by: Alyssa Weiss
“It’s really time for us to grow up and discover our vaginas.” – Loretta Swit
There is no gentle way to tell you what my problem is. There is no soft, subtle wording that can keep a warm, fuzzy feeling in the room. I cannot sugarcoat my words, and I do not even want to. I say it frankly because no one else will. So prepare yourself, because here it is: My vagina is broken.
The best way to explain my problem is to explain how it happened. I have a wonderful relationship with my boyfriend (referred from now on as Commodore Snuggles), and there came a time when we decided to have sex. For awhile, it was fun and normal. But one day during some fun time, I moved right and so did he. His right. Something happened, and I am still not sure what, but it HURT. It hurt like hell, and I specifically remember biting onto Commodore Snuggles’ shoulder because of the pain and crying. Because really, what else are you supposed to do when you hurt your vagina?
After I had calmed down, he held me to him, apologizing profusely for hurting me with me trying to explain it was an accident on both of our parts. We decided it was bad luck and that we could try again later. Later ended up being the next day, and it hurt even worse the moment we tried to start. It was a little disheartening, but I figured it would be better by the next weekend when I would get to see him again. I went through my week as usual… but that next weekend did not get any better. The weekend after that got worse. Weekend after weekend passed, and I could feel myself growing more and more upset by what was happening. I am not a “just hope it gets better” kind of person. I did what any educated woman with a problem would do: I Googled it.
Googling is something I do necessarily suggest. There were a lot of websites, and I was excited! Quickly, that excitement turned to horror. According to these websites, the Commodore’s penis was too big, my vagina was too dry, I was sexually repressed because of my upbringing, and I had some sort of exotic STI. False, on all accounts. His penis is fine, my vagina is (mostly) fine, my upbringing was open and positive, and I do not have STIs. I am fine, he is fine, and we are fine. So, where did that leave me? With NOTHING. I had nothing to go on for months. After a few searches, I was afraid to even look because I was so embarrassed.
You do not realize how bad knowing nothing sucks until you are practically crying on the table at the gynecologists’ office because of how bad the exam hurts. Normally, they are just awkward with weird small talk about your families while she sticks cold instruments into you to look around and get samples. She and I had a discussion about it, where I told her about the pain during sex. We talked about it for awhile, and she put me on muscle relaxers to calm my body down. All the muscle relaxers did was give me absurd dreams where I gave birth to a basketball and carried it around thinking it was a baby.
After the talk with my gynecologist, I knew I had to tell my mother about it. While we have an open and honest relationship, I didn’t know how to tell her about my problem. Instead, I told her about how my gyno had realized something was off during the exam and put me on meds to make my body relax. She bought it somewhat at first, and she cornered me a few weeks later (while watching Criminal Minds, that sneaky woman) and asked if Commodore Snuggles and I were “intimate” and if that’s from where the problem arose. I told her yes, because really, what else are you supposed to do when you hurt your vagina?
My mother was very supportive and more than slightly uncomfortable. She had offered me bits of advice on the situation and told me that sex as important in a relationship, and that this problem wasn’t fair to me or the Commodore. The next morning, she had emailed me a website, www.vaginismus.com. She had found something that I had not seen. The site detailed what was happening to me, with a few graphic diagrams that I found amusing and embarrassing, as my mother had looked at it. It was called “vaginismus.” It had a name. From what the site told me, I had hurt my vagina, and they could help me fix it. We sneaky ordered a set of dilators, and I would sneaky use them late at night. The dilators helped, but only for a week or two. They offered a solution where I would have to use them constantly. The pain continued on throughout the months. I did not want to talk about it with anyone, because the only solution I could find didn’t fix me.
In the months that followed, I grew closer to the Commodore. He was extremely supportive of me in every way he could be. He never pushed the issue of sex. He never got upset when I couldn’t. On more than one occasion, a night of sexy fun would end with my crying into him about how frustrated I was at the situation. Why now? Why this? Why us? It’s one thing to not want to have sex or not have an opportunity. It’s another ball game completely when two partners can’t; not don’t want to, CAN’T. As the days went on, the pain got worse. It began to hurt during the day in my hips and sides. I could feel it spasming with no trigger.
Then one day, my older sister and I were talking. She had casually mentioned a boyfriend at the time, and she casually mentioned that they had sex, and she casually mentioned that it hurt really bad. I think a part of me died of happiness. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but the fact that there was someone out there who knew how I felt? That I wasn’t alone? That it was my sister? She told me she was doing physical therapy to try and make hers better, and I began to consider that, too.
One day, a few months after my discussion with my sister, I couldn’t take it anymore. While putting away Christmas ornaments with my mother, I had to say something. “My vagina hasn’t gotten any better. It’s worse, even. It has been for awhile. Katie’s doing physical therapy. I want to.” She thought about it for only a second before saying okay. Within a week, we had figured out where I would go and when I would start.
Starting physical therapy was one of the best things I could have done. Sarah and Nancy calmly explained to me that during sex, I had basically pulled a muscle (in my vagina). This caused a Charley-Horse type reaction (in my vagina). The repeated action of hitting this muscle caused the muscles to tighten even further. Because this tightening hurt and only happened during penetration, my mind began to associate pain with sex. Even if I wasn’t consciously thinking it, my body was tensing up to try and save me from the pain which only caused more pain. It was a vicious cycle.
They showed me stretches and pointed out how tight my hamstrings are. Our vaginal muscles and pelvic muscles work together, and our pelvic muscles are connected to our back muscles and leg muscles. My gluteus maximus (the muscle in my butt) were so tight because of my Charley-Horsed vagina. They showed me stretches (like reaching for my toes, the butterfly position, and a bunch of other yoga poses) that stretched out my legs, back, and tush. Once these muscles started to relax, so would my overactive pelvic floor. (If you cup your hands, that’s what your pelvic floor is supposed to look like resting. Mine apparently looked for more two hands face up.) They showed me how different kegel exercises could help relax the stressed muscles on a biofeedback machine. As per my orders, I did my stretches every night.
Overtime, the pain during the day stopped. My body responded well to the stretching (and muscle massages, thanks to Nancy), and I felt better. When I had no more pain, Nancy told me there was nothing more she could do. Now, I had to retrain my mind into realizing that sex wouldn’t hurt. My body was fine, so now my mind needed to be as well.
Since the end of therapy, Commodore Snuggles and I have had a few successful encounters. However, I’m not “fixed.” Now, my focus is trying to get my mind to realize what my body already knows. It’s a slow, agonizing process which still ends in tears of frustration on my part and comforting words on the Commodore’s. We both know that a couple physical therapy sessions aren’t going to fix everything. The thing left to fix now is my mind, and there really isn’t any easy way to do that. Does that make me fussy? YES. Until someone tells me it won’t do any good, I’m going to stretch, stretch, and stretch some more. I’m going to buy lubes that my gay friends tell me work wonders for them, especially for their first times. I’m going to take baths to loosen my muscles, use a weird frozen condom full of ultrasound jelly (an icepack for a Charley-Horsed vagina), and do kegels every night in my tiny dorm room.
I’m not totally fixed, but I’m getting there, and trust me when I say I’m not going back.
Editor’s Note: The editor of this piece would like you to know that Operation is incorrect as to the spelling of Charlie. As the leading advocates of Breadbasket removal clearly hold themselves to a high standard of educational accuracy, we are greatly disappointed in this oversight.
Alyssa Weiss is a student at Saint Louis University majoring in Finance. She is in love with her baby kitten, drag queens, and being a straight ally. Do you know what a Billiken is? Because even she doesn’t.