Leah shares the next step in her health care journey: hypermobility. And this one has even more wide-ranging implications than the endometriosis diagnosis that upended her world six months ago.
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LEAH: Hey. I have a quick request before we get started today. If you love this show and you haven’t yet left a rating and review, would you do that now? It would really help in terms of attracting new listeners to the show. You can also share this episode with a friend. And in fact, this one, I think some of you might know people who you’re like, “I definitely have to send this to Shelley,” because you’re going to recognize people. If not exactly yourself, you’re gonna recognize other people in it. So, please share this episode with a friend. Leave a rating and review. I appreciate you so much. Now, let’s get on with the show.
LEAH: Welcome to Good Girls Talk About Sex. I am sex and intimacy coach, Leah Carey. And this is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. These are unfiltered conversations between adult women talking about sex. If anything about the previous sentence offends you, turn back now! And if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going to get it from me. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have faith in your ability to deal with things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!
LEAH: Hey, friends. Thank you so much for your patience and understanding when I had to short-change the previous episode. There has been so much going on. I had to let some of the balls drop. But today, I’m here to pick up the balls and get back to juggling.
In today’s episode, I’m going to talk about some women’s health related stuff that I’ve been learning about, thanks to my own health journey. It’s astonishing to me that I’ve lived for almost 50 years in this body, and I’m just now beginning to learn how it works. But before we get there, I want to share a couple of really exciting developments in the Good Girls Talk About Sex world.
And one quick note because I just heard some loud banging. Apparently, the tenants moved out of the apartment above us. I didn’t actually know that until this morning when a crew showed up to start cleaning and renovations. This is the time I have scheduled for recording. So, I’m going to have to go ahead anyway. And hopefully, my mic won’t pick up too much of the noise. But if you hear weird stuff in the background, at least you’ll know what it is. Okay.
Let’s get to the good stuff. You know that as a sex and intimacy coach, my mission is all about fostering understanding and effective communication in relationships. That’s why I’m so excited to tell you that I’ve developed a fantastic new tool to help you do exactly that. And it incorporates my two great loves, sex and pop culture. It’s called The Sex and Relationship Alter Ego quiz. What I’ve created is a personality quiz that lets you choose the questions you most need answers to. And then, tada, you’re matched with a character from the world of television and movies who’s been through something similar. In other words, your alter ego.
And here’s where the magic happens. I really wanted to get this right. So, I haven’t just picked the most famous characters and tried to force narratives onto them. I wanted complex characters, not cartoonish tropes. So, I promise that the Sex and the City women don’t show up anywhere in this quiz. And Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe were never even considered as potential alter egos.
Instead, I chose the characters who, in my opinion, are excellent demonstrations of specific challenges. That means in addition to getting insight into yourself, you might just discover your next binge worthy watch through this quiz. And that means you may not be familiar with the character who pops up, but don’t fret. I’ve got you covered.
For each character, you’ll find a show trailer or other video and additional info to help you connect with them on a deeper level. And then, if you’re still hungry for more, there’s an option to get more insight directly in your inbox. These are brand-new exercises, checklists, decision trees, conversation guides, and more that I’ve developed specifically to go with this quiz. You’ll get background on how various issues might have developed and what shifts in thinking and behavior you can incorporate into your own life. So, if you’re already chafing to take the quiz, pause the episode and go to www.leahcarey.com/quiz. And that link is in the episode description of the app you’re listening on now.
Here’s why I think this combo of sex and relationship issues and pop culture figures is useful. It can be hard to examine our own thoughts and behaviors when we’re living right in the midst of them. They’re so ingrained, so second nature that it’s as if they’re the air we breathe. We hardly even notice them anymore.
