Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Feminism Post

I've been thinking about feminism since reading that I Blame the Patriarchy vaginismus post I linked to last time...

I've never felt connected to feminism, and I think I finally figured out why.  First, a disclaimer: I totally believe there should be no disparity between the sexes.  So my disconnection from feminism has nothing to do with disagreeing with it.

No, it has completely to do with my perception that feminism in activist form comes from a place of insecurity.

This commenter on I Blame the Patriarchy sums it up perfectly:
And isn't that wonderful to think of?  That it may be true there was a time when women liked themselves and they were honoured for their sexuality?
Wait a sec...since when don't I like myself?

And since when is my being a woman, my genitalia, my sexuality shameful?

See, I never, ever, ever, ever, ever in the history of my life had a time when I thought there was anything wrong, shameful, embarrassing, dirty, or lesser about being a woman or having a vulva.  When I got to college and found people flailing their arms about over the subjugation of women, I had no idea what they were talking about.

It's the fortune of my upbringing.  My parents tell me they made a concerted effort not to differentiate between my brother and me based on sex.  Growing up, we girls dominated the classroom and the after-school clubs (well, we didn't dominate Math Club, but we were in it, and when we skipped a grade in math, we did it 50-50 boys-girls).

I'm lucky to have had that upbringing, but it makes me really mad when feminists tell me I'm wrong not to be outraged.  It makes me mad when they imply that if I'm not offended, if I don't feel subjugated, I'm simply not as perceptive as they are.

Excuse me?

How about I grew up in a great setting that encouraged youth equally?  How about I had the upbringing that everyone should have?  How about I'm what feminism aims for, a woman who acts according to her own will and not because of the arithmetic of the patriarchy?

No: if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

Bullshit.  I'm not outraged because I know it's a waste of my time.  The world isn't going to change through outrage, through angry blog posts whose readers are the choir.  The world is going to change through action, and the most pro-vulva thing any woman can do is go shove herself out there in any way she pleases and live her life according to her own goals and desires.

If we teach our daughters that the world hates women, that's all they'll see.  They'll see it in places where it's not even true.  If, instead, we raise them outside of the idea that there is any disparity between men and women, they'll be brazen, confident, and without a clue that vulva is something shameful.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Let's Make You Function Again, or, I Hate Men

Just read this post about vaginismus over at I Blame the Patriarchy, which another vagina blogger linked to today.  (I don't want to link to her because I'm going to kinda disagree with her but I think she's a cool blogger and I'm not arguing with her at all.)

First, glraah what a refreshing post.  Even though the author, Twisty, doesn't have chronic coochie pain herself, she hits the nail on the head with the absurdity of offering Botox to treat vaginismus -- a condition which, unlike vulvodynia, presents as pain only with penetration.

So, in other words, here's some Botox so you can have sex again.  It won't feel good or anything -- in fact, it won't feel like anything -- but at least you'll be able to do what you should be able to do.  And your boyfriend won't dump you.

That's exactly the kind of fix the vulvodynia specialist -- Dr. Matthew Barber at the Cleveland Clinic -- offered me.  (Oh god, look at that picture of him.  Talk about hating men.)

Him: Cutting out your vestibule will help your pain.
Me: But I also have pain in my clit and my urethra.
Him: Well, it may not solve it all---

SERIOUSLY, man?  I should go under the knife and cut out part of my body so I can have penetrative sex again even though I can't even masturbate without irradiating my clit for the next day?  And that is the solution to all my problems?

...in his defense (why am I even bothering), he suggested several other treatments, most addressing the pain as a whole.  He also suggested Botox, and for someone who is in constant pain -- not "just" pain with penetration or even contact -- numbing like that doesn't sound so awful.  In fact, I'd gladly ride an ice saddle all day if I could.  But Botox for vaginismus?  PLEASE.

Some of the commenters on Twisty's post reply that it is possible to desire penetrative sex -- and yes, it is.  That's an important point.  Yeah, yeah, there's a lot of sex that doesn't involve penetration -- I KNOW, dudes, and I don't need anyone telling me that.  I found that out myself.  But not being able to have penetrative sex really, really sucks when it's something you enjoy.  It's like not being able to get your clit tickled, for all the chicas out there who stick to that area.

