This year, Sh! marks Vaginismus Awareness Day with an online event providing support and advice to those living with painful sex and will give out dialator sets, donated to women on limited income, through our Pay it Forward scheme. To raise awareness about the impact of this condition, Sh! is gathering real-life stories to publish on the vaginismusawareness.com blog. The story below has been shared with us and the author has given us permission to share it with you.
It’s been 2 years since my diagnosis, but I’ve been living with Vaginismus for much longer than that. At first it didn’t even seem like much of an issue. Sure, my friends didn’t have problems when they first got intimate with their partners, but I thought my body might need a little longer to adjust to this new physical experience. I made myself believe that I just had an unfavourably tight anatomy, and that having successful and enjoyable sex would only be a matter of practice and perseverance. I would have to bite my teeth and push through the pain, like it was some sort of hardcore workout in the gym. Never did it cross my mind that the tears and nausea from the pain were signs of something bigger; until it got worse and worse. With time, my pain levels increased when attempting intercourse; but still I told myself that I had to be patient and my problem would eventually resolve itself.
Leaving my condition untreated gave it time to grow and to eventually win the upper hand. Early in 2018, I hit rock bottom. At my lowest point a simple touch of my arm by my long-term partner would make me burst out into tears and make me feel nauseous. In fact, any physical contact or the mere thought of maybe getting intimate would become too much for me to handle. There have been seemingly endless days of tears, self-loathing, shame and disappointment about my own “failings” as a woman. My boyfriend got more and more concerned about me and started to do his own research. He was the one who eventually introduced me to the idea of having Vaginismus. Considering myself as a strong woman and having my pride, I first tried to treat myself, trying different relaxation techniques with my partner; but my body’s fear response was already too deeply anchored. Probably the hardest step of all was to see my GP about it and thus admitting to myself that I could not manage this by myself but that I needed professional help. It made me feel incapable and weak and I felt like there was no point in further attempting to be intimate with my partner until the day I would receive professional help. Until then I had basically given up on myself. – Never had I thought that receiving that help would be almost another 2 years down the road...
My partner and I met at the other end of the world where we were travelling alone until we decided to explore the world together. Whenever we were stuck somewhere in a foreign country and the situation seemed to be overwhelming and too much to handle, we would tell each other ‘It’s gonna be okay. We just take one step at a time.’ Today, facing new challenges with Vaginismus, my partner and I still live by this motto. It’s a constant reminder to me, to be patient and to be kind to myself. To be accepting of my limits and the time I need, and to celebrate my progress; however, little it might be.
Since April this year, I am now finally in therapy, although only remotely via the phone due to COVID-19. Hopefully, next month I will receive in person treatment that allows me to make further improvements. The only thing I can hope for is that Vaginismus becomes more spoken about. If I could go back and talk to my younger self, my journey with Vaginismus certainly would have been different.
I could have sought help earlier, thus not allowing this condition to take the upper hand and dominate my life for the time that it did. Hopefully, sharing my story along with all the other strong and brave women today, will raise awareness, one step at a time.