I’m stronger today than I was 12 years ago and I have Vulvodynia to thank. My life was forever changed in October 2002 when a car swerved in front of my boyfriend’s (he is now my husband) truck. There was nothing particularly remarkable about this accident, considered no more than a fender bender, but the effect it would have on my life was long lasting. I suffered severe whiplash, chronic back and neck pain, and TMJ. I cannot say for sure whether or not this played a role in my eventual diagnosis of Vulvodynia. My health care providers thought it was likely. My journey with Vulvodynia began following that accident and I was eventually diagnosed in 2004, just months before my wedding. It was devastating, and I almost cancelled my wedding. But my husband to-be told me that he would rather marry me and wait to consummate our marriage than put off the wedding. We married on July 17, 2004, a beautiful and memorable day.
For a long time I felt like Vulvodynia had robbed me of who I was. I felt like a completely different person. I couldn’t be the wife I wanted to be. I gave up activities that I loved. I tried to maintain a social life because that’s who I am. But it was much more challenging. I couldn’t wear jeans or ride a bike. Everything had changed. I wondered if I would ever be the same again. Shortly after my diagnosis, I found the NVA through an online search. I will never forget how I felt the first time I connected with my local support leader and realized I wasn’t alone. She remains one of my dearest friends to this day. I’m so grateful to the NVA and all they have done and continue to do. They have been, and still are, an important component of my healing journey.
I have learned a great deal on this road toward healing. There were times when I felt so weak and compared myself to others. I wanted to do everything my friends could do. One particular day, I expressed to my mom (my constant confidante and supporter) how much more capable my friend was because of all the things she could do in a day…in life! I told her she was stronger than me. My mom rose up to defend me and what she said that day will stay with me forever. She listed all of the medical and home remedies I use on a regular basis just to maintain my health. She told me that most people did not realize the energy it took just to be healthy. Then she told me I was not only stronger than I thought, but stronger than most people! I was so full of gratitude. Now, when I compare myself to others, I remember what she said. If getting out of bed in the morning is an achievement, pat yourself on the back. If going to work every day or taking care of your children is a challenge, you should be proud of what you have managed to do. You don’t need to measure yourself against others to validate your accomplishments.
After more than 10 years of facing this challenge, I now understand that Vulvodynia has made me a better person. I’m so glad I persevered. It’s a lesson I did not choose to learn. If I could turn back time and prevent it, I still would. I think we all would! But I can honestly say I have been truly blessed on this road toward finding healing. My advice to other women is, “Don’t give up!”
I’m happy to say that I gradually found a combination of treatments that healed my body. I did suffer years of depression and hopelessness, and I understand the loneliness that comes with this kind of pain. But I persevered with a great deal of support from my husband, my parents, my brother, wonderful friends, and my faith in God. For the past four years, I have been the Support Director of the NVA. I am by no means cured, but I am thankful for the healing I have experienced. I am also thankful for my experience with Vulvodynia and the amazing women I have met because of it. I still wish to be completely free of pain and have hope that will happen in the future!