Goodbye Vaginismus, Hello Sexual Freedom

A phenomenon still not extensively talked about, Katrin tells us about her Vaginismus story and how she overcame it.

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Vaginismus is a protective body response that is unfortunately more often referred to as a sexual dysfunction in our society. It is the involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, thus making penetration either impossible or excruciatingly painful for vulva-owners. This means that someone experiencing vaginismus may also have trouble using tampons, having pelvic exams, and enjoying any forms of penetrative sex (like penis in vagina sex). Sometimes the tightening response is so intense that there seems to be a brick wall where the vaginal opening is; or if some entry is possible it comes with a sharp burning sensation.

 

There are two types of vaginismus – primary and secondary. Primary vaginismus means that this over-active state of the pelvic floor has been as such for as  long as you can remember. Secondary vaginismus on the other hand, means that you have had pain-free and even pleasurable penetration, but that a certain or a series of event(s) has provoked the tightening response.

The potential causes of vaginismus are many. This protective body response can be triggered by both physical and psychological reasons. Sexual or physical assault, early exposure to pornography, religious shaming, being starved of loving touch, physical injury, and fear of pregnancy are just some of the possible factors. Even if you cannot identify any obvious trauma in your life, vaginismus may have been your body’s subconscious response to events that may not even be related to sex. Feelings of frustration and helplessness can become a burden for those affected.

As for overcoming vaginismus, a holistic approach is crucial – one that approaches healing not only physically, but emotionally. It is important to consider the complex nature of this body response, to broaden the definition of trauma, and to prioritize the cultivation of safety, curiosity, and pleasure on a somatic (body-based) level. The healing process must not be rushed, and pain must be taken out of the equation completely, so as to not intensify any bracing for pain.

The great news is that with dedication and an empathetic approach, vaginismus is 100% reversible. Pleasurable sex, without limitations, awaits on the other side. I am one example of this transformation.

 

My Journey with Vaginismus

Vaginismus.

The word sounds like Christmas, yet it stripped me of pleasure-filled gifts for more than 6 years.

It was the confusing part of my life that I was trying to sweep under the rug ever since I was 18. That is when I tried penetrative sex with my first boyfriend, but it was like hitting a brick wall!

 During another couple of attempts, I did my best to relax my muscles. Some penetration was possible, but just a little bit of him being inside me felt like a constant stabbing sensation.

It felt like having a searing hot knife inside of my vagina. I desperately wanted it out, yet I also wanted to satisfy my partner… So for longer than I should have, I gritted my teeth, and bared the pain with silent tears streaming down my eyes, hoping it would get better next time.

Seeking Help

During my first appointment with my family doctor on the topic, I could not get through a pelvic exam and I was simply told that I was too young for penetrative sex, that my body must not be ready yet.. And I should just wait! (cue eye roll)

Unsatisfied with this conclusion, I decided to do some research online and came across the term vaginismus.

Since my family doctor had told me to have a glass of wine and just relax (even though I was under legal drinking age), I went to a gynaecologist who did a brief physical exam, but made no mention of vaginismus either.

Only later did I get to see a sex therapist for a couple of sessions. Although they did not help me with the pain, she was the first to mention ‘vaginismus’ and recommended dilator therapy! I felt relieved that finally someone else agreed with the fact that my pain was not in my head.

The Dilating ‘Fix’

The sex therapist gave me a 2-pager of dilating instructions. Oddly enough, my parents were the ones to set me up with a set of dilators! After I had reluctantly told them about the difficulties I was having, they came home one day with a box of plastic dilators packed in a grey bag with a pink heart on it – and so my journey officially began.

Unfortunately, the dilators lay hidden away in my closet for many months, since I lacked the support in how to use them effectively. To this day, I am still baffled by the limited instructions and guidance I have personally received from the medical professionals I encountered!

Could I Have Known?

One particular incident earlier in my life already indicated something was off – using tampons, or trying to… Many perfectly good tampons went straight into the garbage can, after I felt a sharp pain and again the sensation of hitting a wall trying to force them in.