But when we get a glimpse of someone else going through similar experiences, it opens up a whole new perspective. It’s like a door swinging wide open and letting in new light. By observing how others navigate similar terrain, we can gain insight into ourselves. And you’ve probably experienced this before, maybe even while listening to this podcast. It’s that aha moment when you’re watching or listening to something that you haven’t really thought was specifically related to you, and suddenly, you see yourself reflected back in a way that feels profoundly insightful. That’s the essence of what I’m aiming for with this process to offer you that enlightening mirror through the alter ego characters I’ve identified.
So, nobody is all one thing. So, I puzzled for quite a while over how to offer you a more three-dimensional portrait of yourself in terms of sex and relationships. And that’s when I discovered that I could give you your top 3 matches, not just your top 1 match. And that allows you to take bits and pieces from each to form a more authentic real life portrait of you.
And here’s a little secret. I’ve always been fascinated by how things work. So, when I take a quiz like this, I’m eager to explore all the possible outcomes. In fact, I might take a quiz five or even six times just to unlock different results. Now, I know that I am not the only nosy one here, so I’ve made it super easy for fellow curious souls like me. You’ll find links to view all the characters. No need to take the quiz a dozen times. Unless that’s your jam, in which case, please feel free.
So, if you’re ready to go on a journey where learning about relationships is both fun and tailored to your unique needs, head on over to www.leahcarey.com/quiz and meet your alter egos. That’s www.leahcarey.com/quiz. And that link is in the episode description in the app you’re listening on now.
LEAH: On to announcement number two. I am officially official. I’ve been thinking for a few years about trademarking the Good Girls Talk About Sex name so that this brand is protected. But it seemed like such a complicated and expensive project that I kept letting it fall to the bottom of the priority list. But then last summer in July 2022, I discovered that someone else had created a workshop using the same name. It didn’t look like she was trying to create a brand. It was no big deal. But it caught my attention as this is something that I should have on my radar.
I reached out to a few friends and a fellow Portland podcaster let me know about a local law firm that does trademark filing for a pretty reasonable flat fee. So, I decided to take the leap. And two days ago, I got the notice from the United States Patent and Trademark Office that as of October 10th, 2023, Good Girls Talk About Sex is officially trademarked after only something like 15 months of waiting.
So, at this point, I’m totally jazzed. And also, it’s been less than 48 hours, so I have no idea what the next thing is that I need to do with this. But I do know that I get to put a little R in a circle next to the name. And I’ve been playing around with ChatGPT a bit. So, I just asked if it could come up with a pun or silly wordplay around patents and trademarks to insert here. I’ll let you judge if you think it’s genuinely funny or just groan worthy. Why did the intimacy expert trademark their podcast title? Because they wanted to ensure that it was “patentially” satisfying for everyone involved.
LEAH: Do you wish your partner would touch you differently, but you’re not sure how to bring it up or what to say? I get it. Until a few years ago, I couldn’t imagine asking for anything I wanted. I thought I wasn’t allowed to have wants or needs. I thought good girls laid back and accepted what they got. I thought if I asked for something outside the regular repertoire, it would make my partner think that I was open for anything, And then, they’d start pressuring me for extreme things I definitely didn’t want.
I built it up in my head to the point that it was hard for me to communicate at all during sex. Instead, I played the dead fish game, laying on my back and waiting for it to be over. Even those times when someone said, “What do you want?” I was so used to not speaking. And I didn’t know how to ask for anything. And I was pretty sure that they wanted an answer that could be done for 30 seconds before they got on to whatever they wanted to do, which made it even more unappealing to build up the courage to ask for what I wanted.
All of that changed when I started learning that I was allowed to have a voice during sex, that I wasn’t doomed to a lifetime of whatever anyone else wanted to do to me just because I was born female. I can help you take the same journey to finding your voice because you deserve a deeply filling intimate life, and you can have it.
I would be honored to be your coach on the journey. I am queer, kinky, and nonmonogamy friendly. To find out if we’re a good match, visit www.leahcarey.com/coaching. Again, that’s www.leahcarey.com/coaching to book your free discovery call. And that link is in the episode description on the app you’re listening in now.
