Self care is so important & Henry agrees… so we are spending the morning at home, drinking Choc Mint tea from a beautiful pot and cup, watching Netflix and doing some art.
Never forget to practice self-compassion and look after yourself.
Self care is so important & Henry agrees… so we are spending the morning at home, drinking Choc Mint tea from a beautiful pot and cup, watching Netflix and doing some art.
Never forget to practice self-compassion and look after yourself.
I created him at an Access Arts workshop. He has a depressive disorder & FND. He also loves pink flowers, art, the theatre, chocolate, going on adventures and talking about uncomfortable but important issues.
Keep an eye out for his fun adventures – he’s just taken a trip to space to spread awareness & break stigma about mental illness across the galaxy.
First, a warning without apology: this is a TMI post, discussing six hidden and very uncomfortable aspects of the pelvic pain experience.
No one likes pain and no one can begin to comprehend the experience of chronic pain until you’ve been hit with it. It’s uncomfortable, frustrating, incurable, exhausting and life altering. The chronic pain train also drags behind it carriages filled with medication side effects, fatigue, painsomnia, specialist visits, unemployment, disability, isolation, poverty and mental illness.
But chronic pelvic pain, by its very nature and location, adds a new dimension of humiliation, shame, violation and stigma. Pelvic Pain can be caused by conditions such as Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, fibroids, scar tissue, PCOS, Ulcerative Colitis, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, Vestibulitis, Vaginismus, Vulvodynia, prolapse and poorly executed episiotomy stitches (yeah, there are a lot of reasons, and this isn’t an exhaustive list). In Australia, approximately 1 in 4 women between the ages of 16 and 24 have a long-term pelvic condition, while 1 in 12 men exhibit pelvic pain in the absence of a medical condition. So, in light of Pelvic Pain Awareness Month, here is a list of ‘hidden’ realities for women (and I’m sure men can relate too) that come with having chronic pelvic pain.
I don’t know any woman who likes getting a Pap-Smear or internal ultrasound; it’s awkward, uncomfortable and makes you feel vulnerable – but most of the time you have to do it if you want to maintain your good physical health. When going to the doctor with a pelvic pain complaint, they tend to examine the site of pain, some of this can happen by pressing on the abdomen, but a lot of it has to happen through an internal examination – yup, someone’s fingers poking and prodding in an already sore and tender vagina. Something which is supposed to be personal and private can suddenly gain a large audience in a small amount of time.
It was a sobering thought when I realised I have only had one sexual partner, yet I’ve lost count of the number of people (well, health professionals) who have put their fingers inside of me (charming, I know).
It’s fairly simple to explain that, “my knee is killing me because I’ve done my ACL,” “I have to stretch regularly because I have a slipped disk” or ”my left side is sore from a hip replacement.” Good luck trying to tell someone your cervix is cramping, that you have a stabbing pain stemming from your vagina, or that sharp pains are radiating from your clitoris without coming across crude, rude and totally inappropriate.
It’s not kosher to talk about your genitals, reproductive organs and sexual health. People don’t want to say the words and others want to hear them even less. It’s just too taboo. The problem is, when you bow down to stigma and stay silent, important issues go unspoken, unnecessary shame is projected and necessary medical treatment does unsought – and this is not okay. Everyone should be encouraged to seek medical advice for any persistent pain. Everyone should be given the basic human right of being heard when communicating their pain experience to others.
Referring back to the female reproductive system being a ‘taboo’ subject, I believe this is one of the reasons medical research in this area is lagging and why many GP’s are unaware of pelvic pain causing conditions. It’s also the reason why many suffer in silence, putting off seeking medical help and making the epidemic appear less severe than what it is.
But when someone finally decides to seek a diagnosis and treatment, it’s not a matter of having a blood test. The first step is usually an internal examination which is painful physically and can make one emotionally vulnerable. This can be true for teenagers, people who aren’t sexually active and especially true for those who have experienced sexual abuse/trauma. Treating the pelvic floor can be even harder for men, as the only way to directly and internally examine and treat a male with pelvic floor pain is through the anus.
Conditions like Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, fibroids and scar tissue find their most accurate diagnosis and effective treatment in surgery. For these and many more reasons, both men and women can spend years going from doctor to doctor, desperate for a diagnosis.
