I am currently sitting in bed with an ice pack on my crotch.
Not for those reasons – get your mind out of the gutter. No, my friends; this is the result of the internal massage programme I am on. It’s not as fun as it sounds. But it might just be the ticket…
They say if you struggle with pelvic floor pain that doesn’t go hand-in-hand with incontinence or post-birth slackness, you should stay away from kegels. But that doesn’t mean that women with my sort of vulvodynia shouldn’t go see a physiotherapist! Far from it. I have now had two physiotherapy sessions, and I am feeling cautiously hopeful about the whole affair. In fact, of all the treatments I have been offered (which have included copious neuro-blocking medication and even surgery), this one feels the closest to an accurate diagnosis/prescription I have encountered.
My physiotherapist swiftly ascertained that I have a hypertonic pelvic floor. i.e. my vagina is too tight. Really hoping I can play this up as being an incredibly sexy problem to have, but I’m not sure how that’s going to work out…
The physio I’m seeing could feel particularly unrelenting muscle, and even some grainy tissue which spoke of adhesions, potentially as the result of previous inflammation. The crazy thing is, I’ve been having EMDR therapy for the last couple of months, which is intended to trigger your brain to heal itself and process anything that has been blocked or repressed and needs taking care of. Just under a week ago, I had a repressed memory pop up. I’d been seeing glimpses for one or two days before that, but couldn’t focus in on the specifics. I could see a swimming pool, and a slide, and some sort of accident taking place, but nothing more than that.
Then bang! It suddenly returned to me.
I was about eight or nine years old, and I was at a swimming pool in half term. My Mum and Grandma were sitting at the poolside watching me play. A very fearful child, I rather surprisingly decided I would brave the water slide (which was shaped like an octopus – is this where my phobia of octopi stems from? #
Almost at the exact same time as this revelation, I saw an article about how the body can remember injuries. Just like muscle memory works in favour of those dedicated to working out, it can also work to the detriment of poor invalids like me, it would seem. It is seemingly entirely plausible that the pain I felt from this injury could have set off a warning pain signal proclivity in that sensitive area. As such, when I got a yeast infection aged 17, the way most women do, my vulva went into Panic Mode.
In my first meeting with the Women’s Health Physiotherapist, there was a lot of talk about bowel movements, and then she proceeded to give me an internal examination. In the second meeting, she forgot my name. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been such an intimate introduction. No, she couldn’t remember my name, but she’d had her fingers inside my vaginal tract. Usually, name-knowing is a bit of a deal-breaker when it comes to access to that particular area. I’m telling you, a) so I feel better about the whole thing, and b) so if you’re going for a physiotherapy session for pelvic pain, you know what to expect. The physiotherapist talked to me about proper breathing techniqueto relax the pelvic floor (fortunately, as a singer, this wasn’t too much of a challenge to get my head around), and then did a little bit of muscle work. She works on the tension which is situated between five and seven on the ‘pelvic clock’, using a gloved, very well lubricated finger to massage and ‘strobe’ the angry area.
Naturally, as these sessions are so limited on time – and my body is definitely not ready for long sessions of pressure (even four minutes is sending my pain rocketing) – I have to do my homework. Hence the icepack. Yes, folks, I am now establishing a routine of sticking dilators up my cooch and wiggling them about. The aim of the game is to desensitise the area. The ‘dilators‘, also known as ‘vaginal trainers’ (mine are from Femmax online and very good, it would seem) are quite simply phallic prodding sticks – I mean, we should just call them prodding sticks shouldn’t we, as I suppose if they’re prodding sticks they’re almost certainly going to be phallic. Used with lashings of lube (without wishing to make it sound like a Nigella Lawson recipe…), these plastic prodders can be used to work the muscle, stretching it and trying to drum in the message that CONTACT/PRESSURE =/= PAIN BEYOND ALL IMAGINING.
I’m only managing to do a little at a time, and at this rate, it’s going to be a long while before I am able to reach coital mission:accomplished. But heck, the sooner I start, the sooner I’ll get there. And in the meantime: I’m a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man.
And if all else fails, there’s more to sex than intercourse. I once seduced a man using only a packet of Softmints. No words, no hands; just Softmints. The world belongs to those who use their imagination.