Persevering through vaginismus

How I didn’t give up on a healthy sex life 

Vaginismus isn’t an incurable condition, but it takes work.

This past spring, I was diagnosed with a condition I wasn’t aware existed: vaginismus. 

The six months that followed my diagnosis were filled with confusion, distress, tears and pain. I had been trying to have sex with my partner for several months, but every time we tried it was like he hit an impenetrable wall. It felt like someone constantly pushing on a bruise. Eventually, I had to stop trying because it was so painful and even more embarrassing.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself what’s going on, what does that word mean, just as I did in my endless Google perusals after the appointment with my doctor. According to vaginismus.com, it’s “vaginal tightness causing discomfort, burning, pain, penetration problems, or complete inability to have intercourse.”

That technical definition sounds intimidating to a newcomer, so I’ll explain. It really comes down to the muscles in your pelvis. When someone with vaginismus tries to have sex, these muscles tighten involuntarily causing many of the previously listed and very painful symptoms. 

Vaginismus makes sex, let alone enjoyable sex, nearly impossible — and it’s not an uncommon condition. It can affect women of all ages at different points in time, but while statistics don’t provide a complete picture due to common misdiagnoses and embarrassment surrounding reporting it, about two in every 1000 women will have it. 

So what does this mean for someone who has it? 

My first few weeks were extremely difficult. I was wracked with questions like, “How am I supposed to cure something that is involuntary? How long will this take to fix? Who is it okay to tell? Why am I the only one with this problem?”

The condition nearly destroyed any desire I had to continue trying to have sex. I felt defective. Even though it was out of my control, I was very hard on myself every time I failed to have sex. No matter how hard I tried, or how much I wanted it to work, my body wouldn’t let me enjoy the physical aspects of a relationship. 

Needless to say, my relationship suffered immensely under this pressure and I unwisely gave up trying while waiting for my diagnosis. I now know that apathy was definitely not the answer.

Luckily for me, I’ve been working slowly towards curing my vaginismus with support, laughter, and a steady treatment plan. My pelvic physiotherapist has been a quiet angel during my treatment, answering all of my questions and guiding me through the range of resources that magically appeared once I heard of the condition. 

My family and friends have overwhelmed me with sympathy and support and they help me laugh my way through some of the more uncomfortable steps — like when my dilator (yes, it is exactly what you imagine) appeared  on my doorstep. 

People’s treatment may vary depending on the severity of their vaginismus and the type of lifestyle they lead. As a young woman whose primary reason for going to the ARC was for bulk candy, my physiotherapist put me on a rigorous exercise, yoga and stretching regime. The daily stretches I do help my mind and body distinguish between muscles in my pelvic floor, my thighs, and my bum.

This hasn’t been an easy process. While vaginismus has high rates of success when it comes to treatment, it’s accompanied by frustration and impatience. I’m no longer with my partner, which means I won’t be 100 percent cured until I’m with someone else.

That thought is the scariest of them all since I can’t plan the next time I’ll feel comfortable enough with someone to be open about my struggles (but I think Chris Evans would be very understanding!)

However, I’m noticing changes every day proving to me my treatment is working. In addition to my new rippling six-pack (more like one-pack), my hip and thigh muscles have been relaxing more and more. My pelvis doesn’t feel like an aching bruise anymore!

If you, like me, have found yourself in sexual situations that just don’t seem to be working properly, please don’t give up or panic like I did. 

Read some of the literature on vaginismus and talk to your doctor about it. The vaginismus.com treatment plan has excellent instructions and resources for people hoping to learn more about this condition, including tips for seeing if this condition is affecting you.

It’s also important to know that some aspects of vaginismus can be triggered by traumatic or difficult events, memories, or experiences. There are several resources, both on the website and on campus, that are available to students who need help working through this.

Vaginismus is a curable condition, and many people are out there to support you like they did for me. Just be sure to stick to your treatment and have a good laugh when your dilator comes in the mail! 

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