Twenty years ago when I had a bout with cervical dsyplasia not much was known about its cause - it just sort of happened. Now we know the cause and sometimes that diagnosis seems hard to deal with. While I do not argue with the diagnosis of HPV being a very good diagnostic tool and an alert to stay diligent with PAPs, I do find the emotional part of the diagnosis difficult.
So, here I am again, going through it again. Twenty years ago it was a medical problem to be dealt with - scary for sure, but not something to feel bad about emotionally. Now it feels so different. It sometimes feels bad, dirty, shameful, and ugly. Certainly not things I want to think of myself as being. I am not suggesting that my doctor has made me feel this way, still the stigma is hard for me to shake. I wonder when and how. I feel bad about myself sexually and that should not be something we as women should have to carry around.
Sexuality is a normal, healthy part of our lives. It should not be something we fear or are ashamed of. How many of us are left feeling that we have done something wrong? How many of us feel alone with that? How many of us worry about what other people will think? How many of us find it very difficult to believe that something so life enriching as sex can lead us to this?
I have read these things hinted at on this board. Maybe as well as dealing with the physical, it is important to deal with the emotional. Quite possibly it is important to support each other with feelings, not just tests and procedures. I am not suggesting that many have not done that. Only that when we can admit out loud those feelings and rally around one another that the true healing can begin.
Most interested to hear your thoughts and feelings.
Maybe as well as dealing with the physical, it is important to deal with the emotional. Quite possibly it is important to support each other with feelings, not just tests and procedures.
Thank you for starting this thread!
The physical is something that is fairly easy to talk about (especially after a while) - HPV, viruses, lesions, exams, even the cancer diagnosis. But the emotional and mental parts of the cancer (and its cause - HPV) is difficult. There is no one to blame, even though it is something we each got from someone else. And it is entirely possible that we have passed this along to someone else (who has passed it along to someone else). Horrible.
I have been very careful in not discussing this topic, which you pose, because there is a deep, dark well of emotions. But maybe it is time to talk about it . . .
Last edited by Pickle Eyes; 03-01-2009 at 06:15 PM.
I often feel ashamed about this HPV stuff also. There's very little I could have done to present this....There is no test for men so how is one to know if a partner has it?. I know one thing for sure though, there is nothing to be actually ashamed about for any of us. No one asked for this to happen, but the knowledge we have been given about HPV and it's effects can be taken as a gift .
Knowledge is power and if we can tell, sisters,friends and like me complete strangers that pap smears are important and pass that knowledge along, we may just be saving a life!. I prefer to believe that God doesnt put us on a path we were not meant to walk...
Last edited by JessicainCanada; 03-01-2009 at 06:23 PM.
I read this article on how women who don't know that much about HPV freak out when they find out they have it. But if they are educated about HPV, they don't freak out because they know it's normal and unavoidable.
I think I felt some shame about it . . . for about a day. Really, my boyfriend's comment said it all. When I told him I had HPV he said, "You and everybody else"
I felt really guilty, like I had done this to myself. I told my boyfriend that I was never having sex again. He pointed out that I did not do this on purpose, and there's no way to avoid it (even complete abstinence).
He also pointed out that saying the sentece, "I probably have HPV" is the exact same as saying "I have had sex before."
OMG, I am not a virgin! I think most people probably could have guessed that. In fact I think most people would have guessed I wasn't a virgin when I was 20-21-22-23-24-25 and I really was!
What frustrates me the most is the lack of a test for men. (Well, there actually is one, but men never get it and it's not very accurate, so I hear.) It makes this into such a feminist issue. The message to women is "If you don't want pieces of your cervix cut off, don't EVER have sex."
The winning comment of the day for me went to what I blurted out to my hubby not more than a few minutes ago.
"You do realize my ob/gyn has seen me more times "down there" than you have since the beginning of the year, right?"