...I'm going to bring up masturbation again.  Look away until "Unrelatedly" if that bothers you.

I had this brilliant idea that I would masturbate every day for a month just to see what happened.  You know me and my experiments.  Well, I didn't get past day two.

Before vulvodynia, I was a teenage boy.  I'd go every day by default, and often I'd go multiple times in a row.  Since vulvodynia (it's now an event), I'm down to maybe once a month on average.  And that is so incredibly depressing.  It's a shift in my identity.  Not that I saw myself as "The Masturbator," but that I'm a really fucking sexual person and not to have desires anymore or to have them and not be able to act on them -- I don't know this person.

So I was going to masturbate for a month because, you know, 30-day trial, why not.  And sometimes when I masturbate the pain is minimal and I don't really feel worse the next day, so I thought maybe it would be like that.

This time, it was painful to begin with, and the whole next day I was sore.  I still tried the second day, but it took a while to find a low-pain/pain-free spot -- and then there's still pain elsewhere, so you have to look past it -- and while I got it to work, it hurt so bad during and after that I couldn't try again.  Experiment: fail.

Unrelatedly (REALLY?), I still hate men.  A lot.  I do not blame the patriarchy, though.  I hate men in my own special way.

It's spring and I've been horny.  I've been staring at a beautiful boy in one of my classes.  Or staring at him in my mind while in class because I'm pretty good at not being too awkward (during the daytime).

I don't want to listen to male musicians anymore.  I always found hip hop and R&B so sexy, but now that I hate men and can't masturbate it doesn't sound the same.

So I made myself a CD with only female hip hop and R&B artists on it, and I've been listening to it constantly and dancing.  I call it Esther's Springtime Yodel, because dammit everyone should get to yodel in the springtime.

I hate men.  It isn't because of something that happened or anything; it's more of an instinct.  Here's an attempt to pin it down:
  • they are disappointing prudes
  • they want to sleep with you and get pissed off when you're not interested, like you OWE it to them to be interested, like you should be FLATTERED that they even approached you, like they are so ridiculously desirable that it was a GIVEN that you'd be all over them the moment they sidled up
  • they tell you all kinds of lines when they've got you alone and then diss you in front of their friends because their friends were also telling you lines and they've got to keep those retractable antlers in so they can still smoke together (can you tell I went dancing last night?)
  • some of them honestly did not want Hillary to win because she's a woman.  Like, they told me so -- ME, a woman.  HOW is that okay but not wanting Obama to win because he's black NOT???????????  (some women felt this way too, though, and I bet a lot of people felt it without knowing it -- probably same for Obama)
  • the world revolves around them -- hardly any blockbuster movies star women, for example
  • the world revolves around them and we women are okay with it.  We all flock to Wedding Crashers, guys and girls alike, but only women flock to My Best Friend's Wedding -- and Wedding Crashers IS NOT THAT FUNNY (not that the other one made me pee my pants either)
  • erectile dysfunction is more pressing than vulvodynia
  • they assume that I'm functional and the majority would squirm like mad or just plain bolt if they knew what's going on in my undies
  • they don't CARE, as a system, as a society, as friends, about what's going on in my undies.  They'd rather not know.
Some of these points sound like patriarchy points, but I DO NOT blame the patriarchy.  We inherited this situation, and for the most part, it's unintentional.  Men didn't go out and consciously skew medicine their way; medicine is skewed their way because (our) society has been skewed their way for millennia -- MILLENNIA -- and they were the ones doing the (official -- this paragraph is likely to invite nitpickers; please don't waste my time) doctoring all along.  It is not an EXCUSE to say that other animals have different roles for the sexes, but it is a REASON why we've arrived where we are -- why we set off on a course that wasn't balanced to begin with that got worse and worse until one day we woke up and said "hey, that isn't fair!"  It took us a while to figure all this shit out!  We couldn't even conceptualize NUMBERS when we were first standing upright -- of course more complicated (and completely impalpable) concepts like equality took a while for us to hammer out.

