There are yoga postures which increase the blood flow to your pelvis. Do a google search on fertility and yoga and you’ll come up with a bunch of them. The one I’ve been doing is to lay on my side with my legs bent from the hip and skooge my butt up close to the wall, then allow my legs to go up the wall. All the blood from the legs drains down over the next several minutes. It’s called Viparita Karani. Here’s a link to a more detailed explanation of the pose: http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/1140
My vulva has been very sore the last several days. Over the years I’ve made several attempts to try and figure out what is wrong and fix it.
As you may know, I was raped repeatedly as a small child, and my vagina/vulva was injured. From the scars and my memories of the pain, I’d say it tore from vaginal vestibule (the opening) in two places right over to my clitoris. Just thinking about that makes me want to cross my legs.
When I was a young adult (18) I began having intercourse with my then boyfriend, who was about my age. I had what I thought at the time were horrible bladder infections and yeast infections, so bad that I’d have to sit in the bath in order to control the pain when I peed. The wrinkles in condoms would cause enough friction that I’d be very sore. During this time the doctor also found a sore he thought was herpes. He tested it and it was negative. I still don’t know what it was. I’ve had other sores since, but rarely. Gods only know what I would have been exposed to from my father, but I’ve gotten a full STD test panel and was negative for everything, which is a blessing.
I didn’t have the knowledge or assertiveness then that I have now. I went to the doctor a few times, but really they weren’t able to to resolve things so that they didn’t hurt. I researched all the usual helpful things:
I never did use scented stuff near the peach (scented pantiliners, soaps, lotions, douches etc… which are supposed to cause reactions.
I had a doctor tell me to douche with plain vinegar and water to kill the bad bacteria and then insert a slurry of yogurt and water to restore the good bacteria. Later the same doctor told me to put boric acid in gelatin capsules and insert one when I had symptoms.
I bought soft cloth menstrual pads instead of the rough paper ones.
I wore/wear only cotton underwear
I had another doctor tell me to use a blow dryer set on cool to dry my vulva after a shower or bath.
All of these things undoubtedly helped a bit, but don’t go all the way and it keeps coming back.
A few years later, having regular painful sex with another boyfriend, I went for several visits to my family doctor to see if I could clear it up once and for all. I told her I thought I had a persistent low grade yeast infection and vowed to keep going back again and again until it cleared up. She prescribed the anti-yeast vaginal suppositories, and I did that. A couple of weeks later, still sore. I went back. Puzzled, she tested me for diabetes and AIDS, which apparently both can cause recurrent yeast infections. Negative. I told her I was a survivor. She was very uncomfortable. I didn’t go back. She went on mat leave and I didn’t see her again.
A couple of years ago I went to a nurse practitioner (kind of like a super-powered nurse who does some of the things a doctor does) and told her about my little problem. I went in when the pain was pretty bad and she could see and feel the red, inflamed tissue. She told me she thought I had vascular damage from the rapes and pointed out my scars. She suggested putting cold packs on my vulva and tested me for infections (all negative). Then, after some promising and useful work, she gave up and suggested it might be psychosomatic. I don’t think it could be this persistent and steady if it is psychosomatic, and I’m generally not in a lot of denial about my abuse issues, so if it was really a body memory, you’d think I’d have processed it by now, I tend to not shy away from dealing with this kind of thing. I think that an injury for which I didn’t get medical attention plus vascular damage might be a more credible cause, frankly, so I’d like to find someone knowledgeable to look at that.
I did some research and found out about vulvadynia, which I’ve written about on this blog before. The main self-care strategy for this is mostly to rinse your vulva with water after peeing to prevent the urine from irritating the sensitive tissue. This has taken my pain down a few notches, particularly in the morning, but not completely.I also read that perhaps clenching the muscles in the area can cause reduced blood flow which causes pain. I’ve been paying attention to not doing this, so it’s not related to the current pain I’ve got.
I know when you hear hoofbeats, think horse not zebra, but given that I have a zebra kind of injury here, and the usual causes have already been ruled out, it’s time for a little digging.
I’m girding my loins (so to speak) to make another pass at trying to figure out what is going on here. I’m assuming I need some kind of specialist – but who? ob/gyn? midwife? . I googled “long term effects of vaginal injury” and got nothing. There’s a bit on STV’s in children but mostly for doctors on how to test for them following child sexual assault.
I just finished bringing my father / abuser’s file to the attention of the RCMP in connection with some murders of young women that have been happening in and around my home town during the time my family has lived there. I used an online tip form, because it seemed a lot easier to write out what I know than to be interviewed on the phone. I hate talking on the phone. I gave them my real name.
I did it because my vulva has been hurting all day, and it needed to be done. I spent an hour or more writing out all the facts I know of, looked into my files to check dates and it does seem possible he is the one murdering these young women. Either way, I didn’t say anything that they can’t verify themselves. I didn’t give them the full time-line, although it does look like there is a murder within a year of events that would have been stressful to him (getting interviewed by the police about raping me, his wife leaving him etc…) The first murder happened about a year after we moved there.
I sure hope that either they don’t contact me or at least that it’s not a bad experience if they do. I’m stronger now than I was then. Tips aren’t supposed to be a case all sewn up, they’re just information that might fit into the case. I have done all I can do, now.
I’d like to summarize what resources and history I’ve gathered (or created) that might be helpful to other survivors.
I went from someone who had an 8 year gap in both pap tests and dental work to someone who has had a pap test and a dental cleaning within the past year. I also successfully asked a health clinician doing my pap test to examine me for scar tissue from the rapes (I have evidence of tearing that no-one had mentioned to me previously.)