LEAH: All right. So now, let’s get into the main topic for this episode. I’ve talked in several previous episodes about the surgeries I had earlier this year. The first in April was intended to be a hysterectomy, but when they got inside, they discovered endometriosis so bad that they couldn’t access my uterus or ovaries. So, they closed me back up, and then a month later, did a radical hysterectomy, including my ovaries, my fallopian tubes, my cervix, and even my appendix because it had so much endometriosis on it.
And that was a major surgery that involved four surgeons and a robot because first, they had to go in and clear out the endometriosis. And then, they had to do the actual surgery that they were planning to do. I also learned that in the process, they did some work to straighten out my colon because apparently, it had some really significant twists in it, which were contributing to some issues I had around, to be blunt, some issues I had around pooping. There are lots more details if you want to listen to full conversations about that on the March 2nd, May 25th, and July 20th episodes of 2023. And I’ll put links in the show notes to those.
So, quick recap. The endometriosis explained the absolutely horrific periods that I’d been having basically ever since my period started. And that diagnosis led to a pretty intense period of grieving because I had spent so much of my life trying to not exactly deny, but to pretend that those symptoms didn’t exist because my father had told me, “You’re making such a big deal. You’re such a drama queen. Just get up and take a walk, and you’ll feel better,” that he really made it seem like all of this was in my head, and I was the problem.
In order to not be weak and pathetic, I did everything I could to pretend that those symptoms didn’t exist. And I learned that lesson so well that when all of this happened earlier this year, my partner and I had been together for five years. We’ve been living together for three, I think. He had no idea how bad my periods were. He had no idea that, some months, they were basically hesitating because I had learned so well how to mask the symptoms. Does not mean I wasn’t having the symptoms. it just means I had learned how to pretend they didn’t exist.
So, this was a really huge development for me to finally have some understanding that, wait, this is not me being bad or wrong or stupid or pathetic. And there was still a lot of unexplained stuff that I’ve been experiencing my whole life that makes me “weird” and continued to make me feel weak and pathetic and stupid and all of those things.
And that’s where the 2nd diagnosis of the year comes in. I’m not going to go through the whole explanation of how this came to be, but it was a series of what felt like happy accidents. I ended up getting a diagnosis of hypermobility. And as soon as I started reading about it, I was floored by the sheer volume of symptoms that correlate exactly to my experiences of being “weird” or “pathetic” or “weak,” et cetera. I had never heard the word hypermobility before. So for those of you who also have not, welcome to my world.
You may have heard the term Ehlers Danlos syndrome. This is a connective tissue disorder. And hypermobility and Ehlers Danlos live on the same spectrum of connective tissue disorders. So, based on the physical assessment that a physical therapist did of me. They have a point scale to determine whether you’re hypermobile or if you tip over into Ehlers Danlos. And Ehlers Danlos can only be diagnosed with a genetic test, which I haven’t had. But he said I am hypermobile, and I’m just one point away from what they would consider likely Ehlers Danlos. And he would send me off for a genetic test.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter to me because what my job is is learning how to live with and mitigate all the stuff that’s going on. It’s not like there’s some major treatment that would be different if I actually had Ehlers Danlos versus being hypermobile. But for some other people, that’s not true.
As I understand it, hypermobility and Ehlers Danlos live on a pretty wide spectrum. There’s a huge number of symptoms. And you can have just a couple of symptoms, but they’re so severe that they’re incapacitating. or like me, you can have a huge number of the symptoms. And they’re annoying. And they’re definitely impacting my life, but I’m still pretty highly functional. So, again, having one diagnosis versus the other doesn’t feel like a really big deal to me right now. That may change at some point.
Here’s the reason why I’m bringing this up here in this forum. Endometriosis is a really difficult diagnosis to get for a couple of reasons. One is that it can’t be diagnosed unless they actually open you up. It can’t be seen on scans, which is why I went through several months of testing and conversations with people before my first surgery. And they hadn’t identified that this was going to be a problem because it literally doesn’t show up on scans. So, that’s a really reasonable reason that endometriosis is hard to diagnose.
