Thursday, 29 October 2015

Epic Fail

And that, my friends, is why I'm blogging.

The Vaginismus Dance- one step forward, two steps back, take a deep breath, move on

So to counter my last post, which was brimming with joy and positivity (and maybe even smugness), I thought it was important to reflect on the fact that vaginismus treatment isn't all plain sailing.  There's a real element of one step forward, and two steps back.

As avid readers of the blog (or fellow sufferers) will know, vaginismus treatment consists of a variety of steps, that aim to get you familiar with your vagina, and comfortable with inserting things in to it. The end goal is a penis, of course.

I am thirty years old, and the first time I ever inserted anything into my vagina was 3 weeks ago. It was the smallest dilator in my kit (D0) and it was the strangest feeling ever.  A mix of disbelief, excitement, mild discomfort and pride.  It happened in the bath, and I sat with it in me for a few moments, before yelling for my husband to come and look.  He ran into the bathroom and we just stared at it for a while. It was inside. WOWZER.

I progressed quickly to the next dilator, managing to insert it the following day.  However,  this was not easy, and caused burning and stinging.  I persevered though, determined to get it in, and wincing through the pain, I managed to push it right in.  It felt like I had stuffed an arm up there- it was agony, uncomfortable and did not feel natural.  Reluctantly I pulled it out, and saw the white plastic of the dilator was covered in bright red blood.  Panic set in, and I ran to the bathroom to try and work out what the hell I had done to myself.  Even after establishing it was probably just my 30 year old hymen breaking, I still couldn't celebrate the fact that I had got D1 in.  The blood, and the pain, were too much, and sad reminders of how far I had to go.

I stuck at it though, and eventually D1 became painless and easy.  It glided in effortlessly, and I could sit with it my vagina in while answering emails, making phone calls and watching tv.

Time to move on up.

D2 was a different beast altogether.  The first time I tried to insert it, it hurt so much I could only get the tip in.  Having learned my lesson about pushing through pain, I stopped and gave up for the day. Each time I tried D2, I noticed tiny bits of progress.  I got it halfway.  Then 3/4 of the way.  I was pleased, but also frustrated. Why wouldn't it just go in? My brain so badly wanted it to, but my vagina and PC muscles just wouldn't comply.

3 days ago, I finally conquered it.  It went all the way in. But much like my experience with the first time I fully inserted D1, the pain and feeling of being burned and stabbed was unbearable.  Knowing what was coming next, I reluctantly pulled it out and, of course, it was covered in blood.  I traipsed to the bathroom, cleaned myself up and wore a sanitary towel for a couple of hours.  By the time I left the house, later that evening, the bleeding had stopped and there was no trace of what had happened.

But the memory is still in my brain, and I haven't touched the dilators since.  I'm psyching myself up to get back into it, because I don't want to give my brain time to feel the fear and let all the old anxiety about inserting worm it's way back into my mind.

I just need to keep telling myself, that this happened with D1. But now it's fine.  It's now happened with D2, but it will be fine after a few more tries.  It will almost definitely happen with D3 and D4 but this just seems to be part of my process.

Still a long way to go. Still more pain ahead.

One step forward, two steps back.

But eventually I'll make it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

I'll Be There For You

So it's been a pretty crazy couple of days over at the Hey Vaginismus! HQ (my living room).  Since I started writing this blog, only 3 weeks ago, I have been wondering if there was any point.  It was getting a handful of views every day, but nothing was happening to make me feel that it was worthwhile.  I'm quite an impatient person, always thinking about the end goal (see Project Vag)

Anyway, on Sunday, after a couple of nice retweets over on twitter, I suddenly started noticing a massive jump in the number of people looking at the blog.  People from all over the world, in fact.  This carried on into Monday, where more retweets led to hundreds more views, emails, messages, tweets, comments... It was exciting and overwhelming to hear from so many women who had experienced or are still experiencing vaginismus.  There's loads of us out there!  I also received email from a sexual health professional who said she would refer her patients to the blog.  WOW!  So it was a good day.

What wasn't so good is that I was working from home yesterday, and spent about 3 minutes on my actual job, and a solid 8 hours on Hey Vaginismus!  But it felt worth it, and a priviledge to know that people were interested in and helped by what I had to say.

