Finally taking the steps. But at times it feels all consuming…
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July 7, 2022 at 3:48 pm #54256
First, the intro: 32F. Self-confessed ugly duckling. In psychotherapy since March of 2020 when the world ended and I was feeling depressed (30th birthday was a COVID one). Raised a good Catholic girl (with a few nuns and everything!) in HS.
I didn’t date all throughout high school or really uni – my programme was very heavily filled with women and I was still shy around men.
I didn’t have a real boyfriend until 27, and he absolutely broke my heart when he couldn’t take the lack of intimacy and my hang up’s about sex anymore (I have no ill will towards him – he was a few years younger and neither of us had the maturity to face this). I ended up dating someone very briefly I wasn’t all that attracted to distract myself; then dumped him to date someone I met at work (who I met when he interviewed me – which should’ve been a sign that someone hitting on you during an interest interview is a nutcase…) who was absolutely god-awful to me. It didn’t last long – but it took a VERY long while to disentangle from him and his toxicity. I tried to stay friends (I adored his family) and it just prolonged everything – he was very overbearing, very cruel, very insecure in himself and he had tried to make me feel smaller and smaller. I finally cut him out of my life in the midst of COVID.
I took a long break from dating, but once the world started opening back up – I casually dated. Hooked up a few times thinking I would get plastered / tipsy, and perhaps get the virginity thing over with and all would be good. I kept panicking… so that never happened.
Ended up meeting someone I really clicked with in May and… panic city when it came to sex. I knew I really connected with this person in a way I really hadn’t with anyone else. I had confided in my therapist a year ago I was a virgin still, and had said I was very anxious everytime I tried anything related to sex (never let a man finger me without panties, or give me oral sex).
The second weekend this happened… my partner came to me and said “I think you have this” and handed over his phone. Vaginismus.
I knew all along I had it. But when he said – it doesn’t change anything or my feelings for you, but I want you to get help for yourself… this must be truly exhausting for you. I felt the kick in the butt I needed – and the acceptance and assurance I wasn’t some unlovable weirdo.
I went away on a solo trip a few weeks ago and the entire flight to the destination (all of 2.5 hours) I was in a fog. Part of me wanted to call him and tell him… you need to save yourself and end it. This is like quicksand – I can’t put you through this.
I ended up arriving at my hotel later that day and booked an appt with a pelvic physiotherapy clinic.
Since he came to me with the wikipedia article the following has happened:
– Sleeping naked with a man
– He has managed to get his index finger and his thumb inside me (seperately.)
– Light oral sex (Receiving.)
– I have watched pornography (female directed / led.) For a woman who barely masturbated… this is a big deal. This is something controversial, but I do feel getting comfortable looking at naked bodies – including my own – is something I had to do. Not everyone will agree but I wanted to say I consider it a win for me.
– I have ordered a vaginismus journal, and “The Vaginismus Book” my Dr. Julie Reeve. I had a good cry / freakout before I could even read Chapter 5 last night but took a moment to recollect and read it. I did not spontaneously combust.
– Spent an entire weekend with my boyfriend – engaging in outercourse and had only one minor meltdown (where he very kindly and patiently asked me to pause a bit, and think about why I was anxious and what was going on side my noggin. We resumed activity after a few minutes of talking and I was calm again.)
– I confided to my psychotherapist about this issue (openly and honestly)
– Booked the damn physiotherapist (and went to appointment one)
– Have not missed a single day of stretching or meditating since meeting the physiotherapist
What I am waiting on:
– Hand mirror as I need to look at myself (Chapter 5 activity)
– A second book on vaginismus I ordered (which should arrive today.)
BUT while I want desperately to fix this… it has been all so consuming.
The past few days have been really really tough for me – between the freakout over Chapter 5, having my appt for physio moved forward one day (I know, it’s one day…), my period showing up and throwing a wrench in my plans to explore more (I’m not sure I’m calm enough to attempt period outercourse…)
It’s also something I am thinking about non-stop. Like… I can’t concentrate on a whole lot right now. I’m journaling a lot. I wrote out a list of reasons last night I should read Chapter 5 (got up to 7, versus 2 for reasons not to.) I’m trying to focus on wins and everything I’ve accomplished but it seems so overwhelming at times that while I’m hopeful this will improve and a cure is available… it’s just so exhausting and draining at times. I was so pumped after my first session last week… and this past weekend when I made a lot of sexual strides… BUT the past few days have been really tough for me. I’m not discouraged so much as I am… just tired.
