PLEASE NOTE: In this blog post I will be talking about a health condition that might make people feel uncomfortable. If you start reading and find yourself getting a bit triggered by this, please stop reading. Go check out one of my posts on books or morning routines, make yourself a cup of tea. As always, self-care is paramount.
My funny little realisation recently that I wanted to use my writing to help people - and particularly help people dealing with health problems - led me to start thinking about how I could do this. And something has happened to me twice (maybe three times) this year (already) that I don't talk to other people about.
It is an infection that I get with some regularity, despite my best attempts to avoid it. Every time I turn up to the doctor with this one, they tell me the same things (which I always follow to the letter), but apologise for not being able to offer more assistance. I had a brief respite from any symptoms of this infection when I was seeing my naturopath - but sometimes even the things she gave me to help don't seem to touch it.
What I'm talking about is an infection called Cystitis - a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
I am sure to people that have not experienced any sort of UTI, this small thing might not sound too bad. For some, it actually isn't - people don't often experience all the same symptoms with this one, and can just go to the doctor with some minor back pain or exhaustion and find that a script of antibiotics clears them right up.
I've never been one of those people. I started getting cystitis back in 2009, though I do have some vague memories of getting something like it when I was a kid, and having my mum take care of me and help me get through it. Whenever I get cystitis now (and it is unfortunately quite frequently), it starts with a burning sensation when I go to the bathroom. A burning sensation that gets steadily worse as time goes on, even if I am drinking lots of water, trying to flush out the offending germs.
Then I get pain in my lower abdomen, aching and yet severe. By this point I have usually heated up a heat pack or two - one to sit on, one to go on my tummy - to try and relieve the pain. Sometimes it helps. In some more vicious versions of the infection, it helps only a tiny bit. I often find myself rocking backwards and forwards, trying desperately to remember that I am a happy person. I am in so much pain and discomfort by this point - pain and discomfort that I can't escape - that I am usually very close to tears. I often want to go to the bathroom desperately, but fear the pain of actually going.
If things have gotten to this point (sometimes I will just have a few symptoms but they go away with some care), I will go to the doctor and do the urine test and all of that stuff (more on that if requested, as I know some people have never had a UTI [this baffles me] and don't know what I mean). Sometimes the test will say I am okay, which is frustrating, but my doctors are ones that understand my case specifically and so we will talk through options. I have to be careful, as I am allergic to some antibiotics for UTIs, so I have to go on a different one to those - and I don't want to take it so much that I become immune to it, you know?
Writing about this is so hard, because it brings up a lot of pain and discomfort just as a topic. Many people I have seen about this problem say that cystitis comes up a lot for women that are unhappy in their relationships, or women that are holding a lot of anger inside. And yes, as one of my recent posts will attest, I do get angry sometimes, but it rarely correlates with when I get sick from a UTI. But I am not unhappy in my relationship, and it is frustrating to me when the same people continue to ask that about me when I just want them to find another reason why I get this so often, rather than just focusing in on the one they know.
If you experience cystitis, or interstitial cystitis (where the symptoms present themselves over and over again, with rarely a break) then I really really feel for you. I am so so sorry. This is one of those things I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy (even if I was really really mad), and I know some people that have had to go to hospital when this infection spreads to the kidneys - luckily I have never had that experience as my body is so sensitive I tend to pick up on symptoms straightaway.
I realise that this post is a bit convoluted and doesn't make a lot of sense, but I feel so new to writing about this condition. I am not sure I will do it again, but I want people to know that they aren't alone in their experiences. Cystitis happens to so many people and yet we hardly talk about it. Most people don't know it exists. The only time I have ever seen it in 'the popular sphere' is in Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - she gets a UTI after having much sexy times. (Just to be clear, you don't always get UTIs after sexy times. They can come on for a multitude of reasons, and women with interstitial cystitis can just get it for no reason at all.)
As much as I want to start this conversation, I am still frightened. Frightened of what people might think of me, frightened of the illness itself. I think I have a long way to go to heal myself of this one.
Love to all who read.