How Healing my Vaginismus Changed my Relationship to Sex
I began heading towards my healing journey for my Vaginismus when I was in high school. I was aware of the need to heal but was not confident in how or what that would look like.
When you’re a teenager, it seems like everything revolves around sex. Because sex was a struggle for me, I felt like a wallflower on the outskirts of a ‘club’ my body wouldn’t let me into. Feeling disconnected from my peers at the time felt like a divide, a divide between “normalcy” and whatever role I was occupying.
Being able to achieve penetrative sex in the ways that my friends were able to at the time felt like something was missing from me, something that I had to compensate for.
During this complicated time in high school, I was confined in my understanding of sex as one form: penetrative. I can now look back and see how my perceptions of sex were inherently problematic and confined in compulsory heterosexual assumptions. But, at the time, identifying as a woman and being in a heterosexual relationship and being unable to have penetrative sex made me feel as though there was a part of me missing, a part of me that was somehow central to my being and my identity.
I look back now and hate that I allowed such a patriarchal perspective to plague my brain, but that was truly how I felt—incomplete. Every year that passed in my adolescence, I would impose deadlines upon myself.
By the time I am seventeen, I must get over my pain.
By the time I am eighteen, I will finally be able to have penetrative sex.
It went on and on, and I extended these imposed deadlines every year that passed as my pain continued to prevent me from having sex. It was so much pressure. The pressure I put on myself to conform to the skewed idea I had of “feminine” sexuality, and each year that passed I felt as though I had failed.
As someone who has primary Vaginismus, (meaning that until the last few years I was never able to achieve penetration of any kind), my entire understanding of sex was impacted by my condition because I had never known anything different until I started to heal. I found that the actual process of healing my Vaginismus completely changed my relationship with sex, but it was a longer process than I expected because of numerous years of unlearning I had to do.
My healing journey included Botox treatment had immediate results as I was able to use a tampon for the first time ever, I still could not achieve penetrative sex with my partner at the time. I decided then to start dilator therapy and continued it for three months until I was able to have sex.
My experiences of penetration impacting my healing process because of how dilation made me almost associate penetration with a feeling of “getting it over with”. Honestly, as much as dilation therapy facilitated my healing, I hated it most of the time.
It felt like a chore to the point that I would track my progress to feel a sense of accomplishment because I dreaded doing it so much every day. This sense of apprehension, on top of my prior relationship with sex pre-healing being embedded with pain and fear, resulted in me not enjoying the build-up to sex as much as I could, because I almost wanted to get the initial first act of penetration over with.
My relationship to penetration was so complicated for such a long time, that I had a hard time adjusting to traditional penetrative sex. Something that helped with this was switching my dilators for ones that had a vibration setting, as it helped me re-mend my relationship with penetration by introducing pleasure into what I previously conceptualized as almost clinical.
I felt like as soon as I was healed from Vaginismus, my body should be able to engage in penetrative sex without any pain, that I should be able to be “normal”. I was so preoccupied with this idea that any time where my pain interfered with my ability to have sex, or if I had flare-ups, I felt as though I had failed; it felt like the end of the world. This hyper-emphasis on “failure” when I first began to heal “healed” unfortunately led to me pushing through the pain on some days.
Now, I am officially “cured” from a medical standpoint, though that does not mean by any means that sex is completely struggle free all the time. There are some days where it hurts, but I have had to teach myself to be okay with it not working every single time.
This was originally a huge struggle for me as I previously mentioned, but I do feel like I have come a long way in acknowledging that these days exist and that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. Through healing, I truly feel as though I have learned valuable communication skills with my partner.
I was so preoccupied with linking pain to failure in my adolescence, that this unhealthy pattern continued into my sex life post-treatment. It took me a while to unlearn those toxic behaviours and be able to accept days where sex was painful as what they are, just days, and become more grateful for how far I have come in my healing journey and recognize that healing is not linear.
When you have chronic pain, it is so important to be vocal about what feels good, and what doesn’t. I used to be very embarrassed about anything sexual related (my sixteen-year-old self would be shocked I am writing to a Blog about my Vagina now), but Vaginismus facilitated my ability to be more open about sex and pain, with myself, with my peers, and with my partner.
Though I look back on my struggle with Vaginismus with sadness, I do think that my relationship with sex now is completely shaped by it, and that is not a bad thing. The process of unlearning toxic thought processes stemming from suffering takes time, but I feel like I am finally unlearning and being happy with my sexual identity—and that is such a blessing because that is something I never thought I would be able to say.