The day before the pap_Yesterday I saw my therapist and we talked about the pap test appointment tomorrow. What’s different about this appointment is: 1) the medical professional will know I’m a survivor. 2) I’m planning to ask if I have scar tissue. 3) …
Warrior Victorious in Pap Test – So the gyne visit went about as well as it could possibly go, and better than I could have envisioned. The nurse-practitioner I saw was very experienced and nice and drew the correct line between warm sympathy and matter of …
In the wake of proof – Knowing I have scar tissue has changed my life I think. It’s like an incontrovertible validation of what I’ve been saying all along. No longer can I doubt or go into denial about the accuracy of my memory. I know …
Icing my vulva – I’ve had pain and itching in my vulva for most of my life. I’ve worn out holes in the fronts of underwear from scratching. This, I’ve found through some recent reading, is actually pretty common with vaginal injuries like mine.
And last but not least here’s a resource I created:
I’m really proud of this one. Wouldn’t you like to just hand your doctor a form with checkboxes for the accommodations you need to be able to tolerate a pap test? No working up to disclosing abuse just before getting into the stirrups, no worrying your voice will break or you’ll lose your nerve. All you have to do is hand over a piece of official looking paper. Look no more, here’s my survivor-designed and field-tested version, made using some of the recommendations from the sensitive practice guide linked above: SwordDanceWarrior’s Information Sheet for Gynecological Care Providers Providing Care to Childhood Sexual Assault Survivors I’ve used it. It works beautifully. I ended up in my own clothes rather than a gown, sitting up with a mirror so I could see what she was doing, with everything explained as she went along, and with my partner present. It was way less stressful than a regular pap test. If you use it, I’d love to know how it went.
I’ve been doing some new years resolutions, even though it’s not new years yet. As of Solstice, it’s a new year from the solar perspective, and that somehow seems more real than some calendar thing. It’s like the time between Christmas (or 5th day of Yule) and New Years is a rich transitional space, where I can finally have some time to think and reorganize my life.
I was reading (listening to, actually) a book by Gretchen Rubin called “the Happiness Project” where she researches what makes people happy and then spends a year trying out a bunch of the recommendations. I hesitate to say I’m doing well with keeping my resolutions, as if you’ve read my blog for any time you will know that I have difficulty with persistence, but I’ve kept a chart as she advises in the book, which satisfies my left brain, and it seems to be working
One of my resolutions is to stay warm, in particular to keep my neck, hands and feet warm. This is my first day doing it, and it has really become an exercise in staying in my body. If I dissociate, I get cold and when I notice I’m cold, I try and do something about it right away (add more clothes, turn up the heat, ect… rather than disregarding my body needs as usual. I’m realizing I seem to have a lot of them. I seem to need to pee, for example, a lot more frequently than I thought I did, I get hungry, and my body changes in temperature a lot, depending on how still I am or where I am in the house, which is logical. Paying attention to the temperature of these three body parts, has made me aware of what is going on in my body a lot more.
I’m also exploring a concept from my Scandinavian heritage called “Lagom”. It’s a Swedish word that means ‘just enough’ , like the baby bear’s porridge in Goldilocks and the three bears. Neither too much or too little. I was in a restaurant this morning and found I had been given too much food. The food was good, and I could have cleaned my plate without discomfort, but I was full. I thought about how the food would be wasted, and then I thought “It’s wasted anyways, since I don’t need it, this way its’ wasted, but if I eat it it’s wasted, AND I have to spend a lot of effort removing it from my waistline later, which is even more of a waste.
I have been knitting ‘prayer shawls’ for myself, and now for a friend. A prayer shawl (in the way I do it) means that you pray while you are knitting, putting the energy of some mantra, blessing or intention into the making of the shawl. I am wearing one today that I made for myself while singing to myself the “Goddess Protection” chant, which goes “May the arms of the Great Mother, ever surround me (2x), I invoke protection of Divine Mother’s embrace. I invoke protection of Divine Mother’s Grace.” The first time I wore it I could hear that song in my head, from time to time, throughout the day. It warms my upper shoulders and neck, which store stress for me, and which I have noticed, relax more when they are warm.
Now I’m working on a shawl for my good friend K, who has a mental illness that usually is in remission, but sometimes makes her feel paranoid, and gives her delusions. As a survivor, I can relate to being afraid and feeling strange, and we don’t judge one another. While knitting yesterday I was repeating in my mind “K is Healthy, Safe, Loved and Connected”, over and over.
Today I was out and about as I had some errands to run and decided to walk on a public labyrinth that I used to go to all the time. The turns of the labyrinth are such that you get turned around facing the four directions repeatedly during the walk. The directions (North, East, South and West) have spiritual meaning for Pagans, and I usually spend time meditating on whichever one I happen to be facing during my walk. Sometime during the walk that mantra “Healthy, Safe, Loved and Connected” came into my head, and I decided it could apply to me. In that moment, I was healthy, safe (I was in a quiet enclosed space with only women), Loved (my dog and wife, and friends I’d seen recently) and Connected. I realized that each of these blessings corresponded with a direction from a Pagan perspective. Healthy fits in the North, the place of the physical and Earth. Safe fits in the East, the place of boundaries and air. Loved fits in the South, the place of fire and warmth. Connected fits in the West, the place of water and the flowing together of intimacy. It felt like a nice realization, a sacred one, and I spent the rest of my walk meditating on those qualities as I turned to the appropriate direction.
None of these are absolutes. A person can’t be absolutely healthy (my nose was running from allergies), safe (an earthquake or some random violence could happen), loved (all human love is conditional) or connected (human beings can apparently only manage a little over a hundred close connections). But there in that moment, it was enough. I allowed myself to feel the blessings as if they were absolute, as we do in magic, that in that sacred space and moment I was completely healthy, safe, loved and connected, and it became a magical spell.
This is hard to explain to non-Pagans. When casting a spell, it’s similar to an affirmation, when you say “I am completely well and happy” or whatever in an absolute way as a way of casting reality to that shape for yourself. The belief is that by doing this, we shape or pull reality in the direction we want. It is done in a way that is very conscious and distinct from denial, although the power in it is in believing what you are intending. Pagans or witches believe that sacred space is a space ‘between the worlds’ in which you can cast an intention and have it manifest in the real world. Anyhow, this morning I cast a spell for me as healthy, safe, loved and connected.
