dealing with pain and dysfunction


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Pain category.

i do not know better

ugh, regarding the ETA in my last post, I have been having stabby pains all day :(

you’d think I would know better by now, but it just doesn’t work that way.

1. still soooo not over ex-boyf and and have been trying to majorly distract myself from that with a series of debaucherous interactions for, oh, a year or so, and

2. hellllllo, i am in college, sometimes (many times) i want to get laid like a normal person

and with those forces combined, i end up with random dudes and stabby pains.  again.  BALLS.  neither of those things are good for me.  and writing drunk posts is verrry difficult.  but it is late at night, ithaca shuts down at 2:00a, all my girlfriends are dating dudes (aka boooring), all my guy friends are Nice Guys so they can vayan a la mierda, all the girls i’d bring home are dating girls who are not me, all the dudes i’d bring home are nowhere to be found, and the one dude i’d actually like to date probably hates me and i’d feel bad for asking him about it.  DRUNK POST.  sorry, internet.  this is what happens on a saturday night when my vagina hurts and my soul hurts and i need to let you know about it asap.

as a sidenote, I feel like whenever I use the “sex” tag, i also use the “pain” tag.  uhh.  are those even two separate things?

Now that this is a hungover post, I can go where I was actually meaning to with this.  Even though sex still hurts and I know I’ll have stabby pains for a few days or so, I still consider a dry spell to be a bad thing.  After nearly eight years (wtf really?) of pelvic pain, my sex drive is very much intact at the moment.  I’ve definitely gone through phases where it disappeared and I thought it’d never be heard from again, but that’s certainly not the case right now.

I’ve been through a lot of trial and error (okay mostly error let’s just be honest) with sex, and even though it hurts more often than not–or will for a few days after–I just keep trying like sometime I’ll magically be all better.  As much as I want to blame hormones and biological imperative, I really think I’m probably using sex as either a distraction from emotional issues (uhh, see above, wow that is embarrassing) or as a way to feel like I’m a little bit normal.

Anyway, that is what I was trying to say last night.  I need a coffee and to get my shit together enough to get some work done.  Or maybe I’ll just keep looking at Columbia’s course listings to cheer myself up.  It appears that moving to NYC will not, actually, be a way for me to get over my aforementioned issues and maybe it’ll be just like Ithaca where I hide in my apartment a lot, but hey.  Haters gonna hate.

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In Tune

Since I was asked to describe my current symptoms during my interview earlier, I thought I’d give an update here, too.  After talking about it out loud I feel a bit more in tune with my body and what’s been going on lately.  I’ve been trying so hard to ignore all the reoccurring pain symptoms that I hadn’t stopped to think about it until someone asked me outright.

I mentioned earlier that the stabbing night pains are back, unfortunately.  Those usually happen when I’m already asleep or just falling asleep.  All of a sudden I’ll be woken up by a terrible, sharp pain, usually on the left side of my pelvis and shooting through my left leg and up my back.  I described it earlier as being kind of like a charley horse–you know when you stretch your leg or foot a little oddly and then are writhing in pain with little to no notice?  Like that, but vaginally.  And since it’s not really an area that can be stretched all that well, I just kind of have to roll around in bed making awful noises until it goes away.  Ugh.  I like to pretend that drinking a glass of water helps.

Next up is the duller, throbbing pain that happens in the late morning or afternoon, typically if I’ve either been walking a lot or sitting down for too long (can’t win, eh?).  It feels a little deeper than the stabbing pain, but also comes on really suddenly and doesn’t go away for maybe 10 minutes at a time or so.  This one’s bad because getting up to wander around and try to make my vagina pains stop isn’t always an option, say, when I’m in class.  On the other hand, if I’ve been walking too much I can’t usually just… stop where I’m going, either.  Since it happens in the middle of my day I’m typically distracted from something important, too.  As an added bonus, I’m extra tense after these episodes, which leads to the threat of repetition or, worse, more stabbing pains later on.

