My very first sexual penetration experience, at the age of 18 was a painful one.
“Normal” as most would say for a first time. But that repeated itself the next time and the time after that…
The pain was sharp and unexplainable.
At first my body would just put up a wall, so I couldn’t even let my partner in.
If he would try to push past the wall, it would be a painful feat and even a stronger stabbing sensation would be waiting on the other side.
I sometimes bared it to the extreme of silent tears…
Don’t get me wrong, I was initially excited about sex!
The fun in foreplay was fantastic, but after my first few failed attempts of penetration, I began to loathe where it was leading.
Dealing with the issue also became more daunting after a painful pap test and an even more excruciating ultrasound.
Sure, they ruled out certain anatomical problems, but my painful medical experiences just made me more hesitant to try penetration again.
About a year later at the early age of 19…
I consciously made my big realization.
The realization that a particular event in my life could have been what largely tainted my sex life.
So it’s late afternoon on a weekend. I’m probably 6 or 7, hanging out at my grandparents’ place in western Sofia, Bulgaria.
It’s my grandma’s birthday today.
In the time we have before dinner, I want to ride my grandpa’s bike.
As a little kid and still now, I’m always up for a challenge. An adventure. I crave variety everywhere I go…
I excitedly ask my dad and he knows better than to say no, so we head outside to the parking lot of our adventure.
I can’t reach the pedals of course, so he lifts me up on the seat, tells me to hold onto the handlebars tight and pushes me around the parking lot.
Okay, I wasn’t that pro.
After some time “biking”, it’s time to get off and head back upstairs to an out-of -this-world-delicious dinner.
As my dad is stabilizing the bike so he can lift me off the seat, he signals to the metal pole stretching from the seat to the handlebars, and warns me, “Make sure you don’t jump”!
He may as well have said…
And that’s where my memory fades away a little.
My brain processed my dad’s warning in a peculiar way.
The subconscious mind doesn’t process the negatives in a phrase. When it hears “don’t worry”, it’s just as good as “worry”. This is a powerful insight into effective communication with others and yourself. It’s also why today I opt to respond with “you’re welcome” instead of “no problem”. It just leaves a better impression.
As you may have guessed, for one reason or another, my brain commanded my body to jump.
Maybe I was a stubborn kid, or just like breaking the rules. I typically strive to do things by myself and be independent. This hasn’t helped in letting myself be taken care of by a man by the way, but that’s another story…
Consciously, I KNEW that if I jumped off the bike, as I usually did with my smaller one, I would end up with a metal pole right between my legs.
But I did it anyways.
I don’t remember how we got back up to the apartment. But I do remember the excruciating pain. And the tears I shed the coming days.
I think I was told not to worry my grandma with my pain, as it was her birthday and we shouldn’t cause her stress…
This seemed reasonable at the time, but also likely created some unhealthy beliefs.
My subconscious mind probably took this to mean that pain in my “PRIVATE parts”, as I called them as a kid, was not an appropriate topic for PUBLIC conversation.
So I hid that I found it hard to sit.
And the pain was especially tough to bear when going to the washroom. Now THAT was an experience.
Think rubbing alcohol on a fresh, open wound.
You could try it.
I remember my sister sitting with me in the bathroom, on the edge of the bathtub. She was holding my hand and telling me that everything will be okay as I tried to hold back my pee…
I anticipated the pain, so I wanted to just keep it in. Of course, in an attempt to avoid the pain, I commanded my muscles to SQUEEEZE.
My association of the pelvic floor to pain grew stronger and stronger with every pee break.
And with every time I felt I needed to go the washroom, I delayed it for as along as possible since I braced for another painful experience.
That’s precisely the how the body response of vaginismus works.
So at the age of 19, when I remembered this event with a new-found significance.
I wondered if my body recalled the pain of that little girl. I wonder if my subconscious brain just kept replaying its fear-driven response, commanding my pelvic floor muscles to tighten.
Today, I know that this is the case.
And there may be other experiences that created feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment that are still living in my blind spot…
But I’m sure the body stores emotions. I’ve experienced their physical release in spontaneous ways that leave me with no doubt of this.
I realize that my vaginismus was just a continuation of pain I ALREADY expected on a subconscious level.
I told my brain that I choose to heal and make space for pleasure, but my subconscious mind didn’t co-operate for a long time.
So how do you stop the expectation of pain and the physical experience of pain.
It comes down to one key thing.
You must create a sense of safety around your perception of penetration.
So that you could have you conscious and subconscious mind, as well as your body relax at the thought and attempt of penetration.
There are different strategies in creating a container of safety, spanning from your physical environment, thoughts, body position, breathing techniques and even to the dilators you’re using.
*If you’re asking yourself “What are dilators?”, you might first want to read about how dilating can help on your journey in healing vaginismus.
Do you clearly remember what may have led to your vaginismus?
Keep in mind that remembering trauma is NOT a necessary step in healing it.
Safety can still be created, even if our conscious mind doesn’t allow us to tap into that memory (with the goal of protecting us of course).
Having said that…
If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear your story.
Please comment below with your story, thoughts, questions or objections about anything I shared!
Also, I want to congratulate you for committing to your healing journey by doing your research and reading this!
Starting is the hardest step and that means you’re well on your path to healing! Celebrate that fact today… How about a nice massage?
If you haven’t gotten your hands on this goodie yet, get “11 Tips From Vulva Owners: What Helped Them Overcome Vaginismus”.
And get my book, “Vaginismus: Breaking The Cycle Of Pain” for FREE now (just pay shipping so I can get it delivered to your door)!
To your healing!
– Katrin, with Love