Anyway, about 5pm I put the laptop down, and went out to meet an old friend from university who I haven't seen in years.  We admitted, after a few wines, that we had been a bit nervous about meeting up in case we had nothing to talk about after not seeing one another in such a long time, but there was an immediate click and we chatted non-stop for hours.  My friend and I discovered that we are both currently spending about half of our week working from home.  We chatted about all the many distractions that come with this- dirty dishes, washing needing hung up, daytime TV...  By this point, with about a gallon of rose wine in me, I decided to tell her about this blog.  Which meant, of course, telling her I have vaginismus.

Her reaction was incredible. She didn't bat an eyelid. She had heard of the condition, and wasn't remotely phased or shocked (or if she was, she didn't show it!).  We talked about it briefly, then moved on to another topic of conversation.  And that was it.  It was easy.  There was none of the shock, sympathy, hand holding, tears and questions that I had imagined, whenever I pictured telling someone.  It was all very normal. And why shouldn't it be? Vaginismus is normal. It's not a big dirty secret, and it's nothing to be ashamed of.

On the train home, I text my friend, to say how much fun it was to catch up.  She replied, thanking me for telling her about vaginismus.  She thanked me.  Not the other way round.  (Well, obviously I then thanked her... but you get my point, yah?)

By the time I got home, and checked Hey Vaginismus! and saw even more views, comments and messages, I was completely buzzing.  Maybe this doesn't need to be such a big, sad scary deal.  My husband has now read the blog, and is a part of the Hey Vag gang.  I am confident that the word can get out that this condition exists, it's normal, it's nothing to be embarrassed about, and ideally find a way to help women link up, chat and support one another in person.  This wont happen overnight, of course.  I have learned a lesson about rushing ahead and moving too fast, but it's still nice to dream big.

Oh and in other news, I fully inserted D2 yesterday for the first time.  BOOM!

Hello friends!  Tweet tweet @heyvaginismus

Monday, 26 October 2015

Phoebe or Phoebo?

Ever since I first heard the word, I have identified as a feminist.

I recently got married, after 'living in sin' with my partner for nearly nine years.  The Catholic side of my family were clearly uncomfortable with our living situation, and my elderly grandmother used to to refer to my partner as my 'husband' before we were married.  When I corrected her, she would scowl and say 'Yes, yes, I know. You're not married.'  And we would laugh, because we didn't care, and to us, love was love, wedding ring or not. 
But as we grew older, and were still very happy together, we started to feel the pull towards marriage.  I felt calling him my 'boyfriend' cheapened how long lasting and serious our relationship was, but could never get comfortable with the word 'partner'.  I wanted him to be my husband. So we decided to get married.

Planning a wedding, whilst also trying to maintain high standards of feminist living, is extremely difficult.  The whole institution of marriage is cringingly sexist, and weddings themselves are chock full of 'traditions' that allow a man to publicly make a woman his possession.  I wrestled with it all, and had many wine fuelled chats with my fellow feminist besties, and in the end I cut out all the crap.

We didn't get engaged, and I didn't wear a big diamond on my finger to show that I was 'taken'.  My husband did not ask my dad's permission to marry me.  My dad did not walk me down the aisle and give me away.  There were no male dominated, embarrassing speeches. I did not take my husband's name. And, hilariously, I did not wear a white dress.  Even though I genuinely did go into my wedding as a virgin.  So far, so feminist.

So imagine my horror at an early therapy appointment, aimed at 'getting to know my vagina', when the following exchange happened.

THERAPIST:  It sometimes helps to give your vagina a name.
ME:  Oh... OK (thinks about it for a minute)
THERAPIST:  What's the matter? Does that seem difficult?
ME:  No, I'm just wondering what to call it.  I'm just thinking about whether it's a man or a woman.


As soon as it came out my mouth, I started back tracking.  Assuring my therapist that I didn't really mean that. Of course it's not a man!  I am a feminist!  HONEST!

My therapist wasn't phased, but did think it was an interesting question.  And I suppose it is.

What I take from it now, is that it was an indicator of how detached I was from my own vagina.  It felt so alien to me, and so unlike a part of my own female body, that I actually asked this bizarre, appalling question.  

Thankfully I now have a much better relationship with my vagina.  I still haven't given her a name though... any suggestions?