And lastly, in a triumphant return, the vestibulitis seems to be experiencing a spring rebirth.  I haven’t tracked this to a particular trigger yet, which makes it possibly more annoying, but random burning is driving me mad lately.  This is definitely vulvar/external pain, and I do. Not. Want it.  Plus there’s nothing I can do about it—the burning doesn’t stop no matter what I do, so I usually just start to feel way too sorry for myself.  I’m starting to get concerned that it might have some kind of food trigger that I haven’t discovered and am not patient enough/can’t afford to figure out.  I’m a brokeass college vegetarian—there’s not a whole lot of food experimentation I’m willing to do right now.  Plus if I ever tried the low-oxalate diet I might actually die.  Or at least pass out sometimes.  I pretty much subsist on high oxalate foods (dark leafy greens, nuts, grains, beans, coffee, chocolate… hah).  Fail.

So it sounds like both the unprovoked vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis are back.  If I see vaginismus around these girlparts I’ll be pretty upset.  I should probably resume dilator therapy, but… ugh.  Maybe the outdoor yoga will keep me chilled and relaxed enough to stop vaginismus redux?  Here’s hoping.  I think the warmer weather might help, too.  This is just a sad and scary reminder of how I used to NOT BE ABLE TO WEAR PANTS WITHOUT WANTING TO SCREAM.  WTF.  Definitely don’t want to get back to that point, but once it’s nice out again, dresses and skirts will be in order and there will be no threatening seams and tough denim.  That’s right… jeans are threatening to my wellbeing right now.  The laundromat shrunk my favorite skinny jeans though, so at least I don’t even have the temptation any more.  Saaaaad.


I have a very evil bread in my vagina

There was a very timely Jezebel post today that described the total fucking unfairness of women’s health (my post title is from the comments section–I think I said something similar when I had a yeast infection in Mexico).  I’ve written about this a few times before–why in the hell should I spend an entire day screwing around with a doctor’s visit, an invasive exam/urine test, a long wait at the pharmacy–oh, wait, they’re out of stock/are closed/hate me, all when I know damn well exactly what is wrong with my and my mystery vagina?! And don’t forget the extra dose of condescending asshattery that is all too common among doctor-types.

For this month’s vaginal woes, I’ve been eating lots of yogurt, taking lots of “so-called homeopathics”, and avoiding the brownies I made with my roommate last night.  And let me tell you, I want a brownie so badly right now I could just cry.  Since I tend to hoard prescription drugs, I even popped a Diflucan I had laying around (take that, medical institution!  You think you can force me to waste my time?) but it hasn’t worked.  Again.

In other adventures of the malevolent vag, the stabbity night pains are back!  I didn’t miss them at all.  Every once in awhile, I’ll be sound asleep, nice and peaceful, and then BAM, awake and writhing in pain.  It’s a really sharp burst of stabbing pain, but afterwards I’ll be tense for a long time.  Meh.  I’m pretty over this crap.  But it gives me an excuse to buy really, really good cranberry juice (seriously, Knudsen cranberry nectar?? ilu), since cranberries can probably fix every problem that ever existed.  As usual, the moral of the story:  my vagina = suxxx, cranberry juice = WIN.


Oh, bikes.

Things have been pretty quiet on the vulvodynia front lately.  I haven’t been provoking any pain, or really doing a whole lot to try to make things better.  It’s been a non-issue for almost two whole weeks, and that’s pretty exciting.  Okay, not true.  People keep inviting me to go bike riding, and I can’t think of a good excuse as to why I can’t go.  I don’t have a bike, but if they offer me a roommate’s or tell me one more time about RIBs (Recycle Ithaca’s Bicycles) I’m going to lose it.  Of course I would like to go for a bike ride, it’s beautiful here in the summer, the weather has been nice, it would be great exercise… but sorry, it would hurt my fucking vagina.  Couching the issue in vague terms like “pelvic pain issues” just seems to weird people out.  Not that there’s a line of people out the door asking me to go ride bikes with them, but… whatever.  It’s happened enough in the last month to annoy and sadden me.


