As women, we LOVE love. Our girlfriends ask questions about all the relationship “firsts.” For me, however, there is one question I have yet to answer – “Have you had sex yet?” I respond “No, not yet,” but not for the reason people think.
I was diagnosed with a condition called vaginismus a few years ago. This means that if anything is inserted into my vagina, my pelvic floor muscles tighten up as an attempt to protect itself. As a result, sex becomes very painful.
To put it bluntly, my vagina is a Venus Fly Trap.
When I discovered this, I was extremely upset. Dating has become that much harder. Having children may no longer be a possibility. I felt extremely alone and honestly – defective. Even worse, I felt as if I was incapable of being loved. My sadness quickly turned into anger. I did not have a manager that I could complain to. I could not walk into Target and return my vagina because it was defective (plus, I was well past the return policy deadline).
After discussing this with my doctor, I discovered that things I thought were normal, were not. I remember the first time I went to get a pap smear and it was brutal. I distinctly remember leaving the doctor’s office barely being able to walk or drive myself home and being in throbbing pain for days. DAYS! I talked to my mom about it and she responded, “You probably weren’t relaxed enough.” Pardon me while I go off on a tangent and dissect that idea.
“Just try and relax.” OKAY. A stranger, no matter how nice they may be, is getting a close-up view inside you and is about to skewer you. Does that sound relaxing to you?! I understand that no one likes getting a pap smear, but this is not a vaginal spa day. I didn’t even get treated to a nice dinner first. Tangent over.
Now, due to vaginismus, I had a whole new methodology for getting a pap smear.
I was advised that I first go to physical therapy. Later, when I felt comfortable, I would schedule a pap smear, take a Benadryl an hour before the appointment, and have someone drive me to/from the appointment. If that approach didn’t work, I was told that I may need to be put under anesthesia in order to complete the procedure. I know that I watch way too much television, but that sounds way too dramatic.
The next part of this journey was going to pelvic floor physical therapy. I had to rehabilitate my misanthropic vagina and teach her that it was okay to let people in. I went to a doctor once a week and she stuck her finger inside me, then I waddled back to my car and I left. It is a whole new take on “thumbs up” (and again, NO DINNER. Why does no one treat me like the lady that I am and feed me?)
I must mention that all my doctors were incredibly understanding and equally as kind. They knew that it was an uncomfortable situation and they did their best to make me feel as comfortable as possible (at every physical therapist appointment, we talked about dogs the entire time). Most importantly, they re-enforced the fact that I should not be embarrassed.
As women, it is easy to feel embarrassed, and sometimes betrayed, by our bodies.
As uncomfortable as it is to discuss body issues with our doctors, it is important to have them because we need to take care of ourselves! Please, if you have vaginismus, or a similar issue, do not be embarrassed to have conversations with doctors about it because, like you, your medical issues are important.
What made me feel ultimately not alone was meeting another woman who also has vaginismus. I was in a stand-up class at one of the many comedy training centers in Chicago, Illinois and she made a joke about it. It hit me – the way to heal was to literally laugh it off. Hearing her be brave enough to talk about her struggle, let alone do stand-up about it and perform to an audience, made me realize I had a sister in arms.
Any time I need to process how to overcome negativity in my life, the first thing I ask myself is “Where is the joke in all of this?” Like having an anxiety-riddled vagina, romance is going to be complicated. It is something that is going to take a lot of perseverance, patience and can be frustrating at times – much like being a female comic. I wonder if I have enough Benadryl.