I know I've given a brief introduction about myself and the chronic pelvic pain conditions that I've experienced, and at this present time continue to experience, but I want to back track a little and take you through my past, so we can get to know each other better.
If I want to really take it back, let's begin when I started having sex in my later teens. I experienced a lot of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) or Cystitis and it wasn't until I was in a stable relationship in my early twenties did I get on top of them - many prescriptions for antibiotics later.
I learned about sexual health from a work colleague - to always pee after sex, and that changed the game for me. I then ensured I went to the toilet before and after sex, had a shower after sex and peed again just for safe measure. I started taking probiotics and the holy grail at the time for me - Cranberry Tablets.
The other strange issue I always had for my whole life, was I would sometimes get a crippling pain in my rectum so bad that I'd have to stop walking, stop talking and sometimes fall to the ground. I figured it was normal.
Fast forward to 2008 when I was 27. I was in a not so healthy relationship and I got a really bad UTI. I was down the South Coast of Australia with my then partner and I went to the local country hospital to be admitted and treated with antibiotics. This was the first bladder infection I'd had in about 5 years. I took the medication and in the morning was feeling better. Then out of the blue I started experiencing severe abdominal pain....back to the hospital I go.
Now remember I was there with a UTI the night before (more on this). I was rushed in, bloods taken and my white blood count was up...I was fighting an infection. The UTI, but this wasn't really taken into account and before I knew it I was being prepped for surgery for an appendicitis. Naturally after such surgery, you're on heavy antibiotics to stop any infection.
After that surgery, I started getting lots thrush (or yeast) infections, which then led to Vulvodyina. I got on top of the candida in my gut through diet and probiotics but the vulva pain stayed. I was lucky, because I was a vigilant Googler, and found a pelvic floor therapist who helped me after 6 months of not knowing what was wrong with my vagina. I took some time off my very stressful job and worked with him intensely. My muscles were hypertonic, meaning extremely tense but weak. I worked with a home biofeedback machine and dilators and after 3 months I was 95% back to normal. I wish that was the end of the story.
In 2009, I was very stressed, said bad relationship had ended again - I was heart broken, so my body sent me a clear message by stopping my periods. I didn't think anything at the time except "great, no more periods!" If only I could tell my younger self what a strong message that was. That something wasn't right.
I got another UTI during this 'non menstrual period time' and it was a bad one. I would equal it to child birth (which I've also experienced). It came at night and whilst I should have called an ambulance, I rode it out til I could drive myself to a doctor in the morning. I took the antibiotics and the infection went away but the symptoms never did. That icky feeling in your bladder, that constant uncomfortable feeling, always wanting to pee. Not fun.
Here in started the quest of finding out what this was; I was devastated reading what Interstitial Cystitis (IC) was, completely stricken with anxiety and depression. I had a cystoscopy and was cleared of IC but that didn't fix the pain, fix me. I was in the dark, and sent on my way. I went to my gynocologist (wonderful man) and he put some dots together for me.
Not menstruating + ongoing UTI symptoms without infection = "let's check her hormones".
He was on the money. I had extremely low estrogen and what I now know is that estrogen is so important for the vulva, the vagina and the bladder lining. It plumps it up. Low estrogen means a thin bladder lining, you're more prone to UTIs, vagina atrophy, vulva pain; loads of issues.
He put me on The Pill (birth control) and it was like someone had waved a magic wand. My bladder symptoms where gone. Totally gone. The bad side to this part of the story is that I started living again, partying again, not looking after myself (I was a party girl), and with an increase in estrogen from the pill and drinking a lot, I started to get a few yeast infections which started a new kind of Vulvodyina where I felt pain in the vulva tissue. Sex was painful but I just pushed through as I was so happy not to have the bladder pain.