I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Since sharing my story with vulvodynia and chronic pain I’ve been asked the same question many times; “Is your pain gone?” – “What took your pain away?” – or “Are you in remission?”
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. I don’t value success as being 100% pain free 365 days a year. Sure, that would be nice, but I would be in a dark place if I had continued to wait for that to happen. Even now, with all that we know about pain science, there is still so much the medical community does not know. This applies to any type of pain, not just vulvodynia. Unfortunately there are still a ton of false promises offered to those suffering.
We’ve all heard them. Ya know, the ones that tell you to do x, y, and z to make your pain disappear. Or my personal favorite, “I cured my pain naturally, and I can cure yours too!” If anyone ever tells you they have the one solution to fix your pain, do yourself a favor and practice your critical thinking skills.
The truth is pain is complex. It’s an experience. Pain can influence our thoughts, feelings, quality of life, sleep patterns, concentration, as well as relationships and our ability to connect with others. There is no magic pill, surgery, exercise, diet, meditation, or healing guru that can fix you. I’m a yoga instructor, who manged my pain with yoga, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I can’t fix you.
the sooner you stop chasing the cure for pain the sooner you can make attainable progress.
You might be thinking geez, thanks for the vote of confidence. But you need to hear this. The sooner you stop chasing the cure for pain the sooner you can make attainable progress. Which brings me to me next point, not everyone will be pain free, including myself. When it comes to vulvodynia there are many symptoms that can be well managed, even to the point where they’re not longer a problem. But what about the people that do everything right and still experience chronic pain? What about the people that have seen all the doctors and have even had multiple surgeries? Do we want to perpetuate the idea that being pain free is the epitome of success?
Let me tell you a little story. Three years ago I was in physical therapy for a third time after my vestibulectomy. On this particular day I was crying to my physical therapist because I was still experiencing pain. I was upset that the surgery didn’t fix me like it was “supposed” to. My pt handed me some tissues and proceeded to ask me a series of questions. As I answered them I realized that although my pain wasn’t entirely gone, sitting, standing, and walking were no longer an issue. I could practice yoga, swim, ride a bike, and hike without a problem. Intimacy was occasionally challenging but I could experience it without being in agony for days later. Oh yeah, and the burning was completely gone! In the end, she helped me realize my pain had decreased by about 70%. I was missing all the progress I was making because I was obsessed with being pain free.
you can live a fulfilling life even if your pain does not completely go away.
To this day I am incredibly grateful for that conversation. She gave me the right dose of stop-being-a-knucklehead. From that day forward I learned to sit with my pain, embrace it, address it, and move forward. This is when I found my own “success” in healing. This process is not the same as settling. Pelvic floor dysfunction is probably something I will always struggle with, but I’m in a place where that is ok with me. I would say I’m pain free about 90% of the time. The other 10% does not stop me from living my life.
My message to you, my dear reader, is that you too can get there. It won’t come overnight and you won’t find it in one place. It takes a combination of many things, but most importantly it takes effort and consistency. Your version of success might be different than another person, but that does not mean you failed. You can absolutely take control of your pain and learn how to manage and thrive. You can live a fulfilling life even if you pain does not completely go away. You are more than that.
While I can’t fix you, I can show you how. All it takes is a change in perspective.