VAGINISMUS

Thanks for sharing information about vaginismus. Many women keep this to themselves due to the stigma of sexual pain. My spellchecker doesn’t even acknowledge it as a word!!!!!

C.J's World

Hey guys!

It is another beautiful day with a very interesting post!

vaginismusintercourse Photo Credit: Moondragon

What is “Vaginismus”?

According to vaginismus.com, it is a “condition where there is an involuntary tightness of the vagina through attempted intercourse. The tightness is actually caused by involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina. The woman does not directly control or ‘will’ the tightness to occur; it is an involuntary pelvic response. She may not even have any awareness that the muscle response is causing the tightness or penetration problem. In some cases vaginismus tightness may begin to cause burning, pain, or stinging during intercourse. In other cases, penetration may be difficult or completely impossible. Vaginismus is the main cause of unconsummated relationships. The tightness can be so restrictive that the opening to the vagina is ‘closed off’ altogether and the man is unable to insert his penis…

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“When are you getting married?”

I struggle balancing my childish desire to succumb to the social pressure of being a “real adult” with my cynical attempts to avoid it. What the hell is so great about being a “real adult” anyway? Having a mortgage? Wishing you were younger?

I’m a college graduate. I respect my elders. I pay my bills on time. I’m responsible enough. I sort of think about the future. But really….what does that even mean?

“The future.”

My paranoid anxiety doesn’t let me shake the feeling that people are always expecting more of me. And the most fucked up part of it is that I want to give it to them! I should be climbing the corporate ladder, putting money into my 401K, saving up for a new house with a white picket fence and planning for “the future,” right? Every wedding I attend, I get pestered about my boyfriend of 8 years and our assumed forthcoming nuptials. If it isn’t one of our mothers, it’s an aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, or even a newly introduced stranger.

It could be you walking down that aisle!!! What are you waiting for?!?! One of us! Gooble gobble! One of us! One of us! One of us! One of us! One of us!

I don’t think people intend to be ignorant, pushy and invasive when they hassle you about marriage. They absolutely ARE being all of those things, but I don’t think they intend to be. They think it’s a cute joke to pressure you into being jealous of the life they selectively showcase on Facebook. What it turns into is the fucked up notion that somehow our relationship isn’t important enough or strong enough compared to theirs, because they signed a paper, walked down an aisle and threw a party. People judge my relationship differently because I don’t have a ring on my finger. I know they have no idea about the sexual pain, therapy and years of struggle that we went through to make this relationship survive. They don’t know that my boyfriend stayed by my side when I was hitting rock bottom and rejecting him sexually for years. Yes, I said YEARS. No one would sign up for that baggage unless they were in love, truly madly deeply Savage Garden style.

The struggles we’ve been through (and also the therapy) have given us a deeper connection and stronger communication skills than most couples I know, married or not. I can honestly say that I am in a relationship with someone who loves me more than anything else in the world, so why can’t I stop myself from wanting more? Why does being referred to as a “girlfriend” make me feel so incredibly inferior? Why do I go crazy watching everyone around me get engaged and spend days of their life planning on how to waste a sickening amount of money?

I think the current-day idea of marriage is still medieval, sexist and something that people rush into all too often because they either come from a religious family, get pregnant or a combination of the two. I haven’t planned my perfect wedding or dreamed about the overpriced dress I’ll wear for one night. I don’t need to be given away like a prize cow. I don’t need a husband to claim me as his own, provide for me and give me his name. I come from a divorced family and have witnessed my share of unsuccessful relationships to make me extremely skeptical of the whole idea, but there is still something deep down inside of me that wants nothing more than to say, “I do.” I can’t even try to pretend it’s not there. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I feel guilty when people rag on my boyfriend about getting married because no one will ever be able to see things from our perspectives. He’s skeptical of marriage, as I think most people should be. He sees the unhappy marriages of his friends and family and thinks that putting a ring on his finger is going to change everything that we love about us. He also is haunted by the years of hysterical anxiety and pain we fought through. Who can blame him? IT SUCKED. They were the worst years of my life and I would not wish that pain and solitude and heartbreak on anyone. He jokes that I want to be part of “The Marriage Club” and as much as I try to deny stooping to that shallow level, he’s right!