Later on I was waiting in a cafe, and decided to follow up on ‘connected’. I texted a few of my friends I’d seen recently for Solstice, and thanked them for the time spent together. I texted my wife to tell her I love her and wish her a good day. I felt more connected. This is one of the ways spells work. They remind me to act in ways that make positive change, because I make myself believe that change has already happened between the worlds and is in the process of coming true in the world. It’s easier to make changes when you believe (by choice) that it’s a sure thing and a done deal, or if you will, that the Goddess is on your side.
All of my friends texted me back with nice greetings. My wife in particular seemed to really like it. I’ll have to remember that.
Anyhow, it was beautiful, and it made me happy today. So here I am, warm and thus connected to my body, healthy, safe, loved and happy.
I’m regretting the bar of chocolate I ate at the movie, whose caffeine might be what is keeping me awake. Mydog is ecstatic to be on my lap rather than in her bed beside our bed, but is interfering with my typing, as seems to be the Goddess given role of all small furry pets.
She occasionally gives me a little body language “what, are you still typing rather than petting me?” What can I be thinking?
What I’m obsessing about tonight is my hurt feelings about some volunteer work I’ve been doing. The women-run organization I’ve been donating some computer work to has rather high-handedly decided to hire a man (one of the women’s sons) to do the job I’ve been doing for free. I’m sure it’s personal, as the work itself I’ve done has been high calibre, prompt and efficient.I’ve ruffled some feminine oligarch’s feathers and have been replaced. The funny thing is that this organization prides itself on making decisions by consensus, and I know the woman I report to was not in favour of replacing me, which means she was outvoted by someone, a thing that is against the orthodoxy of consensus.
It is my unfortunate habit of pointing out just this type of thing that has made me unpopular. One of my favourite authors, Lois McMaster-Bujold, has a character who says something to the effect that the difference between honour and reputation is that your honour is what you know to be true about yourself, and your reputation is what others think, and to guard your honour and let your reputation take care of itself, honour is far more important. You need to be able to live with yourself, above all.
Unless I have one or more alter personalities I don’t know about (which I suppose is scarily possible, given how little I know about my childhood), I’ve done nothing to be ashamed of. I am a bit too willing to point out elephants in the middle of respectable living rooms, and a bit too inclined to be blunt. Having been raised with only brothers, and a survivor of extreme abuse to boot, I’m not particularly polished in my women among women communication skills, to say the least. I tend to say what I mean, and expect others to do the same.
Anyhow, my feelings are hurt. Very hurt. I want to prove to them that they are wrong and I am right, and yet I understand that that is impossible.
My dog has once again gotten up, looked over at my overly bright screen and given me a look. Would I puh-leeze stop making typing noises and turn that light out?
My wife went to see the doctor today, who kept her waiting for an hour and then was dismissive to her. She did, however, write her a prescription for the two hormones that my research said would help her sleep, stop having hot flashes and make her peach more resilient. My brave wife talked about her lesbian sexual issues affecting her relationship with her straight, impatient, rushed doctor, and despite being brushed off, managed to get some of her needs met. She is in fact sleeping in the other room, which means that the progesterone is working as advertised.
In Canada, doctors don’t really have to care whether you are happy with how they treat you. Somebody really really needs to do a patient satisfaction survey. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather be sick in Canada than say the US, unless I was independently wealthy, but the bean counters that tell doctors how much time they can bill for a doctors’ visit are woefully misguided about how long it takes to do a competent job. Lesbians, in particular, don’t go to doctors often, and so when we do go, it’s because we have something chronic that we can’t fix on our own, or serious and acute. Iether way, fifteen rushed, impatient minutes aren’t going to do it, particularly when it’s something sensitive and hard to talk about. I told my wife how proud I am of her bravery and gave her lots of love.
I really hope this helps. Our marriage needs her to be able to be physically affectionate with me again, to be able to cuddle without a sweaty hot flash, and to sleep well enough that she’s not achey and constantly cranky. I’m too young to stop having sex, and I’d rather break up that consign myself to a lifetime of celibacy.
I have to remember that I have people who love me, and that my honour is more important than my reputation.
I am proud of managing to eat and drink healthier. I’m drinking a lot more water than before, and eating smaller portions, slower, for the most part. I haven’t lost any weight, but I’m pleased at the better habits. I’ve also been doing more chores, something that is only fair. I’ve been listening to a hypnosis recording about the positive diet and exercise habits,and am pleased at how it is sinking in. I listened to it tonight, hoping the voice would lull me, but no dice.
Honour before reputation! I trust and believe in myself and that’s what’s important, I tell myself. However, it is frustrating to have such terrible skills or something with women’s groups. Seeing how I’m a lesbian, it’s a bit inconvenient. It seems to also be mostly cliquey older women I run afoul of. I can think of three times this has happened in my life particularly. I’ve developed a real distrust of baby boomer women in groups – they seem to often circle the wagons and cut me from the herd, instinctively.
I didn’t get the memo, and I spent most of the time I would have learned all this doubtlessly useful social strategy keeping myself from getting raped or starved too often. I am smart and successful, and I hate being pitied or condescended to, so I don’t show my vulnerabilities often. This means that people probably think I’m thicker skinned, a lot thicker skinned, than I in fact am.
My wife had a good insight about the endless meetings this group has. I can hold it together for an hour or two of meetings, without saying something overly blunt or trying to hurry things along and get stuff done, but after that all bets are off. This group had collective meetings of 10 hours long, with meal breaks, but still. I’m too sensitive, emotionally and psychically, to hold it together and not say something blunt, when awash in all kinds of social ambiguity and murkiness for so long. I don’t really even understand what I’m doing, only that alpha women in groups really don’t like me. I was going to say women over about 60 years of age, but that’s not always so, it’s more like women who feel entitled to dominate by virtue of some status deriving from something other than role, competence or service, like age, or length of time with the organization or position in some invisible (to me) ruling oligarchy. I just don’t recognize those types of statuses, and don’t really want to. People often tell me, after we’ve become friends, that at first they found me intimidating. These women are usually women I have come to respect, or who seem older or more knowledgeable, so I’m usually surprised to hear it, although I’ve gotten used to it. I think my persona is a lot more amazonian than how I feel inside.