I mean, DUH.

So THAT is why I don't blame the patriarchy.  Because it's a waste of time, and it contributes nothing to our forward movement.  It's a backward-looking philosophy.

But I still hate men.

This post is like three posts in one, but I had to get it out because I can't focus on anything else right now.

Seriously.  I just want to drop out of school.  The thing is, I did that in college one semester because I was seriously, seriously sick with bipolar stuff.  Now I want to quit mid-semester because I'm, what, spiritually drained?  It's just not the same.  It's like I owe it to my past really-sick self to keep going even though my body is rejecting school like a mismatched liver.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Vulvodynia Turns People into Prudes

Thank god I'm not a prude.  I don't know how the hell I'd cope.

I might not even have a diagnosis.

And then there are the boys.  It's like the Big Lebowski.  Maude: "My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal, which bothers some men.  The word itself makes some men uncomfortable.  Vagina."  They'll chase you with waggling tongues into bed, perfectly aware of why, but the monkey doesn't exist in other contexts as far as they're concerned.

I know that's why few of my guy friends read my blog, and why almost all my commenters are other v-girls.  PRUDES!

Back from spring break, my advisor told me how he busted his knee skiing in Colorado.  Came out of his mouth like a sneeze.  Why can't we have that?

I so appreciate the people who will discuss it with me.  It's not always the people you'd think.  In fact, as far as the guys go, it's ALWAYS the people you'd never expect.

So thanks, guys, and gals.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don't Fail Me Now

Tomorrow is my birthday. I'll be 29. Holidays have sucked since the vulvodynia started. They just don't feel the same anymore -- Thanksgiving doesn't feel like Thanksgiving, Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas, and my birthday is always a prayer for the coming year.

Plus, I'm at school 12-6 and 8-10 tomorrow, which are about the worst birthday hours ever, and I have no idea what I'm going to do to make it feel like my birthday. All my plans so far are for the weekend.

But then there is the magic of music. I've been listening to R&B, and Missy Elliott just came on with a birthday-saving song (SWEAR WORDS...key stanza below):

P***y don't fail me now
I gotta turn this n*gga out
So he don't want nobody else
But me and only me
The lyrics aren't PERFECT, but thank you, Missy, for that first line. I'm sure we can come up with something relevant for the rest of it...
P***y don't fail me now
No matter where I go out
I light my chair on fire
Every time I take a seat
Share yours?

P.S. Blogger thinks "p***y" might be objectionable and asked me if I wanted to flag my own blog. I caved...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vulvodynia Warning Signs

Looking back, I can see my vulvodynia foreshadowed in some health problems I had before the chronic pain arrived.  As vulvodynia likely has multiple causes, these warning signs won't apply to everyone -- and I don't mean to be a scaremonger! -- but I wish someone had pointed out the link to me before I crossed the point of no return.

I also see these as warning signs for interstitial cystitis (in me).

A History of Urinary Tract Infections

I had recurrent urinary tract infections as a toddler, a few in my childhood, and two in the six months before my vulvodynia started.  As a toddler, once my parents had me shower instead of bathe, the infections went away, but the doctor told my mom I have a narrow urethra (yes, like Hank Hill -- reason #6274 that's my favorite TV show ever).

Prolonged or Recurrent Antibiotic Use

The first UTI I had in the six months leading up to my vulvodynia resolved with lots of water and cranberry juice, but the second one forced me to get antibiotics.  When the chronic pain started, I was on antibiotics for about two months straight and then a couple more times as the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me.  Over that time, my pain got worse.  Had I been diagnosed with vulvodynia or interstitial cystitis from the start, I think my pain wouldn't have advanced alongside the antiobiotic use like it did.

A History of Digestive Problems

I had always had an uncomfortable stomach, but after I got mono my senior year of high school, my intestines were never the same.  I would get run-to-the-toilet, watery-explosive diarrhea the moment a Tootsie Roll crossed my lips -- or Cherry Coke, or Wheat Thins -- the triggers weren't consistent, but I learned them immediately!

