In this week’s post, I discuss the feelings of self-blame behind my compulsive vulva checking habit, how I overcame self-blame, a three-phased process for overcoming self-blame, and where I am now. If you missed my last post on checking, you can read about it here (https://lssupport.net/is-it-normal-to-want-to-check-your-vulva-all-the-time/).
Don’t forget to read until the end for my #TuesdayTipbyLLC!
The Missing Link to Healing My Compulsive Checking Habits: Addressing Self-Blame
When I began compulsive checking, I knew there were lots of feelings and emotions exacerbating this behavior, but I was not fully conscious of why I was doing what I was doing.
While I successfully managed to break this compulsive behavior through a conversation with my therapist, there was still more work I needed to do.
You might be thinking, “What work would you have left to do”? or“ You no longer let the impulse to check run your life, is that not sufficient”?
Of course, this is true. I did stop compulsively checking, and, to this day, I only look at my vulva when necessary (i.e., monthly vulva check, steroid application, and if I feel a new symptom).
However, there was a critical piece missing from my healing journey. I needed to confront what was truly causing me to check in the first place, that is, self-blame. Until I addressed the self-blame driving my impulses, thoughts, and actions, I could not truly heal my pain .
Why Awareness of Self-Blame Was Critical for Healing
Once I broke the habit of compulsively checking myself, I got curious about why I was doing it in the first place. Of course, I saw pictures online and read some horror stories, but what exactly was it that made me want to check?
Understandably, I was worried about further fusing, losing more of my labia, finding a lump, etc. However, with time I realized the reason for my checking stemmed from self-blame.
I blamed myself for having Lichen Sclerosus and not seeing the changes in mu vulva earlier. Had I only been looking regularly, I would have realized my anatomy was changing in shape and size. If only I had paid more attention; it felt like it was my fault.
Understanding this was the primary narrative fueling my compulsive checking put things into perspective. If this train of thought was true, checking would have helped me see the signs/symptoms sooner and stop the progression. Of course, I was compelled to check my vulva as often as possible/all the time!
Furthermore, at the time, I didn’t understand how Lichen Sclerosus progressed. I thought it progressed at lightening speed, which was why I needed to check so often.
I also think I was low-key hoping my labia minora would magically un-fuse, but that’s another story for another blog post!
Facing the Self-Blame Beast Head On
Being aware of what casued my impulses to check was the first step towards healing from the distress it caused me. The second part was processing and working through the intense feelings of self-blame.
Processing my self-blame was not a pretty picture.
Lots of ugly crying ensued. It was a messy process, but I can break it down into three key parts.
Part One: Acknowledging my Feeling of Self-Blame
First, I had to let myself really sit with and feel the self-blame in my body. This was an incredibly painful process. It felt like there was a huge lump in my throat and my heart hurt. My chest and heart felt profoundly heavy. It was at times uncomfortable, and other times almost unbearable, but I let myself feel all of it.
We cannot truly work on that which we do not acknowledge.
Part Two: Asking Myself the Important Questions
After sitting with those feelings, I had a very real, honest one-on-one with myself. This involved asking myself some of the following questions:
“Did you know any better?”
“Did you do the best you could with the knowledge you had?”
When I faced those big questions head-on, I knew deep down it really wasn’t my fault I had Lichen Sclerosus. That is, I didn’t know any better. I really did do the best I could with the knowledge I had. In that moment, I knew what needed to be done: I needed to let the self-blame go and forgive myself, for it was out of my control.
Part Three: Releasing Self-Blame and Embracing Self-Compassion
Finally, I stopped blaming myself and released that anxiety, that anger, from my mind and body into the universe; it was truly a beautiful moment. I accomplished this while meditating, where my 32-year-old self met with my 31-year-old self, who was distressed and crying. My 32-year-old self told her, “Sometimes things don’t work out the way we thought they would. Sometimes life deals us an awful hand, but that’s not your fault. You never asked for this and you certainly aren’t to blame for this”. I wiped her tears away and hugged her tight; this was my defining moment of self-compassion. At the end of my meditation, in order to embody releasing my self-blame, I gave myself a hug, exhaled deeply, and said, “you are still whole and beautiful regardless”.
The Harsh Reality of Healing
I will not sugar coat this process: it was not fast, nor was it easy.
Nevertheless, it was worth it for the sense of release I experienced throughout/during the process.
If you see your story reflected in mine, my advice is to be gentle with yourself as you move through your journey. It takes time to heal deep wounds, but it is most definitely worth it. Lichen Sclerosus can take so much from us –our relationships, our time, our mental health, our physical health, our anatomy– but it is an act of radical self-love to rebel against the painful feelings LS stirs up/brings up/causes. Showing up for ourselves, filled with self-love and self-compassion despite our diagnosis is how we heal and move forward/onward.
In sum, by getting curious about what was behind my impulses and checking behavior, I discovered it was fueled by self-blame. Through a three-step process of sitting with self-blame, being realistic about the blame I felt, and releasing it via a visual meditation, I learned to let go. I know truly believe Lichen Sclerosus was not my fault. Sure, in retrospect I could think of things that would have helped get a diagnosis sooner. However, I did the best I could with the knowledge I had, and back when I was younger there was no discussion about Lichen Sclerosus at all. So I let myself off the hook; I let things simply be.
Do you or have you struggled with self-blame because of Lichen Sclerosus? Did any part of my story resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below or feel free to contact me via social media – I would love to hear from you!
#TuesdayTipbyLLC – Give yourself a hug and tell yourself that you love yourself. I know, it sounds tacky, but give it a shot!