From Overwhelmed with Vaginismus to Overjoyed
For as long as I could remember, I was always afraid of my vagina.
I was scared to touch it, scared to look at it, scared and terrified of it. Looking back, I feel like this fear was my body telling me that something was wrong.
I remember watching an episode of Tyra Banks' talk show when I was about 16, and she did a segment on vaginismus.
I had never attempted penetration at that point, but I remembered thinking, "I think I must have that."
I don't know where this fear came from. It was something I always had. I have suspicions that it came from my Christian upbringing, where we were taught that sex was dirty and a sin.
As a kid, I always wanted to follow the rules, so it made me see sex as something to definitely stay away from.
I attempted penetrating my vagina for the first time when I was 20 with a tampon. I chose to do this because I had decided that there was someone I wanted to have sex with, but I also knew I had never used my vagina before. I wanted to make sure "it worked".
I took a mirror, I opened it up. I was terrified. I read the directions on the back of a tampon box, and then I attempted to insert the tampon. It went in slightly.
I was in severe pain. 10/10 pain. I started sweating and panicking. It felt like my vagina was pushing it out. I pulled it out quickly, threw it away, cancelled my sex plans and ignored it.
I chose not to think about this incident. I figured I must've done it wrong, maybe when I'm more mature, maybe when I'm more ready, I can try again and it will work.
I was also keenly aware that at this time all of my friends were starting to go to the gynecologist.
I pushed that far from my mind as well.
Any guy I engaged with sexually was only clitoral stimulation and me giving them oral sex.
I never ever let a guy penetrate me with a finger.
I blamed these sexual boundaries for a few years on the reason I wasn't able to keep a boyfriend.
I felt like all my friends had these boyfriends that they were very serious with, and I had no one because I couldn't/wouldn't have sex with anyone. I of course know now sex does NOT equate to a healthy relationship. I wish I had known that then.
When I was 22, I met my now husband.
In these past two years, not one single time had I attempted penetration with anything into my vagina. The gynecologist was forever on my mind. I thought about it almost daily.
I was increasingly worried about not getting scanned, but I felt like there was no way I could do it. So, I continued to ignore it.
At this point, I still didn't think I had vaginismus. I honestly thought I just needed to relax and calm down. I thought eventually I wouldn't be afraid. I thought eventually I would be able to do it.
I was very wrong.
From 22–24, I dated and got engaged to my now husband.
The entire time, I told him I was a Christian and I didn't believe in sex before marriage. This was only partially true, and the real reason for me saying this was to buy time.
I wasn't ready to have sex or penetration, and I thought eventually I would be.
When I was 24, we got married.
We repeatedly tried to have sex.
Simply put, I felt like his penis would not fit. It would get close, there would be severe pain, we would stop.
This was a cycle the first year and a half of our marriage. I couldn't get it in. It hurt terribly. My husband kept telling me I would be okay once I relaxed. I told myself I should try some wine.
I never told a soul about this at this point.
I told my best friends about how amazing sex was with my husband. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. How could I tell someone I'd been married 18 months and never had sex?
My husband had many kids with his ex wife. How could I be his wife and not even be able to have sex with him?
I felt beyond ashamed.
My husband was never anything but encouraging. He built me up every single day. He told me it was okay, and everything would be done in my time.
There was never one incident where I felt he was frustrated or where he put pressure on me. We engaged in oral sex (me to him) and clitoral stimulation.
All the while, I still felt like I had no idea what was going on with me.
In the spring of age 25…
I was reading the Daily Mail app on Snapchat. Cosmo had an article about vaginismus. The memories from Tyra Banks' show came flooding back to me. It was while reading that article I finally started to realize what could be wrong with me.
I spent weeks researching this condition, and I was convinced I had it.
At that point, I felt a little bit empowered to get help, but I still didn't know anything about treatment. I wanted to find a doctor who could treat vaginismus, but I didn't know how it would be treated. I spent weeks looking for doctors. I wanted to go to someone was treated vaginismus as a focus, but I never knew how hard that would be to find.
Most offices were telling me they didn't even know what I was talking about!
I finally found a doctor in Philadelphia who focused on pelvic pain. Pelvic pain was a new term to me. I had extreme pelvic pain, and I thought I had vaginismus.
I saw this doctor when I was 25 in August.
She stated that she expected I had vaginismus, but she would not give me an official diagnosis because I refused to let her insert anything.
I knew it would hurt, and I wasn't ready.
She stated that she wanted me to go to therapy (a specific practice that didn't take insurance; she wanted weekly visits), she wanted me on an anti anxiety medication, and she wanted me established with a regular gynaecologist before I came back for treatment.
Treatment was going to be gradual insertion of dilators weekly. This visit was terrifying to me.
It seemed so unrealistic.
I couldn't afford this therapy ($160/week), I didn't want to be on an anxiety medication, there was no way I could handle a pelvic exam at a gynecologist, and I absolutely couldn't fit it in my work schedule to see her weekly (she only worked 10:00–2:00).
I was also absolutely terrified at the thought of dilators.
So I left, and I never went back.
I did buy dilators. I tried the smallest one (finger size), and it of course created the same pain I always knew.
I felt lost.
Who else could I see for treatment? Could I even handle treatment?
I ignored it all for many more months.
Over six months later, I was now 26.
It was the spring. My husband and I had moved to a new state and bought a new home. I was feeling amazing.
I was very happy in all aspects of my life, except for one thing. Nothing could go into my vagina.