Blah blah blah. I’m sorry to be navel gazing to this degree at almost two in the morning, but I really am sore and stiff from being distrusted and shunned by yet another group of women. It’s not like I don’t have lots of friends, I do, it’s just this group of women in power thing that seems to trip me up. I have come to think of it as them being threatened, and trying to exclude me or put me ‘in my place’ but honestly I’m at a loss here. I’m sure there are some sort of mommy issues attached, I certainly don’t respect or defer to my mother, and for good reason.
I chose this picture, called Baxter and the Birds, because that’s how I feel sometime, like I’m a pretty straightforward dog, unable to speak the language of birds. Or perhaps I’m a cat in a pack of dogs, or a dog in a pride of cats. Baxter is having fun, which I sometimes do hanging out with groups of women, but it does capture the different species thing. If I didn’t know I was a woman, I’d swear I was a man. My wife says I’m like a man sometimes. I don’t really get the trans thing, not that I don’t think people don’t have a right to self-identify, but because, honestly if someone plunked me down in a man’s body, I’d get on with being a man. I’d probably feel no more out of place than I do now, and except for the systemic sexism and the fact that I was raped by a man for the first time at the age of five, I’m quite happy being a woman.
Well, it’s been a couple of weeks now since my last therapy session I think. I’m choosing to spend time on the present day goals I have, improving my singing, finishing the book I’m writing, getting my physical health in better order, having fun.
I’m feeling a bit isolated. Father’s day was hard this year, which it isn’t usually. Normally it’s this irrelevant thing that passes by without my notice. This year I really wanted him to die, was really hoping and expecting him to die on Father’s day, like it would be fitting somehow. He could of course be dead right now, given I’m out of touch with anyone who’d tell me in a hurry, but somehow I doubt it.
My wife asks what does it matter if he dies? To me it’s a product of my anger. I’m angry that I was wounded so bad on my vulva and remember very little of the situation surrounding it. I remember it happening, but not what happened before or after or even the place where it happened very well.
Has anyone tried hypnosis to fill in the details in their memories? I’d be interested in finding out how that worked out for you.
I’m angry and he should have some consequences for something as horrific as that. My friend the lawyer says it’s not to late to pursue criminal charges, but I’m not sure I want to do that. I don’t think much of it would be within my control. I mean, I have these big scars on my body that prove I was injured. Does that mean they’ll have a big picture of my vulva in the courtroom, or read out my medical report, or have me examined by a forensic gynaecologist or something? That’s actually not the part that bugs me, it’s just that they won’t be representing me, I’ll just be a witness and they’ll be making decisions out of my control on a situation that should be completely within my control.
What I really want is to rub my mother’s nose in it, make her explain exactly how she managed to overlook such a serious injury, force her to take back her lie that she didn’t know I was being abused. I want to scream and yell and force her to tell me the truth finally.
What I really want to do is sing and dance and be happy and not worry about shithead.
I read something recently that a therapist wrote about survivors. That we’re not willing to live an ordinary life. That our winning back of our souls and hearts and memories had better bloody well mean something. I’m paraphrasing here, but I agree. I’m not content to have a job and a marriage and a home and routine activities. My life has to count for something or it wouldn’t be worth the first 15 years, and the ten after that recovering myself.
I told my therapist in my last session that what I wanted was to do earth work, get my regular life sorted out, and balance out all the water work of healing. Now I actually have to do it.
I have had two singing lessons now and I rehearsed tonight. My first lesson went amazingly well and I sang like a rock star. Predictably, by the second lesson I had a sore throat and a head cold. I’m now over the cold and practising for my third lesson next week. I was in the park today on my dinner break and was thinking about how my eyesight has taken an abrupt turn for the worse these last two years. I paid attention to what that meant, looking out with my eyes at the beautiful trees around me that I could no longer see crisply without glasses. I realized suddenly, suddenly knew that my eyes were trying to protect me by shutting out seeing things, the way they had as a child. That I needed to give them permission to see. It felt like I had been cutting off the blood flow to my eyes. I told myself, my eyes that it was now safe to see everything. It is now safe to see.
With my father in my face all the time, the only way to lesson the visual impact of what he was doing was to blur my vision. Perhaps that’s the gift my body gave me. I had eye surgery about 10 years now, but just recently my vision has reverted, making eye glasses necessary again. Maybe being in therapy these last almost two years has made my body react in the same way again. I’m going to experiment with that idea.
I just had an hour long massage at a spa. Steam room, cucumber water, soft music, the whole bit. I decided to spend the money I’d been spending on therapy on something body/soul nurturing, and this and the singing lessons are it. I even spent a little time meditating in the quiet, pleasant waiting area. So I’m feeling pretty mellow.
One of the things that I have a love-hate relationship with massages about is the fact that I often cry during massages, particularly deep tissue ones. This time, the body worker was working fairly intensely on my left shoulder-back and I started to cry. Now a certain amount of crying is easily hidden during a massage, with your face down, a lot of people get sniffly just from their nose clogging up, for example, and there’s a bit of music, and well, your face is hidden. The sobbing breathing has to be controlled if I don’t want her to know I’m crying. I walked a middle line there.
What I ended up crying about is stinking father’s day. As much as I try to avoid it (I actually put a rule in my email that deletes any message with the phrase ‘father’s day’ in it), these kinds of holidays are ubiquitous. I ended up on the table praying to ‘the Father’ a made up god from a book called “The Curse of Challion”, who is kind of the soul of positive fatherhood, and also the god of winter and death. I was asking him why he didn’t strike my father dead for desecrating fatherhood. That reminded me of my grandfather, and I asked him the same thing (he died when I was 13), why he couldn’t do something to make sure my father dies. Father’s day would be an appropriate time. Anyway, I started to feel my grief.
