In one episode of Sex and The City, vulvodynia is presented as the symptoms of a “depressed vagina”. Could there be truth in this statement?
I was personally diagnosed with vulvodynia, and it happened just like in the episode. The gynaecologist at the time prescribed me some anti-depressant for a pain that I felt physically when (just like Charlotte) I did not feel depressed at all in my head! The Shadow Side of Pain is a project that explores physical pain from a psychological point of view to better understand how our mind, our body and our repressed emotions are connected. My experience with vulvodynia is a perfect exemple that mind-body connection exists.
I’m going to talk about my symptoms, sorry it’s not going to be super glam’ 😬. A few years ago, I had pain at the entrance of my vagina, a bit like a permanent tension with fluctuating intensity. I also had other charming symptoms that sometimes felt like a UTI, sometimes felt like a BV (bacterial vaginosis) or a yeast infection. It kept on changing. I did lots of tests, and never was I diagnosed with anything: no infection, no STD, nothing. I was basically in pain, for nothing!
After many appointments with different doctors, I ended up seeing a super helpful gynaecologist and she told me that when she was touching the same spot in my body, sometimes I would scream, and sometimes I would not feel anything. With seconds of interval, the exact same spot would change from painful to pain-free. She then said : “I know that your pain is real, however from a structural point of view, as a doctor I see nothing! You have what is called Vulvodynia”. At first, I resented that diagnosis and I resisted it thinking ” Whaaaat? Is she telling me it’s psychosomatic? No waaaaay! I can’t have that, not me!” 😤
She gave me a fact sheet about vulvodynia and I went home. As I read the document I recognised the symptoms and their shifting nature, it helped me accept the diagnosis even though I was not amazingly pleased to go back home with anti-depressants. I spoke about it to a friend of mine on the phone (David, if you’re reading this ! 😙) and he asked me ” Are you sure it’s not related to your ex?” …😳… Tears welled up in my eyes. He was spot on. I hung up.
At home, I went into introspection mode and engaged in an inner dialogue alone on my couch. First, I asked my self “What has changed in my life since my break up?” . 3 things:
- I had been experiencing night terrors. Several times a week, I would suddenly wake up at night, screaming. I had nightmares about thieves breaking into my house. In French the expression “penetrating my house” came to mind. After sharing my life with someone for years, going back to living alone was subconsciously a source of anxiety even though (on the surface) I’m SUPER independent, I’ve always LOVED living alone, I don’t need anyone…etc…however deep down, I was scared.
- I had developed a very weird phobia. (Please don’t judge me! 😬) I was scared (very scared) to put on my boots because, my brain was telling me there could be a spider inside my boots!
- My pelvic pain was located at the entrance of my vagina
I wondered what the connection was between those 3 things and then it hit me! I understood that the common denominators were intimacy , vulnerability and fear. The truth is I was scared that a thief/a spider/ a guy or something would hurt me inside my personal space. Crazy isn’t it?
Once I grasped what my body was telling me, I cried and cried, I accepted my fear, how fragile I felt. My vulvodynia disappeared ON THE SPOT. Poof! Gone! Just like that! It came back a few years later, when I let someone in (a new boyfriend). It was hard for me to trust, however thanks to my understanding of the symptoms, I knew how to heal myself by acknowledging and expressing my fear. Today, I no longer have pain or symptoms down there; my vagina is no longer depressed! 🌈☀️
As you can see, it’s really worth having an honest discussion with one self when we have symptoms that doctors can’t really explain.
❤️Thanks to my vulvodynia I have learnt to fully accept myself when I waver, when I’m scared, when life is hard. It was important for me to give myself permission to be less strong than I wanted to be. When we stop living the way we want to be perceived by others, we feel genuine relief because we then stop fighting against ourselves, and it’s through acceptance that resilience is born 🦋
☝️In my experience, vulvodynia was clearly caused by repressed emotions and possibly by a past trauma. If this speaks to you, please always visit your doctor first to rule out anything serious. As you do that it also doesn’t hurt to truly connect with yourself without judgement and ask “How do I really feel in my life at the moment?”