years on this planet, I have somehow managed to avoid going to the gynaecologist. Yes, yes I know.
Having yourself checked out regularly is not only a necessity, but in many cases, can be life-saving in the event of spotting irregularities that could actually be cancerous.
However, the naïve part of me always managed to convince myself that because I’m celibate (through choice of my own), going to the gynaecologist wasn’t something that would apply to me.
I still cringe at that bit of self-delusion.
I’m pretty sure I would have happily avoided going to the gynae for as long as possible, if it wasn’t for the fact that the medication I’m currently using caused changes to my body that could only be dealt with at the hands of a gynae.
One of the side effects of taking antidepressants is that it can sometimes cause certain hormones to fluctuate within your body.
I’ve experienced this with at least two different types of antidepressants (although I should add as a disclaimer that the side-effects I’m currently experiencing won’t necessarily be the same as yours).
Because of these differing levels, my menstrual cycle has been wreaking havoc on my life. More so than usual.
What is usually a fairly heavy 5-day period has now morphed into a 10 – 15 day cycle of bloody mayhem the likes of which even Moses hasn’t seen.
There was absolutely no way I was going to endure this level of torture.
So, following a doctor’s appointment, plus a few hormone tests and sonar, and the verdict was decided: I needed to see a gynaecologist.
Years of avoidance have finally caught up to me.
As a big girl with body issues, I was about as excited as a child going to the dentist at the prospect of going to the gynae. However, my need to get past period hell was so great I decided to muster up the courage to go. I was hoping for a female gynaecologist.
What I got, like everything else that was going wrong in my life at this point, was an older male gynae.
Personally, I have nothing against men, I just thought I’d feel more comfortable being examined by a woman.
(On a side note: why is it that when you tell people you’re going to the gynae, everyone – with the exception of my lovely colleagues - suddenly wants to share all manner of horror stories with you? I was nervous enough as it was, for crying out loud!)
So just how did my first visit go?
Well, better than I expected it to be, to be perfectly honest. Having resigned myself to seeing a male gynaecologist, I was rather pleasantly surprised by how smoothly everything went.
What helped was the warm and welcoming environment I arrived in. Everyone was so matter of fact that I couldn’t help, but be a little more assured.
The myriads of pregnant women with their gorgeous bellies were also strangely comforting – for me the unborn babies were the perfect metaphor for the “babe in the woods” feeling I initially felt when walking into the doctor’s rooms.
It made me feel a little less alone.
Once the doctor established that I was a first time ever visitor, he was quick to get down to business. Professional, courteous and reassuringly friendly, he gave me the space I needed to disrobe.
Being naked actually wasn’t all the fuss that I thought it would be.
Throughout the examination he’d explain what he was doing so that all my focus went into understanding the general process, as opposed to concentrating on the fact that I was completely nude.
Aside from that, I didn’t really have the time to fuss over my nudity because I was too busy experiencing the discomfort of my first pap smear (and let me tell you that while they don’t exactly hurt, having something as invasive as a speculum inside your nether regions is not an exercise in fun).
It was all very clinical without being daunting. And it’s over before you even know it.
I’m being put on a contraceptive pill to help fix the problem and we’ll see if that helps.
I go back to see him in about six months and let’s just say that I’m not feeling nearly as nervous about going back as I was the first time.
My only criticism? Is that he could have probably explained how taking a birth control works as I’ve never been on the pill before and had to ask for some help despite the pamphlet instructions.
But, for those of you who haven’t gone to the gynae or who are scared to see a doctor, I’d highly recommend that you go.
What my experience has taught me is that a good gynaecologist will never make you feel uncomfortable in your skin. And if you’ve never had an easy time accepting your body, weirdly enough, the gynaecologist’s office is one of the places that’s a good starting place to let go of all those hang ups.
It certainly helped me.