The woman’s hands on my waist as she massaged my lower back reminded me of being touched by my wife, and how I miss feeling intimate with her, how I miss loving, present, touch. It’s not as if she doesn’t caress me, but I still miss the way it used to be.
Luckily, she worked on my back a long time before flipping me over, and I was able to enjoy the pleasure of her massaging my feet, and scalp and arms. By the time it finished, I was ready to go to sleep.
So today I had my lung function tested and it’s apparently just fine. The respirologist said the dizziness was just exercising too hard while being out of shape, as the lactic acid builds up in the body and gets released or something when you exercise hard, making one dizzy and nauseous. I guess I have to work up gradually or read up on lactic acid.
I did okay going to the doctor, but woke up at 4:30 this morning out of anxiety about it and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I’m running on fumes now. At least I seem to be able to go to the doctor. I handled it by bringing my wife along and promising to take her to brunch afterward. If he was arrogant and condescending I would order waffles with strawberries and cream. He didn’t turn out to be particularly condescending but I ordered it anyhow. He even had to press around my throat at one point and I coped with that fine.
What was valuable about the whole thing was that I got a chance to ask about my chronic cough/sore throat and got a couple of strategies to help it. It’s not a big deal generally, but it does seem to mess with my singing endurance a bit. The asthma educator woman I spoke to said that I might try taking a silent break for a few days to let my throat muscles relax and calm down, as they might be twitchy because of some past issues (irritation from chronic nose runnyness, which is now fixed, but went on for years).
Basically my asthma is almost completely in remission, given that I’m mostly avoiding what triggers it. Also, apparently I’ve been doing everything right, even to the extent of taking vitamin D supplements, which are supposed to be good for the lungs. At least something works.
I had my first singing lesson and actually it went pretty well. The teacher said I had a clear tone and a large range, and I had lots of great overtones in my voice. I sang with so much resonance in my head that my ears tickled and my sinuses started to clear!
I got my wife to take a picture of my vulva so I could see what I’m dealing with. A mirror is quite an awkward way to see one’s vulva if you’ve ever tried it. It was easier at the nurse’s office, but she had a magnifying mirror I think and a good light and angle.
Anyhow I now have this good quality, close up picture of a part of my body I’m trying to have a happier relationship with. It helps.
I can see the two scars leading away toward the front of my body from the vaginal vestibule. One reaches all the way from inside my vagina opening to the place where the two labia minora come together at the top (where it disappears from view in my picture), which is almost to my clitoris. And the other is almost that long, but goes off to the side a bit. They are quite faded now, as she said, very old scars, but I think about what kind of injury would create that much tearing to be that long and that visible over 30 years later.
That old fucker better die soon.
Seeing how faded the scars are, and how clearly healed it is helps. If you know about or suspect damage to your own vulva I recommend taking a picture and having a look. Use a flash, a lot of the detail isn’t easily visible at first, particularly with old scars. Mine look like faded white/pale pink lines leading out from the vestibule. I probably wouldn’t have known what they were without my nurse, who has seen scars on women’s vulvas from childbirth, identifying them for me. Since I’ve never given birth or been raped as an adult, (and apparently my cervix does not show evidence of having opened for birthing) there’s only one experience I’ve had that could have made these scars.
In my religion, the vulva is particularly holy, being representative of the Goddess’s creative power in the universe and the sacredness of both sex and of giving birth. The Gods are valued as lovers and brothers of the Goddess(es), and also as fathers to Her children. I think it’s great I’ve chosen to participate in a religion that calls this part of me holy, that is unafraid to talk about or honour vulvas. My father is not a pagan, but he’s done what must be the greatest act of sacrilege, violating the most sacred part of a woman’s body and his sacred role as a guardian and nurturer of children.
Well, my little sacred warrior vulva, you’ve come through a lot. May you be blessed, may you be happy and whole and an honoured part of my body and being.
P.S. I was looking for some links for explanation of the medical terms above, and ran into some journals, which led me to others. I found this article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10533272 which has the following rather chilling phrase, which made me cry a little out recognition of the validation it provided for my recollection of what happened. “repeated abusive genital penetration significantly more often than non-penetrative abuse leaves deep posterior hymenal clefts and/or vestibular scarring”. This particular study took pains to match the girl’s disclosure of what happened to her with the perpetrators confession, so there could be no argument about what caused these particular injuries. The exams were also done ‘non-acutely’ which I think means that they were done some time after the actual injury took place. This article also might be valuable to other survivors with genital injuries, which talks about the healing patterns of pediatric genital injuries. : http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/112/4/829 It also has pictures and shows what the same injuries look like when healed, and has arrows showing where the injuries are. The vulva is such an unfamiliar organ, that the arrows pointing out what’s wrong are helpful. A lot of the sources make it clear that lack of visible injury does not rule out abuse, and that often the injuries heal without a scar or vascular damage. What I am understaning from all of this is that my injuries were particularly severe, even as far as these things go. Yikes.
You know, it’s weird. In the aftermath of finding confirmation my vagina had been injured by the rapes, it’s actually empowered me to do something about the physical discomfort I’ve had on and off for a long time.
It’s quite different to look at the pain as discomfort coming from an injury, than to think of it as some sort of nebulous survivor thing, or something that I can’t do anything about. It gives me something to look for for practical help.
I’ve been reading up about vulvodynia (pain in the vulva) online, and even though my nurse practitioner wasn’t very helpful, I’ve found some self-management strategies that seem to be working. I’ve discovered that the pattern of my symptoms and what causes them fits what other women describe. For example, some women feel sore during penetrative sex, but many feel sore a day afterwards when inflammation sets in.
I’m going to list them here in case any other survivors with injured vulvas find them helpful.