I also acknowledge I am privileged to have my psychotherapy and most of the physiotherapy covered by my health insurance, as well as having a super-supportive partner (and as he said, a whole team behind me!) but I am feeling VERY exhausted this week.
TL;DR: girl with vaginismus dealing with what is the inevitable ebb and flows of this cure. How do you stay motivated? How do you manage to not have this thing consume your every thought? Your every waking moment?July 8, 2022 at 10:16 am #54287Helen Leff, LCSWModerator
So glad that you posted on the forum, speaking about navigating vaginismus treatment and working on your relationship. You are going to have ups and downs, times that you feel you are exhausted and times where you feel more equipped and energized. Be kind to yourself, and all you need to know is that it’s a process and slow progress is progress. You will get there with all the feelings that come with it. This is a challenging condition both physically and emotionally – we know this. It’s important to also remind yourself that this is one part of your life and note the things in your life that are not fraught (I’m sure you will be able to list many!). Use your team and know that the forum is here for support as well.
Keep us posted,
HelenJuly 12, 2022 at 12:24 pm #54325
Hi Bettyslocombe – it’s great to meet you! I wish it wasn’t under THESE circumstances, but it’s clear that you are a strong and brave and good-humored person who is really being put through the ringer right now!
I had vaginismus for about 10 years before I finally got help, and it was in similar circumstances to yours. I had realized my specific problem was vaginismus a few years prior, but it wasn’t until I had a partner who gave me something of an ultimatum that I actually did something about it. He essentially said “Sex is important to me in a relationship, and even if this never gets resolved, I think you really need to stop running from this and try.” This was hard to hear and confront at first, but it was the kick in the butt that so many of us need to really get started. So I know how hard it can be to face down the years of pain and baggage and negative experiences that seeking treatment for vaginismus requires.
You are making SO much amazing progress right now. I know it probably feels slower than you want it to be, but it’s still happening all the same. Your younger self would probably be totally amazed at all you’ve accomplished in the past few weeks and months, so remember that objectively you’ve come so far already from where you began.
As Helen noted so well, this is a grueling chapter of your life – but it is a CHAPTER. I was undergoing major treatment for vaginismus almost 5 years ago, and it involved daily dilating, a lot of emotional energy devoted to it, and the same slow climb up what felt like an endless mountain, but eventually you DO arrive. It will not always be this demanding or take this much of you. It’s like any project in life that can consume you – it reminds me of preparing for final exams in college, where you feel like your life will never not be late nights and anxiety and studying, and then suddenly that part of it is over. If you put in the work like you have been, this chapter of your life will have an end point too and your relationship to sex and your body will become just one of the countless things we manage day-to-day without it needing to consume all our waking time and thought.
When you feel yourself doubting, focus on how far you’ve come so far and keep marching upward – you’ll be cresting the top of the mountain before you know it.July 13, 2022 at 9:47 am #54399
Hi Helen and recessivegenequeen,
Thank you for the words of support!
Helen – you are definitely right; this is a very emotional and physical journey I am going on. I told my man-friend last week I feel like every day is an emotional rollercoaster – 70% of the time I’m PUMPED, 20% of the time I’m just frustrated and irritable, and 10% of the time I am despondent and sad and on the verge of tears. I just desperately want to feel normal and close to another human being! But I am taking steps and that is something.
recessivegenequeen – firstly, I’ve lurked a bit and your kind, encouraging replies REALLY made me feel optimistic and gave me the push before I booked my first pelvic floor physio appt! Thank you for this reply – this is like having a big college exam coming up; it feels insurmountable but I am glad that this is a condition that is temporary.
To anyone who is reading this: I AM WAY MORE OPTIMISTIC AND IN BETTER SPIRITS THIS WEEK versus last Friday when I posted this. Do not give up! You will have days where this sucks. The trick is to keep going. I’m sending you love.July 13, 2022 at 5:13 pm #54433mazemelissaModerator
Thank you so much for this post. I think a lot of women out there can relate.
I feel your anxiety, and get it! I work with so many women with vaginismus and it does feel all-consuming in the beginning of treatment. It does get better. The first steps are the hardest. You have connected with a therapist and physical therapist, so you can lean on them for support. There will be ups and downs, but you have already made great strides.
