Over the last year, it’s become more and more apparent that I do, in fact, have recurrent cystitis. Having cystitis is a bit like entering the matrix – until I had my first attack I’d never even known it was a disease. It doesn’t appear in books, films or classroom lessons (particularly given that my school didn’t give any lessons related to sexual health) and nobody had even suggested it as an illness possibility. And then I had an episode and found out that not only do most women have it at least once in their lives, getting it around three times a year is apparently perfectly normal. Suddenly there was this new and unexpected level to the world.
For those who have not yet entered the matrix, cystitis is a bacterial urinary tract or bladder infection. The main symptoms are a strong and desperate desire to pee coupled with pee that feels like burning acid, which is not a happy combination. If left for too long, eventually you start to pee blood which is completely terrifying the first time it happens. It tends to occur when bacteria from the outside world make their way into the urethra (the little pipe where pee comes out) and given that women have far shorter urethras than men, it can happen to them fairly frequently. Nobody is quite sure what leads to an attack, or why some people get it far more often than others, but anecdotal evidence suggests a strong correlation with sexual activity, personal hygiene, and/or dehydration.