It was the realization to me that even after getting all my ducks in a row (or at least THINKING I had my ducks in a row), and mentally and emotionally gripping the proverbial bull by the horns - I am still one weak individual.
No matter how proud I am of the personal achievements I've made both mentally and emotionally (ladies if you've only knew how far I've come), this is one where I can say I am sorely lacking. I've beaten myself up, dragged myself through the mud, felt dirty, felt ashamed, felt alone, and all for what?
Despite knowing and despite reading and understanding and grasping everything I could about HPV and cervical abnormalities, sitting there staring back at me in the mirror is an individual who remains disconnected from intimacy and feeling (for lack of a better terms) "un-sexy", feeling less desirable, feeling ... well feeling rather bloody lacking in the "woman" dept.
The problem is , for me, right now, it is NOT OK. You are right - sexuality is a normal healthy part of our lives, yet slap a label on the cause of the abnormalities (HPV) and the next thing ya' know, I carry my own personal scarlet letter. Thank you, Mr. Hawthorne!
Despite all that I know, all the research, everything - why do I carry so much guilt and shame? Is it necessary for me to drag out this degree of self punishment? Is it my fault?
glowing - thank you for the posting this topic. It is one that while I haven't been avoiding, I found that as I thought about it over the last few days it is in fact my weakest link. To truly put it in perspective for me, it is my own personal demon.
How did you all break through the stigma and the darkness?
I just decided Lovebug that like you have said in different words , that THIS is my life like it or not. I made a conscious decision that I WILL NOT love my vagina less for it's taking on HPV and letting it set up shop in my lady bits, and we did not ask for this!....I like sex and I love my husband I wont feel like less of a woman (on my good days), for having this...
I had a rough couple of weeks, with the flu a cold and a sciatica and found myself thinking about negative stuff and then we went out for a beautiful snowmobile ride and I started yelling (its quiet behind a helmet and no one can hear me over the roar of the engine! ), that fear will NOT own me and this is MY life thank you very much....Been better ever since.......
I have my good days n my bad ones, but I am sure thankful beyond words to have you guys if I need to rant about HPV that no one else seems to understand...
I took a huge step forward before I knew I had HPV, actually.
I grew up in a very conservative household. I didn't see my parents being very affectionate. They might hold hands every now and then, and maybe a hug or a peck on the lips. That's it. Mom doesn't like "that tongue kissing," so one can imagine the other things she can't fathom or enjoy. <sigh>
Within a year or so before my HPV diagnosis, I realized that it is good and appropriate for my husband and me to have as much fun as we like. We are married. I know that sounds really weird to read/hear, but I've had the "sex is a duty" type mentality drilled into my head for decades. I had to realize that married intercourse is a beautiful, life-giving (not just because it can create new life - it can create and enhance life of the living - hubby and me).
Anyway, that started before THE diagnosis. We went through a month or so where there was less contact and when we did we were careful (like we were afraid we'd reinfect each other - even though we knew that wasn't the case).
I had to keep telling myself that I love him and he loves me. Making love is part of that love and even with HPV it is important to express the love physically. I felt dirty and guilty (even though I may not have been the one who brought this strain of HPV to the relationship). I just went ahead and focused on the fact that he wanted to be that close to me, that I should remove my "head" and my guilt-thoughts from the experience and just enjoy my husband.
I don't know if this is making sense. What I am saying is that I "got past" those feelings of guilt by just telling myself to allow my husband to love me, physically. Eventually, I got past (for the most part) those feelings, too.
In times of great stress, and this has certainly been one of them, I turn to many of the spiritual, emotional, and psychological writers and healers of our time. I go back to the many books that I have and read and digest. And, always I turn to my husband's common sense advice and counsel.
Currently I am reading again Louise Hay's, "You Can Heal Your Life". She talks about loving oneself, and embracing oneself, and yes, forgiving oneself. She also talks about embracing our sexuality and appreciating that part of us. In the same way we don't reject our eyes for seeing, we should not reject our sexual parts for feeling and enjoying. Embracing myself, and yes, my sexuality has helped a great deal.