Some of my patients benefit from anxiety medications to help with the overwhelming feeling that vaginismus creates. If you haven’t explored that yet, it could be really helpful. Practice anything that helps with mind/body connection…meditation, yoga, guided imagery. Dilation will be also be helpful, and it sounds like that is next on your list to pursue.
Don’t give up, you can overcome vaginismus!July 18, 2022 at 12:14 am #54443
bettyslocombe – exactly! It feels terrible and all-consuming now, but I can say from firsthand experience that there will be a time that this doesn’t dominate your life and you will be so grateful that you made the investment of time and effort now. I am so glad you are feeling better about it this week! I hope the wins keep coming and you feel more and more that you are able to celebrate victories and relish your progress! I know it will help other women to hear how your journey is going – thanks so much for sharing and let us know how it all proceeds!July 19, 2022 at 11:22 am #54488
Hi mazemelissa! There definitely have been ups and downs. This is definitely a condition that is physical and mental – and sometimes I really have to psyche myself up mentally to do the treatment. It has gotten easier – I’m not crying anymore but it is still nerve wracking. One day at a time!
My dilators arrived and they’re definitely super intimidating… but even making a pelvic floor appointment was intimidating and sent me into tears so… I can do it!
Thank you recessivegenequeen! It’s definitely a journey and some days (like Sunday and last night Monday!) I was feeling very pumped but there are times the self-doubt comes in. I will definitely update here though as I go. Hopefully these words help at least one woman out there think about treatment and facing this.July 24, 2022 at 12:32 am #54560
It’s great that you are feeling pumped and confident! Dilating is definitely something of a change-up, but I bet there’s a past version of you that would be amazed you were able to order the dilators! Once you get comfortable with the first one i think you’ll really have the hang of it – it’s still challenging, but you’re just changing the size so you have a sense of what to expect and what you’re working toward. Keep up the great work!August 18, 2022 at 9:31 am #55505Sks823Participant
I loved reading your post! I’m so impressed with you and your journey so far. I had vaginismus for several years until 2016 when I went to Maze’s clinic in NYC and ‘graduated’ from the dilating program!
I think I was a very difficult case – I couldn’t wear tampons from the pain/fear, and the thought of dilating with even the smallest dilator gave me immense fear. The physical portion of the first couple appointments were incredibly nerve-wracking; I was prescribed Xanax to take before each following appointment.
But I got through it in 2016 and if I could do it SO CAN YOU! i definitely had times when I thought I couldn’t go further but I powered through (like you’re doing), knowing it would feel so amazing and fulfilling and clear sooooooo much mental energy to not have the ‘weight’ of vaginismus on my shoulders!
So looking forward to reading more about your journey and glad you have support in your life :).September 18, 2022 at 4:37 am #56079PersevereParticipant
Thank you for sharing your story with us. I think that every vaginismus patient can relate with this. When my treatment was going on, I was a student doing some research work. In those 6 months, I could not at all concentrate on my studies. I was thinking about my condition and the treatment all the time. Sometimes I wanted to give up especially after setbacks but with the motivation from this group, I carried on and I am glad that I didn’t give up. When I was finally able to have intercourse, I felt a huge weight of shame, guilt, and inability to do something off my shoulders. I realized how stressed and depressed I was because of this condition. One day you will also be able to throw this weight of stress and depression from your shoulders. Best of luck! Do share with us any updates:)October 3, 2022 at 7:06 pm #56184
I am really sorry to go mute and not keep you all posted. I have some news / updates but wanted to reply to a few points!
First. I want to say before I really started seeing results – I thought the pelvic floor physio and dilators was utter quackery. If you told me a year ago that you can work to relax your vagina with yoga positions and silicone dildo looking things… I’d have burst out laughing.
I also want to tell women who feel like the treatment is taking too damn long: celebrate the little wins. Two weeks ago, I stood naked in front of my boyfriend after a shower and had a full on conversation about god-knows-what. He called it out a few days later to remind me – YOU HAVE MADE PROGRESS; me back in May 2022 would NEVER do that. These little things are all progress – even something that seems small like buying panties that aren’t granny panties is a win if you are trying to become sex positive.
And. Take breaks. I came down with COVID three weeks after starting treatment, and was really worried about taking a break / slowing down. It turns out… taking a break does not take you right back to square one.
