I pull my scarf off of my hair and spritz myself and my leather moto jacket with a little “cleansing” spray of palo santo and roswater with one hand, popping a piece of gum in my mouth with the other hand. A few drops of visine and a quick touch up of mascara before I lock my car door and head into the clinic. My period’s irregular again and I’m overdue for a pap, which I’m supposed to be getting every six months. It’s been a battle of anxieties to get me here — am I more freaked out by potentially having cervical cancer or by having to get a pap smear. As a survivor of sexual assault and a person with anxiety disorder, I’m always having to sacrifice my mental health in some way to receive health care in some way, it seems. That’s where the weed comes in. After leaving my second appointment with my GYN in tears after a too-quick and too-impersonal pap that left me shaking and in tears, I started my pre-visit ritual. Even though I disclosed my assault, he seems more interested in being done with our appointment that being sensitive. My family doctor tells me I’m lucky to have a GYN at all in this city. He could try and get me a different referral, but that could take up to a year. I can’t risk waiting that long, so I deal. I find ways to take care of myself. And I smoke joints before my appointments. And I continue to make due and scrappily survive a system that’s not made for me. — J.L.
This story was the winner of the Eve Kit x Think Dirty Women’s Health Week 2017 story challenge. Thank you to everyone that submitted a story!