When you finally have a diagnosis, treatment can feel just as difficult, inconvenient, painful, distressing and violating. Once a medical condition has been treated, there is often residual muscle tension and nerves can become over sensitised to pain signals, which results in a Chronic Pain Syndrome in the pelvic region. The best treatment option I’ve found to reduce muscle tension, spasms and desensitise the nerves in the pelvis is seeing a specialised pelvic physiotherapy. Treatment from a Pelvic PT can include a pelvic remedial massage, the use of Vaginal Dilators and internal TENS unit). I have recently begun researching pelvic botox injections, and it seems to be having positive results.
My point is, managing any chronic illness and pain is difficult but trying to diagnose and treat pain in the pelvis has it’s own ‘special’ difficulties and frustrations.
Sex is meant to be pleasurable, bringing two people closer together physically, emotionally and relationally. However, it’s hard to enjoy sex, reaping its benefits in a relationship when it exacerbates pain. Some people experience pain during penetration due to a tight pelvic floor. For other women, any kind of sexual arousal and activity can cause a great deal of pain too. Others experience orgasms that, instead of bringing euphoria and a physical release that relaxes the body, turns each nerve ending of the pleasure centre into a vicious postman, delivering a package of pain to the rest of your body. In relation to women, the clitoris has over 8,000 sensory nerve endings (twice as many as men) which can affect up to 15,000 more nerve endings in the pelvic area. That means the pelvis is already a very sensitive area for women and when pain is involved, all those nerve endings act like speakers in a radio, elevating the sound of pain signals
Bottomline, Pelvic Pain can make it hard to find any pleasure in sex at all – and that’s not fun at all!
The pelvic floor is connected to muscles and ligaments that attach to the hips, groin, thighs, buttock and lower back. Therefore, pelvic pain is usually accompanied by pain in these areas. Sitting or lying in a position that alleviates pain from the pelvis usually can increase pain somewhere else in the body.
Pelvic pain can also have an impact on bladder and bowel functions. Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Internal Cystitis also piggyback on other conditions I’ve mentioned above.
When a girl’s gotta go, she’s gotta go! If my bladder is full, pain increases. Many Pelvic Pain causing conditions results in painful urination, frequent UTI’s and incontinence – the embarrassment just keeps on keeping on. Until a few years ago, going to the toilet was agonising because I had a lump of scar tissue between my cervix and rectum. And the longer I left it, the worse it got, so I avoided drinking fluids and was constantly dehydrated. I still have times when I experience sharp bladder pain, so on occasions, I use the disabled toilets – it’s not because I’m rude, lazy or inconsiderate – it’s because I actually need to use the bathroom ASAP.
If a GP doesn’t have the expertise to properly diagnose and treat you, referrals are necessary for proper care. You can’t just see a general gynaecologist, you need someone who specialises in your medical condition. You can’t just see a physiotherapist, you have to see a physio who has specialised in treating the pelvic floor. If pelvic pain impacts your sexual relationships, seeing a relationship counsellor who has experience in sex therapy can also be an expensive necessity for the longevity of the relationship. Medical appointments are expensive, specialists are even more so.
Yeah… so, please remember that vagina, clitoris and anus aren’t ‘naughty words,’ they’re just nouns describing body parts that 50% & 100% of the population have.
If you are experiencing pelvic pain, you’re not alone, there are others who understand the emotional toll it takes. I hope you can find safe people with whom you can be vulnerable and speak honestly about your struggles and frustrations.
Haven’t got Pelvic Pain? Be a safe person for someone who does. I hope that when you meet people who have chronic pain you are kind and compassionate… and next time you speak with someone who has pelvic pain, I hope you can empathise with the extra burden it carries. We already struggle daily with shame, taboo and awkward-turtles that come with Pelvic Pain, please, be a legend, listen with an open mind, don’t judge, empathise and be kind.
Have I missed anything? Please share and contribute to the discussion if I have!