The other is extremely not reasonable. And that is that we don’t take women’s reproductive care seriously. We tell women if they have bad periods, “Just go home and lay on a heating pad and take some Advil,” or we tell them that they’re being a little overdramatic. We just don’t take it seriously. There are so many women who have gone from doctor to doctor to doctor trying to find somebody who would take them seriously and haven’t been able to find someone. So, they don’t even get to the point of somebody saying, “I wonder if you have endometriosis. Let’s do some exploration,” because everybody is just like, “Yeah. I can’t see anything wrong with you, so it must be in your head.” And that is fucking not okay.
I was incredibly fortunate because from the very beginning of this whole episode when I started having some unusual bleeding and cramping, I was taken seriously by every one of my providers. I understand that not everyone is so fortunate. And if you are one of those people who has been struggling to get a diagnosis, I just want you to know that I’m sorry. I wish that there was a magic wand that I could wave, but unfortunately, there’s not.
And it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better because women’s reproductive health care is under such intense assault right now. And politicians can say all they want that this is only about whether a pregnancy can be terminated, but we have seen over and over and over again in just the last year how often it means that women don’t get reproductive care at all because their doctors are scared.
All right. Stepping down off my soapbox because what we’re here to talk about is hypermobility and the reason that I’m bringing this up, okay. So, I was talking about how endometriosis is hard to diagnose. I never heard the word hypermobility throughout any of this. And, again, I want to say I had incredibly conscientious, caring providers. Never once did the word hypermobility come up.
And then, all of a sudden, a couple months after I had my endometriosis surgery, again, I had this series of happy accidents where I landed on somebody giving me the diagnosis of hypermobility and telling me that the overlap of people with endometriosis and people with hypermobility is practically a circle. Now, I haven’t researched that to know what those statistics are. I can’t say that. I’m just repeating what somebody else said to me.
But if you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, you might want to look into hypermobility. This is a connective tissue disorder. And, again, I’m still drinking from the firehose in terms of taking in knowledge. There’s so much I don’t understand. And I may have some or all of this wrong. So, please don’t take my word for anything. Just use it as a jumping off point if any of this sounds familiar to do your own research.
But my understanding is that in the body of somebody who has hypermobility, collagen doesn’t get deposited into our connective tissues in the way that it should. And collagen is the substance that holds things together. So, if you imagine a rubber band and a fresh new rubber band holds things together really well. It has great stretch. It expands when it needs to. It contracts when it needs to, and it has a lot of play.
But think about an old rubber band where if you stretch it just the tiniest bit, it snaps. That is what’s going on here. Not that our connective tissue is snapping, but that it doesn’t have that play in it anymore because the collagen isn’t there to hold it together. The tendons and ligaments are there to hold our bones and our muscles in place. But when the ligaments and tendons don’t have enough collagen, they can’t effectively hold things in place. So, they’re not doing their job, and things become too stretchy.
So, in my case, what this means is I have ridiculous flexibility in some areas of my body. And in other areas of my body, I’m so tight that it’s hard for me to move. And the way that this was explained to me by a physical therapist is that, for instance, my arms and my shoulders. I have never yet in my life found a stretch that actually accomplished feeling like my arms and my shoulders were stretched, had been released, that the muscles in that area had just been able to release the tension and move into a less stressed, more relaxed position.
And the reason is that my ligaments, my shoulder ligaments and tendons, are so stretchy that I will reach the end of my range of movement before my muscles even engage to begin the process of stretching. So, stretching my muscles out using typical stretches is literally impossible because my muscles never engage to be stretched. It’s only the ligaments and tendons that I’m stretching even further, which potentially makes issues worse. I hope that makes sense. It was a major light bulb moment for me. Okay.
