Monday, March 30, 2009

"The Pain Down There"

There's a great article about vulvodynia (pdf) in the Pain Community News, Spring 2009 issue, the newsletter of the American Pain Foundation. And it captures so well what I've been struggling to articulate these past few months without success: that, at its core, vulvodynia attacks your identity as a woman, your very sexual being. I've heard women describe this as "being broken" or "feeling incomplete." I've had friends talk about feeling "unattractive." All because of vulvodynia.

I feel all of these things. And that is harder to deal with than the discomfort and physical pain because of how my identity is impacted. Vulvodynia is chipping away at this part of me, little by little. This was most apparent the day I was in a bridal shop a couple of weeks ago, trying on wedding gowns and feeling pretty and feminine. I hadn't felt that way in forever. A part of me was sad, looking at myself in these wedding gowns, because I knew that I probably wouldn't be able to have intercourse on my wedding night. But, the over-arching feeling was that I felt attractive again.

From the bridal shop I went straight to a support group meeting for women with vulvodynia. My little reprieve from feeling like an incomplete woman was over as we talked about what it's like to live with this pain. It was a roller coaster of a day and I went home feeling exhausted and not sure what I could do to build back up my sexual identity.

This article helped. It provides some tips for increasing intimacy with your partner and for helping regain your self esteem. And it also gives some guidance on how you can manage or prevent your pain by doing things like wearing 100% cotton underwear or washing the vulva area with only water. Definitely worth reading and passing along.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ups and downs and ups...

I had a difficult week last week. All this time, the pain I've experienced has been mostly burning and just general discomfort. I usually compare it to getting something in my eye that's irritating. Annoying, yes, but not life altering.

But starting last Saturday, I felt a different kind of pain - a sharp kind of pain when I shifted in my seat or walked or wore jeans that were close fitting. I finally understand what a lot of the women who are in my class experience. And it really sucks. That pain has gone away for now, but I still worry that it's just under the surface.

I had a follow-up appointment with my specialist and she said that the inflammation has gotten better, but then why are my symptoms worse? She changed my treatment, so hopefully things will get better soon. I'm still trying to stay positive, doing some stretching and meditating, trying to eat healthier foods, and taking better care of myself in general. Stress exacerbates my condition, so I'm trying to eliminate that from my life as well (which is difficult these days).