Nothing like an infection to knock me down a few pegs

07/02/2009 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I was recently diagnosed with both a bacterial & yeast infection. This is the first known infection I’ve had since the surgery a few years ago. It will probably not be the last. Although I try to prevent infections, and I’m not having sexual relations with a partner right now, I still got sick. Where it all came from, I don’t know. Whether or not the meds worked to treat it, I don’t know that either. I finished the medication, an oral antibiotic for a week, then an insertible cream for 3 days.

I don’t know whether or not they worked.

As I said before, I have a wide range of normal. Sometimes I feel like I still don’t know what “Normal” really is, having lived with abnormal for so long. I’m probably not the best judge of what a “Normal” vagina & vulva feels like. Plus, so far my infections don’t cleave to the textbook definitions & symptoms. I prefer to return to the gyno for a follow up appointment in a few weeks so I can know for certain whether or not the “Coast is clear,” so to speak. I’ve had issues with bacterial vaginosis sticking around after using medication before. I don’t want that to happen again.

My thoughts about the medication: I am happy & surprised to report that the antifungal cream did not cause any noticeable negative side effects. I applied a small amount before using a full dose as a test patch and I did not react. Then I used the whole dose and still did not react. However I know that that does not necessarily mean it is safe for me to use the cream later on. You can develop a sensitivity to medications over time, the more you’re exposed to them. I must exercise caution in the future.
Using the cream was a strange experience. The applicator was skinnier than my smallest dilator. I would have actually been more physically comfortable inserting something wider & more tapered. The medicine applicator was so small it felt like it was poking me.
However the antibiotic was not without side effects on another part of my body which I would prefer to not get into here because I’m embarrassed about the side effect. I called my gynecologist about the side effect and apparently I’m the first patient of hers to experience this. Even though what I have going on now and am trying to self-treat at home is a pretty common & predictable side effect.

I wasn’t able to dilate (among other things) since I started feeling off. I was able to do my pelvic floor exercises, and get some Biofeedback done at physical therapy, but no internal work. No sense aggravating whatever’s in there with lubes & proddings.
Unfortunately I have fallen back on my Biofeedback strength. It’s still stronger & more consistent than it was when I first started though. I can still control the muscles. But not to the same degree as I could a few weeks ago. I’m not surprised. I wasn’t feeling well. How can I control the pelvic floor muscles & tell them it’s okay to relax when in my own conscious mind *I’m* not relaxed?

I was afraid. I still am.

The “What if’s” come to mind. What if the infections don’t respond to treatment? What if treatment makes it worse? What if it comes back? What if the gyno becomes visibly agitated having to deal with me repeatedly over a short span of time if I keep returning for help? What if the gyno thinks (and acts like) I’m wasting their time?
What if my toys & gear have been contaminated? What if this or a future infection causes a vulvodynia flare? What if the tissues are still inflamed and stay inflamed, like they did when the vestibulitis was at its worst? What if the first time I had pain-free intercourse a few months ago, was also the last?

I feel like there’s a lot at stake – I made some real, measurable progress over the last few years & I don’t want to backtrack. I don’t want to feel that pain again. Or the itching & irritation. Or the referred pain that ran down my leg…

Maybe I’m over thinking things again. I know that I have other intimate activities available to me and my partner if intercourse is taken off the table again. I know. I know it’s all meaningful & intimate. In my head, I know it.
Yet intercourse remains significant to me, perhaps because of its rarity & difficulty obtaining. I can never say “It’s not that important,” because I know it is. I worked really hard to open the door on this option. And even I can’t turn off all the mixed messages about sex in the media. Some days its easier than others to tune out the media & how much emphasis it puts on penis-in-vagina sex. Other days, the messages break through and I hear them, and below the messages I see the tendrils of patriarchal, intercourse-centric culture forming the words. I see it… but I still hear it. Sometimes the words stick to me and I feel their weight pulling me down into insecurity.

How do I maintain a balance between this one act’s personal significance and all other activities I can engage in with my partner? How do I calm my frayed nerves & *know* that life will go on?

How will I cope if, down the lines, things really start detonating with age? What if something happens health-wise that goes beyond whether or not I can have intercourse? Something bigger, something more life-altering… something I can’t roll back the clock on.

Coincidentally there were some comments at a sex therapist’s blog that address what’s going on in my mind. The comments resonated with me more than the posts themselves. I’m still feeling turned off to the idea of sex therapy for me personally, and I’m not jiving with what I’m reading between the blog’s lines. I’m hoping I’ve been exposed to enough interesting ideas & am open minded enough so that I won’t need sex therapy down the road.

It started with someone who’s actually been there, articulating what it’s like to be the partner in a relationship where one person has a chronic illness or disability that affects (among other things) their sex life. And then another comment. That’s a real possibility. It’s a possibility for anyone. It’s relatively simple to talk about sex but it can be so much harder in practice to execute. I can’t forget that.

I saw a glimpse of my own sexual mortality in this infection. I may be living on borrowed time here. The redness, the discomfort… knowing something isn’t quite right. I went through it already. Is that how the beginning of the end shall be, perhaps months, years, or decades from now? Was this infection really just an infection, a common bug that lots of people get from time to time, no big deal? Or was it something more significant, something, a premonition of things to come…

Or maybe everything will work out better than expected.
Maybe the medication worked just perfectly fine and everything will be okay. Maybe now that I’ve experienced this, I’ll be better prepared to handle future problems.

But I tend towards pessimism.
It’s harder for me to remain optimistic when things aren’t going exactly to plan. It’s easier for me to be optimistic when it is least important for me to do so. When I need hope the most, is when it’s hardest for me to find it. I don’t mean to. It’s part of my personality. It’s a form of self-preservation. Bracing myself against a potentially bleak future.

I like video games. I like comics. Why am I bringing this up here on a feminism-FSD forum in a seemingly unrelated post? Sometimes, these silly games and pictures contain The Answer. Or The Question. I conclude with this statement because the creators of Penny Arcade put it best…

Why do I continue forward even though  I already know how the game is going to end?

I never said I didn’t struggle emotionally, mentally, physically. I never said it was easy.

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