For 7 years of my life, I felt broken and worthless. In what should be an exciting time for a young adult to explore herself sexually and have some fun, my body had other ideas for me. I was 18 years old, dating my first serious boyfriend and was so excited for what life had to offer me. We started having sex quite early in the relationship as it just felt right, we were both each others first time so it was romantic and we learned together as we went. Until one night, we tried to have sex and as he went to penetrate, a pain like no other ripped through my vulva and vagina. This was the start of my vaginismus and vulvodynia journey.
Since then, I have been to doctors, psychologists and physiotherapists. I have tried different medications and treatment plans and I can finally say it has all paid off. For the first time in 7 years, I have been able to have pain free, enjoyable sex. I didn’t think it was ever possible and gave up many times along the way. But, thankfully I picked myself back up and tried again.
It has been a combination of physical treatment as well as psychological treatment to overcome vaginismus and vulvodynia. I wanted to share with you what those have consisted of and my experience with them.
1. Accepting the diagnosis
This was a big deal for me. I spent most of the 7 years feeling sorry for myself and worthless and resigned myself to the fact that I would have this forever. Due to the nature of the treatments, the pain that I would go through and the shame I felt, I thought it would be easier to ignore it all and hope it goes away on its own. Finally accepting that I needed to work at this and accept that I had vaginismus & vulvodynia was the turning point for me. I fully opened myself up to the idea of treatment. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to look at it like I deserve to be healed and I owe it to myself to put the work in to get there.
2. Vaginal Dilators
A vaginal dilator is a device used to gently desensitise and stretch the vagina. They come in a range of sizes and you start with the smallest and work your way up to the biggest one. It took me a really long time to feel comfortable using them but once I did, it definitely made a huge difference. I would use them in the bath, or just before bed and would incorporate mediation into the practice so that my body would be relaxed enough. They don’t only help with physically desensitising the vaginal but it helps you get used to the idea of touching your vulva or vagina if its something you are not used to doing.
My first experience with a physiotherapist was not great. Not because they were not good at what they were doing or because they didn’t know but because I was not at a stage in my life where I was willing to accept my diagnosis and work at getting through it. I hated the idea of having someone’s hands up my vagina, working on the muscles and trying to get them to relax. I would cancel my appointments, cry after leaving if I did actually attend. It was a mess.
My next physiotherapist was a game-changer. I was in a much better headspace when I started seeing her, she made me feel comfortable. She would not only work on my vagina but also my lower back and glutes, to get the whole pelvic floor to relax. We would spend some sessions just talking about how I was feeling and where my mind was. This was really the catalyst for the rest of my healing process as I learned so much about myself through her treatments.
4. Becoming friends with my vulva & vagina
I was very disassociated from my vagina and vulva, I would never touch it, look at her or talk about it. The idea of looking at it made me cringe and I would touch it if I absolutely had to. I decided that enough was enough, hadn’t it been through enough already? I started to think about how much hatred I had fed towards it and figured I needed to change. Its a part of my body and has done so much for me before. I needed to look at it like I do any other body part.
I changed the way I thought about my vagina and started to accept it was apart of me. This is gonna sound weird AF but I would touch it and say “thank you” every night before bed. This was to show gratitude instead of disdain towards it. I started to look at it in the mirror and really see what it looked like. I would also feel around to see what it felt like. Changing my relationship with my vulva and vagina was instrumental in vaginismus and vulvodynia healing.
This point does tie into the last one but it also deserves its own point. Touching your vagina and vulva for pleasure if different than just touching it as a normal body part. You’re in a different frame of mind. Since starting to masturbate I have learned so much about my sexuality. What I like and don’t like, what my body is capable of, I have felt the most amazing orgasms. Before all this, I felt dirty for masturbating and would never even consider doing it. So I needed to get that idea out of my head and understand there is no shame in pleasuring yourself.
6. Following sex positive accounts on social media
I have found some amazing people and accounts on social media that I follow and it has helped me tremendously. Seeing people post openly about sex, vaginas, penises, sexual health issues etc has made it normal for me. Its no longer a taboo subject that I have to hide from and keep private. Our sexuality is something to be celebrated and spoken about. A picture of a vulva amongst my feed of kittens and soppy quotes on Instagram has desensitised and normalised vulva’s for me. Seeing a post of someone talk about masturbation has made me feel great about also masturbating.
7. Chilling the fuck out
I spend so much time in my head. Seriously, I overthink, over-analyse and over-obsess about everything. I always have done and it’s fucking exhausting. It isn’t something that I can just kick overnight. But I have been working on it through meditation, mindfulness and journaling. Being kinder to myself and working on my self-esteem has been a part of it too. Accepting the fact that I was incredibly highly strung and anxious wasn’t easy but it was necessary to sort my shit out. I’m not afraid to admit it now, I seriously just needed to chill the fuck out.
As you can see, it wasn’t just one thing that helped me heal from vaginismus and vulvodynia. It was more than just doctors appointments and using vaginal dilators. It had so much to do with how I viewed myself and my vagina. My negative outlook on sex was a huge contributing factor. So in order for me to heal, I needed to change everything about how I looked at sex and how I looked at my own body.