Written by: Anon 23f
Today I’m going to tell you about my experience with a condition I have been tackling for a while. It’s called Vaginismus; from the name alone you can probably figure out what area of my body this affects (gold stars all around!). However, in order to talk about my condition we first need to establish something about the female anatomy. Be warned, I’m about to delve into a subject which seems to be taboo to talk about freely in modern society. Hide you children, lock the doors, take cover! Are you ready? Here goes!
Most women put things in their vaginas.
Okay I’m glad we got that out of the way. Things go in vaginas. It could be tampons. It could be a part of someone else’s anatomy. It could be various inanimate objects that may or may not have been designed for such a purpose. The point is, vagina’s are usually really awesome at being occupied.
The key word there was usually.
I first noticed that my vagina was not playing by these rules in my mid-teens during a family holiday at Center Parcs. If you haven’t been to one of these charming holiday villages all you need to know is that the best part is the swim park; it’s water slides and rapids galore. We were about half way through the trip when I got my period. At that age I’d been having my period for a reasonable number of years but I had only ever used pads; tampons seemed like some scary grown-up thing which I wasn’t ready for yet.
But I really wanted to go swimming!
I decided to face my fears and ask my mum for some of her tampons. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t go swimming.
Every attempt to insert a tampon was met with resistance and pain. Was I doing it right? I didn’t know, and I certainly wasn’t about to ask my mum for advice. it was hard enough plucking up the courage to ask her for some tampons; I certainly wasn’t about to get her to explain the intricacies of how to use them. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mum very much but at that point in my life I felt too embarrassed, too ashamed, to talk to her about this.
I didn’t touch a tampon for a long time after that.
Fast forward to my first relationship. I was in my first year of university when I met my first boyfriend. After we’d been dating for about 3 months we decided it was about time to get properly intimate.
Discussed that we both wanted this? Check.
Felt ready? Mentally? Physically? I believed so!
But my vagina was having none of it.
I won’t go into too many details about my sex life during that part of my life. Essentially I ended up going to a doctor about having painful sex. I was tested for physical problems and STI’s and everything looked to be perfectly normal with my lady bits. After persisting that something was wrong with me, the doctor wrote down the word ‘Vaginismus’ on a scrap of paper and told me to Google it.
So now we come to the educational part of this story. The NHS website says:
“Vaginismus is the term used to describe recurrent or persistent involuntary tightening of muscles around the vagina whenever penetration is attempted.”
You can go here[http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginismus/pages/introduction.aspx] for a more detailed explanation of the condition, but in summary, it’s a psychosomatic issue; my vagina muscles tighten because my brain tells them to. However, the pain felt during penetration is very much physical.
But why would my brain do this to me? Apparently there are a number of potential culprits: having had painful first intercourse, fear of pregnancy or just general negative thoughts about sex. Some of these were true, but still didn’t explain why I couldn’t even get a tampon in there! I think what it came down to in the end was something that I had been feeling my whole life; I was simply repulsed by my own genitalia. While I was growing up I had always thought my vagina was something gross and shameful, something that shouldn’t be touched or looked at, something I had left unexplored because it was ‘dirty’ and ‘scary’.
I just wanted to get better. And so I began following online advice for improving my vagina’s behaviour. There’s no magic cure-all medicine for vaginismus; I just had to become more comfortable with my own body and learn to have more control over it’s reflexes. It’s a slow process and I’m still not out of the woods yet, but I’m in a better place than I was four years ago. I can wear tampons now – although I only do this when I absolutely have to. Also, I can have almost painless sex. Most of the time. If the stars are in position and the planets are aligned…
I think it’s a shame that vaginal health is something that is so difficult to talk about openly, even with close friends and family. And it might be because of this that my vagina got itself in this mess in the first place. I wish we lived in a society where I could put my name on this piece of writing without fear of it showing up when potential future employers search for me on Google. But for now I will remain anonymous.
I’d like to end this by thanking my first, only and current partner, who has been so patient and so understanding throughout all of this. He’s never pressured me to do something I didn’t want to do and I couldn’t ask for a better person to help me tackle this condition.