If you’d like more information on living with pelvic pain, here are a few websites with helpful information:
Pelvic Pain Foundation of Austalia
Pelvic Pain SA
Australian Pain Management Association
International Pelvic Pain Society
I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
I was excited to have been given the opportunity to try and review Organic Aroma’s Nebulizing Essential Oil Diffuser. Unlike other diffusers, a nebuliser does not use heat or water, making it safe, convenient and mess-free. Because the oils aren’t diluted, the essential oils are well dispersed in a large room, offering a powerful, pure aroma and greater therapeutic value of the essential oils. It also doesn’t increase the humidity of the air, which is very appealing to someone who lives in a humid environment.
In the past, I have been quite sceptical about aromatherapy, but after some research, I saw that it could be beneficial for relaxation. Relaxation, meditation and mindfulness are necessary for treating and managing chronic pain, depression and anxiety.
Picking from all the beautiful designs was hard, but I ended up choosing the Raindrop diffuser. Shipped from the USA, it arrived a lot sooner than expected. As someone who likes beautiful things, I appreciate how well packaged it was – it was evident this I was about to try a high-quality product. It’s delicate and even prettier than the pictures on their website. I was also pleasantly surprised to have received two different samples of their essential oil blends. Talk about value!
Assembling the diffuser is as easy as placing the glass reservoir into the hardwood base and connect the power the supply… And because it’s gorgeous, I was happy to leave it set up in the dining room. Once the oil was in the reservoir and the diffuser turned on, it only took a second to smell the aromas… and I enjoyed it!
When I used the diffuser alongside other techniques, like deep breathing, visualisation and mindfulness, I was able to relax a bit quicker than usually. I really love the aromas and prefer it to incense, so after a few days turning the diffuser on had become a bit of a habit. Without thinking, I had turned it on while I was working on a major essay. I found myself super chill and relaxed when I would usually be stressed and anxious. As a result, I was even more productive.
The diffuser has an inbuilt light that changes colours, and I had seen pictures of this. I confess, I thought it looked kind of tacky. However, once I started using the diffuser, I found the slow colour changes of the light enhanced my relaxation. I would still like the option to turn off the light, though.
I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet the diffuser is and it uses a minuscule amount of electricity. Although I have nothing to compare with it, I’ve also been pleasantly surprised with how long the oil lasts in the reservoir.
Although I haven’t experienced any pain relief from using Organic Aromas diffuser, it definitely helps enhance relaxation and reducing anxiety when used in conjunction with other techniques.
All in all, I love my diffuser (and so does Annie)! I will continue to use it as part of my relaxation and mindfulness routine and look forward to experimenting with different essential oil blends (feel free to comment with any suggestions).
You can buy your own Nebulizing Essential Oil Diffuser from Organic Aroma’s website. The cost for a diffuser with an essential oil blend sample starts at $95 USD, and there are five beautiful designs to choose from. Organic Aromas also offers custom laser printed diffusers for $125USD and a large selection of stunning hand carved diffusers for $175USD. They also offer free shipping worldwide!
It’s days like today when I’m struggling to summon the energy to be a ‘functioning human being’ that I remember an honest and genuine conversation I had with one of my teenagers during Bible study a few months ago.
I recall this conversation to remind myself of God’s grace, strength and sustaining power that gets me through each day. It’s an encouragement to continue being honest about life, even when it’s painful and sucky. I must confess, it amuses me (greatly) and makes me giggle a little on the inside.
I also find comfort knowing that I can come back and read it whenever I need to.
We were discussing how God uses suffering to deepen our relationship with Him, better understand faith, build His Kingdom and bring Jesus glory. For the sake of application, I briefly mentioned that these truths give me hope, even though I am in pain every day…
…another interruption (but a welcomed one)…
“So, you’re really in pain?”
“All the time?”
“You don’t look like you’re in pain.”
“Wait! You were in pain on Friday night?”
“Are you saying that you’re actually in pain, right now?”
“You’ve got it.”
“…Like, now-now? Standing there?”
and then he slumped back into his chair with a sympathetic bewilderment written on his face. I think he started to understand, which I am grateful for, even if it was just a little.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation, and it probably won’t be the last. So, I’ll continue to embrace the small opportunities to encourage open and honest dialogue. Conversations that develop empathy and grace to spur one another on to rely on God and persevere in suffering for the sake of God’s kingdom.
