Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Memoir About Vaginal Pain

Yes,  it does exist.  I had never heard of it until looking at Feminists With Female Sexual Dysfunction and seeing a book review about it.  The book is called The Camera My Mother Gave Me by Susanna Kaysen.  If you want a thorough book review, go to K's blog, because she does a much better job than I would if I tried.  I just wanted to reflect on a few things that affected me personally about the book.

What's exciting about it is that it is actually a real personal account of a woman's experience dealing with Vulvodynia(?), (not sure, she had a lot of diagnoses).  I never knew a book like this existed.  It is hard to read though, so be warned.  She's very blunt and doesn't leave out the gory, sad, horrendous details.  She describes her many-years-long search of "What is wrong with me?", as so many of us have asked over and over.  She sees countless doctors, healers, alternative medicine people, and they all tell her to do something different - usually something that makes her pain worse.  The most disturbing thing to me about all the "doctors" she saw is that most of them told her to keep having sex with her boyfriend - that it would help.  What the hell?!  She had stabbing, horrible pain when she had sex that lasted for days afterward and they thought it would help?  It flashed me back to all the incompetent doctors I went to and I could completely understand her frustration.

The hardest parts of the book for me to read were her interactions with her boyfriend.  He was completely unsympathetic to her pain and all he cared about was having sex all the time.  He would get mad at her that she wasn't trying to fix it (wasn't trying to fix it?  she went to at least one doctor appointment a week trying to fix it!).  Or he'd be mad because she wasn't doing something that a doctor prescribed - BECAUSE IT MADE THE PAIN WORSE!.  He coerced her into having sex or giving him blow jobs even though she had lost all desire (big surprise - pain does not equal more desire).  And then he would accuse her of not loving him enough because if he was in pain he would still have sex with her and do anything to make her happy.  UGH!  It infuriated me!  She used words like "cheese grater" to describe her pain when she had sex.  Did he REALLY think that if his penis felt like a cheese grater he would still be having sex?

My husband called me as I was on my way home from work the day after I had finished this book.  I was telling him about it and I just burst into tears.  I told him about this girl's awful boyfriend and how sad it made me.  And how it just reinforced my love and appreciation for my own husband's constant support and non-pressure.  He doesn't want to have sex with me if it hurts me.  That's not a turn-on for him.  You'd think that most men would feel that way.  I have all these horrible issues - Vestibulodynia, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, fear of sex; but at least I have a husband who supports me.  Not only that, he cheers me on - he lifts me up when I'm going into one of my depressive "I feel broken and useless" kind of moods.  He never accuses me of not loving him.  He knows the difference between love and sexual desire.  He sees my love in all the hard work I do every day to heal my vagina.

This book was a painful read, but my heart swells with love for my wonderful husband when I reflect on it. 

Some of you should not read this book - she goes into detail about her boyfriend's terrible behavior and it might be traumatic for you if you've had similar experiences.

But it's exciting to know that there is actually a book out there that tells this story with no sugar-coating.  My favorite part about it is that it's real.

4 comments:

Sloan said...

I read this book last year and also found myself identifying with many of her experiences.
What struck me was that treatments really haven't changed much over the ten-plus years since her experience. Lidocaine, topical hormones, antidepressants, PT, etc. Many of us today could write the same book.

the girl with pain "down there" said...

I agree. I do have a good treatment plan, but I had to see about 7 doctors before getting to it. That's another thing that hasn't changed much in 10 years. Women with any type of vaginal problem have to see doctor after doctor before getting any real answers. I'm glad this book is out there, and I hope to see more. The more people know that it's not "all in our heads", the better our treatments will become and the more our regular gynecologists (meaning, not specialists that we have to drive far and wide to visit) will know what the hell they're talking about.

Claire said...

The author was a professor at my university, and a few months after I was diagnosed with vv, I went to an evening of author readings. This was 10 years ago now, and at the time all of the readings were works in progress. You can imagine my surprise when she started reading from her manuscript, and she described everything I had been feeling for the last several months! My boyfriend and I looked at one another astonished. While it was really hard to read her honest account, it did provide some comfort that I wasn't alone. Luckily, my boyfriend at the time was a lot more loving too. I'm very glad to hear your husband is so supportive.

the girl with pain "down there" said...

Wow, that is a unique experience! I'm actually reading her other book - Girl, Interrupted - which I'm sure you know was made into a movie. It makes me think, hey, someone should make the vagina book into a movie too. They are similarly written and very personal - good movie material. Us vagina girls need a movie! What do you think?!