My pain symptoms started when my menstrual cycle began, at the age of 12. I had blinding pain in my pelvic region, sweating and nausea associated with menstruation. As I got older I also experienced intense back pain, and I would often blackout.
I was put on the pill from the beginning, my doctor assuming hormones were the cause of my symptoms. It did help, but also made me sick and I gained weight.
The cycle of pain and blackouts continued throughout my teens and into adulthood, but in 2006, at the age of 30, the pill stopped working for me.
When I first experienced the symptoms not connected with my menstrual cycle, I had no idea what they were. I also began experiencing shoulder and arm pain, and severe pain along the left side of my body, including aching teeth, a numb tongue and piercing pain in my left eye.
I continued to work but felt crippled by the pain, and after work I couldn't even do the dishes, let alone any other activity, and found it difficult to sleep.
Later I saw a gynaecologist who was convinced the pelvic pain was caused by endometriosis, so I had surgery, but very little scar tissue was found. I had some relief for six months, but then the symptoms returned.
Then in 2009 – more than 20 years after the pain began – a different gynaecologist finally made an accurate diagnosis. I had pudendal neuralgia.
In pudendal neuralgia the pudendal nerve located in the pelvic region becomes entrapped or compressed, causing chronic nerve pain. In my case, I discovered it was an inherited condition triggered by a fall at the age of 11, which compressed the pudendal nerve and began the cycle of painful episodes.
It was a relief to discover that the different forms of pain I had been experiencing were all related to this one condition, which amplified every twinge of pain I felt in my body.
Initially I considered a nerve block because my symptoms were severe, but I decided to try alternative therapies first. I began seeing an osteopath weekly, I stopped pilates because the core strengthening exercises can compress the pudendal nerve, and I began acupuncture once a month to help relax my muscles.
It's been two years since beginning treatment, and I'm fortunate to now lead a normal life. I see my osteopath and acupuncturist monthly, and I've just begun physiotherapy, swimming and walking.
Today I hardly ever have bad pain, unless I'm under stress. I feel like a different person. Getting the proper diagnosis and treatment has transformed my life.