Pain and Detachment

The assholes tag on this one is for me this time.  I’m very uncomfortable writing about this because I’m very uncomfortable with what I’ve been doing.  I mean, kind of.  In a way.  I don’t know.  I’m not doing these things to be hurtful, I’m doing this because I don’t know how to be by myself.  This summer (or whatever timeframe) is supposed to be a time for me to sort out what I’m like when I’m not in a Big Important Relationship, and that’s what I’m trying to do.  I’m not really navigating it very well and the whole thing makes me very upset and weird.

I had sex and it didn’t hurt.  It was with first with someone that I really, honestly hate and later with someone I don’t know.  That is very upsetting to me–I’ve been in two serious relationships (one of them sucked, but it still counts).  And when I was with someone I really love (or loved, as the case may be for ex-boyf #1) I wasn’t capable of having pain-free sex.  There are two reasons I’ve come up with that might be the culprit here.  The first time this happened, I had been drinking a lot–which for me, is a little.  I mean, I hardly ever drink at all.  My first hypothesis, and one that makes a lot of sense, is that alcohol both relaxed my muscles and made me less psychologically tense–i.e. it seemed like a good idea at the time.  My other hypothesis, and one that developed after the second time this happened and I hadn’t been drinking, is that there’s a lot less at stake in a casual encounter.  There’s not a feeling of this could be it! or I’m a bad girlfriend if this hurts *again* and therefore I’m less tense.  Plus I won’t ever have to see this person again, so that lowered the stakes even more.

The good thing is that now I know what that’s like, I guess.  I feel a lot more normal, though it’s been sort of hit-or-miss as to whether or not I’ll have pain.  The times I did have pain, I acted like everything was totally fine, which is one of the worse ideas I’ve had, and probably just made me seem boring.  These encounters haven’t been drawn out or happened more than a couple times, so I don’t have to have a ~*~conversation~*~ about pelvic pain, which is great.  That would make me feel decidedly not normal, anyway.  But I’m really, really disappointed about how this happened.  I wanted this to be an important, meaningful thing, with someone who would understand why it’s a big deal, someone who’s listened to me whine about this and brought milkshakes to the pity parties I throw for myself and my vag, someone who’s worked with me toward this.  We could make a cake to celebrate or go out to dinner or something, I don’t know.  But instead I’m by myself and this happened with someone that I really, literally can’t stand to hear talk–or someone who seemed decent enough but I’ll never talk to again.  I can’t discuss it with either of these people, because 1) embarrassing 2) I don’t want to speak to either of them and 3) what’s the point.  I can’t discuss it with the one person who should have been there and who should be excited with me because it wasn’t him.  It should have been.  I feel so awful about this whole thing, I don’t really know what to do.  This moment was supposed to be the culmination of years of horrible doctors, anti-depressants, painful pelvic exams, steroids, awkward talk therapy, awkward physical therapy, medical bills that have my credit card maxed out, and instead it’s just… sad.  I guess I’m glad this pain-free thing happened at some point, but I’ve detached myself so much from these encounters that it hardly seems like a victory.

So in an amazing twist, I managed to make even this part of this stupid situation suck.  Apparently I can turn anything into something to whine about.


Improvement Time!

I spent all of today in bed.  Well, I got home around four this morning, and did walk across the hallway of my tiny new apartment to make some food once, but other than that?  In bed.

I think today will serve as a good precursor to tomorrow, which is my new Time to Start Improvements Day.  I can’t find a job, my classes are easy, and there aren’t enough people here to keep my attention.  I sit around reading or on the internet all day, and I could be using this time to improve my health.  I can’t afford to keep seeing the one physical therapist in Ithaca, but I am going to try to call and see if I can get something super quick/over the phone/I don’t know but it needs to be free or else I’m hanging up.  If that doesn’t work, there’s a new blogger that has listed some of her daily exercises so perhaps I could use some of those.

I’ve been using a lot of my unemployed time to bask in the sun at an outdoor cafe or on the slope (aww Cornell, ilu), but starting tomorrow that time is going to be used for hiking or at the very least, walking all over the place.  Summer always makes me so sad about not being able to ride a bike.  I know that I wasn’t born with this pain because I remember riding my bike pain free until maybe 13 or 14.  I miss that proud feeling of getting to the top of a steep hill and then getting to coast down, with the wind in my hair and sun on my face.  Sigh.  Maybe someday.

