dealing with pain and dysfunction


Well, “I” think you’re an “asshole”

Story of my life, I have another raging yeast infection.  I got a weird strain of strep throat and a doctor at the student health center gave me 500mg of penicillin 2x a day for 10 days.  On the third day, the yeasties started.  On the fourth day, I wanted to die, it was my birthday, and I decided that my present to myself would be to stop taking the antibiotics.  I’ve been eating tons of plain yogurt, using Yeastaway, and taking AZO yeast 3x daily since Saturday.  Nothing is working.

On Monday night, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I went to an urgent care center that’s associated with the local hospital and waited two hours so someone would prescribe me Diflucan (for any non-USians/lucky ones who’ve avoided yeast/doodz, that’s an oral antifungal tablet that you take in a single dose).  Of course, no one was willing to trust me and just write the goddamned prescription so we could all go home.  Oh, no.  They had to go through the whole schpeil, with the questioning, the pelvic exam, the swab, and on and on and on.  Even though I know beyond a shadow of a doubt what is wrong with me and all I need from them is a prescription.

They asked if I had done anything over-the-counter for it, and I told them about what I’ve done so far.  When I said that I had been using yogurt, both the doctor and nurse looked at me like I’m a particularly stupid child, and in a very slow, condescending voice, told me that I “shouldn’t be eating dairy” even though every woman ever knows that plain yogurt will help a yeast infection.  They hadn’t heard of AZO or Yeastaway, so I started listing some of the ingredients and mentioned that they were homeopathic remedies.  In my chart they put a note about “so-called ‘homeopathic’ treatments,” scare-quotes and all.  UGH.  I hate visiting doctors.  Oh, and by the way, the Diflucan hasn’t done jack shit, so they can’t even be all high and mighty about being better than my so-called homeopathy.  While I’m kind of smug about the failure of western medicine, I’m still mighty pissed about this still-raging infection and that the strep has come back because I didn’t finish the antibiotics.

Just for the record, I’d rather have my throat be on fire than my vagina, any day.  Poor thing’s had enough trouble in its life, I’ll just take the strep for now.

Of course, no doctor’s visit would be complete without a little slut-shaming, so they made sure to ask me about recent sexual activity and then made a big show of doing an STI screening.  Naturally, they had to point out that with “so many” recent partners I was obviously a “huge risk” and after hearing that they’d need to double-check to make sure it wasn’t anything “nasty” like herpes.  WOW.  Really?  I was pretty mad at the time, but typing it out, I’m just stunned.  When “so-called professionals” (see what I did there) are calling STD/STIs “nasty,” you can’t deny our society’s ridiculous mischaracterization and stigmatization of sexual healthcare.  If I had been my 16 year old self I would have just bolted out the door the second they insinuated that I’m “nasty.”  Way to make people comfortable with being tested, “assholes.”

Also, since I’m obvs a huge fucking slut (my grandmother knew all along, it’s now been confirmed by doctors), I’m super pissed that this stupid infection isn’t going away.  Nobody can have any fun with a yeast infection.  Sigh.

Advertisements

The Camera My Mother Gave Me

I just walked to the library, checked out The Camera My Mother Gave Me by Susanna Kaysen, bought a latte and a ginger cookie, and read the whole book, all within two hours.  Judging by a receipt that was once used as a bookmark, I was at the same coffee shop as an alumna of my school.  She sat in the same place with the same book exactly six years ago to the week.  Oddly, it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to someone with pelvic pain, knowing that this book describes my life exactly and that once, someone was sitting in the same place thinking the same things.

An odd thing happened while I was reading, though.  A friend of a friend sat down at my table and said hello.  He asked what the book was about, and I said it was about medical problems and the troubles that the author had with getting diagnosed.  I said that I share the same medical conditions and so it’s a terribly interesting book for me to be reading.  Of course, he pressed onward and asked what kinds of conditions I meant, and rather than state outright what the book is about, I steered more towards my gastrointestinal issues and then told an anecdote about ruining my right knee a few years ago, and oh, I’m just so afflicted, here’s a list of everything that’s wrong with me other than my hurty vagina.  Though reading this book made me feel stronger today, I still don’t have it in me to treat pelvic pain like a knee injury.

I got back to reading eventually, and I tore off bits of my cookie bag to mark the passages that really affected me, and ended up with a great deal of the book marked and no more bag for my cookie.  Many of the places with my makeshift bookmarks already had folded corners.  The plan was to transcribe some of the most useful or touching or depressing or infuriating parts for everyone’s benefit, but really, I’d just encourage you to read it.  It’s a very simple and quick read, but one that I found very valuable.


Consent and Vulvodynia

Of the handful of times I’ve had penetrative sex, I’d say the majority were nonconsentual.  I’d now like to qualify this to point out that the vast majority of times I’ve had penetrative sex were with my first boyfriend.  I don’t want to feel like I’m required to protect the feelings of previous sexual partners or prevent someone from feeling uncomfortable about this subject matter.  Because really, you should feel uncomfortable.  I feel uncomfortable.

Naturally, I’m using the more feminist approach to consent, often called “enthusiastic consent” or “yes means yes” (as recently popularized by the 2008 anthology, Yes Means Yes:  Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape).  In the enthusastic consent model, it is assumed that the “neutral state” of sexual partners is nonconsent, and sexual activity should only go forward if both partners are clearly and enthusiastically consenting.  This is opposed to our society’s current model, in which partners are always assumed to be in a state of consent, and sexual activity will go forward until a forceful “no” is heard.  More simply, enthusiastic consent means that consent is not the absence of “no” but the presence of “yes.”

