I was always a little bit behind my friends romantically – my first kiss was a couple years after all of my friends, same with my first date. So, I didn't feel any pressure when I was eighteen and had never had sex. I did know one thing though; my first time was going to hurt. No ifs, ands or buts. That was fact - all my friends, my aunties, even the sex education I received in school had all said it, it would be painful.
Trying to take matters into my own hands, I bought my own dildo. I had just moved out for university, and I had a little bit of money from my part time job, so I thought that if I could practice and get used to the dildo, my first time would obviously be a breeze.
And they were right, it did hurt the first time. And the second time. And then it never stopped. I cannot remember a time when inserting anything larger than a tampon into my vagina wasn't painful.
But instead of dealing with my problem I decided not to acknowledge it at all. Because of the pain, along with an eating disorder that meant I was so self-conscious that I didn't want to be naked with anyone anyway, I kept myself extremely busy and avoided romance like the plague. For a long time it's been a source of shame for me, I feel as though I'm not participating in adult life fully, like all my friends.
And then the pandemic hit and everything slowed down and I had to recognise that I needed help. I saw a therapist for my problems with food and I went to the doctor for my vaginal pain.
My first appointment was a disaster. My doctor wanted to rule out any physical obstructions first and she was so kind, she knew I was nervous and was trying to explain everything she was doing as she was doing it. However, I couldn't even manage to fit the smallest spectrum in. I felt like a complete failure, I went home and cried for hours. It feels so unfair, that I'm unable to even go through routine checks that most other women can manage.
It's taken about a year, with several extremely uncomfortable examinations and pelvic scans, before they gave me the all-clear physically and I got a vaginismus diagnosis. Which was equal parts a relief, knowing that all my bits are in the right place, and extremely frustrating, knowing that there isn't anything physically wrong and it's all in my mind. It makes me feel a little bit crazy, because I feel as if I'm actively trying to will my body to relax and it's just not listening. I've never felt being out of control of my own body like this before.
It feels daunting, knowing that I might always have difficulty with pap smears and cervical screenings and there are obstacles for me to even take care of myself properly. I feel like I'm asking a lot of a partner to abstain from penetrative sex, that there might not be someone who is willing to wait while I begin to treat my vaginismus. I'm not sure where my vaginismus rooted from, and I know it will probably take me some time to deal with all of this. But I'm also so happy I'm finally starting. I've been so pleasantly surprised at all the help that is available out there.
And I feel very proud of myself for being brave enough to ask.