Technically speaking, it’s been almost two months since I last shared a personal update on my tricky situation. Why the hiatus? I’m not sure. I guess my oversharing side took a backseat and I decided, for the first time in a year, to just dwell on things in private. When I write these blogs I poke fun at my situation and force myself end on a positive note. By not writing about it, I’ve had a lapse in perspective and lost my sense of humour about it all.
Also, the longer I left it the more there was to cover and now I’m not entirely sure where to start. With the good news, perhaps?
The Third Pill Pack
So I had a painless period. I don’t mean that to sound so nonchalant – it was a huge deal. I was scared to mention it in case I jinxed it. In fact, the painlessness continued for a couple of weeks after that. I was nervous to admit it. Had three months on the pill really fixed things so quickly and completely? No, was the answer.
A few days before my next cycle I started to get some of my old pain, mostly the stuff that’s localised to my right side and gets dramatically worse every time I use my right leg. My PMS has been considerably worse since I’ve been on the pill but I’ve also noticed a dramatic drop in my mood the moment I am in pain. This didn’t used to happen. While I wait to sort out psychosexual counselling I’ve just got a standard counsellor for now, and since she can’t help as much with the vaginismus stuff, she’s doing her best to help me counter pain-induced mood swings.
Around this time, my skin decided that a little acne on the pill would no longer do and broke out into the longest, most relentless bout of acne that I’ve had since puberty. Fab.
The Fourth Pill Pack
Old habits die hard, and the painful/grumpy premenstrual days foreshadowed a painful period. My periods are definitely less painful, lighter and generally better than they were before the pill and for the last few bleeds I’ve got away without painkillers, which is another huge victory. What was frustrating however, was that after my period ended, the pain didn’t. I wasn’t all that upset at first because I had a follow up scan a few days after and, as always, I applied the logic that if I was in pain then the scan might pick something up. I had built up to this particular scan more than normal because it was a big deal — if the internal ultrasound showed up clear then the chances were that my gynaecologist would declare that the pill had cured me and discharge me from his care. No pressure then, ovaries.
When I got to the hospital though, there was no one there. It was a bank holiday and the hospital was closed. I had raised my eyebrows when I got the appointment months ago, but I didn’t question it since it had been outsourced to a private healthcare provider. That was a mistake. I wanted the scan to be that week because if the pill has “fixed” me in the sense that I now grow a cyst in my pill-free week and then it gradually goes away over the three weeks on the pill, then it’s not a particularly thorough fix. Having the scan a few days after my period and being in pain was the best possible time to catch *something* in the act. There’s also the added complication that having vaginismus, even though mine is manageable, means that I have to psych myself up for a transvaginal scan.
The let down from not having the scan was pretty bad. I was upset. What didn’t help was that the bulging pain in my side continued to get worse and worse and was accompanied by some delightful bloating, only convincing me further that if I’d had the scan that day, they might’ve found something. Even though my scan was rescheduled for a week later, I knew my luck would mean it was a no-go. (I was right).
I’d been looking forward to this particular week (I had a free house, wahoo!) and was planning to cook and eat and write and exercise (more on that another time) but I was in so much pain, riddled with some of the worst acne I’ve ever had, miserable from the non-event scan and generally very lacklustre, so I ended up regressing seven years and lolling about on Sims 2. I didn’t even read. This was all coupled with a vague work crisis, so basically it was a nightmarish shit-storm of a week.
When I eventually had the scan it didn’t end up being an entirely negative experience. The sonographer and the chaperone were the two women who scanned me both times they found the cysts and were supportive in the fact that they knew that in cases like this, no news is not necessarily good news. Bizarrely, the sonographer, before inserting (is that any better than ‘penetrating?’ *cringe*) the device, gestured towards my vagina and asked, “are you alright with all that now?” and I WISH I had asked what she meant. Had she realised I had vaginismus way back when? I’ll never know.
I tried to write off *that week* as a bad week and to carry on after I’d had the scan but the pain was stubborn to shift. I just felt a bit like a sick person again, lying down after dog walks and needing to catch my breath after the simplest of tasks. Pain is knackering. I think chronic pain flare-ups are always harder to handle after getting an ‘all-clear.’
Bracing for the inevitable discharge letter from my gynae, I went to my new, new, new GP to discuss what my options were now. Five weeks or so ago I would’ve been happy with how things had improved on the pill but now I know my pain can still flare up just as much as it used to even though I’m on the pill. While the flare-ups are definitely rarer occurrences, I’m not really happy with this as an end point. There’s also the fact that the scan really hurt, penetration still hurts. It’s still intrusive and upsetting and I’d really just like to be done with it all now.
Because of this, my GP has finally convinced me to focus on pain management. I feel like I’m admitting defeat because I really want to know what is causing my pain, plus I’m scared that if I never find the cause then the underlying problem may never shift. But honestly, I’m exhausted. Even if it’s only for a little while, pain management seems like the right thing to do, especially with the way my mood is correlating with my pain. So for now, I’m on amitriptyline, a low dose antidepressant that *may,* over time stop me feeling pain. It sounds scary and the list of side effects is TERRIFYING (spontaneous lactation?!) but I’m on such a low dose of the stuff that I’m not too worried for the time being.
Since I’m going to be staying on the pill as part of this pain management programme, and it’s been long enough that my skin should’ve have calmed down or improved, I’m now on a new night-time gel for my acne. These two treatments combined have a load of risk factors that mean I should avoid sunlight and alcohol — fun summer 2018 for me then — but they’re not hard and fast rules. I’ve also been taking Evening Primrose Oil at my mum’s request since it used to help her PMS and acne. My PMS was particularly bad last week so I doubled my dose of EPO to no avail… worth a shot, eh?
I’ve definitely let things, pain and otherwise, get the better of me over the last few weeks, which is so frustrating because I have some really exciting things going on and coming up. I want to be able to enjoy it all, so pain management seems like the right way to go.