Living with chronic pain can be one of the most isolating experiences in a person's life and when the chronic pain exists within the most intimate and private parts of the body it can seem even more so. There are more than twenty-five chronic pelvic, sexual and genital pain conditions and millions of people (both women and men) around the world suffer from these conditions yet speaking about them openly can be difficult due to the numerous cultural taboos that exist. It seems we all live in this great paradox in which we can be surrounded by images in the media, books and music which openly shout out to the world that we are sexual beings and everyone seems to be having incredible sexual encounters 'all day everyday'. But what happens if you tell a co-worker, a friend, a manager or a loved one that you deal with chronic vaginal or penis pain, or that you can no longer enjoy sexual intimacy due to the pain that it causes, and the sound of silence can echo in your ears like wind on a Wyoming mountaintop. If your words are not met with this silence you might be met with great cruelty: disbelief or words spoken out of fear or from an uneducated belief that either the pain does not actually or exist or if it does exist then the belief that the 'cure' should be one of psychology rather than biology.
Reflecting on my own experiences with chronic pelvic and sexual pain, and sifting through the multitude of discussions I have had with chronic pelvic pain patients throughout the world over the past decade, I wondered about all of our differences and our similarities. Chronic pelvic pain patients come from every ethnic and religious backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and the conditions affect men, women and children. Patients include those who are married, single, virgins and first-time parents. For some patients the pain has existed since childhood and for others the pain appeared after an accident or injury. Although at first glance it appears that our chronic pelvic pain stories are too different to find commonalities, many exist.
We are all linked by our connection to living with chronic pelvic and sexual pain conditions and by our desire to have our voices heard that these conditions exist, our pain is real, and we all have a desire to have access to education and treatment for these conditions. Dr. Echenberg, Founder of the Institute for Women in Pain, echoes this thought in the book he co-authored "Secret Suffering: How Women's Sexual and Pelvic Pain Affects their Relationships" when he expresses that some of his most effective treatment of pelvic pain patients he treats in his office happens when he listens and validates that their pain is real. This sentiment is the very reason that Bridge for Pelvic Pain is in existence today: To connect the chronic pelvic pain patients with the resources and education for integrative treatments. And provide these patients with the hope that they are not alone in their suffering by realizing there is a network of caring chronic pelvic pain patients, doctors and specialists who are working tirelessly to support them and provide effective pain treatments.