What if sex was always, always painful for you? What if you couldn’t even use a tampon? How would you navigate dating or deal with your period? Today, O shares the story of how she’s navigated life with Vaginismus.
I’m from Dallas, TX and I’m 27 years old. I recently graduated from a graduate program and am working as an entrepreneur in my field. I love personal development, meeting new people and dance. I’m working to build a semi-professional dance career on the side.
Vaginismus is a condition where it is not possible or very painful to insert anything into the vagina. The pelvic floor muscles tighten up, making insertion of anything – including tampons – difficult and painful.
When did you start to have symptoms? Do you know what brought them on?
I can’t say when I had symptoms because I started being sexually active relatively late in life and I wasn’t raised to use tampons.
I’d never had a pap-smear and the one time the doctor tried, it was too painful so we skipped it. I didn’t think that meant anything. I noticed how on TV teen pregnancies were described as “It just happened” and I’d think “How does it just happen? I have to put in a lot of effort for anything to happen.” It wasn’t until a few years ago I started dating someone who understood it was very abnormal and we went to an OB-GYN to diagnose me.
When I’m not on my period, I don’t think it does. Since I’m adverse to tampons, there are things I have to plan for. Otherwise, I don’t really think about it.
I have recently finished almost a year’s worth of physical therapy which helped me a lot, but sometimes I have a bit of relapse. I’m in a new relationship now with a wonderful man so there are a few days where I remember I have it. But luckily, when we were first getting together, he said he would have never had known. A part of me feels like Vaginismus may have been like a “good-guy-radar” or something, like it was my body’s weird way of trying to lead me to a wonderful relationship.
What treatments have you tried?
I was dating a guy who gave me some sort of vitamins that were meant to relax me; that didn’t work. I tried MSM which is supposed to help relax muscles and it didn’t work. I had tried a lot of things that are supposed to help you relax but none of them worked.
After I was actually diagnosed, I started doing physical therapy. The first place I went to used an electrode that kinda “zapped” my pelvic floor muscles. After three sessions, it worked! But I relapsed and then couldn’t afford that particular clinic.
I also saw a sex-therapist. He helped a lot, actually, but after a while, I felt it was not necessary.
Luckily, I was so head over heels in love with him that it wasn’t an issue. At first.
I guess it is his calm approach that makes it feel like it is not a big deal. I realized that the biggest factor to reducing my stress was TRUST. If I felt like I had 100% trust in my partner, it was more likely to work out “down there.”
When you were dating, how would you tell men about this?
He told me that he didn’t think it would be a problem. And luckily, it wasn’t. But I did find it interesting that he didn’t think it would be a problem and every guy I ever give “the talk” to has a similar reaction. When I asked my ex about it, he said that men have a natural inclination to think that they’re gonna be the best sexual partner a girl’s ever had. Any issues a girl has with sex, he is man enough to fix it. I told my current partner and he begrudgingly agreed, haha! I know I can’t generalize men based on the opinion of just one guy I dated, but it is interesting!
What books/websites/resources/etc have helped you deal with this?
I think it’s important to add that I found it very difficult to get treated. I had to go tell my OBGYN that I thought I had Vaginismus, explain it to her, and then have her try to probe me before I could get a referral to a pelvic floor doctor.
The pelvic floor doctor referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapy clinic that was in-network but it turned out to be too expensive. So in order to find someone who was affordable, I had to call every. single. pelvic floor PT clinic I could find. I googled and googled, called and called.
I got a lot of “Vaga-what? What is that? Excuse me?” One clinic suggested I botox my vaginal opening! Imagine getting a call back, answering your phone as you’re trying to leave work and having the receptionist ask you to speak louder as you try to explain what Vaginismus is while you’re still in your office lobby!
What’s one thing you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
2. When you feel like you don’t fit in or something doesn’t feel right – believe it. It means something. Even if you don’t know the name for it. Even if you don’t know what exactly is wrong, trust yourself. Something is wrong. Don’t doubt yourself.
3. You don’t need to make perfect progress. You don’t need to never have a relapse or a failure. Just keep going. Have a desire, have a goal, and keep going. No matter what. I thought because I was inconsistent with my treatment, I could never have a normal, beautiful relationship and I’m so thankful that I have proven myself wrong!
Thank you so much for sharing your story, O! Do you guys have any questions for her?