Amy* was thirteen years old when she had her first yeast infection. She had no idea what was wrong with her body. I ask her to walk me through the experience.
It was during the summer after grade eight that Amy first noticed that something was wrong. Her vaginal discharge had a chunky consistency and it smelled terrible, she felt a burning sensation when she peed, and her vaginal area itched all the time. Her infection started out uncomfortable, and it grew increasingly worse as it progressed unaddressed. Amy spent most of that summer with her friend Lisa,* and Amy was convinced that Lisa could never know the secret of her distress.
“I didn’t feel like I could talk to her about it, and obviously I couldn’t just sit there and scratch myself in front of her,” Amy jokes. And so her condition continued while she tried her best not to scratch her vulva against every surface in Lisa’s house.
She didn’t even tell her mother. Without anyone to talk to, Amy was left to solve her problem on her own. She raided her mom’s medicine cabinet and stole some vaginal itch cream, but at that point her infection had progressed so far that the cream made no difference. She assumed her condition was there to stay.
“You were like, ‘This is just what it means to be a woman, your vagina’s just always this itchy,'” I say, trying to guess what thirteen-year-old Amy must have been thinking.
Amy laughs, “I probably thought that!”
We joke about this for a moment, before feeling deeply sorry for Amy’s younger self.
“I remember there was relief in showering,” Amy thinks out loud.
But her greatest relief came when she was on the toilet. There, she could scratch her vaginal area through the toilet paper as much as she wanted. She scratched and scratched until she bled.
Horrified by this detail, I ask Amy why she never reached out for help.
“I just like felt…dirty and shameful,” she tells me. She didn’t know what she had done to cause her infection, but she was sure that she had done something bad.
Her infection affected her social life that summer. Amy was so uncomfortable and ashamed that she didn’t want to engage in activities. She felt isolated. “This is my fault, I have to deal with this,” she told herself.
After a month and a half, the yeast infection finally cleared up on its own.
Amy was only able to identify her condition as a yeast infection several months ago, ten years after it happened. She feels relieved, knowing now how common yeast infections are.
She still doesn’t talk about it, though. At the time of our interview, I am the only person she has ever told.
A huge thanks to Amy for your contribution! I’m so glad your vagina isn’t itchy anymore.
Think you might have a yeast infection? Check out this info on yeast infections and how to treat them.
*Names have been changed