Though I did my best to stay positive with each disappointment, I still felt incredibly alone. Despite my supportive family, friends, and partners, no one seemed to understand. None of them had experienced the pain, neither physical nor emotional.

From that point on, I essentially convinced myself that ‘meeting expectations’ in the sex department was something I would never be able to do So I stuck to what I knew, which may have been part of the root cause in the first place: I focused on school and work, and kept looking for my next achievement.

The ‘Just Push Through’ Mentality

You see, I lived my life in a very logical, left-brained, and structured way.

I was a trained perfectionist, which went hand in hand with becoming a high performer, a ‘go-getter’, an ‘alpha woman’…

Following the well-trodden, safe path my sister took, I too became a Chartered Professional Accountant… Which was wonderful in many ways but equally soul sucking!

As I climbed up the corporate ladder and hid my sexual secret, I avoided making self-care a priority. If I indulged in sexual pleasure for a little while, I experienced a deep sense of what I now know was shame. My body was betraying me! On top of that, my inner voice was telling me I would rather be doing something productive. Taking a break meant I was falling behind.

Being On The Other Side

Today, I am relieved to say that vaginismus belongs to my past. Here are some of my takeaways:

Overcoming vaginismus is a lot more emotional than physical. It is NOT only about dilating! It is really about reconnecting with one’s body, thoughts, emotions, and authentic sexuality. It involves prioritizing rest and pleasure outside of the bedroom too. It involves getting a sense of aliveness back – which is really what eroticism is all about.

Healing on an emotional level means understanding why one feels anxious when it comes to intimacy and sex, as well as identifying one’s own triggers. In my case, they were related to my perfectionist tendencies, and the safety I found in control. I also needed to overcome the shame surrounding sex in our society. One has to learn how to live from a place of safety, peace, and surrender. All of these involve changes on a subconscious, nervous system, and somatic level – not only through conscious work like talk therapy.

Physical success, on the other hand, involves creating a penetrative pleasure practice (using dilators or not), in order to train the mind and body to welcome penetration – without rushing the process,  and without causing pain! When pain is part of the process, it only strengthens your nervous system’s association that penetration = pain, and things could get worse.

 

 

The Takeaways

Today, I am relieved to say that vaginismus belongs to my past. Here are some of my takeaways:

Overcoming vaginismus is a lot more emotional than physical. It is NOT only about dilating! It is really about reconnecting with one’s body, thoughts, emotions, and authentic sexuality. It involves prioritizing rest and pleasure outside of the bedroom too. It involves getting a sense of aliveness back – which is really what eroticism is all about.

Healing on an emotional level means understanding why one feels anxious when it comes to intimacy and sex, as well as identifying one’s own triggers. In my case, they were related to my perfectionist tendencies, and the safety I found in control. I also needed to overcome the shame surrounding sex in our society. One has to learn how to live from a place of safety, peace, and surrender. All of these involve changes on a subconscious, nervous system, and somatic level – not only through conscious work like talk therapy.

Physical success, on the other hand, involves creating a penetrative pleasure practice (using dilators or not), in order to train the mind and body to welcome penetration – without rushing the process,  and without causing pain! When pain is part of the process, it only strengthens your nervous system’s association that penetration = pain, and things could get worse.

 

 

So much of my experience has improved my quality of life. You too deserve to enjoy all forms of sex, without limitations, free of shame and physical pain… You deserve to create an amazing intimate relationship with yourself – rooted in safety, self-acceptance, love, compassion, AND passion! You deserve to experience a love life that YOU deeply desire, and if you are experiencing vaginismus, you deserve to put it in your past, for good.

– Katrin, with Love

P.S. Since overcoming vaginismus at my own pace, from the comfort (and most importantly sense of safety) of my own home, I have left corporate life behind to help other vulva-owners overcome their vaginismus. To find out how I can be a guide in your journey, you can check my free course “Putting Vaginismus In The Past” available on my website, and join our Liberated In Love community on Instagram @katrin.with.love.

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