So, this is a difficult thing for me to write about, as it’s an incredibly personal struggle that I’ve just recently been able to overcome. It’s something I struggled with for a long time, completely alone and in silence. It’s not something that’s easy for me to talk about, but it’s an incredibly stigmatized topic that needs someone to shine light on it. So that’s what I’m here to do today.
What is vaginismus?
Vaginismus is a form of female sexual dysfunction where the pelvic floor muscles tense up involuntarily whenever any type of vaginal penetration is attempted, making it extremely difficult if not impossible. Despite the fact that hardly anyone is aware of the condition, it’s estimated that about 2 in 1000 women experience vaginismus, and that’s not including individuals who don’t seek help. It’s most common in women ages 15-24, though it can be experienced through the lifespan. Vaginismus could be caused from a wide variety of things, but is essentially a conditioned response where your body and brain have been conditioned to anticipate pain with penetration. You can read more about the causes and treatments here.
my journey with Vaginismus
I remember the first time I ever learned what sex was – I was about nine years old and my mom tried to have the “birds and the bees” talk with me. I’m not 100% sure when all of the problems started, but if I were to guess I would say this was probably the beginning of it. I remember being so completely horrified at the idea of someone else’s body part being inside of my body. I didn’t really understand the mechanics of a vagina at the time either, so I wasn’t really sure how this would be accomplished (I thought they were gonna break a hole in me down there LOL).
The following few years were pretty weird. We started having sex ed classes at school, and every single time we would have one of these classes I would faint. I’m talking full on blacking out from being so freaked out by the idea of sex and vaginas and everything having to do with the topic. Eventually, my teachers just didn’t want to deal with that anymore, so they let me go to the library while the rest of my class learned all about this weird new concept. The funny thing was that I was interested in the idea of sex. I really wanted to learn about it, but every time I tried I would start to feel faint.
In high school, the idea of sex bothered me less and the fainting spells became less frequent. However, I first realized something might be wrong when trying to use a tampon for the first time. Not only could I not get the tampon in and it felt uncomfortable, it was incredibly painful and it caused me to feel nauseous and faint. At first I thought that maybe I just needed more practice, but the more I tried to insert tampons, the worse I felt.
When I was 16, I had my first serious boyfriend (who was kind of the worst, but that’s a story for another day). I felt pressured to have sex – all of my friends were doing it, and while he wasn’t outwardly pushy about it, he made comments every now and then that made me feel like I had to do it. I wasn’t ready, and I shouldn’t have tried it with him. Deep down, I knew I didn’t trust him, and it came through substantially when we tried to have sex. Ladies, I swear to you I’ve never felt anything so painful in my life. It was like hitting a brick wall inside my vagina. I panicked and cried every single time we tried it, he got frustrated, it was just not a good time at all.
For an extremely long time after breaking up with him and going to university, I was terrified to even try having sex again. I didn’t have any relationships while in university, I didn’t hookup with guys even though that’s what most of my friends were doing. Those things just weren’t in the picture for me at the time. I also still wasn’t able to wear tampons, so lots of fun times clearly. It wasn’t until just before my 4th year that I finally decided I needed to talk to my doctor (more like I was supposed to have my first PAP smear done and he couldn’t even get the speculum in, haha).
I had to see quite a few different doctors before actually figuring out what was going on (apparently some OB-GYNs don’t believe vaginismus is a real thing?! WHAT!). It wasn’t until I was referred to a pelvic floor physiotherapist that my life started to change. This woman was AMAZING, and still to this day has had a huge impact on me and my wellbeing. A lot of what I had to do was about becoming more comfortable with my own body (because I still had this internal struggle that vaginas were gross and weird). I pushed myself each time to be able to make a little bit more progress, but I never felt pressured to do anything. Everything that I accomplished was through my own drive to overcome vaginismus. One of the best things for me was when my physiotherapist recommended I purchase vaginal dilators. These dilators are the ones that I used – they were super smooth and easy to clean, and the gradual sizing helped so much!
How am i now?
Well, I have a long time boyfriend who has been so incredibly supportive through this journey. I actually cried the first time I told him about my condition and he was more confused about why I was upset and felt that he would be upset by it than anything! I would say I’m pretty much cured of vaginismus. I used the dilators for about 5 months and am now able to have sex and wear tampons without any issues! It was a long, exhausting journey and I’m definitely not going to say it was easy, but I would say that if you think you’re struggling with vaginismus, talk to someone about it. Find someone with an open mind (especially doctors, make sure they’re not super closed minded like my first few were) and get the help that will vastly improve your life and mental well being.
Vaginismus causes women to feel broken and unworthy of love. It’s a small issue that can be absolutely debilitating. But know that it is treatable, and you can have a life free of these issues. Just have patience and stay determined while you try to work through the obstacles, and you will get there!
Thank you so much for reading this incredibly personal post. I can only hope that by putting this out there it will help someone who may feel alone just as I once did. I appreciate any questions or comments you may have (though please try to keep them positive) as talking about this problem allows us to end the stigma surrounding it. Vaginismus is real, and it’s a challenge, and it also makes us stronger. 🙂
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