This blog post is from the perspective of being an independent artist struggling to create for over three years (end of 2018-early 2022) due to a debilitating chronic bladder/pelvic pain problem that started suddenly. 

I am recording this next part of my healing journey to hopefully help other people who may be struggling with something similar. Over the years, I have felt alone with this problem and found it hard to find positive examples of recovery within a typical Google search. The internet can be a negative and scary place when practical help is not at hand. It has been a struggle with an NHS that is not equipped to deal with complex persistent gynaecological pain. I used to be a Physiotherapist, and with my experience and understanding of chronic pain, I cannot believe how long it has taken me to find effective management and guidance. I have had to look to the USA. I feel this journey would have been even more challenging without my knowledge and experience of the body. 

I am about 70% better, but the symptoms left can still be highly disruptive, especially regarding intimacy or the effects of daily activities and various stresses and strains. 

I am about to begin the Dr. Bri Overcome Pelvic Pain For Women twelve-week programme. I have no idea what is going to happen. I am excited and open-minded to trying, and I thought I might share a few posts recording my experience and any effects of taking part. I am confident it will do at least something positive, and any percentage improvement I get is a bonus. If you are interested in finding out more about my journey, please read on. If not, I invite you to navigate away. The four posts I plan will not be directly art-related. 

I am also pleased to say I have been able to get my art back on track and am showing up more and more on social media again.

In the Beginning

It all started in November 2018 on a visit to see friends and family in North Wales. I had just gotten over sciatica and a sudden onset of health anxiety with panic attacks (which I later discovered was peri-menopausal and needed HRT correction).

It began with a constant low-grade clench/squeeze sensation in my bladder. It was a familiar and unfamiliar sensation at the same time. Initially, I saw my GP several times. I received treatment for a suspected UTI with different courses of antibiotics… and yet, there was no sign of infection on testing, and I also had no history of bladder problems. After months of failed treatment and a few Ultrasounds and investigations, there was nothing else to do but refer me to a specialist. To cut a long story short, I opted for a Gynaecologist over a more invasive Urinary Specialist. The waiting list was very long! The specialist was of little help and offered ineffective medication (with side effects) or procedures with poor outcomes. They can only treat with an acute biomedical model of management rather than a holistic, coordinated approach. I knew from that moment that I was on my own. Plus, I was done with waiting on waiting lists.

Research on the internet was highly negative and depressing, with more and more posts signposting me to Interstitial Cystitis and how it gets worse and can lead to suicide in some people. It is incurable or could be a biofilm of a chronic embedded low-grade infection burrowing into my bladder, etc.: doom-scrolling! It fanned the flames of my health anxiety.

My symptoms were gradually worsening in that it affected how and how often I needed to pee, and its 24-hour presence kept me awake at night and stopped me from living my everyday life. I was becoming more and more tearful and unable to focus. The bladder became a full-time occupation! Sensations in the bladder and pelvis are hard to distract from; we are programmed to act on the feeling of needing to go to the toilet. The waking and constant experience of symptoms were like groundhog day. My life was disappearing. Without the support of a wonderful husband, I don’t know how I would have gotten myself through it. I live far away from my closest family and friends and found I was also unable to travel without suffering flares for weeks on end.

Life starts to improve

Things changed for the better when I privately paid for acupuncture, Women’s Health Physiotherapy, a Chinese Herbalist who specialised in chronic bladder problems, and Newson Health, a private menopause clinic. My herbalist helps me get through flares and steadies the ship, while the Physiotherapist has helped decrease the local tension within my pelvic floor. The menopause clinic has got my hormones rebalanced. 

I could write reams on the ineffective treatments I have tried, but my blog posts record how I respond to a twelve-week programme run by Dr. Bri, a Doctor of Physiotherapy in the USA. 

So, briefly, I looked at my diet and food sensitivities. I restrict my dairy and eat a healthy diet with plenty of oily fish. I rarely drink alcohol, and I avoid any foods and drinks I think may trigger my bladder. I have tried various supplements but have settled on L’Arginine and PEA, and Vitamin D. I have had 25 sessions of Cognitive Analytical Therapy, which has helped with anxiety, shame, stress triggers, and coping with chronic pain. I am now on HRT, which settled the peri-menopausal anxiety and panic attacks and has improved my local pelvic and general health. I am currently on a short pilot treatment from another physiotherapist for a few sessions of Shock Wave Therapy for my symptoms (it’s a local treatment targeting the bladder and pelvic region so far only researched on men).

The majority of my revenue from the sales of my card decks has gone into finding a holistic active, and positive management programme to help me cope. If I didn’t have this financial support to shop around for private treatment, I don’t know where I would be. I think about all the people in the UK with similar symptoms who can only rely on routine NHS care to guide them, which makes me feel sad. I worked as a physiotherapist for the NHS for twenty years, and I know how hard it is to get things right, but chronic pain management needs to be much better!

But, I have stalled in my recovery in that I am 70% better but still ‘waiting for the second shoe to drop’ feeling that my bladder may flare again. I am still on herbs and supplements, and I am not back to regular intimacy and a fully active life; my body needs something more, and I need to coordinate things better somehow.

What happened next?

It was early January 2022, and I happened across Pelvic Sanity, a Physical Therapy clinic in the USA. They were doing a daily management prompt for people like me on social media. Their advice was helpful and updated me on the advances in chronic pain management. They are also evidence-based advocates of a holistic management program emphasizing the pelvic floor, central de-sensitisation of pain, breathing exercises, and rehabilitating the rest of the physical body. Most people like me have chronic sensitisation symptoms originating from the pelvic floor, with the bladder being an innocent bystander. They introduced me to new exercises to add to the local stretch and breathing exercises I had already been given by my physiotherapist. 

They also introduced me to Dr. Bri. I started completing some of her YouTube videos to release the pelvic floor. I noticed how I was feeling slightly better and more in control each day. Dr. Bri runs a twelve-week online program covering all the physical, mental, and nutritional aspects of managing a condition like mine, even touches on the intimacy. I am intrigued, and I have to try this holistic program. 

Perhaps my expensive and complex healing journey can be slim-lined and targeted and help other people searching the internet like me. 

The thought of having a holistic approach tying many aspects together makes me finally feel that I have the potential of a coach/mentoring experience plus a private community of individuals to guide me and hopefully take me to the next 30 % improvement. Hopefully, it will help me make sense of the patchwork management I have worked through to date. I hope I have found the optimistic, active hope that I have needed from the start. A positive approach helps the sufferer utilise their natural healing abilities!!!

So, I am ready to turn up every day and try. I am committing to it here and will give an update at the end of each month. I have a good feeling about this program from the snippets I have experienced, as you get a free week to sample.

And so it begins…

There is hope for people like me. If you know of somebody who may feel inspired to try an active and holistic approach to pelvic pain management then do share. Thank you.

Onwards and upwards!

Till next time,

Lisa xxx