2 Timothy 2:10 (NLT) “So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.”
As long as we remain silent, society remains ignorant. We can empower others and ourselves by sharing truth in love! #speakup #behonest #endsilence #breakingstigma
#speaktruth #love #mentalhealth #depression #chronicpain #endometriosis #endthesilence #chronicillness #awareness #jesus #truth #endthesilence
One of my strategies for managing chronic depression is getting out of the house every day. When I’m having an episode, most days I open my eyes, sigh with frustration and then begin the battle of my inner dialogue…
“Oh, another day. Time to get out o…”
“… close your eyes and stay in bed – just ten more minutes. Feel how tired you are!”
10 minutes later
“Okay, now I really have to get out of be…”
“…staying in bed won’t hurt anyone. You’ve had a busy few days. Besides, nothing bad can happen if you stay here in your comfortable, warm bed.”
“But, but I don’t want to waste the day…”
… and it continues. I am so glad that after years of unhealthily late sleep-in’s and ridiculously late nights, I’ve learnt;
a) that getting out of bed, despite my feelings is beneficial to my mental health, and
b) I can put strategies in place to make getting out of bed and out of the house every day possible.
So, here are a few strategies:
1. I acknowledge I am blessed to have a part-time job that I love, so three days a week I am obliged to get out of the house, and it has made a massive difference to my mental health. Don’t have a job or can’t be employed? Try volunteering; it’s commitment without the pressure. Before I was well enough to have paid employment, I volunteered at a local kids club, at church and for a mutual-help support group.
2. Organise to have a tea/coffee at a cute cafe least once a week with a ‘no pressure’ friend.
3. Spread out doctors, specialist and support appointments so they are on different days.
4. Access your local community centre or mental health support service. There are plenty of organisations funded by the government who organise activities (e.g. choirs, art lessons, computer tutorials, community gardens and tours) and mutual support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses.
5. Don’t do a massive grocery shop, rather, get what I need for a day or two. This forces you to go out and get a few groceries 3-4 days a week. This has the added benefit of cooking with/eating fresh fruit, veggies and meat.
6. Make bookings! I love going to the theatre and the cinema. Booking tickets in advance can force you out of the house, lest you waste good money on something fun.
7. Make a list of all the things you enjoy doing when my mental health is good and give a copy to those in your support network. It can often be obsolete to say, ‘do something you enjoy’ to a depressed person as a symptom of depression is that you can’t think of something you could enjoy. This is where my list comes in handy, it reminds me (and others) of the activities that can get me out of the house/bed and will improve my mood – even if it’s a smidgen, it’s worth it.
8. Give yourself credit where credit is due and don’t be hard on yourself when you do stay in bed or the house all day. Learning to manage mental illness is a long learning process. Write-off a bad day and have an early night because tomorrow is a new day.
I’ll be the first to admit that balancing mental health strategies with physical illnesses can make this harder; for example, I’ve had non-stop dizziness for five days and can’t drive, leave the house or operate machinery (in this case some appliances/hot stovetop).
For these sick or flare-up days, my goal is to get out of bed, brush my teeth and eat my meals or watch Netflix while sitting in the sun. If I can add a shower, play with some pastels, paint, read, welcome a visitor, or walk to the mailbox, it’s a productive day.
Then when I get better, or my flare up ends, I’ll start leaving the house again.
What helps you get out of the house when you body is telling you otherwise?
It’s easy to lose interest in life when you’re consumed with pain, depression and other awful symptoms. I’ve found engaging with my illnesses and experience creatively very empowering.
You don’t have to be the next Van Gough, Ansel Adams, Sylvia Plath, PewDiePie or Alicia Keys to be creative. I have compiled a list if ‘creative’ things you can have a go at, even if you think you suck.
By creative, I mean expressing yourself in an imaginative, artistic, innovative, inspirational, personal or unique way. You can ‘creatively engage’ with your illness by using any creative medium to:
Here is a list of 30 ways you can engage creatively as another tool to help you manage your journey with chronic illness.
1. Go for a stroll in the park, a walk on the beach or simply sit in your sunny backyard and take a few pictures. Anyone can take a photo of the grass, a tree, a bird, the clouds and the sun on their phone. If you’re feeling a bit crazy, add your favourite filter.