The diarrhea resolved slowly, and instead of exploding, my intestines would just cramp a lot and send things out prematurely when they got triggered.  That still happens -- refined sugar, chocolate, and caffeine are basically laxatives for me.

Three months before my chronic pain started, my gut shut down for a week.  I was in constant pain as I felt whatever offending food I had eaten move step by step through my intestines.  I always knew where it was, and I tried every over-the-counter medicine I could find to get it out of there.  I don't know if it was food poisoning (I've never heard of it moving so slowly) or simple intestinal devastation, but that was one of the worst weeks of my life.

Pain with Arousal

Starting in my late teens or early twenties, I would occasionally get sharp pains in my vulva when I got aroused.  Penetration and touch didn't hurt, just arousal.  The pain was fleeting and I didn't concern myself with it, but looking back, it wasn't right.

Low-Level Pelvic Pain or Discomfort

Two months before my chronic pain started, I developed what I can only describe as minor discomfort around where my bladder is.  It was August, and I had no air-conditioning, so I thought maybe I wasn't drinking enough water -- maybe I was sweating it out and my bladder wasn't happy with that.  When the real pain started, that low-level discomfort grew steadily over the course of a day just like a bladder infection might.  I chugged water, peeing every hour, but unlike a UTI, increased urination just made the pain worse.

Pain that Resists Treatment

This goes without saying for those of us diagnosed with vulvodynia or interstitial cystitis, but I think it's important to note that pain that does not respond to treatment is probably not due to the condition the patient is being treated for.  Had my vulvodynia/IC been a UTI, it would have responded to increased water intake, and if not to that, to one of the several antibiotics doctors put me on over the following months.  Had the pain been due to treatment-resistant infection, it would have been due to a more complicated physiological problem than a run-of-the-mill UTI.  Not all manifestations of medical conditions will fit into the conditions' boxes, but if they don't, it should send up a red flag.

I know it's mostly you already-afflicted girls who will be reading this, but we AAGs should band together, make a hindsight list (HL), and do something with it.  Let me know if you're in.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vulvar Voodoo

Flashback to when I first told my gynie that eliminating gluten reduced my vulvar pain---
Sounds like voodoo to me, but whatever works!
Total voodoo; I still agree with that sentiment.  But folks, it's uncanny what diet does to my pain.

I've been casting about, looking for things to put in my body in exchange for the stuff I eat that might be hard to digest -- raw veggies, nuts, and seeds, mostly.  Cooking the veggies might help, but if I have to cook my asparagus I'm not going to eat it.  Blech.

So I turned to rice.  Rice is fine; it doesn't seem to cause me any extra pain or digestive problems.  Then I turned to rice products, because those are theoretically even easier to digest and they're also more convenient.  I bought my favorite gluten-free cereal, Erewhon's Rice Twice, and I got some rice milk instead of my usual nut or hemp milk.  (I'm still off dairy -- lactose causes so many problems for so many people, why mess with it right now.)

I knew that rice milk has all these stabilizers in it -- guar gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan, locust bean gum -- and I've read that those can be bad for IBS, but I thought I might as well figure out if they bother me.  Problem problem problem!  They do bother me!  A lot ouch ouch ouch!  In my coochie AND my gut!

So cross fake milk off the list, but there's another experiment in favor of the food theory.  Dear doctor: no experiment can prove voodoo.

I don't really know what to do now.  My diet is pretty stable as is -- mostly as I listed a few weeks back -- and I could probably stay on it indefinitely, but if I do will the pain recede over time, or am I still eating something that's setting me off?  There are a few ways to find out: chart food and pain by the hour (AUGH), reduce myself to an even smaller set of foods for a few days and rotate until I find the best set (AUGH), go on an all-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough diet...

The best medicine is TIME, Esther -- but I hate not having the full picture in my head.  I get restless.  I start planning ways to tease out the truth.  Maybe it's time for a vacation.  The Caribbean.  Louisiana.  Do they make anti-voodoo dolls?  PULL THE PIN OUT!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Other People's Sex Lives

Worse than overhearing your neighbors having sex...