In other physical fitness news, I downloaded Yoga for Better Sex, and will also give that a go tomorrow.  Yoga and breathing exercises have been recommended to me by both physical therapists I’ve seen, and it seems like Yoga for Better Sex would be killing two birds with one stone, as it were.  I like yoga, I like calming down my pelvic floor muscles, and ideally, I’d like to have better sex.  I’m getting kind of concerned that I’m terrible in bed (at least as far as any penetrative sex goes), which is really stressful and annoying.  I’ve been at it for like, almost seven years, I feel like I should know what I’m doing!  It’s not even really an issue, but now that I’m not in a relationship, it’s in the back of my mind that I am bad and don’t know what I’m doing and everyone else does.  Ugh.  I’ve been really pissed that I’ve been robbed of my seven years of sexual experience, I should have this shit down by now.  If I didn’t have any pelvic pain issues I’m sure I’d have some great skillz by now, right?  Damnit.

In trivial news that is also about some kind of improvements, I am decorating the shit out of my apartment over the next couple weeks.  And not in a classy way, either!  I’ve got rolls and reams of colored paper, and there will be cutout flowers and birds and clouds and and and it’s going to be the awesomest apartment ever!  On a slightly more related note, when I moved it took me forever to find my good lube (Hydra-Smooth, which they no longer carry at Babeland!  I don’t know what I’ll do when I run out!).  I was in a straight-up panic, tearing shit up, trying to find this lube.  Because seriously, there’s no way in hell I would even consider doing dilator therapy without it, let alone any other activity that may be made easier with lube.  I eventually found it hidden somewhere–it seemed like a great idea at the time, my dad was helping me move and so I discreetly distributed anything he wouldn’t want to discuss with me among my other things, wrapped up in sweaters or feather boas or something.  I found it eventually though, big sigh of relief.  And I just found Hydra-Smooth is at drugstore.com, so I’ll have to find some other way to support Babeland.  I’m sure they’d be able to help in my new-found lack of sexual confidence.


omfg

I have a yeastie or BV or some shit, and it just got so bad that it literally woke me out of a dead sleep.  And it’s fucking Saturday so the student health clinic doesn’t open for another three hours.  Coincidentally, that’s about how much sleep I got.  Holy shit, this is so horrible, I don’t know what to do.

Last night I was merely feeling a little suspect, and started some homeopathic hippie shit for yeast, but it obviously didn’t work.  I could never tell the difference between the two infections since I don’t get classic symptoms for either–just ridiculously itchy and massively pissed off for the both of them.  Shit, I’ve even managed to confuse BV and a UTI.  Which means that I always have to see a doctor when my vag is feeling down.  This is so not what I wanted to do today.  I need to find some anti-anxiety meds and calm down a little.  I wish I could sleep more before the clinic opens, but it’s not going to happen.  Nothing is open yet, which means I can’t even walk to the store and buy some boric acid or something.  Not that I have that much confidence in my ability to walk around right now…

I am seriously crawling out of my skin right now, I want to scream.

ETA:  Guess what this weekend is?!  Memorial Day Weekend!!  That means the student health clinic is, wait for it… closed! Until Tuesday!  So, um, best of luck to me, I guess.

ETAII:  Planned Parenthood is also closed.  I better have some great fucking barbecue this Memorial Day.  USA!  USA!


ow.

that’s all.

too much pain lately.  now that i’m done with classes (originaly typo confession:  down with classes… i’m totally not down with that, actually) i’ll have time for physical therapy with the one PT in ithaca.

um, stupid update but i feel like i haven’t written in awhile.


Dilator ≠ Penis

Okay so I should have seen that coming.  At least I tried with someone I’m comfortable with, because it would have been completely impossible in any other situation.  I’m now able to comfortably start with the third-to-last dilator, second-to-last is challenging but not painful, and the last one is not good.  Maybe an inch or two in it feels like hitting a wall (vaginimus, obvs) and if I push it, it’s just painful.  And instead of taking that as a warning sign, I decided to pretend like everything’s okay and forge ahead anyway.