In order of helpfulness
VERY helpful: A squeeze bottle to rinse irritated tissues after peeing. This is so simple and so helpful. Thanks to the gal who runs the interstitial cystitis network for this tip. Instant pain reduction. Perhaps the vascular damage or scar tissue has made the area around my urethra more sensitive. I suppose a bidet would be even better, but I don’t have one. This works great. Just plain room temperature or warm water.
Massage. Yes, I mean massage, consciously loosening up all the muscles in the pelvis and vulva. Thank goodness I have a willing wife. It’s not foreplay per see, but certainly seems to make sex more possible. One massage got me pain free for almost a week. Apparently one of the proposed causes of vulvadynia is restricted blood flow in the vulva caused by clenching the muscles. I think that’s really possible as a cause for what’s going on with me.
Just a regular quite soft pillow on my work chair seems to help even better than the donut.
Sitting is bad for the vulva, apparently, and what do I do for hours each day? Sit in a computer chair. I’m trying to sort out my options on that one.
Donut pillow – This is one of those rubber blow up pillows sold at drug stores called an ‘invalid pillow’. It’s sort of helpful, but puts a lot of pressure on your legs if you’re going to be sitting for a long time. Apparently there are these foam pillows with a cut out or much softer strip down the center that are supposed to be good as well.
Thinking about relaxing my vulva and pelvis while I’m walking or resting. Seems to help a bit. I notice I do seem to clench up a lot of the time, now that I’m paying attention. Interesting.
There were also some tips about sex when you have a touchy vulva that looked helpful too: http://www.ic-network.com/selfhelp/sex.html I don’t know if I have interstitial cystitis, but since many women with it also have vulvadynia too, a lot of the tips cross over. I know I had a lot of bladder infections as a young woman, and I recall recurrent pain and needing to pee but not being able to as a child which probably was a bladder infection then. If I feel one coming on now, I drink a lot of water and eat a lot of vitamin c which usually settles it.
Since the physical things are helping, I don’t think this is a body memory, although the clenching that’s causing it might be. However, I’m not feeling much emotional energy around it, so I think it might actually be mostly physical.
For the first time in a long time I’m actually hopeful I’ll have a sex life again. It sucks to know that every time you have even gentle sex you’re going to be sore for days afterwards. Kind of makes it hard to feel it’s worth it, you know? I’m hopeful that if I can find a way to manage it I won’t have to.
It also feels quite weird to be talking about my vagina and vulva, present day, on this blog. “What kind of person discusses her vulva online?” some voice in my head says. Some people I know face to face sometimes follow my blog and I wonder about judgment about my poor taste in talking about my peach. However, my poor little raw vaginal vestibule (see I learned a new term, its the area just outside the vagina entrance) is pretty darn sore a lot of the time, despite almost never having sex and I think other survivors might be having similar issues, so I think it’s worth talking about, despite the embarrassment. I mean half the population has a vulva, and most of the rest of the world (save gay men, of course) are at least moderately interested in vulvae (my spellcheck rejected vulvas, and suggested vulvae, which sounds so literate) so I think it’s just cultural bullshit that it’s a taboo topic. Incest and vaginas and vulvae, oh my!
Vulvodynia is a medical term for having persistent pain in your vulva that isn’t explained by the usual causes.
You know what is so wierd? I just had gotten so used to the burning, itching and periodic pain, that I thought it was relatively normal. I’d gotten used to having to have sex in very limited ways and to feeling pain after and sometimes during. At times it hasn’t really seemed worth it. No wonder my sex life has fizzled.
Vulvodynia comes in two types. The first is where the woman experiences pain with intercourse, or inserting a tampon or similar, and afterwards, but not the rest of the time. The second kind is when the woman has the first kind of pain, sometimes not as severely, but also a persistent pain or itching at other times.
That’s the kind I have, and now that I know what it is, I can access the wisdom of women all over the world who have it too. Unlike the pain I had as a child, I’m not alone.
I found a list of things that are thought to be involved in vulvodynia and things that make it better and worse and I’m trying them. It’s actually helping.
One of the things that doctors believed about vulvodynia was that it is psychosomatic, caused by being a sexual abuse survivor. I think that’s demeaning. Of course there are physical effects of being raped, I’ve got the scars to prove it. And of course there are psychological effects that affect how the vagina and vulva feel and perform, particularly in how relaxed and open we feel.
What is demeaning and insulting to the brave women warriors who have survived rape as children is to dismiss our complaints as if because we know the cause it doesn’t need to be cured, like it’s some kind of hopeless case to have a vulva that feels healthy and good, and it is some kind of hopeless case to have a healthy mind and spirit after being ‘damaged’. It’s like we’re in some feudal culture and we’ve been ‘ruined’ by losing our virginity in an unsanctioned way.
I went to see my nurse practitioner, the one who showed me my rape scars last summer. I wasn’t there specifically about my vagina, but after she looked into what I was there about I asked her about the pain and itching. She told me all her tests had been negative for infection, that everything looked fine. I said “you think this is psychosomatic?” She didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no. She said “we’ll you’ve had a hard life”. I said, I had a hard childhood, I’ve had a pretty good life, for the last 20 years, actually”. I hate it when people assume I’m some kind of lifelong victim. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship as an adult, I’ve never done drugs or abused alcohol, I’ve not been raped or beaten as an adult and I’ve made good choices for myself.
After I got home from my appointment I did some research. Vulvodynia is thought to be caused by chronic tightening of the muscles of the vagina, which restricts blood flow, causing the pain and itching. There are of course other theories, but I like this one. It looks like everyone wins – psychological: clenching of the vaginal and vulval muscles – physical: restricted blood flow causing persistent pain.
So what part of this allows her to dismiss my valid medical issue?
