My medical history is a long, complicated, intertwined, and emotional one. It takes me to a place of incredible vulnerability. Reliving moments of hopelessness, let-downs, and anger. For this reason, I have been putting off writing this. But as each day passes, I feel frustrated with myself for not writing it down. For not getting it out. For bottling it up, when it is so damaging to me. So– I decided that today is the day.
I probably won’t get through all of my medical journey in this one post. I may get through very little. I might not get into the details, and instead keep it very sterile and impersonal so that I don’t retreat. I feel like having this blog pushes me to work through these emotions in a way I haven’t allowed myself before. AJ and I process emotions together, I process emotions in therapy and PT, I learn and study and grow… but writing it down and validating my experiences takes it to another level for me. Please bear with me as I work through this.
I’m already crying… so… there’s that.
The beginning of vulvodynia for me is a blurry one. In general, I have a terrible memory. So trying to pinpoint the first time I felt any vaginal discomfort or pain is difficult. The first, noticeable, traumatic experience I had with the pain was on our wedding night. We were virgins prior to getting married, and neither of us were prepared for the pain it would cause me.
This is getting too hard to talk about… so let me switch gears.
I remember hating riding bikes. I’m not sure when it started, but it was fairly young. It surprised me how other people enjoyed riding bikes. Isn’t it uncomfortable for everyone? Did they just get used to it? I described it once that, to me, riding a bike feels like I weigh 5 times more than I do… and all that pressure is centralized at my vagina. The seat stabbing into me… stabbing through me. My feet carry none of the weight. My feet relieve none of the pressure. Cycling class is torture. Believe me, I tried once. NEVER. AGAIN. Every few years growing up, I used to think that somehow I had outgrown my distaste for bikes… but 30 seconds on one always reminded me. I even had a bike in college and never… not once… used it. Instead I walked 20 minutes to and from campus and gave the bike to my roommate to use.
Last year I had a general physical therapist ask me to do a bike exercise. Even after I explained the pain it would cause me, she recommended that I just try. So I did. I started crying. I was trying to be tough. But, like I said, 30 seconds was all it took and I was in pain for hours afterwards.
Recumbent bikes, however, are a different story. c:
Other painful experiences prior to marriage revolved around… tampons. This is a disclaimer: if the specifics of tampons or periods makes you uncomfortable… skip this paragraph. Oh tampons… the bane of my existence. A necessary evil. Honestly, for years, I just assumed they were painful for everyone and suffered through the pain alone. Sometimes they were no big deal, but other times it was awful. The good part was that the pain was pretty short-lived. I usually didn’t suffer for hours afterwards. The most painful tampon experience for me is when the cotton is still dry when I pull it out. I’ve spoken to other women who hate this sensation… but for me it isn’t just uncomfortable. It literally feels like my skin is being ripped off. I am not exaggerating. You might be asking yourself– why didn’t you just use pads, Grace? I tried that multiple times, but on heavy days my period doesn’t work well with just pads. I wish it did… it would have saved me from some very painful experiences! Over the years I have developed a pattern for how I deal with my period. I use thin-regular sized tampons with the smooth, plastic applicator (none of that cardboard applicator with the cotton sticking out of the top for me). I know my flow well enough and I can time when to use a pad vs a tampon. I rarely have problems anymore. And last year I discovered THINX PERIOD UNDERWEAR and they have been a heaven-send. I should work for the company, I recommend them so much. They have completely replaced my need to use pads. Which I love because no ones likes the stickiness and sweatiness that comes from pads… #amiright? Solidarity, sister. Compassion, brother.
Okay- I’m done talking about periods now… it’s safe c:
The only other painful experience I can think of that I experienced prior to marriage was using a dilator. I went to a female pre-marital class at a GYN’s office about a month before we got married, and one of the things they gave everyone was a dilator. They encouraged everyone, especially virgins, to use the dilator in preparation. I tried it later that week and it was painful, but they said it could be a little tight at first. So I focused on relaxing and was patient with myself. I got to a point where I honestly thought everything was going to be okay.
I’m emotionally tapped out. I want to write more, because my story doesn’t end here… but I am not ready to take it on. Hopefully soon.