So, I said that there are tons of symptoms and that everyone has a different cluster of symptoms. Some may have very few. Some may have tons. I am somebody who has a lot. And, again, I still remain pretty high functioning. But this is beginning to explain so many of the things that I have tried to explain away throughout my life, so that I could appear “normal” and not have to make explanations about why I was so weird.
So, I’m going to give you a list of some of these symptoms that relate to me. Frequent injuries, which is hilarious because I am definitely known as somebody who is injury prone. But more than that, I am somebody who walks into walls all the fucking time. I walk into furniture. I walk into parking meters on the street. That used to be a big joke when I was a kid that my mother couldn’t trust me to walk down the street on my own because I would walk into a parking meter apparently. And I’m not even going to try to explain my understanding of why this happens because it feels pretty complicated.
But there’s this thing called proprioception. We all have it. It is our sense of our body in space. It’s our sense of knowing where our body is in space. So, for instance, a gymnast has incredible proprioception because they have to be able to fly up in the air and then land on a 3-inch beam. That is phenomenal.
But hypermobility is often correlated to people who have poor proprioception, which is people like me who walk into doorways and furniture and all of the everything all of the time because my body doesn’t understand where it is in space. I logically know where the door frame is, but I can’t seem to navigate around it. This has been a big thing in my life. Along with that, clumsiness and poor balance, those are a hallmark of hypermobility, but they’re also related to poor proprioception.
Dizziness on standing. This is something that I have dealt with also my whole life. I always knew it as head rushes. I would stand up after sitting or lying down for a little while. And all of a sudden, I would be so lightheaded that I would need to hold on to something because my vision started to black out a little bit. This is actually a significant indicator of something called POTS, which, again, I’m not going to try to explain. It’s something to do with our autonomic system and that’s the system that does all the things that we don’t think about on a moment-to-moment basis. It pumps our blood. It cleans our liver. It makes us breathe. All of that stuff that just happens without us thinking about it, that is our autonomic system.
And one of the things that can come along with hypermobility is dysautonomia, which is that system losing track of how to do some of those things. So, one of the symptoms of dysautonomia is frequent dizziness on standing, which I absolutely have. Easy bruising. If you could see me, I am like a canvas for bruises, especially on my legs are the worst. My arms often have big bruises on them too. They are huge, and they are dark purple, and they last forever. So, when I saw that, I was like, this is me.
Tight teeth. My teeth are so tight that it is actually hard for me to floss without specialized floss because I literally can’t get the floss between them. A small mouth with a high palate. Now, I don’t know about the high palate. For me, nobody has ever mentioned it to me, but I have had multiple dentists and orthodontists say to me that I have a very small mouth.
Recurrent skin issues with no apparent cause or treatment. This is wild to me. So, I have a history of skin issues that appear out of nowhere and last for weeks or months or sometimes years. And then all of a sudden, one day disappear when they did not respond to any previous treatment. The most recent one of these was actually a patch of skin on my hand that looked and acted like eczema, but none of the eczema treatments worked on it.
And so then, I went on to every freaking DIY treatment that I could find on the Internet, nothing worked. And when I had the first appointment with my current PCP, I literally went in with a bag, a grocery bag full of all of the things that I had tried. And it was like, “Here. None of these worked. What is the problem?” And she gave me a steroid cream, which she assumed would work. It didn’t. And so, I lived with that skin issue for three years, oddly. About two or three weeks before I was going to have the first surgery, the skin issue disappeared completely, and it hasn’t come back. No idea what it was, where it came from. No idea why it went away. And this is, again, not the first time something like this has ever happened to me. So, this apparently is a piece of the hypermobility spectrum.
Sleep issues, which I definitely have. I have a CPAP. Thin, translucent skin. If I stand in the bathroom under just regular bathroom lights, we are not talking about anything special. Just regular bathroom lights and look in the mirror, you can see all of my veins under my skin because it is so translucent. And it’s very fragile. So, I get cut really easily. It takes very little to make me bleed. And it takes a really long time for small cuts to clot and stop bleeding. So, thin, translucent skin that’s also very fragile is a hallmark.
