Over the last several weeks I (Stephanie) have been busy trying to catch up at work, getting to my commitments on-time, and generally just trying to keep my head above water among all of life’s responsibilities. What typically is a low to no pain sexual experience for me one night turned out to be excruciating pain instead. I alerted my husband and we enjoyed other forms of intimacy (I never go through with painful sex, it only serves to heighten the fear of it next time). When we discussed it later I expressed my frustration: “I don’t know why it’s hurting, it doesn’t make any sense”. I set out my towel and pillows to use my dilators so I could get a sense for where the pain was and why. The smallest dilator was difficult for me, which is usually never the case. As I worked through the process it began to hit me. Of course it made sense!
In my constant rush I’d neglected to practice my massage techniques on my stomach and inner thighs for days. After my dilator use (I could only successfully use the smallest size without resistance) I immediately grabbed the lotion and sure enough, very tight, tense, and painful sections in both areas. I had multiple trigger points to release. As I practiced my relaxation breathing while holding pressure on the trigger points I realized I’d been holding my stomach tense and had slipped back into “chest breathing”. I also noticed areas of tension in my hips. So after my massage techniques I got my tennis ball and found these points of tension and pain in my hips. I then stretched my hip musculature and did hip strengthening exercises. I was reminded of the couple times over the week I had worked out. Maybe I had overdone it a bit, after all my inner thighs are touching so I could be getting fat. And in my morning and evening rush I’d forgotten my probiotics and hadn’t been very mindful during the day of drinking enough water. The recollection came to me that my stools had been hard to pass lately.
I scolded myself that night for putting my pain on the back burner. If I had been mindful to check in mentally with my stomach, hips, legs and pelvic floor I would have caught the fact that they were holding tension. If I had sat down for a few minutes to participate in guided mediation it would have prompted me to notice these areas of tension I was holding in my body. If I would have taken my work out slower, not been so concerned with my body image, and more diligently drank water and remembered my probiotics I could have avoided this current predicament. Grateful for the reminders, I forgave myself and went to bed.
The next morning I woke up with the image of the volume dial in my head. Over several weeks all of the combined factors added up and my pain volume dial got turned way up! Stress: notch up. Chest breathing: notch up. Muscle tension: notch up. Hard and big stool: notch up. Lack of water: notch up. And then I went into sex expecting a pain-free experience. With a new-found commitment I pledged to take the daily steps to turn that volume dial back down. Keeping this promise to myself might mean I don’t get as much done in a day. It might mean that I’m not as skinny as I’d like to be. It might mean asking for help more than I’m usually willing to admit I need so I have more space and time for healing and mindfulness. But I’ll do it. Whatever it takes. Because sexual pain is not acceptable. It’s not good for me. And It’s not good for my relationship with my husband. And those are the things that truly matter to me. *
Caution Ladies: This is what my journey looks like right now. And we hope that it connects the dots for you on how inter-related factors can add on top of each other, causing the pain volume dial to get turned up. Not everyone, including me, can always take the time and effort to perfectly keep the pain volume dial turned down. Children, work, demanding partners all come into play. We encourage you to not let feelings of guilt creep in if you can’t keep up. Guilt and its side effects are counter productive in managing your pain. Give yourself lots of grace in this area and just do what you can, when you can.
Stephanie Yeager: Passionate about spreading the word of hope and healing for those like her, influencing a paradigm shift in the medical community toward greater understanding of chronic pelvic pain disorders, and prevention initiatives that may protect young women before onset can occur.