If you’ve ever had a bladder infection, you know how painful it can be. My friend Sandi Stuart thought she had one. She was in pain 24 hours a day with a frequent urge to go, and intense burning. Her urgent care doctor thought it was a bladder infection too, but her urine test came out clear. He sent Sandi to a urologist who told her she had Urethra Syndrome (also called Interstitial Cystitis) – an irritation of the bladder and urethra.
“When I went online to research it, I was devastated because it appeared there was no cure, and women often end up on antidepressants because it can be so debilitating,” Sandi told me.
Her urologist restricted her diet for two weeks. Sandi cut out coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods, but the problem didn’t go away.
She was then referred to a urogynecologist who explained that as women get older, the lining of the vagina gets thinner and more sensitive, and so does the lining of the urethra and bladder. She also explained that Sandi’s seasonal allergies were irritating her body’s mucus membranes causing sneezing and itchy eyes. And every mucus membrane in the body can have that reaction; including the membranes of the bladder. She put Sandi on a low dose of antihistamine at night, and gave her a longer list of foods to avoid. “Because I was so desperate, I pretty much cut out everything – dairy, sugar, sugar—substitutes, yeast, and breads. I lost 20 pounds,” said Sandi.
She sent Sandi to yet another specialist – a pelvic floor physical therapist, who discovered that her pelvic floor muscles were tight. The therapist sought out her medical history. It turned out that Sandi was born with a club foot. As an infant she had several operations to correct it. Her past history was linked to her current situation. Sandi learned that the pelvic sector of the body goes from your pelvis to your toes. So if your knees or feet are out of alignment it puts your pelvis out of alignment. It’s all connected.
“I discovered that because I had all this pain in my foot the first year of life, my pelvic floor became the natural place I held my stress,” said Sandi. Over the years as the body gets older it gives out and it can’t hold the stress. Sandi was given 20 minutes of exercise to do every night to loosen her pelvic floor, which helped. She was also given a mini machine to take home with her that sent electrical impulses to the front of her pelvic area and lower back, which gave her some relief.
Her physical therapist also happened to be an IBP Therapist (Integrated Body Psychotherapy). IBP is an experiential and expressive body-based psychotherapy which draws on the conventional wisdom of modern psychology and mind-body science. It is a comprehensive holistic approach to restore wellness and integration to the whole person on all interconnected levels - body mind, emotions and spirit. She asked, “Have you ever done therapy?”
Sandi said, “Only my whole life.”
She said, “I think IBP would be very good for you because you don’t breathe. You’re scared and in pain, so you’re holding your breathe. And because you’re holding your breath it’s keeping all the places you hold your stress in a locked position.” She explained that with IBP therapy she’d learn how to breath so she could start unlocking the places she’s holding her stress.
“I started IBP therapy, and after three months my symptoms went away,” she said. She learned to calm herself down with breathing, stretching, and imagining feeling good. “There are so many things that go on in a woman’s pelvic area that feelings can get blocked. It’s a very vulnerable area for us emotionally. The trauma from my club foot showed up in my pelvic area 60 years later,” she said.
Strangely enough, the whole year Sandi had urethra syndrome, her chronic stiff neck and headaches disappeared. “Using IBP, I unlocked the tightness in my pelvis, and then my tight necks and headaches came back,” she said. Emotional stress would either trigger her pelvis or trigger her neck.
“When I go into over-care – when I say yes to anything I don’t want to do – I get symptoms. When that happens, I take some breaths, I do some exercises and the symptoms in my neck and pelvis disappear. So much so that I can drink coffee, alcohol, and eat all the things that are supposed to trigger symptoms (in moderation) and if I’m emotionally in balance, nothing irritates it,” Sandi explained.
What Sandi wants every woman to know is this: If you get this diagnosis you may be told there is nothing that can be done, but there is so much you can do when you take responsibility for those areas in life where you abandon yourself.
“When I was told there’s no cure, I thought, ‘If I have to live this way, I don’t want to live.’ Imagine having a serious bladder infection for the rest of your life! It takes all your energy. You can’t be present. You can’t think,” she explained. “Now, when I get symptoms I know that somewhere I’m out of balance and I ask myself, ‘What do I need to do now?’”
Just this past May, at the age of 63, Sandi completed her four year program and became an IBP coach. It’s no surprise she was the valedictorian of her class. I recently co-facilitated a 2-day women’s workshop with her, and our mutual friend Kathleen Seeley, where I got to experience her breathing, stretching, and meditation techniques myself. It’s amazing what we women can learn when we’re motivated to take care good care of ourselves!
What about you?
What solutions have you found to improve any bladder issues you may be experiencing?
-- Edited by Marilyn Suttle at Jun 18, 2014 11:56 AM PDT