Also, really stretchy skin. And this one gets me because during my sexual healing journey, one of the things I noticed was that every single person who touched me was like, “Oh my god. You have the softest skin I’ve ever touched.” And at some point, I was like maybe this is just something that people say to people because I don’t feel like my skin is any different than anybody else’s skin. Turns out, I was wrong. Velvety skin, like unusually velvety skin, is a hallmark of hypermobility. And all of these people were keying into a symptom that I didn’t even realize was a symptom.
Brittle fingernails that crack and break really easily. This is a constant issue for me. It’s so annoying. Temperature dysregulation. I’ve mentioned this before in talking about period symptoms that, on the first day of my period, I would feel like I was freezing cold, but my clothes would be ringing wet. That is temperature dysregulation. And that’s an extreme version of what I deal with on a fairly daily basis. It’s pretty rare for me to be comfortable temperature wise.
Sexual dysfunction is something that certainly I’ve experienced. Joint pain, definitely something I’ve experienced. Exhaustion. This is probably the biggest thing I deal with in my life is just constant exhaustion. And, again, I thought this was about me being weak and pathetic and all of that. It’s not. There is an actual reason for it. And it’s got to do with the fact that the ligaments and tendons aren’t holding things together the way they’re supposed to. And so, my muscles are working double time.
They are constantly exhausted, which means that the idea of walking a mile is exhausting because after an eighth of a mile, I’m already ready to go sit down. I have the capacity to do way more. But my body is in a state of exhaustion and discomfort all the time, which makes it really unappealing to do any of it.
Also, depression and anxiety. This was also a big eye opener for me. And it made a lot of sense when a provider explained it to me as your body is working so hard to keep itself together that it can never relax. And it’s always waiting for the next physical crisis, which contributes to a huge amount of depression and anxiety.
There’s also a weakened immune system. And this, again, huge thing for me. I used to get sick really easily. Having moved to the West Coast, I get sick much less frequently, but it takes me forever to recover. So, a flu that’s going around that might take other people two or three days to recover from, I’m in bed for 10. I just know that when I get sick, I have to cancel at least a week of activity, and it’s usually more like two. And then it takes me another two, three, four weeks to recover my energy. And I always thought that this was about me being lazy, weak, pathetic, blah blah blah. I don’t need to keep saying it.
Tongue ties. So this one, I can’t really explain, but there’s like an extra structure. Everybody has that thing that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. But a lot of people who are hypermobile have an extra little structure in there called a tongue tie. I remember my mom telling me that when I was a baby, nursing was really difficult for both of us for quite a while because I had a tongue tie.
I’ve never really known what that was. I didn’t put a lot of emphasis on that information. But I have just learned in the last week that that little structure, that tongue tie contributes to us holding our neck and our head in a weird position that contributes to neck tension, headaches, and breathing problems. Now, again, I am at the very beginning of learning about this. And I highly recommend a Woman on Instagram @thetracyrodriguez. I’ll put that in the show notes. She is fantastic at explaining all of this hypermobility stuff. I’ve learned a ton from her.
Other things, muscle pain, panic attacks, definitely have had those. And, also, I saw it mentioned that some people who have hypermobility have odd phobias, which I do. And, no, I’m not going to tell you what they are because frankly, I don’t wanna talk about them at all. A couple other things that I found of interest, there is a significant overlap in ADHD and hypermobility.
And there’s also a significant overlap with hypermobility and gender dysphoria. I think that’s fascinating, and I’m hoping that somebody out there is doing research on that. Speaking of research, I’ve gone and read a tiny bit. I don’t really enjoy reading scientific articles. But I have read the abstracts, which is that short little overview paragraph on some. And I just think that some of this is interesting. I’ll put links in the show notes. But these are about depression and anxiety related to hypermobility and Ehlers Danlos.
