Sunday 10 August 2014

Learning to Listen to Your Body: a rather candid story

My uterus is a badger. If you missed that post,
go read it. You won't regret it.
I started pelvic floor physio this week. You may be wondering, 'What the hell is pelvic floor physio?' and if you've ever been to a typical physiotherapy clinic, you're probably trying to picture what that would look like. Would there be people doing supervised kegels beside the guy with the bum knee who's stepping on and off that fake staircase? Women throwing medicine balls back and forth using nothing but their thighs and groin muscles? Well, maybe that's just my imagination. Nevermind.

It's nothing like that, of course. It's private, for one; a small, quiet exam room and a typical medical bed. There are a hundred reasons for pelvic floor physio for both men and women: tailbone pain, groin pain, injury or surgery recovery, post natal scary stuff, trauma name it. My reason is tied to my endometriosis, which I've talked about before, but in a nutshell I'll just say that my body has learned that life=pain, so my insides are in a constant charlie horse and we're teaching it to relax.

Naturally, the best way to teach your body to relax is to enter an exam room and take off your pants, right?

I'm sharing this rather personal story because this is a therapy that I've put off for years, figuring that it would be uncomfortable and awkward and possibly painful. Occasionally though, I like to share an anecdote in the hopes that it'll help other people to be brave. Well, this is for you would-be brave people.


My therapist has pink hair and is about my age. She made me laugh almost right away, and more importantly, she laughed at all my jokes. This is the first step to making Jordan feel totally relaxed. I felt like this was someone who would totally 'get' my lady garden experience, unlike so many old men gynecologists who looked pale if I mentioned words like "labia" or "cervical mucus"; I swear, some doctors really seem more comfortable when women just use words like "down there" and "inside area".


She then asked me a bunch of medical questions, which I usually find stressful. But the cool thing was that a lot of these questions were ones I'd never been asked before; they were relevant to me and my symptoms. Some of these symptoms were things that other doctors had shrugged off long ago. For instance, did you know that if your insides are really really cramped up, you can experience nerve-like tingling in your thighs? Well, I know that now--and consequently, my odd tingling thighs are no longer a medical mystery. Unless you've experienced enigmatic medical symptoms, I don't think you can fully appreciate the overwhelming joy that comes from hearing someone tell you they understand why you feel that symptom, and how it works. The reassurance this gave me served to relax me further as I felt like I'd finally found somewhere that could help me.


The next step was an exam, and this meant taking off my lower-half clothing and exposing my lady parts. Male and female readers alike are probably used to exams by doctors that typically take about nine seconds: the doctor comes in, puts on a glove, pokes at an orifice, then pirouettes away from you like they're about to sneeze. I always thought the wham-bam-thank you-ma'am approach was best; I certainly have never desired to have any of my doctors lingering around down there. No, not even the cute ones, because no one looks good in flourescent lights and that includes my underparts, god love her.

Well, there's no zipping in and out in this physio exam. My therapist had me lay back on the table and asked me if I was anxious. I was. She said, "Okay, no problem. We'll just sit here 'til you get bored." And she did. She just sat calmly between my knees, quietly waiting. I felt like my therapist and my vajayjay were silently communing with one another. Vajayjay, meet Therapist. Therapist, meet Vajayjay. I pictured them both just staring at each other. I, myself, felt like an awkward third wheel: a bystander who is keenly aware of a nonverbal exchange happening between two other people. I almost started whistling tunelessly and staring at the ceiling.

Even Wonderwoman isn't on pointe
every minute of every day.
The approach worked, though. My therapist stopped and quietly waited anytime my body got tense. What takes most gynos a brisk ten seconds took us about twenty minutes. It was unnerving and wonderful at the same time. Instead of being more uncomfortable, this extended exam was the least painful thing I've ever experienced at a doctor's office. I've had more discomfort from a tongue depressor while checking for strep throat.


The whole thing reminded me that we all need to have patience with our bodies. We're not all Nike commercial athletes, with muscles that spring into perfect coordinated action with the shot of a starter pistol. Hell, even the Nike athletes' bodies aren't like that all the time. Our bodies aren't always up for stress, or sex, or running, or gardening, or handling that meatlover's pizza. Our bodies, inside and out, need to be listened to, and given patience. It reminded me most especially that sometimes I push my body way too hard, on way too little TLC. And what was amazing was that, here in this little room with a pink-haired stranger calmly waiting for my body to make up its own mind, it may have been the first occasion where I ever gave my body time to be itself in its own time.

It was a surreal way to be taught a lesson in mindfulness. Proof that one never knows where one's next revelation will stem from--even making a new acquaintance for your cootch could be a moment of epiphany. At least, in my world it can be.

1 comment:

  1. It would seem modern medicine has little patience for respect toward the human condition.


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