I was always afraid of penetrative sex, from the time my mother explained it to me at 7 onward…
But when I was 12 I had to get my first pelvic exam to try to figure out why I was having such long periods.
The exam was excruciating as I was, of course, on a heavy period at the time, so there was blood everywhere and 4 doctors held me down while the gynaecologist inserted a metal speculum into me.
This experience gave me PTSD and probably is the main source for my severe vaginismus.
I tried a few different medications to regulate my periods, all of which gave me terrible side effects, so by high school I just gave up and dealt with it, eating Iron Kids’ Bread to stop me from developing Anemia.
Due to my trauma, I was unable to wear tampons or even consider having sex; I just avoided even looking down there!
It wasn’t until I was 26 and in my 3rd long relationship that my boyfriend researched and discovered vaginismus, diagnosing me himself. He was a massage therapist and thus had a thorough understanding of the human body, so he knew what I was dealing with went deeper than just an irrational fear of sex.
He had also pointed out that one of my legs looked longer than the other, leading me to get new x-rays and see a chiropractor to treat my tilted pelvis.
The Diagnoses Begin
I was diagnosed with Piriformis Syndrome and Sciatica, proving I would need regular adjustments and massages to try to straighten me out and ease the pain, including anything inserted vaginally.
I learnt that there was both a physical and mental aspect for most women when it came to these pelvic conditions, so I needed to figure them out for myself and work through them.
My boyfriend bought me a plastic dilator kit, which also gave me access to a worldwide online forum, as a present for Valentine’s Day. Equipped with an actual medical term and background knowledge on my condition, I was able to go to a gynaecologist and report my issue, so she recommended a sex therapist.
From there, she recommended a gynaecologist who specialised in vulva pain, who gave me my official vaginismus and vulvodynia diagnoses. I was written a prescription for medication to try and given a physical therapy referral.
In 2017, since I had already met my insurance deductible dealing with digestive issues, I decided to go ahead and get a Vestibulectomy as a last resort to cure my vulvodynia.
I had tried muscle relaxers, vaginal valium, estrogen cream, nerve meds, mental and physical therapy.
Some things helped more than others, but it had been 2 years since I managed to get through all the dilators and lose my virginity, but I still couldn’t handle friction of any kind.
Getting a Vestibulectomy
I went in to get a partial Vestibulectomy, which means they cut only at 6 o’clock, at the perineum, but when my gyno poked me at 11 o’clock with the Q-tip before putting me under I screamed because the pain was so intense my eyes rolled back into my head.
This led her to go ahead and give me a full Vestibulectomy, where you cut out all the skin of the vulva and pull forward the skin from the vagina to create a new one. This allows you to have fresh nerves so you can start over again without all of the topical pain getting in the way.
However, this also means you have to start all over again with dilating after the stitched dissolve.
It took me longer than expected to recover, so I couldn’t handle sex again for a year, but the pain was definitely improving.
Unfortunately, probably from having outercourse too soon, I ended up developing a Bartholin’s Cyst which comes and goes as it pleases, but usually fills up when I get turned on, due to the blood rushing down there and causing me pain during most sexual activity.
I have had more boyfriends than most people can even fathom.
I can’t say that all my relationships have ended because of my inability to have regular, penetrative intercourse, but it has always been the elephant in the room or the beast looming in the background.
It creates resentment, insecurity, and tension in male partners; those with shorter manhood fret over having less position options and those with wider manhood worry about causing me more pain or not being able to get the whole thing in.
It has often come down to the guy making it more about himself than me and just not having a high enough emotional intelligence to grasp the situation; refusing to put the effort in to work through this with me.
Work and Family
I found it very difficult to work with women in my 20’s because so many loved to discuss their sexual escapades, meaning I felt I had to lie and pretend I wasn’t a virgin, to escape the fear of judgement. I lost my virginity at 28, a year older than actress Tina Fey lost hers.
My main struggle has been getting people to believe me, doctors and otherwise; I’ve been told the ever popular phrases “just have a glass of wine”, “you just need to relax”, “you don’t ACTUALLY have vaginismus -That’s a very serious medical condition.”
It’s been tough not having my family understand or care to educate themselves.
They just change the subject if I try to bring up any of my health issues and sound embarrassed if I mention going to therapy. I think they view it as a weakness, which does nothing to help the mental strain.
I always try to have one person at each job know about my situation, as there will inevitably be a rough day where I will need to cry in the bathroom or tell someone about a setback I’ve had.
Working Towards My Goals
I also used to have the same New Year’s Resolution every year of my 20’s: to learn how to have sex, and I would feel like a failure every time it didn’t happen.
I blamed myself for not making enough progress towards beating my vaginismus/vulvodynia with each passing year.
Lately, I’ve learnt to overcome this mindset and not pressure myself as much, but we are always our own worst critic.
I always stretch in the morning and evening to relieve back pain and muscle tension, plus I get a massage once a month from a professional. Back when I had good health insurance, I would go to physical therapy every 2 weeks to learn exercises to improve and maintain my pelvic health.
I’ve found that ordering a paediatric speculum and practicing with it before my actual exam helps prepare me and work through the fear mentally. My gynaecologist also lets me insert it myself, then takes it from me to turn and open it.
Before I dilate, I start with a plastic vibrator and I always insert extra lube with a lube shooter, both of which I purchased at a local sex shop.
I started with the hard, plastic dilators, but I found that using silicone dilators for the larger sizes really helped me leave them in longer.
I’ve been able to move them around more as I feel they are much more comfortable and realistic.
What I have found to help immensely with penetrative sex is having the guy wear a vibrating cock ring; this way it presses against my clit and forces my muscles to relax so I can tolerate motion.
It is still my personal goal to achieve an orgasm for myself and my partner through penetrative sex; I’m still unable to tolerate enough movement to allow that to happen at this moment in time, but it’s a work in progress.
I hope to continue to spread awareness about all my medical conditions as much as I can by continuing to speak openly and frankly about them.
Like on my blog for example, Chronicles Of A Broken Body.
I think that in recent years we’ve come a long way with having actual media exposure and offering women greater access to information to help them on this journey.
We can all get through this together.
– Krista (33 years old, Houston, USA)