What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
If there’s one thing I wouldn’t wish on anyone, it’s a UTI. For those not into acronyms, a UTI is a urinary tract infection, sometimes known as a bladder infection, and it can develop into a full-blown kidney infection if you’re unlucky.
If you’re never had a bladder infection of any variety, I envy you. As a person with multiple sclerosis and an irritable bladder, I’m prone to them. They can also manifest regularly if you have a lot of sex, which I’m lucky enough to have right now. But if there was ever a downside to fucking, aside from all your common or garden STDs, it’s getting a UTI.
A UTI threatens before it strikes. It teases like hunger pangs, and you’ll wonder, “Did something just happen?” but you’ll write it off as just an anomaly. But later it’ll happen again and the next time you piss, it’ll sting like a motherfucker.
“I’ll just drink a buttload of water,” you’ll think, “wash that sucker right through.” But when you piss again the sting will be worse. Maybe you can sleep it off like a hangover? Paracetemol will help you sleep, the dull ache in your pelvis like an old football injury.
You’ll wake at 3 am with a throbbing clitoris. You’ll rush to the bathroom, and your relief will be mixed with toe-curling agony. You’ll get back into bed, and you’ll need to go again, and will think, “Are you fucking kidding me?” And you’ll piss nothing, like literally nothing, but it’ll feel like squeezing splinters from your bladder. You’ll fill a hot water bottle, remembering that old adage your mom swears by about using heat on ailments.
The morning won’t be better. Actually, it’ll be worse. The overnight acidity content of your urine will be sky high, so when you piss it’ll feel like when you get vinegar in a cut. Sitting down will hurt too, even though your actual vulva isn’t involved in this debacle. If you’re unlucky though, it’ll feel like your whole undercarriage is on fire, and you’d ice it if you could. (Is it still OK to say "undercarriage" in 2015?)
You should probably go to the doctor. The sooner the better. These things have a habit of getting worse while you pray they’ll get better. The doctor will want a urine sample, and you’ll realise that peeing into a tiny pot isn’t a game of accuracy. Your fingers will be wet and the label on the pot will soak slightly, announcing your poor aim to the world.
The doctor will open the sample and dip it with a stick. If your doctor’s anything like mine, they might make a joke: “Right, I’ve got to be careful not to flick pee in my eye.” Yes, doc, don’t do that!
They might say they’ll send it to the lab to see if anything grows from it. Because, that’s right, something is growing in your bladder, or the tubes in between, and until it’s gone, nothing will ever feel right again. There’s an imposter in your body, and it doesn’t want to leave.
The first antibiotics will work, if luck is on your side. Or the infection will fester, laugh in the face of the drugs, and continue burrowing deeper into the walls of your bladder. At least, this is how it will feel. You’ll lie in bed wondering if people die from UTIs (they definitely do, btw), and hope that the pills start to work by tomorrow.
Whatever you do, don’t take a bath. You might think the water will soothe the soreness in your vaginal region, but you would be wrong. At some point after, out of nowhere, it’ll feel like a razor sharp knitting needle is stabbing your urethra. You’ll wonder what you did to deserve this, and your brain will compile a list of every bad thing you did that you’re probably being punished for now. But the self-flagellation won’t help. You’ll still be pissing knives, and swearing off sex forevs.
The second antibiotics will be better, though UTIs take time to clear completely, lingering long after the course of medication is over. Like an ex-boyfriend who you think is gone for good, who sends you texts when you’re in bed with your latest man piece, like he knows and he’s watching. A UTI doesn’t give up easy. Your bladder is incredibly habitable after all.
When your piss stops spraying sideways, you’ll know you’re making progress. When a UTI is raging, you’ll piss pieces, too. Indiscernible strings of pink matter. You won’t want to think too hard about what this is – just flush it, yeah? It’s legit disgusting.
Every analogy you come up with to describe what having a UTI feels like won’t describe the real life horror show of it. Like a cat scratching at your vagina. Like funnelling lemon juice up your urethra. An infinity junk punch. Like nothing will be right ever again.
Then the meds will work and you’ll forget the week you wanted to quit life because your bladder staged an intervention. You’ll vow to drink more cranberry juice. But it won’t make much difference. This visitor will be back, when you’re least expecting it, taking up residence in your bladder like a slug in a wall crack, only worse.