Name my vagina, win a prize!* or  tweet @heyvaginismus

*You probably wont get a prize. Soz.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Plenty Of Fish

I had an interesting therapy session a few days ago, which started with my therapist telling me that I had really made her think about something.  This is unusual, as it's normally her asking me to think about stuff that I don't really want to confront, and then talking at length about what is going on in my brain.  Not the other way round!

Anyway... I had mentioned to her that I would really, really like to meet another woman with vaginismus.  To have the opportunity to sit down and have a real life, face to face conversation with a woman who is going through the same, bizarre shit that I am, would really make things a bit simpler. It's a well known fact that a problem shared is a problem halved.  But this particular problem is a bit... well... niche.  I am not convinced that sharing it with one of sexually active friends, who think I lost my virginity a million years ago, is really going to give me what I'm looking for.  They'd be supportive, sure.  But they would ask question after question, and probably still come away from the conversation totally baffled.  The problem needs to be shared with someone who also has the problem. Or used to have the problem and has now beat it.  Whatever.  But that is what I am looking for. Someone who knows how the shame and embarrassment feels.  Someone who has gone through the highs and lows of dilators.  Someone who understands the sadness of not being able to have sex with your partner.  And also someone who can knowingly laugh  with me about it.  Because sometimes it's funny.  That part is super important too.

So my therapist had been thinking this over, and has now started canvassing all the many women she treats who have vaginismus.  Apparently there are loads of them. Plenty of fish in the sea, and all that. Sadly she wont give me their phone numbers.

She has been asking if they would be interested in group therapy.  She said, as far as she is aware, group therapy has never been used as a method to treat vaginismus.  It's all 1-1, or couples therapy.  But there's never an opportunity for women with the same condition to meet up, hang out and support each other.  She believes this is because of the shame and embarrassment that we all know so well (as well as other important ethical considerations, such as women going through the treatment programme at different rates).  But ultimately, she is interested, and looking into the possibility of trying this out.  I asked her what the response had been and she told me that nobody had said no.

I am desperately keen to talk to someone else with vaginismus.  Not via an internet forum, twitter or a email. But in person.  Two women together, sitting having a coffee or a cocktail, not even necessarily spending the entire time talking about vaginismus.  But just being safe in the knowledge that this person ACTUALLY KNOWS HOW IT FEELS.  They're going through it too, and they get it, and it's rubbish but they're here and it's going to be fine...

Doesn't seem too much to ask, does it?  If I had any other condition, there would be a group for me.  But not with this one.  Let's change that please!

ARE YOU WITH ME? Follow me on twitter @heyvaginismus or email me

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Celebrating Success

The thing about vaginismus, is that it's really easy to focus on the negatives. The stuff you still have ahead of you. The things you haven't been able to do yet.  The fear never really goes away. Even when things are going REALLY WELL.

So in this post, I thought I'd take a moment to celebrate my successes.  Hope you don't mind. It's not a very British thing to do, to talk about things that you have done that are actually good. But I'm going to. So here it is.
  1. I can look at my vagina without being a bit sick in my own mouth
  2. I can touch my vagina without similar sick situation
  3. I've gotten to know my vagina. I feel ownership over it, and, hey! I actually quite like it! 
  4. I haven't skipped any therapy appointments.  Even when I've been tired, busy, under the weather or just plain lazy- I have walked through the doors of my therapists office and talked.
  5. I have been using my dilators on a regular basis. 
  6. I've conquered D0, D1 and about 3/4 of D2
  7. I am not beating myself up that I haven't done all of D2 yet. It'll happen when my vagina is ready for it
  8. I haven't taken D3 out of it's little bag. I am not rushing ahead
  9. My husband inserted his finger into my vagina. LIKE ACTUAL OMG
  10. My husband and I are spending more time together... naked. 
  11. We're laughing about it. We make hilarious vaginismus jokes that nobody else would understand. Because this is our thing. We don't want it to be our thing, but it is, so we might as well laugh about it
  12. I've accepted it. I have vaginismus. Not ideal. But the only person who can sort it is me. So I will

12 Things. That's 12 things I couldn't/ wouldn't do two months ago.

I have made 12 steps forward in two months.

When you think about it like that... it's doesn't seem quite so bad.

If you're reading this, and you're going through what I'm going through, make that list! And tell me about it! 
email          or              tweeeeeeet   @heyvaginismus

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Project Vag

After years and years of avoidance, I have now gone in the complete opposite direction.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am totally addicted to dilators.

