A year of gratitude

a year of gratitude - when sex hurts there is hopeI should probably begin by explaining what 2014 was for me. When everyone was preparing to ring in the New Year at the end of 2013, I was reflecting on all that had happened and what a shift in my life had occurred in just one short year. I think the 13 in 2013 was rather appropriate considering it held some of the worst moments of my life. And with the end of my marriage also came an end to my life’s plans and expectations as I had once held them. No more did I see a future centered around a marriage and kids. So what did I now see? Instead of making a list of resolutions for the New Year I knelt down beside my bed at the stroke of midnight and prayed that 2014 would be a year full of new beginnings.

1 John 5:14 says “…if we ask anything in His name He hears us.” Well God certainly heard me and filled my year with a multitude of new beginnings. Continue reading

Being comfortable with your doctor

I have learned just how important it is to be comfortable with your doctor. I think we all want to have a doctor that we are comfortable with, but we often don’t put it high enough on our requirements list. We focus on their knowledge and experience, maybe the convenience of their office location and whether or not they accept our health insurance. While all of those are important considerations, I believe that being able to connect personally with your doctor is just as important. I’m not saying you need to be best friends or go out for coffee after your appointment. What I am saying is your doctor needs to listen to you, and you need to feel heard when you speak to him or her. Your doctor needs to be able to empathize with you and not discount your feelings or jump to a diagnosis without fully exploring your experiences. Your doctor should never make you feel stupid, ashamed, or uncomfortable in any way.

comfortable with your doctor - when sex hurts there is hopeBeing comfortable with your doctor is especially important when dealing with something as personal as sexual pain. I may be worse than most, but I think all of us have some degree of discomfort in discussing intimate topics. We keep them guarded and typically discuss only with those we trust—that is precisely why they are called intimate! Thus you need to feel comfortable to be able to explain all of the details of your pain, including exactly where it hurts and when Continue reading

All things, even the bad things

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NRSV)

We have all heard it, we’ve probably all said it (I know I have)—everything happens for a reason. And while I do believe that many things in our lives happen for a reason, this statement in its entirety is not actually true. Bad things happen, sometimes for no reason at all. I suffer from pelvic pain and painful sex, and I am still healing from the emotional devastation of a divorce, but it doesn’t mean there was a reason that these bad things happened to me.

all things work together for good - when sex hurts there is hope

Everything may not happen for a reason, but God does make all things work together for good. Even the bad things.

Pelvic and sexual pain definitely fall into my “bad things” category. Living with any type of pain, especially chronic pain, can be debilitating. But pelvic pain has the ability to go beyond any other kind in its effects on your life. It is a pain that you hide, that others can’t understand. The emotional pain goes deep and the psychological damage is not easily repaired. Painful sex not only causes broken relationships, but broken individuals—broken to the core of who we are. I have been broken, I have felt the pain of hopelessness and emptiness. In all honesty it was the emotional pain that came at the end of my marriage—loaded down with years of carrying the burden of my sexual pain—that hurt the worst. Continue reading

Share your struggles (part 2)

I described in an earlier post about how important it is to share your struggles. I made the mistake of not sharing my struggles at the beginning of my pain journey and instead kept the physical and emotional brokenness inside. This resulted in me carrying a weight that was too much to bear, and left me disconnected from those around me. Fortunately, I learned from this mistake by the time I was faced with something even bigger than painful sex. I was able to share my struggles with friends and family who supported me through the most difficult time in my life.share your struggles - when sex hurts there is hope

When my marriage started crumbling around me I made a decision to reach out in honesty and authenticity to those closest to me. I didn’t hold anything back—I didn’t try to hide the full extent of the pain or downplay the effects it was having on me. I was blessed to have people who cared enough about me to listen and share in my suffering. Continue reading

It’s not your fault

It's not your fault - when sex hurts there is hopeLiving with a disorder that causes painful sex can wreak havoc on your marriage and, as an extension, your life. It is easy to fall into negative thinking and to feel like it is your fault, at least it was for me.

Sex was always an issue in our marriage, and it seemed like it was the cause of all our problems. The sex issue caused arguments and created feelings of loneliness, dissatisfaction and alienation from each other. Even on the days when we were seemingly fighting about a completely unrelated issue, it always had a tendency to go back to the problem of sex (or at least it always did in my mind). Continue reading

Don’t give up

If you are still searching for a correct diagnosis, or waiting for treatments to work their healing effects, I want to encourage you to keep searching and keep working. I know how discouraging it is to go from doctor to doctor trying to find out what is causing painful sex. I went three years, through six different doctors and multiple tests and treatments before finally getting a correct diagnosis of hypertonic pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Then, after two years of physical therapy I went through a couple more doctors to address the pain issues stemming from unbalanced hormones. During that first searching process I actually did give up at one point. But, the pain kept coming so I had to keep going.

It takes courage to not give up when doctor after doctor tells you they don’t know what is wrong. Draw that courage from wherever you can. don't give up - when sex hurts there is hopeMaybe it is from the countless others who have dealt with and overcome similar pain issues.* Or perhaps by connecting with those who have overcome other types of obstacles. Maybe you can draw courage from your spouse and the hope of what can be on the other side of healing. For me, I was able to draw courage from my faith.  Knowing that God was with me helped give me courage to keep trying. Continue reading

Picking up the broken pieces (this is my story…part 7)

The difference is truly night and day from where I started, but I am still not normal.  It takes effort and extra care, but a healthy sex life is possible.  I continue to see my physical therapist once a month and do as much as I can on my own to keep my muscles healthy.  Pain-free sex does not come easily.  Even though I have found the right diagnoses and gone through years of treatment towards healing, sex can still cause much pain.  This brings me to the last and most important piece to finding healing when sex hurts—a spouse that is loving, supportive, flexible, understanding, patient, and so many other things.

Unfortunately for me, this last piece was too broken to put back together.  By our six year anniversary it became clear that the road to healing had been too long and too hard, and too damaging to our relationship.  A period of hurt and heartache came next, ultimately ending in divorce.*

But there is hope…

I can honestly say that I am a transformed person.  This has been quite a journey and I have learned so much throughout it.  God has been with me every step of the way—seeing me through the struggles, the hopelessness, the heartache, and the healing.  Although I can’t say I would ever choose to deal with the realities that come when sex hurts, I can see all of the good in my life because of it.  My journey is not over and I know there is still more healing to come.  But, I want to take this time now to share with all of you—lessons I have learned, experiences I have had, struggles I have overcome, and the amazing truth that when sex hurts there is hope!

*The psychological pain of a broken heart and a failed marriage is a completely different type of pain which also has far-reaching effects on every aspect of your life.  Likewise, the healing process takes time and effort.  I will share more in later posts about the importance of having a strong relationship with God, supportive friends and family, and a therapist you can trust.