Lichen sclerosus can cause architectural changes. I explain what this means in detail here, but briefly, architectural changes are changes that occur to the vulva that physically change the way it looks. For example, some folks lose some or all of their labia minora. These changes can cause a lot of distress. You may feel like part of your identity has been removed. You may feel less ‘feminine' than you did before the changes. Some folks (myself included) feel broken because of how our vulvas look. If this resonates with you, you are not alone. In today's post, we are stepping away from evidence-based information and science to have a heartfelt post about architectural changes and a beautiful philosophy and art – Kintsugi – that helped me move from feeling broken and ugly to feeling beautiful and worthy.
I hope it creates a healing and transformative shift in you, as it did for me.
What is Kintsugi
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery and ceramics. Often when we break an object, we seek to repair it. In restoring it, we usually try to hide the breaks, the cracks, and the perceived imperfections. The goal is often to preserve the unbroken version as much as possible.
However, instead of camouflaging the cracks in the pottery and ceramics, Kintsugi repairs the breaks with tree sap lacquer, varnish, or resin, dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. If anything, this makes the cracks more visible.
The philosophy behind the ancient Japanese art is that breaks and repairs are a beautiful and vital part of an object's history. Breaks and cracks,
“…must be shown and not hidden, manifesting its transformation, the scars embellish the object. Kintsugi embellishes the break and treats it as an important part of the history of the object and the broken object not as something disposable, but as something more precious than it was before.”
On this philosophy, breaks, cracks, wears, and tears are things to be celebrated, not hidden.
How Kintsugi Changed the Way I Saw My Vulva
If you have followed me at The Lost Labia Chronicles from the beginning, you know how profoundly impacted I was by the changes to the physical appearance of my vulva.
By the time I was diagnosed, my clitoral hood had completely scarred over my clitoral glans. My labia minora had resorbed entirely into the labia majora; I now only have the smallest remnants of the labia minora left, but the rest is gone.
I felt completely flat as if I had almost nothing left down there. Looking at my vulva for the first time after my diagnosis knocked the wind out of me. I felt empty and barren. Looking at the lost anatomy, I felt de-feminized, disfigured, and gross. I hated how I looked and felt profound shame and embarrassment; I never wanted my husband, over anyone else for that matter, ever looking at me down there again.
The Impact of Changes on the Physical Appearance of my Vulva
If I had to pick one word to encapsulate how I felt, it would be broken.
I felt broken.
I felt as if I would now be tossed away and discarded because of my ‘cracks,' metaphorically speaking.
The scarring, fusing, and loss of my architecture were my cracks. And I hated them. I resented them and wanted to hide them.
I daydreamed about a plastic surgeon completely reconstructing my vulva, unfusing my clitoris, creating voluptuous labia minora, and removing all scarring.
Of course, this never happened.
And, if I'm being honest, I'm OK with that.
Kintsugi was a huge part of healing my relationship with my vulva.
Lessons from Kintsugi
Lichen sclerosus can break us literally and metaphorically. It can break us by changing the appearance of our vulva and create painful lesions and symptoms that make us feel as if we are losing our minds. Further, it can make us feel broken, unworthy, and unattractive as if we no longer have value.
However, the philosophy behind Kintsugi has helped me view myself – and my vulva – in a different, more compassionate life. My vulva is not deformed; it's beautiful. My vulva tells a story of hurt, pain, pleasure, growth, resilience, and persistence.
It is part of the human condition to experience cracks and breaks, wear and tear.
Our bodies change from the second we arrive on this planet until the day we depart.
I'm choosing to lean into and embrace the philosophy of Kintsugi and build a compassionate relationship with my vulva. I'm choosing to wear my cracks and breaks with pride.
Our breaks transform us. They are a part of our history as living beings on this planet and part of what makes us beautiful.
Our bodies are nothing to be ashamed of!
An Important Note
I want to be transparent with you because I didn't love and cherish my vulva overnight. It was a journey and a long one. The philosophy of the art of Kintsugi played a role in that journey. Still, it wasn't as if I immediately fell in love with my vulva after learning about it.
If you are reading this post thinking, “Yeah, I still hate my vulva,” or “I still feel un-feminine and ashamed,” that is OK.
This is your journey, and the journey toward healing and self-love is long and complicated, and it looks different for everyone.
Acknowledge where you are at and permit yourself to feel your feelings.
More Vulva Self-Love
If you want more ways to foster vulva-self love and appreciation, check out this video I did with Penny for National Vulva Awareness Day.
The first half of the video is education and awareness about vulvar anatomy and lichen sclerosus, and the second part is a beautiful, gentle movement/yoga/meditation practice centered around vulvar self-love.
In sum, the philosophy of the Japanese art of Kintsugi invites us to celebrate the cracks and breaks in our bodies. Kintsugi was a huge part of healing my painful relationship with my vulva after it changed due to lichen sclerosus. I hope it helps inspire you and foster some self-compassion in the way it did for me.
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