That would be true even if I didn't have vulvodynia.

Neither of you is...my type.

But Jesus God Almighty Christ the Savior in Heaven Above and Mary and Joseph While We're At It, I DO NOT CARE.  HOW ANYTHING YOU'RE DOING FEELS.  I do not care that you're doing it.  I do not care that it is possible for you to do.  I do not care about your urges and the particular way in which you're acting on them.

AND OH MY FREAKING GOD, WHY is it that I can't hear you EVER at ANY other time of day but then when you start to have sex it's HELLO HERE WE ARE?!?!?!  Gee thanks, so glad you'll be tucked in safe and warm tonight!

Seriously, the guy down there's voice is way too resonant.  Kind of like -- kind of like he's on a speaker.  But just the guy.  Which makes me wonder...where's Mr. Neighbor tonight?

I AM SITTING HERE in my bed at one a.m. watching MATLOCK and listening to foreplay.

I think, maybe, with some luck, someday I'll also be able to annoy my neighbors.  But the reality is that, of all us crotch bloggers, I think I'm the newest to vulvodynia -- at 2.5 years.  AND THAT MAKES ME FREAKING ANGRY.  Because I blog alongside some amazing women who should never have to live with this, let alone without knowing when or IF it will end.  They should be annoying their neighbors instead, on whatever schedule pleases them.  Sex should be a matter of will and desire, not of whether a person can tolerate it today or any day.

People find my blog by googling for shit that you would never want to have happening in your pants.  And with every new query string I just want to beat the hell out of something.  No one should be googling for that shit!  No one should have as her best health resource the accidental blogs of others with her nameless condition.

Don't take your coochies and weewees for granted, readers.  Don't, of course, take anything for granted.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Coming Out

I told a boy about my vulvodynia.

He received it in an amazing way.

It used to be that bipolar disorder was my big coming-out.  These days, my symptoms are so much better than they used to be that it's become a side note.

That's what I'm aiming for with vulvodynia.

I was at the gym with a friend the other day carefully stepping around the reason why I don't want to ride the stationary bikes and I'd rather not join her for a swim.  Ahead of that conversation, I thought I'd be fine telling her, but in the moment I just couldn't say it.

Bipolar's only a side note now because I've got it under what to me is miraculous control (especially without meds).  If it were still as bad as it was in the past, it'd still be a guarded fact.

Vulvodynia's been the center of my life for a while, and it won't move to the side until I can reduce my symptoms significantly.  Chronic pain is constant trauma.  Every moment, something is harming you.  Time erodes your resilience.  You succumb.  You just do.

But I've seen my symptoms get better, and I know if I can spend my days averaging a pain level of 2 or 3 instead of 5 or 6, that alone would destabilize my orbit and recenter my life on something else (me?).  Even if I can't get rid of my pain, reducing it will still be meaningful.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Dude, maybe it's just me, but living through multiple years of coochie pain pretty much devastates the feelings of respect, patience, and brotherly love you might've once felt towards men.

Historically, I always preferred guy friends to girl friends.  It's easier to communicate openly with a guy.  His ears don't amplify nuance until the nuance is the message.  Sometimes his ears don't even sense nuance, which is also fine.  It makes him easy, like a golden retriever.

But now all that lack of sensitivity makes men seem like drooling automatons.  And while we were loading food and children onto our backs, they went ahead and did things like make floors too slippery for high heels and sidewalk grates too wide for high heels.  But high heels, high heels, they make the world turn.

It's like, dudes.  If you're thinking about sex all day, and if that sex sometimes involves high heels, how can you not, when you're sitting there designing your grate or your floor, think about what happens when high heels march across it?  I mean, it's GOT to occur to you at some point.  Unless you have a thing for sneakers.

Don't tell me men aren't so simplistic.  Men are sex!  Oh blahblahbha, outliers.  Blhalbhalba, value as people.  Men are sex.  And I am sure it's the conflict of their single-mindedness and my coochie crucible that's made me start to hate their stupid little faces.