However, I finally felt ready. I felt like I was ready to accept and tolerate whatever treatment there was to be had. I finally felt ready because in these last six months I had finally found support. I found a Facebook group for people with vaginismus.
I found people who were going through the same thing, going through treatments, and having success.
People were getting cured!
And I was finally seeing that this was possible.
I felt ready.
Based on what people were saying in the group, I decided I wanted to try was physical therapy.
My mission became to find a doctor that would give me a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist.
I decided I would just keep calling offices until someone told me they knew what vaginismus was and had treated it before.
On my third call, I was told yes! This doctor had treated it and referred to physical therapy before. I made an appointment. I rescheduled.
I rescheduled again.
I finally went in May. Before I went I promised myself I would not be bullied into a pap. Of course I knew I was 26, and had never had an exam.
What if I didn't have a cervix?!
I went into the room and I immediately launched into my story. I didn't even take a breath. I wanted to be sure that I advocated for myself and that I was heard.
I told the doctor she could use a q tip or a finger to please confirm my suspected vaginismus. She wanted to attempt a pap to confirm to diagnosis, but I refused. She agreed on a q tip. She attempted to insert it, and she was able to immediately assess and diagnose me.
She gave me the pelvic floor physical therapy referral, and I left absolutely elated.
She said she expected me back in August ready for a full exam. I was determined.
I called the physical therapist as soon as I got home. There was a waiting list.
While this was discouraging, I also felt somewhat reassured because it meant other people were experiencing pelvic pain and needed this therapy too.
I wasn't alone.
I was able to get into my first appointment a month later at the end of June. I saw this therapist six times.
This was a talking visit only where she discussed what her treatment would consist of. She would use her finger to assess muscles, she would teach me how to use dilators, and we would focus on muscle control and breathing to relax.
After this visit, she asked me to make 12 weekly appointments.
She attempted to relax my muscles with heating pads, and she had me focus on my breathing.
She attempted to insert her finger. It wouldn't go in past the tip. She stated she wouldn't go passed a three level of pain. At the tip, it was way past a three.
She took her finger out and said we would stop there for today.
I left feeling so discouraged. How could I reach a cure if she can't even get her small finger in? How would I ever get past this?
She gave me homework. She told me to touch my labia while looking at in a mirror. She said to try to insert my own finger when I felt ready. I thought this would be impossible.
I was able to tell my pelvic floor physiotherapist that I was able to insert my finger.
I was amazed that her simple homework assignment had gotten me that far in one visit.
However she then tried to insert her finger. We had the same problem.
She got slightly farther in, but then I was in pain and she couldn't go any farther. I was so discouraged. I felt like a liar.
How could I do this to myself but then not let her?
She told me to keep trying on my own and to try with the smallest dilator when I felt ready. She told me to bring the dilators to the next visit.
I was able to report that was able to get the first full dilator in.
During this visit I reinserted the first dilator on my own, and she taught me how to release my trigger points (where the muscles were very tense).
There was a two week skip in between these visits, and I was able to report that I could get all four dilators in and thrust them!
I was so amazed. All I did was release my muscle tension with the first dilator, breathe, and work my way through the entire set. They were sliding in seamlessly. I was so happy and I was so impressed. I couldn't believe that these simple exercises and homework assignments had gotten me this far.
There were also two weeks in between these visits.
I was able to report that my husband and I had been able to have pain free sex multiple times!
I had also had my period and used a tampon.
My concern at that point was being able to allow someone else to penetrate me. I had that gynaecologist exam staring me in my face, and I wanted to be ready. My pelvic floor physiotherapist said she would attempt to do a pelvic exam.
I laid down, watched her lube her fingers, and she was able to insert two fingers pain free and complete a pelvic exam.
Joy doesn't even describe how I felt.
In six visits, I had gone from no penetration to losing my virginity and wearing tampons. There is no way to describe the happiness.
I felt like I only had one more step. The gynaecologist exam. A few days later, I was able to easily get a pap and a pelvic done by my gynaecologist. She hugged me and told me how happy she was for me.
I left that gynaecologist's office, and I cancelled my remaining pelvic floor physiotherapist appointments.
I was cured.
I'm forever amazed that my years of struggle were cured in less than two months of physical therapy.
I am forever grateful for the online community I have found because without it, I doubt I would be cured today.
I am so grateful for everyone who has been able to share their journey and their story before me.
It has changed my life.
And the cherry on top: I'm pregnant!
Here is the backstory:
When I first met my husband, he told me almost immediately that he had a vasectomy years prior. He told me as our relationship progressed that he would be willing to get it reversed.
Once we were married and realized I couldn't have sex, he consulted a doctor about his own chances of fertility with a vasectomy reversal. His vasectomy had been eight years ago at that point, and he was told he needed to get it reversed ASAP for the highest possible chance of success. He got it reversed in June LAST year, this was 14 months before I was cured.
He believed in me and in us that much that he had surgery to make himself fertile again despite knowing full well that we weren't able to have sex.
Yes, good men are out there, ladies…
I was cured in August 2019, and it is now currently October 2019, and I am four weeks pregnant!
Of course it is early, but I'm praying for a sticky baby and an easy pregnancy!
I wanted to add this on to the post despite how early on it is because I just want vaginismus suffers to know that there is SO MUCH HOPE.
It's okay, take your time, you will get there, and your dreams will become a reality.
—Tara (26 years old, Dover, USA)