My vaginismus journey began in my early twenties when I attempted to put a tampon in for the first time.
Growing up I never minded using pads during my period, even though it sucked whenever I wanted to go swimming and my friends swore by tampons.
I think the thought of inserting something into my vagina freaked me out and I always assumed it would be painful, probably due to the lack of sex education and terrible messaging I received about sex as a teenager.
So when I was in my early twenties, I finally decided to try using a tampon but sure enough, the first time I attempted it wouldn’t go in.
I didn’t think much of it at the time and thought “Well I guess I’ll just continue to use pads.”
A year goes by and I decide to try again, thinking maybe I just had the wrong angle or I was doing something wrong. Still nothing. It felt like a wall was blocking the entrance and if I pushed any harder it felt like something was going to rip.
I tried again a few months later, determined that it would go in but once again no success. It was around this point that I began to become concerned. If I couldn’t put a tampon in, how the hell was I going to have penetrative sex one day?
My dating history was pretty much nonexistent until I was about 25 (another big insecurity I had) so when I finally met someone and sex was now a possibility, I hoped that things would go smoothly. I had no idea what to expect and thought the reason I was having so much trouble with tampons was because I hadn’t had penetrative sex yet.
My first sexual encounter didn’t involve a penis but rather a finger and to my surprise, it still felt like there was a wall at the opening of my vagina.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with the guy I was with, for other unrelated reasons, but I wanted to be proactive about the situation for the next time an opportunity for sex presented itself. At this point, I was convinced that there was something wrong with me and so to avoid any future embarrassment, I booked an appointment with my doctor to see if there was a medical reason I was having this problem and find out why I was having pain.
To my surprise, even my doctor was unable to insert a speculum inside me without me experiencing this awful burning pain. From her perspective, she said my anatomy looked good and so it was probably just my nerves and recommended masturbation or drinking a glass of wine prior to sex to relax my body.
This made sense at the time, as I realized I did have a lot of fear surrounding sex and almost expected the first time would hurt but didn’t think it was supposed to hurt THIS much?
So I start dating again.
Although penetration was still a no-go and I knew the anticipation for penetrative sex could soon be a possibility, I booked another appointment with my doctor and it was at this time that I also decided to go on the pill. I explained how I’ve still been having no luck with penetration and was still looking for answers.
She finally recommended I see a pelvic floor physiotherapist and said this may be beneficial for me. At the time I was like “what the heck is a pelvic floor physiotherapist?” but was open to trying anything at this point.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy
My first pelvic floor physio appointment was an initial consult that involved an internal and external examination. After the initial consult, she explained to me that I’m most likely experiencing what’s called vaginismus.
I had googled vaginismus prior to this appointment and read a lot of scary things on the internet, as one does, and the most terrifying words I read was “female sexual dysfunction”.
So although I was scared, my pelvic floor PT was so comforting and reassured me that vaginismus is actually extremely common and very treatable.
And so at the end of my appointment she recommended a vaginal dilator set and lubricant that I could purchase and explained how to use them.
When I got home from my appointment I remember breaking down and crying. I was so mad at my body for not doing what I thought was supposed to be normal and hated the fact that I had to use dilators when none of my friends did.
My mind then started to spiral down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts like how I might never be able to have penetrative sex, have children one day, and how this will make it even more difficult to date and get into a relationship in general.
How would I explain this to potential partners? Do I even need to tell them? Will they still like me and choose to be with me regardless?
In today’s dating culture, we live in a society that puts sex on a pedestal, not to mention how important sex was in a relationship. Everywhere you turn it feels like everyone is talking about sex and either seeing or hearing about it in the media.
As someone with no sex or relationship experience, this made me feel very insecure as I couldn’t relate and now on top of that I had to deal with overcoming vaginismus. But I knew I had to stay positive and not give up hope.
Dilating Experience and Yoga for Pelvic Health
After coming to terms with the fact that I was experiencing vaginismus and all of the emotions that came with it, I wanted to be proactive and start the healing process as fast as possible.
The dilator set I use is the Inspire silicone dilator set of five. So I started with the first (smallest) dilator and followed the instructions that my physio told me. I focused on breathing through my diaphragm and relaxing my pelvic floor muscles as best as I could, all while being patient with my body.
I knew overcoming this pain wasn’t going to happen overnight but consistency would be key.
In the beginning stages, I promised myself that I would dedicate a specific time every single day to dilate in hopes that my efforts would pay off. To my surprise, I managed to get the first dilator in after about 10 days.
I remember feeling so proud of myself and even excited to share this news with my pelvic floor physiotherapist at my next appointment. I think I was just relieved to know that there was actually NOT a wall down there and I could actually get something inside.
This first milestone was a huge confidence boost as well and I was more determined than ever to overcome this.
The second dilator took about two weeks to go in, followed by the third dilator which took about a month to go in. The fourth dilator took a lot longer and for a while it felt impossible but after about 3-4 months of trying, it finally went in.
The practice of yoga has also been beneficial in addition to my dilating practice, with poses focusing on the breath, along with hip openers and focusing on my core muscles to help relax the mind and body. Yoga has always been a form of self-care for me and now through this journey I’ve experienced the benefits it has had on my pelvic floor muscles and nervous system.
Healing: A Lifelong Journey
Although my journey with vaginismus is not over, I’ve gained such a love and appreciation for my body and feel proud of myself for how far I’ve come.
At this time, I am currently still working with the fifth dilator while still attending regular physiotherapy appointments every six weeks (which I pay for out-of-pocket). I also feel ready to attempt penetrative sex with a partner I trust and feel comfortable with if the option presented itself.
Dating can be hard and worrying about having to explain that I might experience pain with sex, on top of it being my first time ever, only adds more anxiety. But I know that if it’s with the right person, they will be understanding and patient with me.
Emotional safety is something that I personally need to feel in order to be intimate with someone.
Penetrative sex is one of the most intimate things you can experience and I hope that one day I will be able to share this experience with someone I love and trust.
Although vaginismus can be associated with a lot of negative emotions, filled with ups and downs, there have also been a lot of positives as well. This journey has allowed me to learn about my body, address my fears and shame surrounding sex, and foster a new healthy relationship with myself and for that, I am forever grateful.
Since the sex education we were taught in school (or lack thereof in my experience) does not focus on female pleasure or female anatomy, learning about it now has definitely made me feel more empowered and confident as woman. Likewise, connecting with others who have also experienced vaginismus has also been beneficial and has allowed me to feel a sense of community.
As for the future?
I hope to continue to learn more about myself, my triggers, as well as educate myself on the complexity of vaginismus and the many ways to overcome it. Education is the most powerful tool we have and understanding that this is very common and normal is key.
My hope for the future is a world where we can provide comprehensive sex education that is more accessible and includes proper female anatomy and female pleasure.
A sex positive world where everyone of all genders can feel safe to explore their sexuality instead of experiencing feelings of shame. Although everyone’s journey will look differently, your unique experiences and circumstances are valid.
No matter where you are on your journey, I hope you will choose to honour yourself and your body.
I hope you will remember all it has done for you and that it has carried you here today. I hope you will take the time to learn about yourself, your body, and your pleasure.
Because you are so worthy of pleasure. You are worthy of a healthy sex life, with or without a partner. Most of all, I hope you will remember to be kind to yourself as you navigate this journey of overcoming vaginismus, and always remember that you are never ever alone.