Since I first successfully inserted dilator 0 (D0) two weeks ago, and felt that initial buzz of disbelief, excitement and total and utter joyful shock, I just can't get enough.  The minute I get home from work I put the oven on and dilate. If I have a morning off, I watch daytime TV and dilate. In the evening, after a busy day, I have a nice bubble bath and, you guessed it, dilate.
 I have now mastered the art of D0, am comfortable with D1, and have started to attempt to conquer D2.  I can insert about half of it, before the burning vaginismus pain shows its ugly face. But all of this in two weeks? Success!

I am a very goal oriented person, and get a real kick from making 'to do lists' and subsequently ticking things off the list.  I am a highly organised, effective project coordinator, with enthusiasm and motivation by the bucketload.  I am the IDEAL CANDIDATE to handle the mammoth job of overcoming vaginismus, as quickly as humanly possible.

At my last therapy session, I gleefully told my therapist about my success with the dilators. I told her that I was super excited for my next period so that I could start using tampons. And I was also making space in my busy schedule of dilating every minute of the day to go for a smear test.



However, to my surprise, my therapist didn't share my manic levels of enthusiasm.  She suggested that I slow down. Take my time. Celebrate small steps, but stop rushing ahead.  And remember to include my husband. I have been so wrapped up in my 'targets', I haven't been including him in any of the treatment.

In short, stop treating my vaginismus therapy as a project.

And so, it still surprises me a little, that I am trying to dilate less.  I am sticking to my faithful sanitary towels, and staying away from the smear test for now.  I am not rushing through the different sized dilators at record speed. I am taking the time to celebrate the little successes and taking the time to just breathe.
And watch the change in my mind and body as it takes place. And enjoy it.

Goodbye Project Vag.  Hello calm!  It'll happen when it happens, and that's OK.


Since turning 30, I have witnessed an explosion of friends, family members and colleagues announcing that they are having a baby.  I know that women all over the world have been doing this for a very long time, but it's only since moving into the new age bracket that it really seems to be on my radar. And it's EVERYWHERE. And nobody is panicking.  Because women my age can, should and will have babies, and this is totally normal... and most of them make it look very easy.

Until you add vaginismus to the mix, and then it is definitely NOT easy.

For many women with vaginismus, the desire to have a baby is the kick up the vag that we need to deal with our problem.  Before that, it's much easier to hide dilators in the cupboard and be the amazing queen of the blow jobs.  But sadly, science has yet to advance enough that you can become pregnant by oral sex, and eventually the demon must be confronted.  This was definitely a factor for me in finally getting a move on and going back to therapy.  Although I am not keen for a baby at this exact point in my life, I definitely want to know that when the time is right, it will at least be possible...
I feel like babies, maternity pay, child birth and nursery decor is a firm topic of conversation now in my peer group's repetoire. Even with friends who dont want babies right now, we still sit and talk about the fear of 'leaving it too late' and 'the ideal time to get pregnant'.  With every friend who announces their pregnancy, a little bit more of my vaginismus riddled brain turns to fear.  EVERYONE is doing it. What if I can never do it? And there's not even a medical reason for my impending childless future. It's pure, psychological nonsense.  When I see yet another baby scan picture on Facebook, my immediate gut feeling is that of annoyance. How DARE they be so insensitive. Of course, I need to take a deep breath and move on from this feeling very quickly.  I am pretty sure nobody is doing this on purpose to hurt my feelings.  How could they? Nobody knows about my vaginismus... And also nobody is that cruel.  

I also have friends who are going through the awful pain of infertility, and having problems conceiving.  I sometimes tell myself that I am in the same boat as them, and know how they feel, but of course this is not the case, and I have to be quite stern with myself when I have these thoughts.  These friends have very little control over what is happening to them, which is scary, sad and frustrating.  With vaginismus, I actually have a huge amount of power over the problem- I just need to be brave enough to face it head on and take control. It's still scary, sad and frustrating, but there is no reason to feel hopeless.  

So in the meantime, I will continue to be a support to my pregnant friends, and a brilliant aunt to all my new, tiny friends.  And I will use how happy they make me feel as inspiration and motivation to overcome the big V.  

Know what I mean? Talk to me! 