The bad:  it hurt just as badly as I remember it.  It had been a really long time, but it’s still just as painful.  The tearing/papercut feeling afterward was just as bad, and I didn’t really want to move or bend over at all.

The good:  Since I’m so ridiculously prone to UTI’s, I always have to dash to the bathroom afterward.  Usually I use that time to curl up into a ball and cry because I’m so burny at that point.  Like imagine peeing razors.  But this time it wasn’t so bad, it hardly hurt at all.  I’m still a little achy (I think this was Thursday night, it’s now Saturday) and feel a little bruised or something, but the burning was gone in record time.  I think that might have to do with my regular use of the lidocaine/aspirin/gabapentin cream.

The stupid: Sex is nothing like dilator therapy at all, I think because I have so much less control over the situation.  I don’t know what possessed me to do that, I knew it was going to hurt.  It might be helpful to use something more realistic for therapy, but frankly I don’t want this guy hanging out in my room.


srs bzns.

(yes, the title is my effort to snarkily lash out against the way in which we tell our assault stories.  oh lulz, *sardonic grin* boys will be boys!  oh, ha ha, isn’t this an amusing anecdote about being sexually assaulted on a bus?)

This is the serious version of my last post.  A trigger warning applies to this entire post.  It makes me incredibly uncomfortable to talk about this openly.  If you are reading this as someone that knows me personally, please do not be offended that I typed this up instead of coming to talk to you about it.  There is no way that I could spit this out verbally.  I have had three therapists and have not come close to talking to them about it.  Until recently, I had not told myself.  What I repressed comes back to me in bits and pieces when I’m not ready for it.  What I remember I forced myself to define as “no big deal” or simply “part of growing up female.”  You will know if or when it is appropriate to discuss this in person with me.  I write this here because I feel that my past has contributed to my pelvic pain in ways that I am only just realizing.  I am using this space to work out my thoughts on this matter, and, like the rest of this blog, to help others with similar pain deal with their own issues.

In case anyone is not aware of how to properly handle this kind of discussion, here are a few pointers that you can use now and in the future.  First, victim blaming is never acceptable.  This can take many forms.  I know that I don’t get many comments around here, and I don’t have many readers.  But.  If anyone here engages in that kind of nasty rhetoric, I will ban them before they can blink.  If I know you in Real Life and you say anything even remotely victim-blamey online or in person, I will never talk to you again.  Trust me.  The whole wide world is full of rape apologists, and I do not choose to associate with them.  Ever.  Also, women have damn good reasons for not reporting rape.  It’s not helpful to make a survivor feel guilty, i.e. “it’s your duty to other women,” “think about everyone else he could be hurting,” etc.  Not helpful.  The only duty a survivor has is to herself.  Further, there is no typical victim and no typical reaction to assault.  There are no emotions that someone should feel, a right way to deal with abuse, or some foolproof guide on how to heal.  With that point comes one of the most important:  never tell a survivor how they should be feeling.  It is not anyone’s place to categorize assaults or put someone else’s experiences in a hierarchy.  Lastly, I’d like to officially strike both “it could have been so much worse” and “I’m lucky that I was only ______” from use.  None of us are lucky to be merely groped or only leered at.   We can’t rank how someone experiences violation or pain, so please do not try.

When first researching vulvodynia and vaginismus, almost every source stated that a history of sexual abuse/assault/rape is common amongst pelvic pain sufferers.  I thought, “how ridiculous, of course I’ve never been assaulted or raped” but the more I think about it, the less that is true.  Now it seems ridiculous and sad that I had internalized our culture’s pure vitriol for women and blamed myself for each and every attack.  I still do, in a way.  I’m going back and forth as to whether or not to use “attack” or “incident.”  Attack is an action that was performed upon me.  Incident is an occurance, a happening, a hm, how peculiar, the deliberate disappearing of the attacker.  Wording is very powerful—it allows us to convince ourselves of almost anything.

