September 24, 2007

My First Diagnosis...of many

After an entire semester of sexual pain, classes ended and I went home.  I had three months of rest and recovery.  No sex.  No pain.  No burning.  Then I went to my gynecologist for my annual checkup.

When she inserted the speculum, I screamed.  It was the same piercing, jolting pain I felt every time, but worse, because I wasn't expecting it.  I remember lying on my back with tears rolling down my temples and into my hair.

The doctor found some inflammation and told me to abstain from sex for at least a month.  I told her I hadn't had sex in close to two months, which prompted her to inquire about my sexual history.  Vulvodynia was the diagnosis she gave me, and with it, she wrote a prescription for Amitriptalene.  She explained that in vulvodynia, the skin in that area is less resilient and a low dose antidepressant can help the skin recover better.  She also wrote me a new prescription for Xylocane jelly.

I felt encouraged to learn that medication could make me better.  At the same time, I felt ashamed.  There really was something wrong with me, but I couldn't talk about it with my parents and I didn't want my partner to know.

I thought, "What person would ever want to be with someone who is sexually dysfunctional?"

I found myself feeling even more alone and discouraged than I had sitting in that drawer in my dorm room.

There Was No Vacation from the Pain

For Spring Break, I went to vacation with my partner and my parents.  The sex I had on the first night ruined my entire vacation.  The next day I felt horrible burning that made it very uncomfortable to walk.  Over the next few days, it got so bad that I had to ask my parents to take me all around the island looking for something I could use for soaking.  There were no bathtubs where we were staying.  At the biggest supermarket on the island, I found a cat litter box that was the right size.

I felt so humiliated.  When we got back to the hotel, I sat in the cat box on the floor in the bathroom and cried.

September 23, 2007

Then It Got Out of Control

Within two days of my first sexual encounter, I was in searing pain, there was pus weeping from my vagina and the health center was closed. I went to the emergency room because I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t take the pain any more and I was worried that something was horribly wrong.

I went to a women’s hospital near my college. After hours in the waiting room, a doctor told me that I had a yeast infection and a urinary tract infection. She gave me Xylocane jelly to relieve the burning, a prescription for Diflucan and an antibiotic for the UTI. She told me to NEVER use colored or flavored condoms. She also told me to use a lot of lubricant to prevent irritation. I wish I had known all that before I had sex. Those shitty condoms should come with a warning label.

The infections cleared and the burning pain dissipated. As soon as I thought I had healed, I attempted sex again. I felt the same agonizing pain upon insertion and burning for hours after sex.

Xylocane jelly became a constant in my life. I used it after every time I had sex. It helped, but it didn’t do anything to treat the problem.

More pressing, was the pain I felt with penetration. Remember what if felt like to get your ears pierced. The jolt of pain as the pointed earring broke through your skin and then the burning that followed as a foreign object hung in your lobe.

Imagine that on a much larger scale. The best way I can describe it is feeling like I was being ripped apart from the inside. And no amount of lubricant lessened that persistent, jarring pain.

I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I was too ashamed to tell my partner. I wanted to enjoy sex and I wanted to please my partner, so I swallowed my pain. I had sex frequently, even though it hurt, because I wanted to be normal.

The only other relief I got was from soaking in warm water. Problem was: I lived in a dorm with no bathtubs. I filled a drawer from a plastic storage unit with hot water from the bathroom sink almost daily for just a few minutes of relief. It was humiliating to sit on the floor of my dorm room with my ass wedged in a drawer, but it was the only thing I could do to alleviate the pain.

September 21, 2007

The Loss of Innocence and the Start of Pain

The first time I had sex I was a freshman in college. I was uncomfortable and poorly prepared. The condom, chosen at random from a bowl in the Resident Assistant’s dorm room, was colored and flavored. Tropical banana or wild cherry. It didn’t make a difference to me. I had no idea what I was doing.

I felt like I was being ripped apart from the inside at the moment of penetration. The intensity of the pain startled me, but shortly after it began, it passed. Very soon after that, the sex was over. It lasted maybe a grand total of 30 seconds, although that’s probably too generous.

As I lay on my back wondering what ‘the big deal’ was about sex, the burning started. I felt like someone had put out a match on the skin inside of me and there was nothing I could do to stop the pain.
I told myself that this must be the way all women feel after their first time.

I was wrong.