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Blessed Virgin

Having been brought up a practicing Catholic, the word virgin has always been on my radar.  I didn't always know exactly what it meant but given that Jesus' mum was one, I knew it was a good thing.

I remember a conversation with my equally strict-Catholic cousins, when I was around 13, about whether we would wait till marriage to have sex. We all agreed that yes, we definitely would. After all, virginity meant purity and justifiably wearing a white gown to your wedding. No brainer.

Fast forward to the late teenage years and suddenly the question of who is, and is not, a virgin at high school is one of the most  interesting lunch time discussion topics.  As one by one, my friends started to lose their virginity, I wondered if, perhaps, it wasnt really all it was cracked up to be. I mean, they didn't suddenly become bad people because they were now having sex.  In fact, they were pretty much the same, except they had much funnier stories to tell at sleepovers.

I started university a virgin (this fact should not surprise you, given that you know how this story turns out).  I was pleased to find that quite a few of the girls that lived in my student flat were also still to 'do it'.  However, within a few months of wild, drunken university life, all my virginal flatmates because streetwise sexperts.  They were having threesomes and shagging people in bus shelters and nightclub toilets. Meanwhile, I sat back and took it all in.  At this point, I was completely losing interest in religion, and starting to think that perhaps it was time to become one of the crowd.

Clearly this didn't happen- otherwise this blog wouldn't exist.

I am currently using vaginal dilators to help 'train' my naughty vagina into accepting penetration.  I am now confident and casual with Dilator 0 (the one thats roughly the size of a finger), so have moved on to D1, which is bigger, fatter and scarier.  I was thrilled when I was able to fully insert it a couple of days ago, but my joy was short lived when I pulled it out and it was covered in blood.  My immediate thought was that I had caused myself some kind of internal damage, closely followed by cancer.  Melodramatic perhaps, but as with anything new, the unexpected can strike real fear.

I spoke to my therapist about this last night and she looked pleased and said 'Oh that will just be your hymen'.  The wee lightbulb in my head came on and the anxiety melted.  OF COURSE. That key symbol of virginity had been broken, albeit by a big white, penis shaped piece of plastic but still!  I was a woman!  Hymen= broken= WOMAN. Right?

It might seem silly but all of these little triumphs help me to see a light at the end of the vaginismus tunnel.  It's still just a little speck of light in the distance, but it's definitely there.

KNOW WHAT I MEAN?? EMAIL ME:  TWEET ME: @heyvaginismus

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

THE GREAT THERAPY BALANCING ACT starring me, the husband and the therapists

I have been seeing therapists on and off for nearly ten years, in an attempt to cure the dreaded vaginismus.

I have been very lucky in the past to have been offered two separate rounds of therapy on the NHS.  The first therapist I saw, while I was still a student, was the person who introduced me to the word 'vaginismus'.  I had gone to see her as I was having issues with my then boyfriend touching my genitals. I was starting to feel uncomfortable about it and avoid sex, so I decided to mention this to my GP. The GP didn't seem to know what was wrong but suggested a sex therapist would help.  As anyone with any weird condition will testify, being diagnosed and finding out it's not just you, is a massive relief but in the case of vaginismus, also terrifying.  A quick google search brings up stories of pain, dilators and crushing frustration.  I wasn't quite ready to accept that this was really happening to me.  I avoided the tasks set by my therapist (which I sarcastically referred to as 'homework').  I skipped appointments, telling myself I was too busy to deal with this right now.  And gradually it slipped under the radar, and I gave up.

Years later, and in a very serious relationship with the man who is now my husband, I decided to give self-treatment a go.  I found a site that sells a treatment programme, complete with different dilators that are inserted into the vagina to help you grow accustomed to having things inside you.  I bought the kit, full of enthusiasm, but when it arrived the dilators looked a bit... big. Impossible actually.

 Cue more avoidance and the dilators finding a new home in the back of the wardrobe, along with the hand mirror.

I did manage to get another therapist on the NHS, but fell into the same trap of prioritising everything else in my life over appointments, and eventually giving up because the therapist suggested I go for a vaginal exam. That was NOT going to happen.  Hello avoidance, my old chum.

Now, I have started with my third therapist.  This time I decided to go private, and pay for sessions, in a hope that handing over my own money would make me stick with it.