@recessivegene: your dilator feedback really calmed me down when I read it. I’m sorry I’m saying thank you now – I had to take some time away from the vaginismus subreddit and maze forum lurking during some trying times. That dang box sat on my end table for weeks. I could barely look at them and I am now (still dilating) with the last one. Wa wa wee wa as Borat would say!
@Sks823: I feel you. The anxiety around doctors and assessments for this has been a real thing. I tried Ativan with a previous boyfriend to have sex and it never worked. The first man who broke my heart was a big pothead, and smoking pot also never worked. I’ve really had to face my relationship with alcohol as part of this vaginismus deal… so I’m hesitant to give this next point – BUT: I am lucky to live in a country (Canada) where cannabis is legal. The first few pelvic-floor physio appointments were nerve-wracking. I was able to take some CBD oil (no THC) about an hour prior to my appointments to calm my nerves (I bought this originally for my insomnia), and it really really helped. I understand CBD / cannabis is controversial, so if it’s against the Terms of Service… sorry mods. I do not use CBD every day, but I did take this on days where I knew the tasks would be trying, like in person physio or the first time I did the mirror exercise.
@Persevere: I also feel you too! Today was the first day in a REALLY long time I was able to concentrate on my job. I am lucky that my current role is a bit better in the work-life balance department than my last role because there were days I barely concentrated at work and the vaginismus consumed me since May / June / July / August / September (ai yi yi…) of this year.
I suspect the reason I am able to concentrate today despite having a busy weekend is because… I had sex on Friday. I was penetrated. THREE TIMES OVER TWO DAYS. It is still anxiety-filled and wasn’t spontaneous and had stop-starts and I had to adjust my legs and it wasn’t like the movies… but it happened.
Y’all, I cried. I actually was in disbelief. Y’all, I told myself I would not be a blubbery mess after the first time I had sex and I was. But I am unashamed!
I really wish I could tell you all that there was one thing that worked (and I want to make clear I’m still in treatment – sex isn’t spontaneous quite yet; I expect to still dilate and stretch for a while) But I attribute my success to a mix of pelvic floor physiotherapy (started first week of July 2023), CBT / psychotherapy (I’ve been doing this since March 2020), and dilators (I used the vuva tech ones). I’ve been lucky to have a hella-supportive partner as well throughout this journey. Journaling was a big one – I journaled on paper and also did video journals on my iPhone on occasion (I would share the one I did the night I had sex but it’s got quite a lot of inappropriate language :P)
Writing task lists also helped to keep me accountable (These lists had everything and anything: AM and PM Stretches, Water Intake, Dilating, Journaling, Psychotherapy, Looking at Myself with a Mirror, Receiving Oral Sex / Fingering, Reading. I did not do all of these in one day or every day). I know my pyschotherapist was a little bit skeptical about the lists being too much pressure but the lists did help so long as I was patient and graceful and forgiving of myself.
I set Sept 30th as my ‘goal day’ to have sex. It took the whole damn day but it happened. Having a ‘set day’ worked for me, but I do think sometimes that can put too much pressure so… YMMV.
I am happy to answer PMs and can give the name of the clinic I used for physiotherapy (I’m in Toronto, Canada) as well as books I felt helped me (the previously mentioned vaginismus book by Dr. Reeve, as well as Becoming Cliterate and Come As You Are ). There were yoga tools that helped as well.
I might be late to replying but please reach out if you need a listening ear <3October 4, 2022 at 10:36 am #56207Sks823Participant
@bettyslocombe BEST. NEWS. EVER!!!!!!!!! Congratulations, you are AMAZING!!!October 4, 2022 at 10:55 am #56217PersevereParticipant
@bettyslocombe Many many congratulations! It is very refreshing to hear a vaginismus patient finally make a breakthrough! Remember that if you got through this, it shows you are a strong woman! All the best!October 23, 2022 at 12:19 pm #56588
bettyslocombe, huge congratulations!!!! I think the huge takeaway here that ends up being true for everyone who has success overcoming vaginismus is that it is a marathon, not a sprint. Contemplating all that needs to be done can be overwhelming, but success comes from taking one step at a time. And celebrating the small changes that happen in your psyche, your confidence, and your body is crucial to making it to the finish line. I am so elated that you were able to have penetrative intercourse – I definitely cried too because it’s such a huge milestone!
Keep up the great work and it will just continue to get easier and better!January 12, 2023 at 6:05 am #66635niftiitimpParticipant
Thank you so much for this post. I think a lot of women out there can relate.
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