One article says there’s a high prevalence of psychiatric conditions, specifically anxiety disorders and depression, among individuals with hypermobility and Ehlers Danlos. It’s also associated with eating disorders and some other neurodevelopmental disorders and alcohol and tobacco misuse.
Another article, this one made me laugh just because I saw myself all over it. It opens despite the frequent co-occurrence of hypermobile Ehlers Danlos syndrome and pathological anxiety. I was like, it’s me. I have pathological anxiety. And then, it goes on to talk about those symptoms as being catastrophizing, which is, oh my god. It’s me. I hear a tiny little thing. And I go to the worst possible endpoint. I am a catastrophizing machine. So, that just made me really laugh.
And then, again, having issues related to pain, fatigue, BMI, which you probably already know my thoughts about BMI. It’s based on junk science. It’s not actually a useful measure of much of anything. But it is interesting to me that it’s listed here because it makes me wonder if there’s something that has to do with weight, with how much weight a body retains that is related to hypermobility.
And then, I’m also going to drop an article into the show notes about hypermobility and proprioception and how those things go together because, again, I think it’s fascinating. And I’m so glad to know that I haven’t been walking into doors just because I’m stupid.
Some other really important things that I’ve learned, I had an appointment with a provider at one point during the last few months who was asking me to go through my body to tell him about the symptoms that I’ve had that might be related to hypermobility. And when I said, “My feet always hurt.” And he said, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how bad is the pain?” I have no idea.
I don’t think I know what pain is because my mind has learned to correlate pain to stabbing knife, I’m going to die. Again, this has everything to do with masking symptoms and not wanting to look weird. So, anytime I felt something, I put it into the category of discomfort, but I didn’t call things pain unless they were so severe that they were incapacitating. So, when I’m asked to grade pain on a scale from 0 to 10, I literally don’t know how to do it. So, I’m having to learn how to start doing that.
I talked already a little bit about why stretching doesn’t help me. I’ve been very fortunate to be working with a physical therapist who is really familiar with hypermobility. And she’s been able to give me some alternatives, things like using a foam roller to get the kind of contact with those muscles that I need to help them release because stretching won’t do it. I’ve learned about why I always feel the need to sit down after a couple of minutes of standing, why my legs are always tired even at the beginning of a walk, that this is not a deficiency in me. All right. So, I’ve taken a lot of time talking about this because frankly, I find it endlessly fascinating.
But there are a couple other things that I promised to tell you about. And I know people will be interested in. I may be going to give them a little bit of short shrift right now just to keep this manageable. But If you have questions, please send them to me. I would love to know what your questions are so that I can answer them more effectively.
During these surgeries, I had a labiaplasty. If you’re not familiar with the word, that is basically doing plastic surgery on the labia. Now, this has gotten a bad rap over the last several years for understandable reasons because we are in a culture that really likes to tell us what “normal” looks like. And so women, people with vulvas were getting this idea that your vulva has to look a very particular way in order to be “acceptable,” which is freaking ridiculous.
Our labia come in all shapes, all sizes. How they look is completely unique to you. How they’re configured, completely unique to you. As long as they don’t create any problems or discomfort for you, you are normal. And there are some people even who have started creating vulva galleries. I will drop a link into the show notes because it’s really important to understand. It’s like all vulvas are beautiful. It’s really true.
So, there have been a lot of women who’ve gone specifically to plastic surgeons to make their vulvas look perfect or their version of perfect. And when I started thinking about having a labiaplasty, my brain revolted at first because I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to mess with my labia just so that they would look better. And then, I realized that’s not why I was doing it at all.
I’ve actually had significant issues with my labia my whole adult life and didn’t actually understand that that’s what was happening. One side of my labia, there was so much extra tissue that anytime there’s going to be penetration, whether it was with a toy or a penis, that piece of skin would actually get caught up and dragged inside the vaginal canal. And it was freaking ouchy, not realizing that this was a thing that could even happen. Thought there was something wrong with the entrance to my vaginal canal. Why is this so painful?