2. Pick a photo you have taken, or download a free stock image and add the cheesiest quote you can find (or your favourite quote or verse from scripture.) You can use a photo editing program (like Photoshop or GIMP), a website (like Canva), or even Microsoft Word.
3. Type and print encouraging statements with fun fonts to put on your wall.
4. Print your favourite family or holiday photos and make a collage. If you’re renting and don’t want to risk ruining the walls with blue tac, you can get a whiteboard or cork-board. I spray painted an ugly room divider to use as a giant pin board. …or you could finally scrapbook those holiday and baby photos.
5. Give colouring-in a try. The adult colouring in fad has taken the world by storm, have you tried it yet? Buy one from Kmart or your local bookstore, borrow your child’s activity book or find a picture to print through a ‘Google Images‘ search.
6.Communicate with pictures. Visualise your how you feel and what it’s like to live with your illness and paint or draw it.
7. Experiment! Go crazy, painting, sketching and blending with different mediums. Most variety shops sell (oil, soft and hard) pastels, charcoal, (acrylic, watercolour and oil) paint and canvas pads. Experimenting is fun and can be a great distraction. On bad days I’ve been known to see how many shades of black, white and grey I can mix into one picture. When I’m feeling a bit more optimistic, I’ll play with colour.
8. I’m an awful drawer, but sometimes it’s fun to sketch. My favourite is creating stick-figure comics.
9. Too scared to try karaoke? You can now download karaoke apps onto your phone or tablet to take ‘singing in the shower’ to the next level.
10. Pick up the musical instrument you haven’t played in years. We all have a recorder hidden at the back of our wardrobe. My preference is the guitar – after 10 years I still can’t read music.
11. Write a song to share what it’s like having your illness and encourage others.
12. Don’t have a musical bone in your body? Try changing the lyrics to a song or nursery rhyme.
13. Create playlists for every occasion: to relax, feel like singing, angst, fight songs, etc.
14. Make up an interpretive dance – I can never go past Vanessa Carlton’s 1000 Miles.
15. Write a short story.
16. Create a character you can relate to and write a monologue, one-act play, radio script or a short film to explore and communicate the characters journey.
17. Start a journal/diary, blogging or (and you don’t have to edit and publish it for the world to see, but if you have a laptop with a webcam) a video journal.
19.Write a letter to yourself.
20. Turn statistics, research and (accurate) medical information into an infographic.
21. Put on an apron and be a MasterChef by cooking your favourite cuisine or experimenting with a classic dish.
22. Create the next ‘Paralympic Sport’ – if there is a physical activity/sport you love, but can no longer play it due to your illness, come up with an adaptation that fits your physical
23. Knit! You can never have too many scarves, beanies or comfort blankets. This beautifully adorable yellow teddy was made by Lee Miller.
24. Give your alter ego life and make a (sock) puppet.
25. If you’re a gamer and can code, create a game related to your illness – I dream of playing an arcade game called “The Angry Uterus.”
26. Design a personal tattoo (which is in no way a commitment to get a tattoo).
27. Make some (awareness) jewellery.
28. Design a t-shirt and wear your message. You can never have too many awareness t-shirts! (Although my mother would disagree.)
29. Get pretty and expressive, experimenting with makeup and nail art. This fantastic body art is by Kiley Inman.
30. Download a meme generator and amuse yourself.
If you can afford it, pick a hobby/skill and invest in some lessons. I’ve chosen to prioritise a half an hour singing lesson every two weeks into my budget. I then record the lesson so I can continue to practice between classes. It is both empowering and encouraging to see the progress/development of that still over time.
Ask others to get involved; sometimes it’s nice just to relax with a friend and have fun together. Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. I’ve also had friends with artistic talent sit down and teach me for no cost.
The most important thing to remember is not to be a perfectionist. It’s not about the finished product; it’s about engaging with your illness, disease or disability in a creative way. Short-term, being creative will help you relax, decrease tension and give you another way to communicate. The long-term benefits of developing this habit is often insight, acceptance and healing.
I’d love to hear from you!
Do you have anything to share?
Do you have anything to add the list?
Have you noticed the benefits of engaging creatively with your illness?
Spent today celebrating 12 months since pain clinic with this beautiful boy! His little smile and big character stole my heart #clucky
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