Like the Illinois Congressman TMZ reports as being hot.  Okay, where have my ovaries gone.  This guy has the physical charisma of a melted candle.  The only reason they're calling him hot is because he's younger than I am, not fat, and standing next to a bunch of people who've had time to shrink and wrinkle.

The past few days walking around school, I've felt my eyes shooting daggers into the faces of all the men I pass.  I have no idea what I look like doing it, but most of the men probably think I'm trying to seduce them.

Sorry, guys.  For the record, I usually only feel the man hate towards men I don't know.  Much easier to hate something that hasn't had a chance to redeem itself.  Not that it could if it did...

P.S. Dan, if you're reading this, I have awesome timing.

P.P.S. I still like gay men.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

First Flare Since Progress

I'm in the middle of a moderate flare, the first one since I made all that progress a couple weeks ago.  I told myself that this would happen, especially if I tried to introduce new foods to my diet.  But it's still really hard.

I'm at school, technically doing my grad assistantship, but omigod how can anyone concentrate when her body feels like this?  I just want to call off work and go home, but of course I won't.  What would I say to my advisor?  The two times I've called off before, he's told me I should exercise to keep myself from getting colds.  Well guess what, buddy.  I do exercise, and I haven't had a cold in like two years.

So I'm crunching down asparagus and telling myself that this flare will subside and that I will get back to the level of pain I was at before.  And I'm planning what to do next because planning's how I mollify myself.

Since I think my pain is gut-related, and since I haven't pooped normally in forever, I'm digging into IBS to see if there are any pearls of wisdom out there that might help me.  The main recommendation for IBS is to avoid trigger foods, most of which are completely out of my diet to begin with -- caffeine, chocolate, grease, sugar, fats -- the good stuff.

Then I came across this website which claims that to recover from IBS, one should eat a low-fiber diet.  It says all this stuff about how fiber for regular bowel movements is bogus and how a low-fiber (also called low-residue if you have Crohn's or ulcerative colitis) diet is best for a messed-up gut.

Well, given that I eat so much raw roughage, my diet is, according to this website, not IBS-friendly right now.  And yeah, I know my pain was even lower in some ways than it has been recently when my diet was all cooked -- eggs and hash browns and steamed zucchini and fish.  I think that was also the time I was constantly pooping Mr. Hankey.

I don't know if the website's right or not, but I guess it's worth a shot to switch to a low-fiber diet and see what happens.  Because, like I said, making and executing plans is basically my way to stay sane.

Gah back to work...can't life just PAUSE sometimes?!

P.S. I think I'm flaring because I tried to eat peanut butter last night.  D'oh...

P.P.S. For some reason I wore a pair of my higher heels today and I feel like a crab walking in them around my crotch.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Notes from the Subconscious

I had a dream last night that my crotch turned into a jellyfish.

It was all these purty colors, but I was wondering if it was some kind of STD, the kind that turns your crotch into a jellyfish.

That's all I wanted to share, but a couple of waking-life notes:
  • I've reconfirmed that my crotch wants meat.  I did another 2 days accidentally vegan and got all pinchy again.
  • I also confirmed that my crotch wants food, period.  If I go too long without eating -- like yesterday, I had veggie juice and 2 bananas over 7 hours -- I get more and more burn.  If I eat veggies to break my sorta fast, my burn takes a quick dive.  If I eat sweet things (like my favorite raw cookies, which I treat myself to about once a week), the burn takes longer to subside.
I DON'T KNOW I don't know I don't know why these things are true, but eating such a simple diet, making these observations is much easier than before.

Also, I'm on day three of taking the probiotic Healthy Trinity by Natren.  It's gluten-free and reviews in different places claim it has helped people with IBS.  It's expensive, but it's my HEALTH, cheaper than doctors and naturopaths, and I ordered it from Vitamin Discount Store on Amazon at about half the list price.  When I opened it up it was like unpacking something from NASA, giant styrofoam case with more styrofoam and ice packs inside, fog rolling out of it, maybe...

Me and my jellycrotch are going to go start our day.