It’s interesting to hear from someone with such a similar experience, and this board is very valuable for helping us see that we are not alone.
For me, vasectomy has so far been like a bruise that doesn’t heal, physically or mentally.
Plenty of people have things happen that are far more tragic than what has happened to me, but recognizing this experience as a kind of a tragedy helps me feel like I have understood why it tastes so bitter and maybe gives me an improved chance of healing emotionally.
Here are a couple of things I am reminded of, but which are far more tragic:
Pregnant women who took Thalidomide and gave their children birth defects.
Young girls who are given clitorectomies.
I think part of what makes this disorienting is that this is the first thing that has ever happened to me that is actually bad. I’m a white male, living in the world’s richest country, living in a democracy, employed, living after the invention of antibiotics and vaccines and have never had a serious injury. My expectations might be calibrated a little high, historically speaking. Christopher Hitchens said after he got throat cancer that he briefly wondered “Why me?” and then chastised himself and said “Well why not me?” Well, why should I expect to get through life utterly unscathed?
Partly the emotional turbulence stems from the strong sensation that it didn’t have to happen. If only I had known. If only I had looked at the right website a day earlier. If only my urologist had given me the most accurate statistics. If only more men talked about this. There is the sense that several things lined up just so to achieve the bad outcome. But this is just a part of what makes a situation a tragedy.
Then there is the outrage. It is proper to be particularly angry when a doctor fails to fully live up to the position of trust they are in. There was a far more extreme version a number of years ago where a doctor was telling healthy people they had cancer in order to sell them chemotherapy and his services. Or consider the pharmacists who were letting medicine get moldy back in 2012, resulting in patients getting fungal meningitis. We are right to be outraged, and the outrage is meant to be energizing and motivating. But in this case, the outrage has nowhere constructive to go. I wrote my urologist a letter expressing my frustration.
Then there is the sexual politics. A quick survey of online media turns up plenty of examples of people reacting to reports of vasectomy pain with some variation on the theme of “Well, consider the risks women take with childbirth, and the pain a woman must endure even with an uncomplicated delivery?” That is the slap we get treated to instead of sympathy? I get the impression that there is a quick semi-subconscious calculation happening that goes like this: Women have it bad. They are the ones who must put up with the aggressive and violent behavior of men. They are the ones who are asked to mess with their hormones, or risk getting pregnant. They are the ones whose health is jeopardized by pregnancy. They are the ones who must suffer during delivery. If men sometimes have pain from vasectomy, how are we supposed to even care about that, considering what most women go through? If men are told the REAL statistics and the consequences of PVPS are made vivid for them, they are going to choose not to get a vasectomy – selfishly refusing to share any of the risk and through their inaction putting it all entirely on women. Vasectomies are not in the MAN’s best interest, but when you consider the available alternatives, vasectomies are in the best interest of the man and the woman considered together. If men need to be duped into taking their fair share of the risks of having sex, then so be it.
Anyway, I understand what you mean when you talk about the mental drain this causes. I think about this frequently through the day. My work is suffering. My ability to focus on my children is suffering. It stresses my relationship with my wife. In fact, the irony for those who wish to protect women by advocating vasectomy in a dishonest way is that the wives of men with PVPS suffer terribly. Regardless of the real imbalance in the world between the lot of men and women, doctors should effectively communicate to men the risks of the surgery. Even if they sign a piece of paper, men cannot really consent to a surgery if they are being systematically mislead about it’s consequences.
One trick I learned this week is to sleep with a pillow between your knees. It seems to prevent the pain that was coming and keeping me awake in the middle of the night.