Seaside Heights isn’t the only Jersey locale to recently be featured on MTV.
The College served as the set of an episode of “True Life,” as camera crews documented the daily difficulties of an at-the-time senior last spring.
Tamra Wroblesky, who graduated last May, is one of three women to share her story in the episode titled “True Life: I Can’t Have Sex,” which premiered in December.
During Wroblesky’s time at the College, she was a varsity tennis player and an active member of Women in Learning and Leadership, performing in the program’s production of “The Vagina Monologues.”
Amidst all these activities, Wroblesky was simultaneously struggling with an inexplicable and excruciating pain.
“When I first started having pain three and a half years ago, I went from doctor to doctor and received misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis for almost six months,” she said. “I was confused, upset and felt alone.”
Wroblesky was diagnosed with vulvar vestibulitis, which she describes on the show as a chronic pain condition that causes inflammation of the vaginal muscles. In the episode, when discussing how it makes sex painful, she says, “I would describe it as swords or needles going right into my vagina.”
According to WebMD, the condition affects at least 200,000 women in the United States. Vulvar vesibulitis causes inflammation of the tissue surrounding the vagina and symptoms may include burning, stinging and irritation or rawness of the affected area.
When she decided to be on the show, her purpose was not only to educate and advocate, but also to prevent others from experiencing similar feelings of solitude.
“I wanted to do anything I could to promote awareness for an unheard of condition,” she said. “Going on the show would mean giving vulvar vestibulitis, pelvic floor dysfunction and other pelvic disorders their first truly national television coverage.
“It seemed like a great way to educate a wide audience and let fellow sufferers realize they are not alone in their fight,” she continued.
When over 50 hours of filming is condensed to fit into one-third of an hour-long television timeslot, it seems like some details may get left out, yet Wroblesky said she was ultimately satisfied with the episode.
“I would have thought it virtually impossible to share my story in 11 minutes, but I think my producer did a wonderful job. Although so much of my history and current story was left out, I felt who I am as a person came through. I think it was a great beginning and I’m eager to see more and more coverage (of vulvar vestibulitis) as the years progress.”
Wroblesky first shared her story when she began a women’s health blog three years ago. She was even awarded the title of a Top Health Blogger by wellsphere.com, an online communal health site.
It is due to her blogging that she was given the television opportunity.
“I received an e-mail from MTV in late March through my blog asking if I would be interested in sharing my story for a documentary about pelvic pain,” she said. “Things moved very quickly after that. I called them up and spent a few hours sharing my health history and how it has affected my life. They started filming three days later.”
While the site allowed her to voice her daily struggles and successes, this reached a limited web audience. When featured on
“True Life,” Wroblesky opened herself up to the entire country.
Admittedly, the blogger considers herself a private person, but because she is truly impassioned about raising awareness, her apprehensions became of secondary importance.
“I was extremely nervous about being on television … Although I shared a lot of personal information through my blog, it is very different to be behind a keyboard, without a face. I also have complete control
over each blog post, whereas MTV (shot and edited hours of footage), which I would not see until premiere night.”
When the episode did premiere, Wroblesky had a viewing party with some of her closest friends, a few of which were even seen with her in the episode.
“We watched at a house near school,” she said. “My friends that were too far away to come also had their own viewing parties, so there were a couple going on in different states.”
The television series picked an angle to attract attention to the segment, and subsequently, a majority of the episode focused on the women’s sex lives, or lack thereof.
“I know a lot of women were upset with the show because a lot of attention was focused on social lives and less on medical history and treatments. Some also felt the health conditions were overtly sexualized,” she said.
“When you have vulvodynia, pelvic flood dysfunction and other women’s health problems, one of the last things on your mind is sex,” Wroblesky explained. “Each day is a daily battle with intense pain and suffering. Your focus is on finding the correct specialists, finding a treatment plan that works for you and just getting through one day at a time. Although the focus of the show was not solely medical, I was very happy with the way my segment was edited.”
Camera crews followed the 22 year old from April to June of 2010. In the episode, familiar locations from the College’s campus can be seen, such as a dorm from New Residence Hall, where Wroblesky served as a Community Advisor, and the Library Auditorium.
“It was surreal being followed by a television crew and a lot harder than I originally expected,” she said.
“It took a lot of getting used to, especially the looks I would get when I was out in public. It’s very hard to blend in when you have three or four people, microphones and a big camera following you all the time.”
Although she graduated from the College with a double major in history and women’s and gender studies, unexpected circumstances have caused Wroblesky’s goals to change.
Upon graduating, she took a job in Denver, Colo. from Environment America, but her pain became too intense, and she had to return to New Jersey to resume medical treatment.
“After I left my job and came back home, I was searching for a purpose and what I wanted to do with my life. I soon came to realize that I want to get involved in medicine and become a healer,” she said.
“I want to become a physical therapist and be able to help others like mine have helped me,” Wroblesky said. “I think I will have great interactions with patients because I know what they are going through.”
She will begin taking science prerequisites within the next few weeks and plans on applying in June to the Jefferson School of Health Professions’ Doctorate in Physical Therapy for 2012.
“Jefferson has a great reputation, especially with women’s health, and it is located in Philadelphia, so I can still be around my doctors and receive proper medical care. I’m very excited for what the future holds, especially turning my experience into something positive,” she said.
While helping others heal is part of Wroblesky’s prospective plans, more time in front of the camera is not a priority.
“I’m not in any rush to be on television again, but I am happy that I had the experience,” she said. “People are now recognizing me on the street, which surprises me every time. I’m actually looking forward to (the craziness of) my life dying down a bit and reclaiming my life for myself.”
Jamie Primeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org