Turns out it’s that this piece of skin was ending up getting twisted and pulled into places it was never meant to be. And plus, because I have extremely sensitive skin, the skin was constantly getting chafed. So, it was really super uncomfortable. So, when I went in for my first consultation for the hysterectomy, I said to the surgeon, and I was very sheepish about it because I thought he’s gonna just laugh me out of the room.
I was like, “I’ve actually been thinking about getting a labiaplasty. Is that something that’s possible to do during the same surgery?” And he didn’t laugh me out of the room at all. He asked me what my symptoms were. I told him. He did a visual inspection. He was like, “Yeah. I can see why this is a problem. Yes. We can do this.” And I’m actually glad that it was planned to do during the first surgery because it meant that when they closed me back up because they couldn’t do the hysterectomy, at least something had been accomplished.
So during that first surgery, I got a labiaplasty, which basically just took out some of that extra tissue. I still have labia, and it did take a while to heal. There was a bit of an open wound for quite a while because of just the physics of the situation where things needed to go in order to get cut and then stitched back together. They had to leave a bit of an open wound that then filled itself in. But that was a little uncomfortable for a while.
Now, it’s completely gone. Total nonissue. I still feel a little bit fragile in that area, but even that is resolving over time. I’ve asked my partner, and he says, “You wouldn’t even be able to tell that anything has been done.” It is a complete nonissue in terms of visual results. And physically, it is so much easier for us to have penetrative sex because it’s not like he’s wandering through the forest trying to figure out where the entrance to the cave is. It’s just right there. So, yeah, it’s a lot easier for both of us to have penetrative intercourse.
With that said, my sex drive is really not back yet. It took a lot out of me to go through these two major surgeries, go through the healing process. I am basically a 100% in every way post surgery except for my energy levels. My energy is still wildly variable, and that doesn’t do great things for my sex drive. So, sex is still not particularly frequent.
Things still feel like they take 10 times longer than they should, which is really annoying for me because I expect myself to be very high functioning. And right now, my highest capacity is nowhere near what I want it to be. And as I’ve talked about throughout this episode there, I’m beginning to learn a lot of the reasons why that is, and working on giving myself grace for not being the person who I think I’m supposed to be in order to be acceptable and lovable and all of the things.
This year has been a lot. In fact, I got yet another diagnosis just a couple of weeks ago. That one, I am not ready to talk about at all. I don’t know when I will be, if I will be because it’s yet another level of grieving and renegotiating my sense of self. But, also, it’s good because it gives me a clearer, truer picture of who I am. And that’s always going to be good as far as I’m concerned.
So, this has been a very long, very deep dive into the internal workings of my body. I hope that in sharing this, it has been of use to you. I really hope that it has helped somebody out there begin to understand things about their body that they’ve never understood before. I wish that I had heard this episode 20 years ago because it maybe would have helped me to torture myself a little less about how my body works. So, if even one person gets that out of this, I will be very pleased.
All right. So, let’s start getting this all wrapped up. If you would like to take the brand spanking new, very exciting alter ego quiz, you can find that at www.leahcarey.com/quiz. If you have been listening to my voice for a while and thinking, “I actually would like to do some one-on-one work with her,” I have spots available in my coaching schedule right now. And all of that information is at www.leahcarey.com/coaching. While you’re there, you can set up a free, no pressure, no obligation phone call to see if we’re a good fit for each other.
And both the quiz and the coaching links are in the episode description of the app you’re listening on now. If you have questions or comments about anything you’ve heard on this episode, I really want to hear them because, like I said, I really want to be giving you what you need. So, please call and leave a message at 720-GOOD-SEX. That’s 720-GOOD-SEX. You can leave a voicemail. I promise nobody answers that phone. You will not have to talk to a real person.
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Good Girls Talk About Sex is produced and edited by me, Leah Carey, and transcripts are produced by Jan Acielo. Until next time, here’s to your better sex life!
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