If you’re suffering with vulvodynia or another chronic pelvic pain syndrome you are probably all too familiar with the frustration of having your day to day activities limited by your pain.
Maybe, like many of the women I work with, your symptoms are aggravated by exercise, having sex, sitting or standing too long, wearing pants, driving, going to work, going out to eat, going to see a show, playing with your children…..or even just getting out of bed.
Sometimes you may feel like there isn’t much of anything that you can do or enjoy anymore. You may even avoid making plans because of the anxiety that your symptoms might flare up while you’re out.
It’s no wonder you feel frustrated and angry and you want your life back!
Of course you want to get rid of the pain. I get it. I’ve been there.
Unfortunately, no matter how reasonable that is, I can tell you from my own experience (more on that later) that if you want to get out of pain…. even if it may sound impossible right now…..you’re going to have to find a way to let go of the struggle.
Living in a constant battle with your body and your symptoms creates a tremendous amount of stress and tension in your body – which of course make pain worse. But more than that, this constant struggle cuts you off from your body’s wisdom – and that is exactly what you need right now to heal.
I know the idea of accepting your symptoms seems counter-intuitive. Most of us think that if we stop fighting, if we allow our pain to be there, it will NEVER GO AWAY!
In fact, with very good intentions, we support each other by saying things like, “Don’t give up. Keep fighting!”
Really though. The exact opposite is true.
Fighting creates the conditions that allow pain to perpetuate – including an over stimulated nervous system, increased anxiety, increased physical tension, and increased stress hormones and neurotransmitters. Think about it. How do you feel in your body when you’re thinking things like, “I’m missing out. I have to find a way to get rid of this pain. It’s stopping me from living.”
I’m going to take a wild guess that at the very least you notice an increase in physical tension.
To heal your body you’ve got to take off those gloves.
I’m not suggesting that you give up on yourself or your life, but that you give up on the fight – that you actively choose to embrace your symptoms, for now…… and get really really curious about what’s actually going on.
This is the first step towards relieving your pain.
It’s the first step towards releasing tension, understanding yourself and your body, and discovering what you need to heal. As Ekhart Tolle says, “Accept whatever arises in this moment as if you had chosen it, and your whole life will be miraculously transformed.”
Miracles Begin with Acceptance.
Here is a story to help illustrate why this is true…..
Imagine that you are in a boat on a river that has a very strong current and you’re paddling as hard as you can upstream – against the current.
Can you get a sense of how much energy you’re using? This is what most of us are doing most of the time because we’ve learned that everything we want, including pain relief, is upstream.
So you get in your boat and you paddle as hard and as fast as you can so you can get where you want to go as quickly as possible.
But, there’s a problem with that.
What you want isn’t upstream.
And to get there all you have to do is drop the oars and float down the river. Really, that’s all. Just drop the oars.
I LOVE this analogy especially for pain relief, or any issue you’re struggling with related to your body and your health, because it so powerfully illustrates what happens in your body when you’re resisting where you are.
That contracted feeling in your body, the sensation you feel when you imagine paddling hard upstream, the resistance you feel when you think things like “I’m missing out” or “My life is over”, those feelings are an indication that you’re heading in the opposite direction of where you want to go.
Drop the oars and go with the flow.
Floating down the river relaxes your muscles, improves circulation and digestion, releases feel good hormones and neurotransmitters (that by the way block pain receptors), and puts your body and nervous system in the state they need to be in in order to heal and repair.
Your body is a healing machine. It’s just waiting for you to get out of the way.
When you accept this moment, even if you’re in pain, even if you can’t do all the things you want to do, even if on the surface it appears that your life is very limited and not at all how you want it to be……not only do you drastically change your physiology, you open yourself up to all the wisdom your body has to share with you – and the gifts in the experience you’re having right now.
Pelvic Pain is a Gift
No. I’m not crazy, or unrealistically optimistic. I can’t help but see that this is true as I work day in and day out with women who are finding their way to lasting relief.
Without exception every woman I know who has relieved vulvodynia or any other chronic pelvic pain syndrome – my clients and myself included – has ultimately found their pain to be a tremendous gift.
Because it taught us how to understand our body , connect to our soul, find our truth, and access our own personal magic.
You can transform your current struggle into relief, healing, and magic too, and the first step is to make the decision to accept your pain…..and open yourself to the possibility that it is present in your life right now to help you learn something.
Something you never could have learned otherwise.
When I had vulvodynia, and none of my doctors could offer any effective solutions, I made the decision to stop trying to get rid of my symptoms, and instead start listening to my body. It was scary to stop researching solutions and embrace where I was. There was a voice in my head telling me to find another doctor or a treatment that would work….but I had a gut feeling that looking for a solution was preventing me from tuning in. That what I actually needed was to stop pushing against what was happening and that listening to my body was the only way I was going to find my way out.
So, I stopped ignoring my body’s signals and started honoring them – including discomfort of any kind. Especially discomfort of any kind.
And something amazing happened, not only did my body start communicating with me, I began finding all kinds of things I COULD DO in new ways that felt a lot better to me than the old ways I was doing them. For instance, I actually could exercise if I slowed down and tuned into my body and did what it wanted to do. And, I actually could experience a lot of pleasure and intimacy with my partner, when I tuned into what my body really wanted and allowed it to guide me. I started to realize that my body was actually guiding me! It felt like navigating downstream by steering around the rocks.
I became aware that my symptoms were merely an indicator that I needed to slow down and get curious and allow my body to point me in new directions.
As it turned out, I got my life back way before I relieved pelvic pain, and the things I learned in the process have relieved my pain and transformed my life.
How To Embrace Your Pain
I know that like me, you are probably scared to accept where you are and start listening to your body. I know it’s hard to put down those gloves.
But I promise you, you have all the solutions you need right inside of you – even if you can’t hear them yet. You can’t hear your body’s guidance because there’s too much resistance in the way.
It’s kind of like trying to hear your best friend whisper from across the room while you’ve got your ears plugged, music on, your eyes closed, and you’re singing “la la la la la la la la” as loud as you can.
I mean really, who could understand that!?
You’re not giving your body a chance.
One step at a time.
Start seeing your pain as a teacher.
You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to want it to be there forever. But for right now get curious and allow your pain to guide you.
If something hurts don’t do it.
If your body wants to rest, rest.
Look for the ways that you can experience pleasure in your life now, even while you’re still in pain.
Listen to your body and stop pushing past discomfort.
Get curious about what’s really going on. Start to consider the possibility that the answers are inside you and the pain is guiding you to them.
So, if it hurts to sit long enough to go on a trip, or go out to dinner or go see a show, don’t go.
And if it hurts to get out of bed than as often as possible, stay there.
And if your usual ways of having sex with your partner cause any discomfort (before, during or after) than explore other ways to experience intimacy, pleasure, and connection. Believe me there are plenty!
If the only place you can be comfortable is home, start exploring things you love to do at home. Maybe you love to read or garden or watch movies, or you’d like to start writing or painting or taking a class online.
Stop beating yourself and your body up for being where you are. All that is doing is keeping you stuck there!
Wherever you are see if you can let go of your resistance to vulvodynia or pelvic pain and how it’s affecting your life. Assume that your body and soul are trying to help you. Let them guide you.
Like me, you just may get your life back a lot sooner than you thought you would.