Maybe I’m naive to think that what we have is special, but sometimes when I think back on the experiences that we’ve had, I wonder how we ever got out of bed and went to work each morning. How the HELL did we ever make it this far? I sometimes wonder how many couples feel this way after the better part of a decade, but it’s too taboo to talk about so everyone just pretends it doesn’t exist.

In every relationship I’ve seen evolve from dating to marriage, it’s almost always the women who want it/beg for it/demand it. I’m not saying their significant other doesn’t love them more than anything, but why have we allowed society to evolve into a place where women feel inferior if you aren’t married? Does it really prove anything about you or your relationship? With all of the struggling relationships out there, what makes us all so certain that ours is any different from the rest?

As a handful of my good friends prepare for their upcoming weddings, I’m working on balancing my newly neurotic feelings with his apprehension about marriage.I don’t feel less loves because I’m not married, but it sure is a strange mix of emotions.

Please share your thoughts on whether you agree with me or think I’m a cynical jerk.

Blog Tour!

As I am new to the world of blogging, I was surprised to be invited to join a blog tour! My fellow blogger, Emmeline Peaches, invited me to keep this tour going by answering a few questions about my writing and then inviting others to do the same! Here is her response if you’d like to check it out. And here’s mine!

What am I working on?

As I mentioned above, I am quite a novice in the world of blogging, so I feel that I am still working on finding my voice and styling my writing to appeal to a variety of people. I have definitely come a long way since my first post, but I still have a lot to learn! Despite the fact that not everyone has struggled with sexual dysfunction, I can guarantee that everyone knows someone who has or still is. Just because it is a private, often silent battle, does not reduce the major effects it can have on your body and mind. My goal is to empower women and their partners to speak up about their dysfunction and educate people about this taboo issue. I feel as though The Apprehensive Vagina blog has helped me regain the confidence that I had lost for many years.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Sex is EVERYWHERE. An extreme stereotype exists about how a woman’s sexuality should be portrayed and I think it’s BULLSHIT. I spent many years of my life hating myself because I didn’t live up to the sexual standards that society had set for me and I in turn set for myself. My writing differs because I am in the process of learning that I have nothing to prove. I am not trying to impress anyone with my sexual prowess. I have to consciously work every single day to repair my broken sexuality and get in touch with a part of myself that I ignored for far too long. I am doing it for me and my relationship, not to fit in with what other people are doing. I think my story will vastly differ from the narrative that most girls my age will be able to tell about their sexuality.

Why do I write what I do?

I spent many, many years feeling isolated and alone because of the sexual pain I was experiencing. There was no encouragement or relief from my doctors and I was too embarrassed to tell my friends. My boyfriend and I have had extreme ups and downs throughout the years and I know there are other couples out there who are struggling with the same issues. I started this blog to create an environment of acceptance, understanding and encouragement for women suffering with sexual pain and their partners. I absolutely love when readers find the strength to reach out to me and share their stories because they could relate to my experiences.

How does your writing process work?

I am still tweaking my writing process with each draft I create. It is important to me that my story is real, so with that comes a hell of a lot of cynicism that I have developed over time. I have a pretty weird sense of humor, so it doesn’t hurt to throw that in either. I try to craft my writing so that others can relate to my story, but I also keep in mind that the average person’s attention span when reading things online is about 3 seconds. I don’t want to write a continuous sob story about my vagina. I am over feeling sorry for myself. My writing process always goes back to “How can my writing make someone feel less alone and more empowered?”

That’s all for me, folks! Now I invite some of my fellow bloggers to do the same!

The Unslut Project

Healthy Sex and You

Sexual Healing

The Elle Spot

Vestibulitis Life

Thanks again to Emmeline Peaches for the invite to join the #blogtour! Looking forward to reading more!