I’d like to discuss my experiences with consent while suffering from vulvodynia and vaginismus.

There have been many times when I had sex because I thought I had to.  Because I hadn’t been diagnosed and thought that saying no would mean I was admitting that the pain was real and that there was something wrong with me.  Because I thought this time maybe it wouldn’t hurt–but when it did, I thought I wasn’t allowed to say no since we had already started.  Because saying no would make me a bad girlfriend.

In our current model of consent, there’s nothing wrong with this.  I didn’t say no, so that makes it okay.  Move along, nothing to see here.  But I was definitely not an enthusiastic participant in these encounters.  Most of the time I would cry.  I was good at hiding it, though, so he wouldn’t notice and feel badly about himself.  Every time I would dig my nails into the palms of my hands until I drew blood, just so I’d have a different pain to focus on.  Every time I would go to the bathroom afterwards I would sit on the toilet to pee and it would just be the most excruciating, searing pain.  I had to do it though, or else I’d have a couple weeks of agony with a UTI.  I’d sit there slumped over, my face at my ankles, and cry and cry and cry.  How could I be so weak?  Why couldn’t I just force out the necessary NO that was required to stop this from happening?

For me, pelvic pain has added a terrible layer of complication to how I think about consent.  How can I be an enthusiastic participant in anything that is hurtful?*  Besides that, my own fear of repercussions from saying no muddle things further.  It can’t be rape if I hide what pain I’m in, if I pretend like I’m okay, if I act like I’m into it, am I right?  Who knows.

The encounters that are most confusing to me are the ones that I instigated.  Where I’d talk them into it, they wouldn’t want to hurt me but I’d insist.  The times that I was enthusiastic, but for the wrong reasons.  What does it mean when I’m the one coercing, I’m the one forcing and rationalizing.  I’ve had doctors tell me that I was making up my pain in my head or that deserved pelvic pain, and I believed them.  On the outside I’d get real indignant about it, but really, I thought they were right.  If I was making it up, I could force myself out of it.  If I deserved it, well, why not have sex?  It’d make me a “real” girlfriend and I’d get what I deserved while I was crying in the bathroom.

I guess I had a lot of different reasons for instigating, now that I think about it.  The fear of hurting me led to a lot of rejection.  The fear of being hurt led to far more, of course.  Sometimes I’d get so furious and angry about having to constantly reject someone I loved or about being rejected by someone I loved.  So I’d force myself to have sex, I’d think that maybe this time it’d be different and if it wasn’t, once again, I deserved it.  Sometimes I’d get so distraught over my disappearing sex drive that I’d instigate in order to prove that I was Clearly Okay and obviously I Still Love You, or else why would I do this?  Typing this up now makes me feel delusional.  Sometimes I’d get so far in denial that I’d think I had magically overcome vulvodynia and this time was it and sex was going to be delightful and so I’d instigate, and once again end up crying in the bathroom.

And what I’ve been up to recently, though I kind of hate myself for it, is just how I’m proving to myself that I’m normal.  Well, normal-ish, at least.  I’ve spent so long feeling completely and utterly fucked up and broken that I’m just trying to make myself believe that I can be just like everyone else.  I guess it’s that and a combination of being crushingly lonely, but even people with totally functional vaginas can be lonely.  I feel like it might be a different kind of lonely though, the kind that we have.  A lonely that is worried about being lonely forever.  There’s a woman in an online support group I’m in who’s worried she might never get married, might never have kids.  It breaks my heart over and over again.  That kind of lonely.

There are millions of reasons why people have sex.  It’s just the more that I think about it, the more I hate my reasons.  I don’t know if that means that I should stop or go to therapy or have sex with someone I’m in love with or just take some sleeping pills and shut the fuck up already.  I don’t know.

Though I believe in enthusiastic consent on a general level, I’m not yet to the point of feeling that I, myself, am deserving of it.  I need to fix this part.  I wrote this earlier and I don’t know what I meant by it.  I think it’s something like this:  I really want to believe in enthusastic consent, I really do.  I like the notion of it, it makes sense, it’s egalitarian, it starts to dismantle the rape culture in which we all live.  But in recounting my experiences and my reasons for having sex, I’m drawing a box around myself that positions my consent as different.  That’s the part I’m uncomfortable with.  How can I do that?  Why would I feel that my enthusiasm isn’t as important?  I just can’t make myself believe that some of the awful reasons why I’ve had sex fit into a new definition of consent.  So, what?  Have I raped myself, then?  That doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.  None of this does.  Once again, I’m going to end up coming back to this.

I’m going to end up adding to or editing this post over time, but I feel the need to get out what I can immediately.

*Use of “hurtful” is an attempt to differentiate from “painful” as pain can be both consentual and welcome


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.


my new favorite typo

VULVODYNO.

ROOOOOOOOOOOOAR!


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.


way to joy train*

Last night was my first night in my new apartment.  And tonight I remembered that vibrators exist!  Besides my lack of a sex drive and the fact that I was rarely by myself, I shared a door with two of my roommates last semester, and I could hear them breathing or twiddling their thumbs or fucking (mostly fucking).  And with those powers combined, it was the shittiest episode of captain planet ever made there was no vibrating fun to be had.  But that’s all gonna change, ’cause I’m unemployed, in a college town for the summer (aka ghost town), and living by myself.

*sign from botanical gardens in pondicherry, india

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.