Trying to cope

Find support and treatment options from participants and Maze Women’s Health staff.

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  • #24890

    First off, my doctor has not yet diagnosed me with vaginismus, but I am certain that is what I have.

    I am 27. Yesterday I went in for my first pap smear. I grew up somewhat neglected and had a traumatizing and abusive childhood. My family was not very well-adjusted in relation to our religious community, so were very strict about sexuality and my mama was always kind of leery of letting me go in for gyno exams because of false hymen thoughts blah blah.

    Anyway, I’ve been working my whole adult life to undo a lot of those traumas, and one of those steps was actually going in for a pap smear. It was exactly as you all would expect–unbearably painful, burning/tearing sensation. I came in prepared for it to be uncomfortable because I’m a virgin, but it was so painful. I almost wanted to tell my doctor to just get it over with, but I imagine because of the condition, she couldn’t force her way through or anything like that even if I did let her.

    My doctor is very nice, and she felt super bad because I was in pieces afterwards, but she kind of framed it as maybe it’s because I’m overweight–but clarified that she’s been able to do successful pap smears on plenty of overweight women in the past, which moved the conversation down just such a significantly unhelpful path. I think she must just not be familiar with vaginismus, because she seemed somewhat baffled when I was in pain. Although when it became clear we weren’t getting anywhere, she asked if I had used a tampon before (nope), but didn’t ask further. I’m the one who had to send her messages through our secure online portal explaining my trauma history and proposing this condition might be the case.

    Anyway. It’s just devastating me that I went through all of this abuse and now that I’m working to undo it there are just some things I can’t. My family was so intent on ensuring I wasn’t a sexual being growing up that ta da! Mission accomplished.


    Dear Tallahassee,

    I am so sorry to hear about your history and experience with the gyn exam. But you are not alone in this journey. And more importantly, you are not ignoring this issue, and you are working on resolving it. There is no age limit on learning about your own sexuality, and sounds like you are ready now to make that happen.

    Vaginismus is treatable, and you can get through it.

    I am not sure if you have found a therapist to speak with about your history, but finding a good therapist you are comfortable with to help you explore your sexuality would be a good first step.

    You might also want to purchase a set of dilators to start working on vaginal penetration without fear and anxiety.

    And you can always call us for a free 10 min phone consultation.



    Tallahassee, I’m so sorry to hear about the experiences that have brought you this pain. It’s clear you’ve suffered a lot but also that you’re a strong person who is still seeking answers despite a lot of setbacks, which you should be really proud of.

    I just want to reiterate what Melissa said – there is no deadline on discovering your sexual self or seeking treatment for problems like this. We have women of all ages in these forums, some in their 40s and 50s, and there really is no wrong time as long as you’re ready and desire the change.

    Your doctor’s visit in particular sounds terrible. It’s shocking to me how unacquainted so many medical professionals – especially gynecologists! – seem to be with vaginismus. But there are also great and empathetic doctors (especially at the Maze clinic) who can help you make progress. A great therapist can work wonders too (and getting a set of dilators doesn’t hurt either). You have the power to change your life and I hope you’ll continue to do it. You’ll be amazed at how strong you are and how much you can shift your world.

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