I have been dealing with vaginismus on and off for three years after a long period of enjoying a normal, healthy sex life. I’ll never really know what caused my vaginismus but always put it down to a combination of a reoccurring case of thrush I suffered with and day to day stress.
My partner and I have been together for just over 6 years and have a great relationship. We were friends for a long time before our first real ‘date’ and are still friends. Making the transition from friends to lovers was interesting but fun, getting to know each other in new ways and learning new things about each other.
At first I started to notice that sex was becoming very difficult, almost like my vagina was no longer big enough for a penis
Almost like it was hitting a wall. It took me six months of frustrating attempts at sex to eventually see my doctor.
They tested me for sexually transmitted diseases and did cervical smears. I have genital herpes, caught from a partner when I was 18, so they suspected for a while that it was down to this and I spent three months taking strong anti-viral medication, with no effect.
Eventually my doctors referred me to a gynaecologist who diagnosed me with vaginismus. I did find that once I was diagnosed there was not much support from my GP or my private medical insurance company. My doctor couldn’t provide any treatment and my insurer doesn’t cover what they consider ‘psycho-sexual’ problems. I was recommended sessions at Relate but it was too expensive. I started to do my own research and found advice and support online.
I bought dilators and a book and started working with those, doing the exercises and listening to my body, seeing what worked and what didn’t. I moved through the dilators quickly and then visited Sh! store in London, where they recommended a dildo to move onto when I was ready. Some days were better than others. My vaginismus causes a burning feeling, I would use the dilators but at times found myself working through the pain.
It took about 3 months before I felt I had come on far enough that I was ready to try sex. We were both nervous, at this point we hadn’t had sex for two years and I felt like there was a lot riding on it going well. We used a lot of lubricant with me on top and managed to have sex. It was great and we felt like we had connected again for the first time in so long.
This was about a year ago and we are still working on getting our sex life back on track. When you don’t have sex for two years it can seem like it just isn’t part of your relationship anymore and we still find that we can go weeks and weeks without sex. I can find that when I do have sex, I am sore for a few days afterwards and have to be careful to use lubricant. It’s an ongoing effort and perhaps my partner and I still don’t talk about it and work on it as often as we should.
One of the hardest parts of all of this is the feeling that you are not normal.
It seems the opinion general that a relationship where sex is not happened all the time is dysfunctional in some way, that it is a sign that something is wrong. I started comparing myself to past relationships, to my partner’s exes, wondering if my partner was going to go elsewhere. I knew he never would but you start to doubt your relationship, wondering whether it is strong enough to survive. You can’t talk about it and it’s a problem that most people have never heard of.
I still don’t feel like I am the same person sexually as I was but with time it is something that can be cured, something that you can both work through. I have made mistakes along the way, too often ignoring pain, not talking about it with my partner as much as I should. I don’t think there is a must support as there should be from GPs and often treatment is expensive and insurance companies don’t recognise it as a medical condition.
For those who do suffer from it my advice would be talk to your partner, try and enjoy being together sexually even if you can’t have full sex and don’t let these problems define your relationship. Push your doctor for help and if you can afford private therapy or physio, go for it. There is a lot of support on line and the staff at Sh! are understanding and helpful. If you can talk about it with friends do, don’t be afraid of being judged. I offer this advice as someone who didn’t do these things as often as I should and this was a mistake and has delayed my recovery.
The most important thing is to understand that, although no one is talking about it, it is common and too many women ignore it and just don’t enjoy sex, providing sex rather than taking part in it. The more people keep talking about it, the more people will seek help and not keep suffering in silence.