Sex Therapy Round 1

I started going to see a sex therapist soon after my Happy Hour and a Hysterical Nervous Breakdown experience. It was as harder than I ever thought it would be. Of course it’s going to be incredibly awkward talking so openly about sex with a complete stranger, but for someone with sexual pain and dysfunction, it was torture. Although the office was only a few blocks from my house (freaky coincidence), my first walk there seemed like it took hours. I was literally trembling when I reached the door. I will never, for as long as I live, forget the sound of that buzzer and the cheerful “Come in!” I was greeted with as I tried to take deep breaths and hold back my tears while quietly pep-talking myself into opening the door. I entered a small waiting room with tea and coffee, a couch, and a radio playing softly to reduce the risk of people’s deepest darkest sexual secrets seeping out from under the doors and into the waiting room. I remember thinking about how clever that was and how grateful I was that they had thought of it.

Then came the waiting.

Sitting by myself, staring at the wall, my sadistic brain immediately started teasing me with scenarios of people I knew from different aspects of my life suddenly walking into the waiting room. My family, my friends, my ex-boyfriend, my co-workers…I was mortified and I couldn’t wait to get out of the room where the walls seemed to be closing in inch by inch. What seemed like hours of anticipating an embarrassing encounter with my 6th grade Science teacher was really no more than 5-10 minutes sitting in a room by myself. It is AMAZING the effect that your fears and anxieties can have on your body. If I could throw myself into a minor panic attack in the therapist’s waiting room, no wonder my bitchy vagina was rebelling against me! My body was being pummeled by my mind and I knew that acknowledging it had to at least be a baby step toward overcoming it.

I met the therapist, Amy, who was a pretty and bubbly young woman I assumed was just a few years older than me. She introduced herself, welcomed me into her office and didn’t seem at all surprised when I began blubbering like a baby as soon as she said, “Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself.” Here we go again!

This went on for weeks and weeks. It was like clockwork– every single time I walked into that room, I felt my chest burning, my hands sweating, my lip quivering and then the tears flowing. I didn’t cry for the whole hour, I was usually able to pull myself into a light sob and sniffle after about 15-20 minutes of talking.

What I started learning through these sessions was that A.) I was not crazy. B.) I was not alone. C.) I had options.

A.) Amy taught me to not be ashamed of the way I was feeling or the fact that I was going to therapy. As tough as it was to feel all of those raw, heart-wrenching emotions each week, I was slowly feeling more confident and more in control of my feelings. I was going through some ridiculous shit, of course I was going to feel overwhelmed! My boyfriend and I hadn’t talked to anyone about this, of course we were going to feel detached! My body was associating sex with pain, of course I was going to tense up at the thought of it! I wish it didn’t take me so long, but I was finally beginning to not only understand my feelings, but also learn to communicate them better (and without crying as much). I was not incapable of having sex, it just didn’t come to me as easily as it did to others.

B.) Amy opened my eyes to a whole demographic of the population that I didn’t believe existed. People who couldn’t have sex, people who couldn’t stop having sex or people suffering from the numerous other forms of sexual dysfunction. People like me. And she had not only heard stories or read about those people in her college textbooks…she had talked to those people RIGHT THERE. They had sat in the same chair as me and maybe cried, maybe screamed, maybe didn’t say a word…but they were there. They EXISTED! They lived in the same city and went to work and rode the bus and went grocery shopping just like me. She told me stories of other couples who faced similar difficulties and the small successes they learned to appreciate. I was not alone. Even though I tried telling myself that many, many, many times, it had never sunk in like that before.

C.) Amy forced me to explore my options. She seemed just as pissed off as me when I told her stories about the gynecologists who had ignored the cause of my pain. On the other hand, hating them and carrying resentment wasn’t getting me anywhere. She gave me names and numbers of people to call and places to go. She told me that the therapist who founded the center was married to a gynecologist and that if anyone would take the time to acknowledge and understand someone’s sexual pain, it would be him. She gave me the information for another place in the city that specialized in pelvic and sexual health. I couldn’t believe places existed that would be on my side! Why did all of these resources seem so secret and far away?