I’ll tell you what does. Her discomfort with having to help someone who was raped as a tiny child having persistent pain her whole life as a result. In her vagina. People don’t want to think about it. They want me to be crazy. They want it to be something they can discount. It makes it less scary for them. That a man can rape a child and get away with creates enormous cognitive dissonance for people. It’s nothing that should happen. It’s nothing he should get away with. I agree. But rather than trying to ignore or brush away the effects, I want to resolve them. I’m one of the sanest people I know. I know how to face reality in ways they don’t.
My wife and I are coming up on our ten year anniversary. I joke that it’s actually 40 years in ‘het years’ – kind of like dog years. Because lesbian relationships get little social support, a ten year anniversary is the equivalent of 40 years for a straight couple who have had help and approval from their culture from the beginning, going back as far as high school. How does this apply?
Life is a lot harder without social support. By shunning survivors of abuse, in all the ways our culture shuns us, we inhibit and restrict the healing and change that is necessary to make child rape obsolete. My ally, my nurse practitioner, well meaning and educated, does it, I’ve had a lover tell me, upon looking at a cute picture of myself as a child that “no wonder my father loved me so much”. I broke up with him soon after. It’s not love. I’m not a victim. Let’s just fix the problem, shall we?
So I’m working on relaxing those muscles, in various ways, on my own and with a little help from my wife. It’s working.
I haven’t posted for awhile because I haven’t been inspired to write anything on this topic. I’ve been reading other people’s blogs and commenting a little but that’s about it.
I’m actually pretty proud of how I’m doing lately. I was feeling depressed on the weekend – crying easily and not finding pleasure or interest in anything. I researched what I could do about it, and settled on some science based self-help: vigorous exercise, pharmaceutical grade Omega 3 fatty acidsand changing the sheets on my bed to improve my sleep (I’m allergic to dust mites). As an additional health thing, not directly brain related, I’ve been trying to drink more water.
Here’s the skinny on Omega 3’s – 2 grams a day – 2000mg – is the consensus on the recommended dosage – one high dose capsule with every meal – according to some researchers who spoke at a conference I attended recently if you are recovering from a mental illness, 1 gram (1000mg) for everyone else, but Omega 3’s don’t have any downside for taking too much. They are good for your brain and your heart. Since I’m vegetarian now, I’ve been dosing myself with flax oil in a fruit smoothy each morning, but I bought a bottle of the fish oil based capsules to try anyhow. I’m still looking for other good vegetarian sources. Wheat germ (which is usually removed from wheat products because Omega3’s go rancid quickly) is apparently a good source.
I’m already feeling better. I have a treadmill and I’m doing ten minutes on it first thing in the morning. I figure I can do almost anything, no matter how unpleasant, for ten minutes, and first thing in the morning I seem to have less resistance, although I’m definitely not a morning person. Vigorous exercise is apparently about as effective as antidepressants for mild depression, and since I’d rather not mess with my brain chemistry if I don’t have to, I chose that as a first try. It also has the side effect hopefully of helping me lose some belly fat. I can’t find the exact links I found again, but you have to believe me, it was credible evidence.
I also researched sleep apnea (which my wife has) and found some evidence-based self-help for that too. I know you’re supposed to go to a doctor for sleep apnea, and we live in Canada so we don’t have to worry about affording it, but my wife isn’t keen on going to the doctor so we tried the stuff I could find out, which was: 1) sleep on your side, not your back and 2) make sure you do what you can to not be stuffed up (which to mean means avoiding allergens – dust mite dander isn’t good for anyone, even if you’re not allergic.) Wonder of wonders, just by trying to sleep on her side and changing the linens, she slept well and woke up without pain. She seemed to me to breathe quieter too.
We have special covers for the pillows, mattress and duvet that seals off dust mites, but you still have to change the linens that go over them regularly, and I get lazy about that.
The first day on the treadmill my asthma kept me from breathing as deeply as I needed to so I was dizzy from lack of oxygen by the time I finished my ten minutes. Not good. However this morning after sleeping in the dander-free zone, I didn’t have that problem. I emailed my doctor about making an appointment to look at asthma controller medication too, just in case. I think it will help with my singing too, to have full lung capacity again.
My therapist today came up with a reasonable explanation for the ‘monsters’ – kind of ‘hallucination lite’ experiences I had as a young adult, unfortunately quite drug unaided. She said they were probably like body memories, but emotion-memories dissociated from most of the other information – just fear, all by itself, or rage, that my mind put images to to make them make sense. That fits for me, because unlike true hallucinations (which I’ve read about but not experienced) they went away when I recognized and expressed the feelings stored in them (usually anger).
So anyhow, things aren’t perfect, but I’m actually coping pretty well. I feel resilient. Which is a good thing because my rolfing session this week will for the first time be working on areas of my body that are likely to trigger me a lot. Fortunately I like my rolfer, he’s young and unthreatening to me, and he says helpful things like “you’re in control” so I think it will be okay. If not, they’re just flashbacks… I mean really, if it didn’t kill me then, it won’t now.
I haven’t seen my therapist in about a month and will be seeing her this afternoon. I’ve been seeing her for about a year, first weekly then biweekly, since soon after I found out about my dad/abuser’s cancer recurrence and had a strong emotional reaction.
She’s pretty good and I like her and I fairly often do some deep work with her, which is usually a good sign. However, I started healing 20 years ago. (I haven’t been in therapy that whole time, and there’s been several long breaks, including one of at least 12 years in there), and I’d like to have an idea of what it is I’m trying to get accomplished, so I can get it done. I don’t want to be spending so much money on this. My older brother’s voice echoes in my head. What a jerk he is, like he’s any more healed than I am if he’s reacting so strongly to me.
I’m thinking of tapering off to about once a month, or quitting completely and putting the money into say, a reiki session or massage once a week instead. Part of me suspects that this is just me feeling abandoned that she took a few weeks off over Christmas and so feeling a bit betrayed and dumping her. I had a hard Christmas this year, harder than I expected and I needed her. I had some mother grief going on. My mom sent me a card with a cheque saying ‘it’s been so long, I hope we can get together soon’ as if nothing had happened and it should have all blown over. I just want a damn letter from her saying something real. My therapist said I could call her if I needed to, but really I’d never do that unless my father died or something equally major.