However, it feels completely different this time.  I actually look forward to sessions, and am more open and honest with my therapist than I have ever been.  I have been religiously using my dilators on a daily basis, and have conquered the smallest size. It's only the length and width of a finger, but this is the equivalent of a normal vagina accommodating a cucumber.  MASSIVE!

The fine balancing act now comes with trying to maintain some intimacy with my husband and not becoming self absorbed.  Yes, vaginismus is MY problem, and my issue to overcome, but it's a team effort and I can't fall into a trap of being the only person allowed anywhere near my vagina.  This is something I am finding hard at the moment, but with the help of therapy and hard work I will overcome.

If I managed to get a metaphorical cucumber up there, I can do ANYTHING, right?


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Secrets and Lies

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have kept vaginismus a secret from almost everyone that I know. The only people that know are my husband and my therapist.

At a recent therapy session, my therapist asked me why I hadn't told anyone.  To me the answer is obvious- it's deadly embarrassing and shameful and I'd rather die than discuss it over a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on  Friday night.  My therapist asked me what I thought my friends would say. I said they would be shocked, but ultimately very supportive.  But to be honest, they would probably be more shocked that I have kept it a secret from them, than shocked by the actual vaginismus itself.

I have an incredible team of lady-friends, most of whom I have known and loved for over 10 years. We have seen each other through break ups, pregnancy scares (obviously not mine!), many a career crisis, parent problems, engagements, marriages and babies... We are all fully functioning grown ups, with careers, relationships, houses and responsibilities, but when we get together with a bottle of wine and a 90s dance music playlist on Spotify, we revert to giggling, shrieking, gossiping girls, who tell each other EVERYTHING.

Except, we don't.

They don't know that, but there is a huge part of my life that I have kept hidden.  I have never explicitly lied to them about having sex- it's more lying by omission.  When we discuss contraception, I nod along and even manage to contribute, having been on the pill for years due to heavy periods.  When we discuss sex, I laugh along and make suggestive, yet mysterious comments, hinting at a very exciting, yet private, sex life, but never ACTUALLY saying that I have had sex. It's very clever really.  When we howl with laughter, discussing the moment we lost our virginity, I excuse myself and go to the bar/ the toilet/ outside for air... It's quite difficult to get around that one without a blatant lie.

What is sad is that I know if any of my friends came to me and told me they had this condition, I would be heartbroken for them, but would give them nothing but support and care.  I wouldn't be disgusted or amused or embarrassed for them. And I know that they would do the same for me.

So why haven't I told them?

Maybe I should.

Bring on the wine and emotional chats...

tweet tweet @heyvaginismus

Monday, 5 October 2015

Here Comes The Science Bit

The above image is just a wee visual in case you're still unsure what vaginismus actually is.

If someone goes to poke you in the eye, without even thinking, you close your eye and get the hell away from their finger.  It's a reflex based on the fear of pain.

I hope you can see through this very clever comparison that I have laid out for you in a very scientific way.

**Just in case it's not clear:
 The eye is a vagina. The finger is a penis, a tampon, a smear test, a mars bar... or, indeed, a finger. But you got that**

This Is Your (Vaginismus) Life

I think it would make sense to write my first proper post on the history of the whole thing, and how I came to be a 30 year old virgin with a very nervous vagina.

To cut a LOOOOOONG story short... I have no idea.

Many women develop vaginismus after an incident of sexual abuse, or a particularly traumatic child birth experience.  This is called 'secondary vaginismus', meaning the woman was once able to have normal, lovely sex, but something changed and vaginismus set in. They generally know the reason (though we cant assume that they always do, of course).

I have 'primary vaginismus' which means I have never been able to have normal, lovely sex. Again, some women will know the cause of this but I am one of those that literally has no idea why this has happened. I can piece things together from the past that might have contributed to negative feelings and fear around sex, but there is not one big defining moment that I can pinpoint and say THATS WHAT CAUSED IT!

According to my therapist, women who have had strict religious upbringings, and anxious mothers, are more likely to develop vaginismus. I can tick both of these boxes, for sure. But my sister, who was brought up exactly the same way as me, doesn't have vaginismus and lost her virginity as a teenager, so this doesn't really give me definitive proof.

