At first I thought I had a yeast infection, a common enough occurrence for me. I treated with more probiotics and some boric acid capsules. When that didn’t work I begged my provider for Fluconazole. I was getting ready to go away for the weekend and the burning discomfort was getting worse. I decided that maybe I had a urinary tract infection. We debated seeking emergency medical care, but in the end, I just drank about a gallon of straight cranberry juice with some herbal remedy type stuff added to it all weekend and tried to get through it.
When we got home it was so bad I couldn’t sleep. We went to the emergency room at 2:00 a.m. because I needed to do something as soon as possible. I decided that as unlikely as it seemed, I must have a sexually transmitted infection, perhaps chlamydia or gonorrhea. For the first time in my life, I hoped and prayed that I had an STI, so I could take antibiotics and feel better in a couple of days.
They did indeed give me antibiotics, although it takes two days for the test results to come back. I was negative for yeast, UTI, or anything else they could get a rapid response on, but they want to make sure to cover their bases on those STI’s. I was given very strong antibiotics, which my chart clearly stated I was allergic to. Also, these gave me a yeast infection. Two days later my test results came back: all negative.
My awesome nurse practitioner talked to me about menopause and vaginal dryness. She prescribed an estrogen cream and told me to use tiny amounts. It burned like fire on my vulva for hours. I investigated and discovered that the cream contains propylene glycol, something my body hates vigorously. I had the cream reformulated at a compounding pharmacy, without the offending ingredient, but it was still irritating. We did blood work and found out that I’m not yet going through menopause.
I am not always good at describing or localizing a sensation. What I’ve been feeling continuously for the past two months (and intermittently before then) is usually a kind of burning feeling, just below my urethra, kind of partly on my vulva and partly inside. Sometimes there is more of a stabby sensation or needles, occasionally something like an itch or irritation. The awareness of discomfort never really goes away.
I wish it was some other part of my body, even a frequently used finger. A different body part wouldn’t carry all this difficult emotional baggage. A finger that hurt all the time wouldn’t be an uncomfortable and hateful reminder of childhood secrets. This pain is not severe, but I feel sick with it, immobilized, powerless. I am desperate to make it stop. I’ve spent too many years reclaiming my sexuality to lose it all so easily. I feel furious and then helpless all over again.
I went to see my therapist. We spiraled in and out many times, tying together the pieces of me then and now, making it easier for me to bear the current pain without the echoes of childhood trauma. In the moments when I felt like I might go mad she smiled and patted the back of my hand. In a stroke of brilliance, she referred me to a naturopathic doctor who is also a sex therapist.
The naturopath has been a great help. She’s given me hope, which is what I really need. And a name for my affliction, vulvodynia, which I suppose makes me feel less alone. Our first appointment consisted largely of her laying out all of the possible treatment options. She promises that I won’t be in pain forever. So far, we haven’t found the right solution. The only thing that seems to give any relief is ice. I suspect that the answer may lie in treating some GI issues I have and/or some pelvic floor physical therapy.
The doctor mentioned a need for spiritual healing in addition to everything else, a soul retrieval. No, it’s not science, but there is so much more to healing than science. So I’ve just come back from three nights at the hot springs. In the best Victorian way, I’ve been to take the waters and find healing. It hasn’t been what I hoped. In fact, I feel more dismantled than miraculously cured, but I have learned something very important: it’s okay for me to be exactly where I am.
It’s okay to read aloud about King Arthur instead of having kinky sex. It’s okay to cry most of the way home. It’s okay for me to hurt and feel sad and be angry and even to want to quit. The important thing for me to know right now is that I am loved for me, not the role I play. Unlike my childhood experience, I now have amazing resources that can use to fight my problems. I am rich in love. It’s seems strange to say when I feel like I am going crazy, but I am full of gratitude for the people in my life.