I saw my younger brother just before Christmas, which was nice, but I’m pretty sure he’s mad at me for not giving gifts to my mother this year or seeing her, which increases the care-taking burden on him. (I did a donation to the food bank and a local group that helps incest survivors in lieu of gifts to family) I was planning to give him a gift, but he didn’t come by as expected to exchange them. I expect he may be taking her side. He doesn’t know about my finding the scar tissue. There’s no easy way to tell your brother that your vagina got ripped as a child by your father and that your mother would have to be extremely negligent to never notice a serious wound like that in a daughter she bathed regularly. Bullshit she didn’t know.
Over the holidays I woke up from a dream where I had birthed a baby on my own and had been nursing her. The nursing sensation was so real-seeming that it made me wonder if it was a memory. I suppose it’s possible I could have birthed a baby and not remember somehow if the dissociation was severe enough. I remembered in my medical report from that exam I had (that I wrote about in this blog) that my ‘os’ was tight, which according to the internet means I’ve never had a pregnancy, so that settles it. The rips were not from childbearing, they were from being raped when I was tiny. How crazy is post traumatic memory that I can’t even know for certain without checking that I’ve never been pregnant? How good of my practitioner to write that in my chart for me as confirmation and then send me a copy.
I’m nervous about my first session at the fitness club I signed up for. I go for my orientation tomorrow after work. They do a kind of boxing circuit training, and I’m worried I’ll end up crying. I may just tell the trainer that I was attacked so I may get emotional while exercising, and would she do me a favour and please just ignore it? I’ll see how she is and how I feel.
I started taking passionflower, which is an herbal antianxiety thing that Dr Oz, the tv doctor from Oprah said had been shown to be as effective as prescription antianxiety meds. I took it before going to a stressful meeting yesterday, and I think it actually helped. I don’t feel particularly sedated, which is good, but perhaps a little more sleepy. I’m not taking it today, and am ambivalent about the whole thing, but I thought maybe if the anxiety didn’t get in my way so much I could do some of the things I want to like singing and taking lessons and such,a nd then when I was used to doing them, I wouldn’t be so anxious.
I feel teary, which I often do on a day that therapy is scheduled, and was a bit yesterday too. It could be a bit of a hangover from the meeting yesterday. Intense people-stuff does tend to fry my circuits a bit, which I understand as being part of being a bit more sensitive than regular folks
Anyhow, I feel a bit guilty not writing the more interesting and inspiring stuff I used to write, but honestly, I don’t have it in me right now. May that change.
Here is a sports medicine journal article which is the only one I found about survivors and issues with exercise. There was another one that said that about half of the survivors surveyed had found physical exercise to be a helpful healing strategy. I’d have to say that it fits for me. I feel like I’ll fail, generally, at whatever physical exercise I do if it’s at all taxing. Partner dance seems to be an exception for me. I think it’s the slower pace initially and the social part of it (someone is there to do it with the whole time) that makes it easier.
Relationship of Sexual Abuse to Motivation for Strenuous Exercise
Hesdon B, Salmon P J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2003;43:213-219
Aim: Sources of motivation for intense physical exercise are poorly understood. Based on views that link such behaviour to preexisting psychopathology, we tested the hypotheses that history of childhood sexual abuse would be greater in intense exercisers than in non-exercisers, and that effects of abuse on self-esteem, perfectionism and body dissatisfaction would help to explain any link between abuse and exercise. Methods: Consecutive attenders at two types of exercise were recruited: weight training and running. Sedentary attenders at a further education college provided a third, comparison group. Each group contained 64 men and 64 women. Participants completed questionnaires to record history of sexual and physical abuse in childhood and adulthood, body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, and positive and negative perfectionism. Results: Adult, but not childhood abuse, was reported by more weight-trainers than others. Abused individuals were more anxious and depressed, were more negative about themselves and were more concerned with avoiding failure in general. Women abused in childhood were more concerned with avoiding failure at exercise in particular. Conclusion: These results suggest hypotheses that link adult abuse to intense weight training habits and, in women, that link child abuse to feelings of failure in exercise.
It seemed to be the ‘holding on’ part of the exercise that got me. The part where you’re in mild discomfort from laying down and doing situps or holding your arms out or whatever, and waiting for them to finish the damn count down from 10 to one. Thank Goddess the instructor didn’t do the countdown more than once for each exercise. I hate it when they count down to one and then start again from ten. It’s a nasty trick.
This is what is inconvenient about being a survivor – bursting into tears during workouts and feeling embarrassed about it. If I could announce somehow. “I’m a sexual assault survivor. While exercising, I might start crying, and if I do I’ll feel better if I just go with it and cry openly till I’m done. I may need to sob a bit. No need to worry, I’ll take care of myself. Please ignore me and go on with your routine. You help me best by just realizing this is normal and I need to do it my way.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were fitness classes for survivors? Ones with no counting, soothing music and a kleenex box, punching bag and stuffed animals in the corner? Where everyone knew you were a survivor and you didn’t have to disclose, just get on with it?
If we really valued survivors, we would have those things.
I’ve had pain and itching in my vulva for most of my life. I’ve worn out holes in the fronts of underwear from scratching. This, I’ve found through some recent reading, is actually pretty common with vaginal injuries like mine.
This summer, when I found out about the two tear scars and vascular damage, it all began to make sense. The medical professional that saw me suggested I ice my vulva when I was feeling pain or discomfort. Well she said something cool, and I’m using a well wrapped ice pack.
It works. It actually works and I don’t have to dissociate from that part of my body any more.
The pain happens without warning, and I’ve gotten accustomed to ignoring it. But now I have something to do about it, something that works.
So tonight I’m sitting on an ice pack, watching TV.
May you rot in hell, Dad.
This, as my friend Butterfly would say, is why you shouldn’t fuck kids.