I tried using a tampon when I was 14, like everyone else.  It wouldn't go in, but I wasn't COMPLETELY sure that I was putting it in the right place. Nobody ever really tells you where your vagina actually is, especially when you go to a Catholic school.  As recommended by 'Shout magazine', every 1990's teenage girl's life-bible, I had a look at my genitals using a hand mirror. I remember recoiling in disgust- this did NOT look like what I was expecting to see.  Given that my only frame of reference was the smooth and sleek vulva of Barbie, perhaps it was normal to feel confused. What IS all of this? And where is the hole? Isn't that the most important bit? If it's so bloody important why cant I SEE it? My shock and disgust at my own genitals led to me putting the hand mirror in the back of the wardrobe and denying that there was anything there.  This meant no more tampon attempts, and DEFINITELY no more looking. And don't even get me starting on touching the damn thing! YEUCH!

When I started to have boyfriends, I never allowed them to attempt penetration. I just KNEW that it wouldn't work and I didn't want to risk the pain and embarrassment of them finding out that I had a defective vagina. Or possibly NO vagina. This was still a notion that floated round my head from time to time. Maybe I just didn't have one. And thats why the tampon wouldn't go in. Because there was nothing there...

Boyfriends were surprisingly supportive, and I made a habit of picking good ones, who didn't put pressure on me and were quite happy with lots of oral sex, instead of penetration. In some ways, a vaginismus-suffering girlfriend is a dream come true, because blow jobs are always on the cards.

I made it through my teenage years and early twenties coasting on complete avoidance with a pinch of denial.  In some ways, I think I just assumed that everything would eventually sort itself out, and I would just wake up one day with the fear removed and a very accommodating vagina.

Clearly this did not happen, and eventually therapy became the next logical step. More on that to come... Please try to contain yourselves!

Ringing any bells? Say hello:

Vagi- WHAT?!



That's right.

I am a (very young looking... ahem...)  thirty year old woman, living with the condition vaginismus and feeling a bit annoyed about the whole thing.

Vaginismus is a seldom discussed, but actually very common, condition affecting woman. describes it, in a very small nutshell, as

What is Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is vaginal tightness causing discomfort, burning, pain, penetration problems, or complete inability to have

While this is definitely true, there are plenty other rubbish things that go hand in hand with this condition that I will go into great and gory detail about throughout this blog.  In short, a phobia of ones own vagina; inability to actually touch or look at your own genitals because it makes you feel like throwing up; gripping fear that you'll never be able to have children; feeling like your depriving your partner of a proper, normal sex life; not being able to go swimming on your period; lying to your friends about your epic shag-fest lifestyle... to name but a few...

Meanwhile, while all of these things are  happening you know it's crazy.  Half the population have vaginas, and things are supposed to go in there! What the hell is wrong with you?!

It is worth pointing out here that vaginismus is a psychological condition. Not physical. There's nothing ACTUALLY wrong with the shape, size etc of my vag.  It's all in the brain. Brilliant.

Dont worry though! This is not going to be one of those ranty, feel sorry for me and tell me it's going to be OK, sort of blogs.

I have two main aims:

1. Raise awareness and get people TALKING ABOUT this condition that has blighted my entire adult life.  I am pretty sure most people don't even know it exists and those that do know about it (because they have it) are too embarrassed to say so.

2. Actually sit down face to face with another woman who has vaginismus, and have a coffee (or something stronger) and TALK ABOUT IT. Apparently this condition is common... where are all the women?!

I have been annoyed of late, as I have been trying very hard to overcome this condition through a range of delightful exercises, all aimed at me getting to know and love my vagina. These exercises are emotionally draining, uncomfortable and sometimes hilarious.  If I had any other condition that commonly affects women, I would easily be able to find support groups, and other real live women to talk to, share stories with and support one another.  Vaginismus is a very lonely condition. You know there are others out there, but you feel like you're the only one.  Even on the very few online forums I've found, women use false names for fear of being found out.

Now the massive irony here is that I am hoping to raise awareness, and break down the stigma, but I am also currently using a false name and hiding my identity, for fear of being found out.  At this stage, I'm not ready to be 'outed' (in fact, the only people that know I have vaginismus are my husband and my therapist, so dont feel offended. My mum doesnt even know.)

But hopefully over the weeks, months etc, as I continue to progress with treatment, this will change and I'll be able to be OPEN (vaginally and otherwise...!)

If you read this, and you want to chat: