Realizing I had vaginismus and figuring out next steps?
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March 26, 2023 at 10:52 am #67728ktc515Participant
Hi all! I’m 24 and just discovered Maze’s website last night. What I learned about vaginismus honestly felt so clarifying and resonant, and I was so filled with hope reading all of my experiences in words, and about treatments that actually sound like they work. I’ve also been so inspired by what I’ve read here on this forum. Here’s a bit of information about my experiences in case anyone can offer thoughts or advice or support, as I’ve struggled so much with anxiety, embarrassment and shame about this, and especially in recent months, my sexual dysfunction has just consumed my thoughts all the time.
In the last at least five years, I think I’ve unconsciously struggled with vaginismus but tried never to think too deeply about it. I experienced an early sexual violation that I didn’t process for years, but when I began processing it, I think that’s when the mental blocks started. Then, at 18 I had a 7-month relationship with someone where we hooked up regularly, but the communication between us was very poor and I had such a poor understanding of my own vagina that throughout our relationship, I did think we were having sexual intercourse regularly, but in hindsight, I’m not even certain if there was ever full penetration, except maybe on a couple occasions. Nothing we did ever hurt. In either case, I didn’t have the mental blocks I do now and felt very physically and sexually comfortable and safe.
But as the years went on, I think by 20 I became subconsciously aware that my body just tightened too much for sexual intercourse with partners; it didn’t feel like an urgent issue as, since I wasn’t in any relationship. I could have one-night stands and hook-ups, but they obviously wouldn’t go well because, even though I would encourage penetrative sex, once someone would enter me, I felt excruciating pain that I just couldn’t understand as it felt like they were ramming into a wall—something I’ve read a lot of people experiencing. It made no sense to me because I do feel I have a high sex drive, I’m so conscious of how much I want sex, but my body physically rejects it, the sexual encounter ends, and I just forget the incident because I never see them again anyway. I’ve felt like I’ve been living a lie for years—my friends and others perceive me as such a sexual person, from what they know about my personality, what I tell them about sexual encounters, how I dress, my comfort with showing off my body, and my general openness. But in reality this is something I just have not been able to do successfully for years.
I tried to never think extensively about why this was happening. I think I’d started to process the sexual violation I experienced as a teenager and how it had inflicted severe pain and emotional distress. As I spent more time remembering and thinking about that experience, I think I started to associate those feelings with any vaginal contact, and even when I do want sex and intimacy, my mind and body instinctively interact to shield my vagina, preemptively predicting that any contact would cause pain or stress, and that I can avoid that pain and stress by physically closing my vagina. This, I realize, only creates pain, because actual vaginal penetration when you’re open and relaxed isn’t painful. But I’ve reached an endless pattern where I create that pain with my mind. I think my biggest problem in hindsight has been being unable to communicate about this with anyone, especially longer-term partners—often I think back and truly believe if I had real conversations and built deeper trust with them, this is something we could have figured out together. Instead I was avoidant, but I don’t want to wait to find someone to lean on for healing anymore—I really want to get help and figure this out on my own terms, for my own benefit, and start that process now.
I’ve had a couple relationships that were very sexual and that I did enjoy sexually, but our attempts at sexual intercourse were mostly unsuccessful, or just confusing due to bad communication. I’ve had a lot of confusing sexual encounters because I didn’t know how to communicate my discomfort, which they picked up on and didn’t really know how to respond, usually just stopping the encounters. And it’s just such a source of frustration, because I think in the last year at least, I really hit a wall of just giving up on dating because I preemptively assume I’ll just disappoint or confuse people. I’ve had too many experiences of developing real feelings for people, but being unable to have sex and communicate about my issues, and just give up and never see them again. I’ve been unable to have physical pelvic exams from anxiety and involuntary muscle contractions.
I’ve struggled with this intensely and privately for a very long time. But in recent months I’ve worked on becoming more comfortable around touching my vagina, and inserting tampons without pain—however, even though there’s no pain, I’ve struggled with inserting them all the way as it just feels like there’s a wall I’m pushing up against and can’t push past, even though, again, there hasn’t been pain. I don’t know what causes that wall. But my growing comfort with touching and getting at least a bit more comfortable with my vagina has given me some hope. I also masturbate externally regularly and have for a long time, and I think it’s helpful to have an understanding that that part of my body can be and is a source for a lot of sexual pleasure instead of just an alien object of fear attached to me.
I’m currently single and looking into vaginismus treatments (am very interested in the treatment involving botox under anesthesia, as I think that’s the only way I could comfortably start dilation exercises) entirely for myself and to be able to fully pursue a part of life that I really want to but haven’t been able to. I just remember feeling so discouraged when, in January, when I couldn’t complete a pelvic exam and talked to the doctor a bit about my struggles, she told me that vaginal penetration just isn’t for everyone and that’s OK—and it is OK, but I was discouraged because I do want it, and do want to be able to have this experience, and find a way to move past it instead of just giving up. That’s what I’ve found so heartening about Maze’s website and this forum.
If this is allowed I’d love to connect with people who have had this experience and healed from it if anyone wants to just talk—an email you can reach me at is email@example.com.March 26, 2023 at 1:43 pm #67772recessivegenequeenParticipant
Hi ktc515 – thanks so much for sharing your story, you sound like you are exactly where I was in my journey for such a long time before I sought treatment. The thing about vaginismus that can be so insidious is that it often causes those of us who suffer from it immense shame, emotional distress, and physical discomfort on a day-to-day level, but at the same time it’s weirdly easy to push away the problem for YEARS even though it’s so actively hindering our lives. I suspect it’s because it seems like such a large problem to solve and that you have no idea where to begin, but in reality you get through vaginismus the same way you do any other problem – by taking one step down the path at a time.
I want to start by affirming that your experience of vaginismus is so normal and will sound familiar to those of us who have been where you’re standing. I’m not sure where you live exactly, but I’m an American and we often struggle to be candid about the realities of sex even though our culture at large is so obsessed with appearances and sexualizing women in particular (which is how you can end up with your friends thinking you’re a very sexual person but them not actually have any idea of the particular struggles you’re going through). This can put us in a trap of actually feeling something that so many other people relate to yet having the sensation of being totally alone with this problem. By reaching out to these forums, you’re taking the first step in connecting to other people who can relate and affirm what you’re experiencing.
Another thing I want to affirm is that it’s possible to be a sexual person (and a sexually FUFILLED person) without intercourse, and this is another thing our society isn’t great at acknowledging. Everything from Hollywood movies to pornography centers penetration as the most important part of our sexual lives, so much so that “sex” as a term is taken as a stand-in for penetrative intercourse, even though there’s tons of other ways to experience sexual pleasure with another person. I had some extremely satisfying sexual relationships with partners even before getting treatment for vaginismus, and even though I’m able to have intercourse now, I still get the majority of my pleasure from non-penetrative acts. I say all this to remind you that you are still a sexual being and a person who can participate in romantic relationships on your own terms (while also wanting to seek treatment for vaginismus) – but it’s important to not feel like you’re on the outside looking in on something in which you already have every right to participate.
All that being said, I am really glad I got the treatment from Maze that I did for my vaginismus, both because it opened up new forms of connecting with partners, and because it helped heal so much of the shame and self-loathing I had accumulated from feeling defective and dysfunctional for so long. It helped me be more emotionally present in my relationships and sexual encounters, and I am still grateful for that all these years later regardless of whether penetration is happening with my partner or not. I got the botox treatment through the Maze clinic and was able to have intercourse for the first time 20 days later, so I can speak to its efficacy or answer any questions you might have.
You have made great progress on your own so far already in getting more comfortable with touching your body, and that’s proof that with the right help you can make so much progress if you want to. Vaginismus is not a condition that has to control your whole life, and you deserve to put this behind you if that’s what you want! Let us know how we can help in any way!March 26, 2023 at 1:52 pm #67783PersevereParticipant
For 2 years, I faced the same problems as you described. I can resonate with most of the things you mentioned in your post. I was also a very sexual kind of person but my body betrayed me every time I wanted to have intercourse with my husband. I had excruciating pain and my husband said he felt like there was a wall. I could not understand what was happening to me and lost all hope and then found this forum which gave me back my sexual autonomy in the sense that now I have control over my vagina.
There are experts in the group who can guide you much better than me. As a cured patient of vaginismus who now has normal sexual intercourse, I would definitely recommend dilation for you. You can purchase any set of dilators that you are comfortable with and try working your way up from there. It took me 5 months from the first size dilator to progress to normal pain free intercourse. The pain you feel during vaginismus is because some of the muscles down there are too tight. With progressive dilation, these muscles will gradually become less tighter until they will allow full penetration.
In my case, I had both physical pain and anxiety during any attempts to dilate or have intercourse. I am not sure whether the pain caused anxiety or was it the other way round. However, as you’ll move through dilation, not only will your muscles relax but your anxiety will reduce as well. The key is to never push through it. Listen to your body. Only when it is comfortable with a dilator, move on to the next size. Otherwise, keep on dilating. When you’ll dilate, you’ll feel a little bit of burning down there. That is completely normal as it is your muscles working out.
Vaginismus can definitely be cured and I disagree with the advice your doctor gave you as someone who got cured from it. If you have any other question, you can always post here. Best of luck for your treatment and I hope one day you’ll be able to experience pain-free sexual intercourse like me 🙂March 26, 2023 at 3:57 pm #67794ktc515Participant
Thank you so much for these responses… I’ve struggled with this privately for so long to the point that I’d mostly put off thinking about this altogether, only to just feel distressed and overwhelmed if I ever developed interest in anyone or wanted to pursue anything with someone.
I did want to see if I could ask both of you more about your experiences with a) the anesthesia/botox treatment and b) the regular dilation exercises. Specifically for the anesthesia/botox one, obviously only as much as you’re comfortable sharing, from the first step of seeking out the treatment to having successful intercourse, what did that entail? What evaluations if any were needed to have the treatment, or were you just believed about your difficulties? And what was required of you to continue dilating after the treatment? How did it feel, including as the botox wore off? Thank you for any insight you can provide and I entirely respect if you are not comfortable giving a more step by step processMay 24, 2023 at 5:05 am #67878AnonymousInactive
I have no experience about this but your topic is so interesting.
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