Here it is again- June and we’re heading into yet another World Continence Awareness Week 18th-24th June. (Seriously are we on ‘life double time’ these days? Next thing it’ll soon be Christmas again!)
The theme for this year is Incontinence is No Laughing Matter and one of our incredibly articulate patients has penned a great piece for us to start the ball rolling for this years World CAW.
Painful sex is no laughing matter and leaking urine at 21 is no laughing matter.
This patient – we’ll call her Vivienne – was passionate about writing a blog about her issues for me because as a young woman, the impact of her dyspareunia (painful sex) and urinary leakage was devastating. In the blog she is imploring young women to seek help early – don’t be embarrassed, don’t think it’s only you, don’t be ashamed, don’t be scared. Pelvic health physios or as they used to be known- Continence and Women’s Health physios are empathetic and good listeners, are reassuring and confident that your problem CAN be solved, that order can be restored (ie sex won’t hurt, leakage can be fixed) and the fun of life will resume.
Thanks so much Vivienne for your great blog.
Painful sex and incontinence as a young person – how to get help and then get on with life!
“It’s OK, it was your first time – they all say it hurts.” – Me, at 21 years old.
“Don’t stress – you’d never even used a tampon before so the second time was meant to hurt.” Me, at 21 years old.
Time and time after that, 21-year-old me kept putting it down to “getting used to it” but the truth of the matter is I never quite “got used to it.”
The nights I’d cry either due to the shooting pain, or another night of rejecting my partner, soon became unbearable. To top this off, the leakage began. Since I was young I’d had an extensive history of bladder issues, even needing surgery at four years old. Laughing, running and stress made me leak. How, at 21 years old, was my body betraying me like this? What did I do wrong?
The negative thoughts were rife – “Will my boyfriend leave me?” “Will he cheat on me?” “Do my friends think I’m weird when I tell them I can’t swim when I have my period because I can’t use tampons?”
None of the above ever came true, but it was these intrusive thoughts that made my life hell. Whoever thought this “sex” thing would be so damn hard (no pun intended)?
That’s when I decided to take action. I was too young to deal with these issues on my own, so I booked into see a fantastic Women’s Health Physio. She covered everything with me – dilator use to relax my muscles, correct voiding techniques, cutting back caffeine (oh, the withdrawal headaches that came with this were awful) and most of all, changing my mindset towards pain.
At first, I felt as though I was being told it was all in my head, but it was so much more than that. It was about relaxing my mind and muscles, removing myself from my intrusive thoughts and breathing (just to name a few things).
I won’t lie – the next few months were very difficult. Daily dilator use, remembering to breathe, remembering not to cringe and clench up and remembering to put aside my daily worries. It was tough, but completely worth it.
About a year later, I had a bit of a flare-up which set me back and made me feel hopeless. With the guidance of my physio, I was back on track and on the journey to being pain-free and in control of my bladder.
Thanks to conservative management strategies, a patient boyfriend and overall perseverance, I can proudly say I’m much better off today and am virtually pain-free. I’ve certainly come a long way from the 21-year-old who’d cry herself to sleep thinking “why me?”.
To anyone out there “just putting up with it” – please do me a favour and don’t just put up with it. Speak up and seek help – not all hope is lost, there’s plenty of people out there who understand your struggle. It’s a long journey to being pain-free but be assured it’s one of the best journeys you’ll ever take.
Thank you so much Vivienne for this great blog. If you would like to read more blogs about treatment strategies for pain management, go to this link: Sue Croft Blog – All Pain Resources in One Area.
If you need help and don’t know where to turn, the Continence Foundation of Australia have a register of pelvic health physios who can help you. Give them a ring on 1800 330 066 and if you live in Brisbane and need help give our secretaries and ring on 38489601 and book an appointment with Jane, Martine, Megan, Alex or myself and one day, sooner than you think, you might be writing a blog for me too!
Let’s turn this pain thing on it’s head
(Regents Park, September 2018)