This post was “under construction” for quite some time.
Every time I sat down to write this blog, I would have writer’s block and I didn’t really know how to start talking about it.
I didn’t really know how to address it and I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to disclose about my life and journey with pain..
And then today I thought, well that pretty much sums up how I’ve been living my life for the past 8 or something years! (I would say my whole life, but I wasn’t aware it was an issue until the last 8 years).
I’ve hidden behind this wall that I thought was protecting me but honestly I was just too afraid and scared to face the truth – that I had a condition no one talked about, not many doctors could address and I would have to figure out a way to overcome it – with untraditional methods.
I’ll start from when I first realized something wasn’t exactly “normal”.
I was in middle school and had to attend a pool party, but I had my period…
I knew I couldn’t go into the pool unless maybe if I wore a tampon – which I never tried before.
I talked to my mom and she went to buy a box for me.
I asked my mom if she knew how to use them, and she wasn’t very well versed, so I figured I’ll just follow the instructions… and right when I inserted the little sucker inside of me, I felt this intense pain.
Of course, being very oblivious to the truth – I asked my mom if it is supposed to hurt and she said “yes of course it hurts.”
I decided against using the tampon and went to the pool party without using the pool and mostly sitting on the outskirts feeling a bit weird. This was my first experience and from that day I had told myself I will probably never use tampons again because it is too painful.
Fast forward to 6 or so years later…
I had my first gynaecologist appointment – and enter the next villain of my pain story – the speculum.
I remember screaming and crying so bad that the gynaecologist told me to relax and if I don’t relax it will be more painful.
I went on to tell her I had tried tampons before and they hurt the same way. Then she went on to tell me that the pain I was feeling wasn’t real and I was just imagining it.
I was all confused and given that I was in college and pretty gullible I believed her. I kept thinking that this pain is not real and I will need to be tougher to “bear through it” .
Life went on, and I kept having these experiences. I couldn’t use tampons, have any foreign object enter inside of me from the gynaecologist, and yes that also meant I couldn’t have sex without feeling pain.
The more experiences I had with feeling the pain, the more I shunned away from them and decided I didn’t want to face them.
I started feeling ashamed of myself, felt abnormal and even thought I was probably the only person out that that had these experiences. I convinced myself that I could move on with life without ever talking about those things and maybe I don’t need to see a gynaecologist ever – I mean what do they do anyways?!
I did anything possible to shy away from the truth creating this void inside of me. The fear was so enormous I felt the best way to deal with it was to suppress all of this and avoid it.
For a while, this worked…
I had married an amazing partner that didn’t push me at all and I had convinced myself I didn’t want kids because I was afraid of the pain I would have to deal with.
He travelled an awful lot the first few years of our marriage so in any case, I didn’t have to deal with talking about why I didn’t want children or why I can’t have sex without feeling pain. It worked out for me.
I was foolishly happy – until I realized I was hiding behind a wall that will break, and the first way that happened was through depression.
I had blamed everyone and everything in my life – family, my job, not having friends around, my husband traveling so much, not doing what I wanted to in life…etc etc.
I really didn’t know how to overcome any of this.
The more I started with these thoughts and emotions, more painful incident would happen – like a bad back/ hips, shoulder pain, etc. I didn’t know exactly what to do so I started reading a book that my dad gave me to deal with depression and started to meditate.
Through this I started realizing how I was hiding from the truth and if I wanted to overcome depression I would have to start facing the hard truths in life.
First truth was – I did want children and I would have to see an OBGYN.
I didn’t want to be a slave to the pain anymore and I wanted freedom.
I gathered up the courage to make an appointment and see an OBGYN.
I knew from my past experiences, it would be painful and most likely she would tell me to stay calm, what I’m feeling isn’t real, have some wine before sex, etc etc – so I went mentally prepared for all of this, not really thinking anything of it.
She was a very patient and warm physician – she didn’t tell me any of those things but instead told me there are a lot of women out there that are facing this problem – the condition is called ‘vaginismus’.
The definition if you were to google the term is “involving a muscle spasm in the pelvic floor muscles. It can make it painful, difficult, or impossible to have sexual intercourse, to undergo a gynaecological exam, and to insert a tampon.”
