I am sharing my vulvodynia story, which is long and complicated, because it ties into every aspect of my life, including becoming a life coach and learning how to work with emotions and the thoughts that create them. I want to make it clear that I am writing my story in the hope that it will bring you hope, not to offer medical advice or suggestions of any kind. My focus is on the emotions you might be feeling right now, as you suffer from pain, itching, burning, or any other difficult symptom. As a life coach, I want to share with you the amazing tools you already have to work through the emotions surrounding vulvodynia. Why do I feel this is so important? Read on …
After completing my emotion diagnosis, it was immediately clear to me that I had to ditch the panic. My doctor had described in great detail the process of pelvic floor dysfunction, which is the harbinger of vulvar dyesthesia. My pelvic floor dysfunction had begun five years previously, mysteriously (or so I thought at the time) and slowly. My pelvic floor muscles began to hold tension, maintaining a constant state of contraction. Blood does not flow well into a contracted muscle, so little by little, my muscles began to starve. Blood brings glucose and oxygen wherever it goes, the stuff of life to muscles and nerves. One by one, my muscles developed knots. This constricted the blood flow even more. As my nerves began to suffer damage, I developed bladder problems and low back pain. As more and more nerves were damaged, my pain increased. This increased the tension in my pelvic muscles, and the vicious cycle continued. More pain, less blood flow, more tension, more pain, etc. My doctor estimated that my pelvic floor muscles were getting about fifty percent of the oxygen they required.
Panic, clearly, could do nothing to improve this situation. Panic is the ultimate fight or flight instigator, the emotion guaranteed to create short, fast breathing and muscle tension everywhere in the body. By realizing I was actually living an emotion that was going to make my physical situation even worse; I gave myself an enormous gift. I had already been panicking for several months due to the constant, unexplained symptoms. Now, I could at least stop making my own situation worse. Panic, like any negative emotion, has its purpose. It’s useful in dangerous situations, as it gets the adrenaline flowing, which gives you the strength and energy to save yourself. However, also like any negative emotion, panic is harmful if you remain in it for too long. If you’re spotted by a grizzly bear, you’re bound to feel a moment of panic, which will spur you to act. But if you stay in that panic, frozen, staring at the charging bear, you are unlikely to survive. You won’t remember to grab the pepper spray, make sure it’s not pointing at you, and fire.
Healing cannot occur in a state of panic, fear, or anger. It’s a physiological issue—high adrenaline production, fast, shallow breathing, increased heart rate, and other more complicated hormonal processes prevent your body from repairing itself. In my case, the connection was even more blatant—more panic, reduced blood flow, more muscle tension, and finally, more pain. The discoveries I made from this simple emotion diagnosis were the turning point in my relationship with vulvodynia. Having already surrendered to the experience, I was now ready to become an important part of my own healing process.
Here’s how to do an emotion diagnosis.
Though you might already know one or two of the emotions at the forefront of your consciousness, it is worth checking to see what else is there. Over the next several days, take ten minutes each day to look inward. Find a quiet, safe place, close the door, turn off the phone, and bring a pen and paper. Lie in the position you find most comfortable or that does not exacerbate your symptoms. Let yourself listen to the racing thoughts in your head. Engage yourself in the worries that run like a constant conversation in the back of your mind each day. Bring them into your awareness, and let yourself feel the emotions that arise. Don’t worry if you cry, scream, rage, or simply feel numb. Just see if you can name each emotion as it comes to you. All you’re trying to do is label these emotions – you don’t have to do anything else. To close your session, close your eyes and say something kind to yourself several times in a row. You might try my favorite mantra, “May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.” After several days, you will have a list of emotions. The repeat offenders will be clear as you scan your list. Now you are ready to learn how to free yourself from emotions that are hindering your healing process.