I agree luvbug that those feelings of wearing a "scarlet letter" can be quite real and daunting. But, we must examine that intelligently rather than emotionally. Mr. Hawthorne's book dealt in a time long ago. Who among us would do that to a woman today simply for having sex before marriage? Likewise, who among us would do that to a woman for feeling and experiencing her sexuality in today's world? I rather doubt that any of us are sitting in judgement of the people on this board. Is it not unhealthy and even cruel to do that to ourselves?
Life has risks everywhere - not just with our sexual selves. Do we refuse to drive because we might have an accident? Do we refuse to swim in the ocean for fear of drowning? Do we refuse to take a beautiful walk for fear of getting lost? Why then should we live in fear of an act that can bring such joy and closeness. Just a few days ago I sprained my foot. Do I then choose not to walk again?
Yes, we contacted HPV and yes, it is difficult to adjust to and live with. But, we can either choose to stay stuck in that or we can embrace, love, and comfort ourselves. We can try as best we can to "let go" of the "bad girl" and enjoy who we really are. We are not wrong, bad, evil, or any other awful word. We are women. Should we continue to label ourselves any differently? Would we do this to ourselves if we caught the common cold from kissing someone who had a cold?
Society places a great deal of rules on us. I am not suggesting all of those are wrong and many very necessary for living in a civilized world. But, I do believe that women must stop carrying so many burdens. How often do you hear that maybe breast cancer came from taking hormones, or that osteoporosis came from not taking enough calcium, or that heart disease could have been prevented by working out more? Guilt is everywhere and why should we feel that guilt for being human, for just trying to live, for often doing the best we can? Maybe it is time for women to appreciate themselves, their souls, and their bodies in a new way. Maybe it is time to stop blaming ourselves and to start living rich, full, and yes sexual lives.
It takes hard work and many days of sifting through. It takes really looking at ourselves and our lives. It takes letting go of the past and moving forward. And I really do belive that in order to heal the body we need to heal our emotional selves as well. That does not mean being harsh with ourselves. It means being gentle, understanding, and compassionate with ourselves. I have seen so much giving and caring on this board. BUT, how often do we give it to ourselves? Is it not time? Talk to yourself the same way you would lovingly talk to a very good friend.
I have been through all the feelings and at times am still stuck there, but I am learning to let go, I am learning to appreciate myself and my life, and I am realizing that yes, I am a good person and that HPV should not define me in any way. Let go of society's stigmas, stop worrying about what other people might think, and live again. Not easy, I know, but well worth the fight.
Wow- I'm so glad you posted this thread. The guilt & shame is very real for me.
Brief history- I'm 37- first abnormal pap 18 yrs ago w/colposcopy. Nothing found, no further treatment.
I didn't consider myself promiscuous- but looking back now would have made much better choices. There's proof that our brains aren't fully mature till we're in our 20's!
Fast forward- Been happily married for over 15 yrs. Love my man to pieces. Three great kids.
Always had yearly paps. Normal pap 4/07 - then abnormal pap. 2 colposcopy's followed. Told it was CIN 2, HGSIL. Leep just this past Monday 3/16. Healing fine, but PMS now. Not good.
After reading this thread, I've had my first real cry. Maybe I was due. I haven't told my husband that this this all started from a virus, and STD. I just said that it could lead to cancer if not taken care of. He knows that paps test for cancer. I didn't even understand that HPV had anything to do with it. I always thought that HPV caused warts, and I've never had warts.
The LEEP itself was not so bad for the most part. BUT- I just happen to work at the hospital where I had it done. I didn't come across anyone I knew, but it was too close for any comfort and I felt like I had "dirty diagnosis" written all over me.
I'm so glad to hear that some of you have gotten over the shame/guilt. It's inspiring! Hopefully, when I'm not PMS'ing and not uncomfortable from the LEEP, I'll be able to move beyond this.