The fact that it was someone new makes it seem like an STD, right? And after the UTI antibiotics didn't work, I started thinking that's what was going on. I saw a doctor who said I probably had Chlamydia. I told the guy I was seeing, and he said it was all but impossible -- he was recently divorced, hadn't been with anyone else since his wife, and was sure his wife hadn't cheated on him. Plus, we'd used condoms.
I've read since then that vulvodynia often has a trigger event -- that, for whatever reason, it comes on suddenly after some otherwise common event, be it sex or antibiotic use or a yeast infection. And as I said in an earlier post, while the really really bad awful OMG something is WRONG pain arrived on October 2, things had been feeling odd down there for at least a month. So even though I had a trigger event for my vulvodynia, it probably would've come along without one.
In honor of our 2nd anniversary, I'm going to make a list of things vulvodynia has taught me -- because wow, have I learned a lot. Pain aside, I am so much better and wiser for having been forced into this journey.
What vulvodynia has taught me (in part, no doubt):
- Dear lord, QUIT YOUR JOB! If it's driving you insane, quit! If it's making you stressed and depressed, quit! If the stress is exacerbating your health problems, quit! You will be okay. (This is not legal advice.)
- You WILL be okay if you quit your job. Or, rather, I was okay, and I'd be okay doing it again. I will never let myself fall flat on my face; I will take care of myself.
- If what you're doing makes you feel like you're constantly going uphill, you're going the wrong way. That's not to say that the right thing won't be challenging -- it will be, but it will also be like running downhill.
- People who can't empathize suck. People who don't show you any support whatsoever suck even harder. If it's worth staying friends with them, tell them they suck. If it's not, dump them. (Still perfecting this one...)
- I don't have time or patience for guys I'm not interested in, especially now that there's no major physical benefit to make up for how annoying they can be.
- Empathy is a skill, which means you can strengthen it. Vulvodynia has strengthened my empathy by giving me a new perspective and by enhancing my instinct about how to provide support for others.
- Pain and sickness are very lonely, and it can seem like no one hears you. Being heard is very powerful. I now try consciously to make others feel heard.
- Food is so freaking important. It is absolutely the number one component of health. I believe this so fiercely that I've begun wondering how multiple-Diet-Coke drinkers remain alive.
- Sometimes...you just can't solve everything, no matter your optimism, determination, or ingenuity.
- I have unbeatable willpower when I believe in something.
- In order to live well, I have to listen to myself and respect what I hear. What I want and need are not stupid, but the various "shoulds" that run through my head might be.
- What works for someone else may not work for you, and that's okay. For instance, I'm not a bad person for rejecting vegetarianism or not loving yoga (for reasons beyond the pain). Sometimes we talk about such issues as if there's only one way to live when the reality is that our likes, dislikes, and beliefs don't come from cookie cutters.
- My inner child -- my lingering child -- is super-duper in touch with what I need and has better ideas than my adult self on how to address my problems.
- Personal growth is endless. There's never any kind of arrival. It just keeps going.
Yeah. Meat mallet mind. I am an epiphany machine.