She recommended I start pelvic floor physical therapy and at-home treatment of using a dilator set. I had asked if I would be cured and could eventually have a baby – and she told me probably, but she doesn’t know and even if I did have a baby I would need a C-section for other reasons.
I recall leaving her office and sitting in my car for a good 30 minutes crying, sobbing and once again feeling ashamed, abnormal and inferior to all those other women out there that didn’t have to deal with this.
I didn’t know how to deal with this truth and once again decided to put it on the back burner.
I knew I had to contact some pelvic floor physiotherapists and start the process but didn’t want to deal with it, because every time I faced it I felt even more ashamed.
I convinced myself that I should at least try the the at-home dilator set she suggested – so I ordered these plastic things and read a few articles through google and thought okay this can’t be so bad.
There were 4 sizes – I wasn’t able to get passed the 4th one for about 6 months. I had once again went through the cycle of feeling ashamed, annoyed and even angry at myself.
I continued living with the pain, stress and the fear.
4 months later – end of 2018…
I decided to reach out to some physical therapist and schedule appointments.
I only had a limited few that were covered in my insurance (a whole other topic that gets me upset – but why aren’t women health related issues covered better by insurance companies?) so I decided to go to the closest one.
I remember walking into the room and immediately she mentioned – you have to be calm, relax and when you are here you have to be in this sort of attitude. She told me that everything in my body is tensed and clammed up and that is my personality. I literally felt under attack and once again came home crying.
Looking back, I know she wasn’t wrong at all – at that moment however, I wasn’t prepared to hear it.
In fact, looking back, I know that my personality, thoughts, emotions all have a part in my journey of pain and to overcome the pain I would have to connect with them.
Through all those experiences, I decided I couldn’t quit now – I needed to gather a little bit more courage and reach out to another physical therapist that wasn’t part of my insurance.
I would have to pay out of pocket – but if I could be “cured” then it was all worth it. I had 3 phone conversations with her before I finally went to see her in person. She suggested I start with Intimate Rose silicone dilators and see how I do at home, along with stretches and exercises for the pelvic floor, hips etc.
She also said I would benefit from breathing exercises, meditation and regular yoga classes. I decided if I was going to do this – I had to fully trust her and religiously follow her instructions.
But the one thing she said, that I still hold dear to my heart…
“This journey is about you and your ability to ask your mind permission to let go of the pain. It’s about knowing that when the body goes into flight or fight, you have the power to tell your mind to stop, breathe, relax..and everything will be okay.”
Fast forward to 5 months later…
I am on the larger dilators (#7 out of 8) , using a wand for pressure points, went to a new OBGYN group where I had an amazing appointment , and overall found out so much about my personality, thoughts and emotions thanks to meditation and self reflection.
Here is the thing…
The pain cycle will continue to happen until we decide to break it and face our emotions.
I had heard this from so many different mediums. Along this time, I also started to research more on the mind-body relationship, how emotions affect the body and could cause pain, what trapped emotions really do to the body, etc.
I started focusing more on watching positive things and stopped watching anything that led to negative thoughts in my mind or somehow created fear. I was so cautious of fear in general – because fear was the root of the pain.
I knew if I did fear something, I had to face it and overcome it so I could feel successful.
I celebrated every small feat and instilled a feeling of success inside of me that eventually I felt excited for therapy sessions or at home exercises.
And from there, the journey continues…
Honestly, I don’t think I would have been able to find all the great supporters of this journey without my research into the very raw topics of the condition.
As an Indian woman, talking about these issues was pretty much taboo and for a long time I felt alone.
Until I found the many things that have helped me in the past year. I believe the universe provided a gift to me by introducing these people and products and now it’s my turn to shed the light and give back.
I actually feel so blessed now to have gone on this journey because I have found amazing women going through the same thing and finally feel like I found another profound purpose which is to shed more awareness about vaginismus.
I can’t possibly write everything in this blog, but will work on a video to post shortly!
– Urvi (34 years old, West Orange, USA)
P.S. I dedicate this post to my family, loving husband, amazing physical therapist, OBGYN group and support group I have found through social media from Katrin (@vaginismus.sisters).
P.P.S. We also discussed my experience in more detail over video!