I continued going to therapy bi-weekly for a few months. I went to the gynecologist she recommended and he referred me to a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. I started going to the institute that specialized in pelvic and sexual health. Before too long, my anger toward my past health professionals was replaced with hope for the new ones. New people, new perspectives, new me!

 

Happy Hour and a Hysterical Nervous Breakdown

About 3 years ago, a post-happy hour nervous breakdown was the moment I hit my breaking point. I was depressed, my teaching job was too stressful, my vaginal pain was getting worse, my sex drive had disappeared and my relationship was strained more than ever before. Then, out of nowhere, I had a slap-in-the-face moment that convinced me I was perhaps not dealing with this very well and required professional help.

My boyfriend and I had met up with two female friends for a happy hour. Both of these girls were feeling quite extroverted and unashamed of sharing every little sexual annoyance, desire or story that came to mind. Blow-jobs in bathrooms, vibrators, wasted hook-ups, you name it. It became a competition for Most Experienced/Independent/Wild Woman in Town. I sat there nibbling on nachos and downing margaritas in complete silence. After the check was paid and the misery had subsided, my boyfriend and I walked about 50 feet from the restaurant before my ability to hold myself together had reached its brink. I bawled uncontrollably in the middle of the sidewalk and hated myself more than ever before. What the hell was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be as care-free and pain-free as those girls?

Before this particular day, I had been through many Sex and the City-ish conversations that I was able to laugh off or join in JUST enough to keep from drawing attention to myself. Before my pain started, I was usually the ring-leader for the most ridiculous and inappropriate conversations. In a cruel twist of fate, I started facing a silent torture listening to a never-ending supply of twenty-something girls trying way too hard to live up to the Samantha Jones standard we had all set for ourselves. Depression makes you incredibly susceptible to believing the bullshit stories people tell to make themselves seem way more exciting than they really are.

I’ll never forget the episode Miranda confessed to Carrie, Charlotte and Samantha that after having her baby, there were times that she was too tired to even think about sex. They reacted like she had contracted herpes from a back-alley gang-bang. They were SPEECHLESS. They might as well have dropped their glasses and backed away slowly while not being able to comprehend her horribly awkward and unladylike confession. I can’t even tell you how much that fucked with me. At least Miranda COULD have sex, she just didn’t want to do it!! I started dreading girl-talks because all I could do was internally obsess over the fact that I was not performing like a woman my age should. Real women don’t feel pain when they have sex, they dominate and take control of the situation. They don’t cry in the bathtub night after night feeling sorry for themselves, they go out and get what they want and leave behind any man who isn’t worth their time. I was convinced I was not an adequate woman and there was no glimmer of hope in sight.

There exists an endless amount of vomit-inducing clichés that say you can’t really get up until you’ve hit the bottom. As much as my rampant cynicism wants to kick me for saying this…it’s true. I do still cringe at the religious, feel-good quotes about God holding your hand or carrying you through your toughest times. Don’t give some made-up being all of the credit for your hard work! We get through terrible shit by facing it head-on, being strong (even if you have to fake it) and surrounding ourselves with people who love and support us. I prefer to have a mantra that is slightly darker, but just as motivational. The quote is from Osho, an Indian mystic and spiritual teacher who may have the credibility of Sylvia Browne or Miss Cleo, but so beautifully said, “A certain darkness is needed to see the stars.”

It took me a long time and a lot of hurting to get over the embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy that ruled my life for so long. Even though it took years to acknowledge and still exists in my psyche, I’m really proud of myself for (finally) being able to swallow my pride and begin the long road of facing my issues with the help of a sex therapist. It changed my life.

Thanks for the anxiety, Mom and Dad!

