Snarkeling

Just beneath the surface of normal

I Deserve A Fucking Nobel Peace Prize

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This is Part II of my series on my exciting adventure getting treatment for my pelvic floor disorders (Part I is here). I’m talking in embarrassing depth (pardon the pun) about my vagina in hopes that other people who have lived with stress incontinence might also learn that it’s treatable. Even though I’ve talked about it for years, I’ve never been referred for help. My own primary care physician had never even heard of Uro-gynecology. I am coming to believe that in this age of advanced medicine, being able to control your bodily functions is a human right, and the awareness of these problems need to grow. These are not first world problems; they are global problems. Talking about your troubles with elimination are still a taboo here, even if they don’t render you a homeless outcast in places without modern sanitation. I talk about this even though I was terrified of being shunned for doing so. The positive reception I’ve gotten so far has been a huge relief and I am deeply grateful that you continue to read through vulnerable and uncomfortable material.

So. Physical therapy: not the same for your vagina as for your knee surgery, it turns out.

My daughter goes to PT to rebalance the muscles in her back because of scoliosis, so since it’s a good office and I know them, I may have casually asked her therapist if he treated pelvic floor disorders. He actually blushed at me in a mortified sort of way, as though he’d never really considered that I might have a vagina before, and told me no, he didn’t do that sort of thing. I’m pretty sure he thought I was propositioning him.

My Uro-Gynecologist recommended someone to me, and I had my first appointment with her on Monday. When she led me into a private therapy room, I began to realize that this was not going to be the usual series of squats and lunges and balancing exercises. In getting her up to speed, I rehashed the whole billboard story from Part I and her response was only slightly less surprising, in that she’s going to suggest this idea to everyone she knows to bring awareness to the specialty. I figure this blog series is just doing my part. I’m like Lady Di or Nelson Mandela with my awareness raising over here.

My PT’s hands shook a lot, and I wasn’t really sure what to make of that. Was she nervous? If so, was it because I was making her uncomfortable, or because she’s still getting the hang of this whole hanging with vaginas all day thing, or was it because it’s kind of awkward for her too? Did she have Parkinsons, or just too much caffeine this morning? My friend Susie thinks it was probably just Essential Tremor Disorder, because she has it too, but that’s boring, so I’m choosing Heroin withdrawal. Unless she reads this and she’s offended by that, in which case I AM SO SORRY that I just called out your tremors on the Internet AND attributed them to illicit drug use. Please don’t stop fixing me.

Anyway.

First she had me resist against her pushing on my legs in various places, which got me all calm and complacent, and I started to think that maybe it was a private room because it’s nice not to have to talk about your vagina in a room full of people. Then she handed me a gown and left the room.

When she came back, she snapped on gloves, put bolsters under my knees (because they’re more friendly than stirrups), did a few more resistance tests, and had to teach me how to use my transverse abdominals. Now, I go to the gym several times a week AND I was a massage therapist, so I know my way around anatomy pretty well. But when we hit the part about the pelvic floor muscles, we kind of glossed over them because it was a Catholic program and we weren’t that sort of massage therapist. The only muscle I remember is levator ani, and only because it’s funny to say and it makes your butthole work. So it was news to me that the pelvic floor is the bottom of a muscular cylinder that works like a piston, and your transverse abdominals (the things you tighten when you do Pilates) are the sides. It also would seem that I’ve been doing Pilates wrong since day one, which would explain why I fucking hate them so fucking much, you have no idea. So we had to try like half a dozen times before I figured out how to make the muscles in my stomach do what she was asking of me. My muscles have a private line with my brain; you’d think it wouldn’t be so hard for me to make them do what I want by thinking about them. You would be wrong. My brain needs a Red Phone.

But then, just when I was starting to recover from the indignity of having a disobedient abdomen, she put a finger into my vagina and asked me to squeeze. Then she started testing the places where my hip muscles attach, from the inside.  We definitely never covered that technique in massage school. It was at this point that I realized why my daughter’s physical therapist had blushed at me, and I realized with horror that I was going to have to see him the next day.

So, when you find yourself in a room with a stranger who has a finger inserted into your vagina for quite a number of minutes, you find that you don’t really want them to be a stranger so much, and you have to make small talk – which is surprisingly awkward under the circumstances. But I asked what I like to believe anyone would ask when they meet a professional who has decided to spend her days dealing with broken lady bits: “so, how did you you come to decide you wanted to deal with vaginas all day?”

She explained that she used to do home care PT, and that she worked with a lot of old ladies who, after several sessions doing PT for other reasons, reported to her that they were no longer getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or having leakage. Which immediately put me in mind of her doing what she was doing with me to little old ladies (on the bright side, my grandmother isn’t incontinent, so my mind didn’t wander down that particular nightmare road of no return). So she got trained in pelvic floor disorders and the rest is history, presumably with wider age ranges. Though since I’ve only just discovered this magical world of vagina specialties, it’s entirely possible that there’s a geriatric pelvic floor sub-specialization. I no longer put anything past medical science.