It can’t be rape if…  I didn’t actually fight back when…  It would have been rude to say no to…  It’s my fault that it hurts because…  It doesn’t count if you give in after being worn down…  He’ll stop if he notices I’m crying, probably…  I don’t deserve any better than…  It’s the least I can do for him since…  Coercion isn’t the same thing as…

Every gynecologist that managed to take me seriously would first ask about my history of sexual assault—some more tactfully and respectfully than others.  After my emphatic NO, NEVER! they’d dismiss my pain as all in my head and send me on my way.  I no longer think that “in your head” should be grounds for dismissal, though I did for a very long time.  This is why.

This is a roughly chronological account.  I have left out large swaths that I still can’t think about or just don’t want to have “out there” yet.

The large swath turned out to be my entire life.  I can’t do this.  But gather from this post, if nothing else, that the shame and fear and physical horror of assault leaves a mark.  I’m definitely beginning to realize that my pelvic pain is a part of that.  I haven’t come to terms with this and I’m not even close to being able to deal with it or dispose of it or move on in any way.  You wanna know why I’m so anxious and stressed out and my body hurts all the time?  Because every single day forces me to relive each and every assault upon my person.  Wanna know why I’m so mad?  Because in our culture it’s all a big fucking joke, and victims are the punchline.

Reading the news is like being attacked.  Going to the movies.  Magazine covers.  Conversation.  Culture.  “Herp derp I totally got raped by that test, d00dz.”  The whole goddamn internet.  Quick movements.  Incense.  Darkness.  Whiskey.  Waterbeds.  I’m so glad that waterbeds went out of style.  Music.  What’s disturbing is that I could add to this list weekly.  And it always changes.  Most of the time I’m just fine lying on a couch.  Sometimes the situation aligns so that it makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs.  One day it will feel so nice to be offered a hug, the next it will feel like strangulation.

It seems like these are just tiny little things that make me act out for no reason.  But to me, it is not tiny.  Everyday occurances are like the soundtrack to hell.  A particular song could be played at a coffee shop when someone with poor taste is in charge of the speakers, and it could ruin my day.  The connection to pelvic pain is so blindingly obvious to me now. My triggers (let’s say, a rape apologist commenting on a news item or some shitty AC/DC song) don’t just mentally set me back.  The pain flares and muscle spasms go right along with them.  It seemed ludicrous that my vaginismus could come from an emotional place rather than a physical one, at first.  But it does make sense.  A lifetime of fear will make one a bit tense, after all.

The most infuriating thing is that I now have this physical vestige of abuse.  Every time I want to use my body for pleasure and experience pain, my attackers are victimizing me all over again.  There’s nothing I can do to stay in control of myself.  I hate that it took some scientist to validate what I already knew about my life.  I felt crazy and helpless and out of control until reading that headline—but I knew all along that it was true.  I don’t ever again want to hear that I just need to buck up, champ, it’s not that bad.  I don’t choose stress and anxiety and not knowing how to handle life’s little problems.  Lots of people chose it for me a long time ago, and they keep choosing it for me over and over again.  It’s not as simple as “just ignore it” because every day I have to hear people make excuses for rapists, for attackers, for their friends who are let’s face it just not that kind of guy or maybe it was your cousin who knows but he volunteers for the youth group so he’d never do that kinda thing and what were you doing out so late anyway?  It’s the fucking music it’s the stars in July it’s a look in someone’s eye on the subway I can’t ignore it, it’s not going away. My brain has been pickled in cortisol since birth, I can’t shut it off.

I try so hard to just calm down, to try to convince myself that I’m overreacting and that everything is fine now, but I can’t do it.   I just can’t.  The spasms in relation to triggering circumstances are getting much, much worse and far more frequent.  I don’t know what this means.

The only way I know how to react to this is with anger, which I can and do express (but can’t often control).  What I don’t express is the profound sadness of it all.  That I hold tightly.

Though they weren’t right on purpose, those doctors that told me it was all in my head may have been onto something.