I blame a lot of my unreasonable anxiety on my parents. That’s a counterproductive thought, but I don’t really give a shit. I don’t believe they knowingly turned me into the paranoid freak I am, but they sure did one hell of a job.

Since I was a good kid growing up, I was often punished with extra responsibilities and high expectations that my siblings easily avoided. (Boo freaking hoo, right?) While resenting my parents, I also put an unreasonable amount of pressure on myself to do everything perfectly without upsetting or inconveniencing anyone. With a large, “blended” (aka: divorced and remarried) family, that is impossible. I have much younger siblings and since my stepsister didn’t live with us and no one trusted my older brother, I was recruited as the “responsible” one/permanent babysitter for both families.

My mom jokes that my younger siblings were the “best form of birth control” for me as a teenager. All of those hours you made me watch your kid was for my own good? The pill was more reliable and didn’t contribute to my obsessive anxieties like all of you did. But thanks anyway, I guess.

I’m 27 and I still give myself a panic attack every time I visit home. Dozens of frantic calls are made to ensure I spend the same amount of time with each family. My parents used to (and still do) put on a hell of a guilt trip if any of my precious time at home is (God forbid) spent away from the house visiting friends. That’s what I get for leaving my hometown!

It took a lot for me to stand up to my parents when I decided I was quitting my job and moving across the state with my boyfriend and no job prospects. And when I say “stand up” I mean I sat on the couch sobbing while my dad and step-mom scolded me about being irresponsible. “Blah blah economy blah no jobs blah blah. You’ll miss your brother going into high school! Blah blah blah. You’re not thinking blah blah huge mistake blah blah. 

I knew that conversation would happen. Every word of it. But I didn’t tell them off like I had envisioned. I didn’t tell them that I didn’t want their lives. I didn’t tell them that I wanted nothing to do with all of my cousins having babies and moving into their neighborhood. I didn’t tell them that my relationship was crumbling and I knew we needed a change of scenery as a last attempt at survival. I didn’t tell them how awful they were making me feel about my life. But I did leave.

Obviously, my parents had no idea about the stress that my sexual pain had put on our relationship for the previous few years. I know that the overwhelming guilt they threw at me was really caused by their selfish desire for me to live close to them. I get that.

What I also get is that my parents married too young, had two kids, divorced, both remarried, had some more kids and have never lived more than an hour from where they grew up. There is no part of me that desires following in their footsteps, so I’ve come to the realization that it’s OK if they completely disagree with my lifestyle because I sure as hell don’t want theirs.

“Are you sure I don’t have an STD?”

I wish I could go back in time and sucker-punch every doctor who didn’t take my pain seriously. It is heart wrenching for me to think I wasted years of my life (and my relationship) obsessing over a problem that had a solution well within my reach. So, I try not to think about it too often. (Yeah, right.) No sense in dwelling on the past, right?! Easier said than done, my friends. It haunts me on an almost daily basis.

After seeing multiple gynecologists, I was told over and over again that nothing was wrong. My vagina was perfectly healthy, I just had really strong muscles! Just what every girl wants: a buffed up Gladiator vagina, ready to fight off any erect penis who dares to challenge her.

I had ultrasounds for my cramps, acid reflux medication for my stomach and even a sigmoid scope up my ass to make sure I didn’t have any serious problems there. Tests were fine, exams were normal. I started questioning doctors about my sexual pain being related to my bowel issues. What does a possible undiagnosed case of IBS have to do with sexual pain? Most doctors I asked didn’t see a connection.

_________________________________________________

Dr. #1: “Your exam is fine. Maybe you just have a small vagina.”
(After taking dick for a few years, I highly doubt my vagina got smaller…)

Dr. #2: “Your exam is fine. Maybe your boyfriend is too large.
(Ok, Doc, he’s got a big dick, but it’s not like I’m fucking Ron Jeremy…)

Dr. #3: “Your exam is fine. Maybe try unscented soap for sensitive skin. That will help.”
(Oh, yes! How silly of me. It must have been this damn soap all along!)