We also talked about our daughters and other random things, and on that level it was very much like going to the salon. If the salon asked you to take off your pants and put your knees on bolsters, that is. I guess if you get a Brazilian wax, they probably do. I wouldn’t know – I only occasionally even manage to keep on top of shaving my legs.

If I thought making my stomach do what I wanted was hard, it was nothing compared to making my pelvic floor work. Evidently I have really codependent muscles, which is not surprising since the rest of me doesn’t exactly know how to mind its own business, either. But every time I tried to squeeze my pelvic floor, my hip muscles, or other abdominals, or my legs, or my neck, or something having nothing to do with my pelvic floor would try to rush in and save the day. And I would have to try again. I was somehow supposed to hold this for 10 seconds, which I don’t think I did even once. And I was somehow supposed to be BREATHING during all of this, which was so very not happening – there are only so many things I can do at one time. I have never, ever, been so exhausted from lying on my back trying not to move.

In the middle of all this, someone started using the pulley attached to the outside of the door for their non-vaginal PT regimen. So there I am, lying on a table half-naked, squeezing a stranger’s finger, listening to the door going “zip…zip…zip…zip...” and wondering if the person using the pulley could even begin to imagine was was going on on the other side of that thin piece of wood. And my brain – because this is what it does – made a beeline the worst case scenario: “do you ever have to leave the room when somebody is using that thing and the person is lying on this table with nothing on but a sheet? Because that would be really awkward.” As I write this, I realize that this is only the second-worst case scenario. The worst case would actually be if the pulley made the door pop open, exposing to the entire PT room the scene of someone lying under a sheet in the middle of one of those awful squeezing exercises.

She assured me that the former almost never happens. I’ll have to follow up on the latter next time, when evidently we will be delving into the exciting world of putting little sensors in my vagina for biofeedback. Yes. Really.

I know this whole thing sounds pretty mortifying, and at least some of you are probably wondering why I would put myself through this AND THEN talk about it in public. But the truth is, I’m beyond excited. I would love to have a world without “achoo, DAMMIT!” and weird pelvic traffic jams, and the notion that this could all be sorted out in 6-8 weeks sounds almost too good to be true. If this is really going to be – as it appears – a thing that changes my life, I want to share it. I would love to be personally responsible for a collapse in the panty-liner-industrial-complex.

In other news, on Tuesday I apologized to my daughter’s PT for asking him about the pelvic floor thing because I had no idea what I was asking him to do. He was very gracious about it. Which is good, because I didn’t want to have to find her a new one. It is, however, noteworthy that they’ve moved her warm-ups from the exercise bike next to her therapy table and into another room to walk on the treadmill. They set me up on the treadmill next to her and we had a really lovely walk-and-talk, which I’m sure was less the point than a way for them to keep me out of the therapy room for 10 minutes so I wouldn’t say anything that would horrify the other patients, many of whom were little old ladies who I will never look the same at, ever again.

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3 thoughts on “I Deserve A Fucking Nobel Peace Prize

  1. Okay, seriously? Parts I AND II had me both laughing and saying, “oh god, NO!” out loud, at the same time. Hilarious reads, and informative, to boot. Brilliant.

  2. I am loving these posts, not only for the laugh out loud parts (which have made me laugh so hard I cried), but for the “public awareness” aspect too. Thank you!!!!!

  3. you ARE my shero, sweetie. I want to make only one parenthetical remark about your grandma (you dont have to post this this comment because you review them all, right?). and subsequently yo momma. incontinence? oh yes. oh very yes. you think a 90 year old who works the machines at the fitness center 3 times a week is going to discuss her night time rituals unless she has to (i’m there one night a week, I get to see EVERYTHING. ) Its hard on her but i doubt she would let somebody teach her to squeeze a finger in physical therapy. Remember, this is the midwest…oh, yeah, the sign was in Wisconsin…hmm. but having witnessed grandma’s nightly ritual of Depends into which she inserts a maximum absorption maxi pad, both of which are completely soaked almost most nightly, i’m not adverse to it. i will check it out after i learn why my doc referred me to a neurosurgeon after seeing the full set of spinal X-rays I asked for because medicare does not pay for radiology visits ordered by a chiropractor. I just wanted to see a DC in Lake Geneva my friend Susan raves about. Medicare pays for chiropractic adjustments only. Not the intake, not the X-rays. Now I’m going to see a neurosurgeon to assess the extent of the arthritis in my back.
    OKAY, I LIED about just one remark. And yes, somehow I managed to turn the spotlight on myself. Damn. OK. , WHEN we talk I want you to focus on the outcome of the biopsy. And what’s next for you. love you. mom

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