_________________________________________________

There is nothing more frustrating than getting your feet guided into stirrups by a 60 year old man who tells you to lay back, relax and stare at the cute little puppy poster on the ceiling while he probes your insides with his liver spotted hands and cold metal duck lips. Man, I feel like a woman!

After a while, I was praying for an STD diagnosis. At least then I wouldn’t feel so delirious. Just give me a freaking antibiotic and get this over with! You know you’ve hit rock bottom levels of desperation when a gynecologist and assistant walk into the exam room to find you weeping uncontrollably and trying to explain why the sight of them makes you want to vomit.

Think: jilted-bride-level weeping. Take away the binge eating and romance movies. Throw in a paper robe and a variety of pamphlets diagramming vaginal parts.

Little did I know…the moment when I thought I had hit vaginal embarrassment rock bottom would also be the day that one doctor would acknowledge my pain, help me face it and take the (MANY) steps towards *understanding it.

(*I had a real epiphany moment while writing this post. I originally had the word “overcoming” in place of “understanding” in that last sentence. I stared at the computer for a few minutes, unable to hit that Publish button and came to the realization that I may not ever overcome this pain. There may always be days here and there where it will sneak up on me. In fact, I think I can say with certainty that I will probably never overcome this, but I sure as hell have a better understanding of how to live with it. If I can, then anyone can.)

What the hell is Vaginismus?

For years I’ve struggled with sexual pain and therefore have had a huge wet blanket envelope my libido. Most people won’t understand what I mean because their bodies have never betrayed them like mine. Vaginismus is a vague term that my spell check doesn’t even recognize. Only a few doctors acknowledge it and even fewer have any idea how to treat it. (I’ve got plenty of horrible doctor experiences to share in the future). As silly as it sounds, that little red spell-check squiggle is just another reminder of how confused and alone I felt with a really sore vagina, no libido and no explanation.

I was in a fairly new relationship when “it” started, but I had already been sexually active and pretty slutty for a bit in college, so my immediate thought was HOLY SHIT. (Ouch) I’VE GOT AN STD. Unfortunately, nothing is ever that easy.

The sexual pain didn’t arrive overnight, of course. It started out with minor pain here and there. Over time, it escalated into pain just about every time I was touched. Using the smallest sized tampon felt like shoving a brick into a keyhole, so you can imagine the difficulty I faced with sex. As I later learned, my body had begun to shut down at the slightest sign of affection or intimacy. Quite simply, it was operating under the obvious principle, “If it hurts, don’t do it.” That’s an acceptable response when it comes to putting your hand on a scalding hot surface or realizing you can’t ski like the old days without having to spend the next three days recovering in bed. For a 20 year old girl with a hormone-driven, sex-crazed college boyfriend…as our favorite internet sensation, Sweet Brown, would say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Through high school and college, I had the opposite of an iron stomach. You could say mine was comparable to tissue paper. Never had an official diagnosis of IBS, but I was regularly nauseous, crampy and bloated. I was too ignorant to even minimally change my diet, so I just continued eating the same old junk and dealt with the uncomfortable side effects day after day.

What I didn’t realize was the massive strain that I was putting my digestive system through would not be appreciated by the rest of my body. My bowel movements became so painful that I would have to give myself a pep talk each time I felt one coming on. Blood, sweat and tears became so routine that I subconsciously changed my biological clock to only take a shit a few times a week. That definitely didn’t help the situation, but as we live in a culture of instant gratification, anytime I could avoid searing pain in my ass, I would.

That experience is pretty much the least sexy scenario you can put your body through, so you can imagine that I was not really jumping at the bit to get laid. I didn’t feel young, carefree and sexy, I felt hurt, paranoid and broken. Not in a porn-star-daddy-issue way either. This was more of a Don’t-Fucking-Touch-Me-You-Don’t-Get-It-issue.

So you’re probably wondering how this affected my relationship with my boyfriend…

The short answer: NOT IN A GOOD WAY.

The long answer: Coming soon.