Monday, January 30, 2012

How I Finally Cured My Sexual Dysfunction After 11 Years

I am going to be as respectful as possible, but I am also going to be very blunt. Since finding my cure came after finally opening up and talking about it with friends, friends who cured it themselves and some who are asking for more information, I realize it's important for us to be open and honest about these things. I wish I had overcome my shame and brought this up years ago. I would have had a much better sex life with my husband and probably actually given birth vaginally. So, this is important. 

First, the short story:

I have (had?) vaginismus. 


Vaginismus causes mild to severe pain during intercourse, or a closing of the vagina in such a way that penetration is impossible. Mine was mostly severe. Getting my cervix checked while pregnant as a condition of being admitted to the hospital for my first 2 pregnancies hurt so much I screamed in terror and pain both times. I still cringe thinking about those moments. More than one friend has suggested that my vaginismus is the main reason I could never dilate pass 2 centimeters.

It was several months into my marriage before we had intercourse. It was 11 years before we had completely pain free intercourse. Doctors, therapists, vaginal dilators with accompanying workbooks, changing positions - they helped a little, but there was always some discomfort involved.

Two factors brought about this healing, and both were equally important.

1. I found a group of couples (LDS couples, in fact) that shared sex advice with one another. One of the members was a therapist who specialized in addressing issues stemming from "good girl syndrome." Talking about the psychological issues that often surround dirty and shameful messages concerning sex was critical.



2. A friend listened to my story and sent me my first vibrator. After a few minutes of using one, the muscles in my vaginal wall relaxed. RELAXED. TOTALLY RELAXED. And I had my first painless sex in over a decade. I am pretty sure we have had more intercourse over the last half a year than we did the entire first half of our marriage. The vibrator has also helped Bryan, who generally takes a long time to climax. He has now experienced several evenings of multiple orgasms.

If you suffer from vaginismus, don't give up. It can be weird to get past the "vibrators are kinky wrong" mentality and put it to good use. A large number of my women friends, from the shy conservative ones to the shamelessly promiscuous ones, from Mormon to Atheist, use a vibrator to enhance sex and achieve orgasm during intercourse with their partners. It might not cure yours, but it's worth a try.

I've tried a few (and destroyed a few cheaper ones because I wash them like crazy - definitely get a waterproof one) and this one is my favorite:

The major disadvantage is that it's harder to keep in place in some positions where it would be more advantageous to have one several inches long, such as when I'm on my hands and knees. The advantage is that, especially with the texture of the gel-like outer coating, it stays snug between the labia during my personal favorite positions, which all consist of me on top.

In conclusion, I am now having the best sex of my entire existence on earth, 3-5 times a week.

Read on if you would like more of the story...

This is Medline's description of Vaginismus:

Vaginismus is an involuntary spasm of the muscles surrounding the vagina. The spasms close the vagina.

Causes

Vaginismus is considered a disorder of sexual dysfunction. It has several possible causes, including past sexual trauma or abuse, psychological factors, or a history of discomfort with sexual intercourse. Sometimes no cause can be found.
Vaginismus is an uncommon condition. The exact number of women who have this problem is unknown.
Women with varying degrees of vaginismus often develop anxiety regarding sexual intercourse. The condition causes penetration to be difficult and painful, or even impossible. However, this does not mean the woman cannot become sexually aroused. Many women may have orgasms when the clitoris is stimulated.

Symptoms

  • Vaginal penetration during sex is difficult or impossible.
  • Vaginal pain is common during sexual intercourse or an attempted pelvic exam.

Exams and Tests

A pelvic exam can confirm the diagnosis of vaginismus. A medical history and complete physical exam is important to rule out other causes of pain with sexual intercourse (dyspareunia).

Treatment

Treatment involves extensive therapy that combines education, counseling, and behavioral exercises. Such exercises include pelvic floor muscle contraction and relaxation (Kegel exercises).
Vaginal dilation exercises are recommended using plastic dilators. This should be done under the direction of a sex therapist or other health care provider. Such therapy should involve the partner, and can gradually include more intimate contact, ultimately resulting in intercourse.
Educational resources should be provided. This includes information about sexual anatomy, physiology, the sexual response cycle, and common myths about sex.

Outlook (Prognosis)

When treated by a specialist in sex therapy, success rates are generally very high.
And here is a brief description of "Good Girl Syndrome":

" Rigid and inaccurate portrayals of sexuality passed on by even well-meaning parents or leaders can be detrimental. Growing up with the idea that sex or our sexual anatomy is bad or dirty can have devastating effects for people when they try to get in touch with their passionate and sensual selves once married. Laura Brotherson states the following in her book And They Were Not Ashamed: “The ‘Good Girl Syndrome’ is a result of the negative conditioning that occurs from parents, church, and society as they teach—or fail to teach—the goodness of sexuality and its divine purposes. This conditioning leads to negative thoughts and feelings about sex and the body, resulting in an inhibited sexual response within marriage. . . . The Good Girl Syndrome may be the great underlying and underestimated cause of sexual dissatisfaction in marriage.”[3]Due to cultural, religious, and family influences we all come to a marriage with a sexual history—whether we’ve had sex or not. "
http://journal.segullah.org/feature-articles/sexuality-and-the-mormon-marriage/ 

I often hear from many newlywed young women how hard it is to switch gears from "sex is wrong" to "sex is right." For me there was a huge shift that had to take place, because I had a sexual past and considered myself inferior to girls who waited. This is a recent journal entry I made about it:

"Vaginismus is the involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles. It makes everything so tight that even something as narrow as a cotton swab can cause pain. I didn't know I had it on my wedding night. The wedding night burned. The entire honeymoon burned. The first year of my marriage burned. It made us sad and resentful. I'd had no difficulty losing my virginity at 15, or sneaking out with my boyfriend at 19. I'd had no problem sinning when I didn't care about sinning. But now, I was a good girl. I didn't have sex. I didn't let boys under my clothes. I went to church every Sunday and wore modest clothes and bore my abstinence like a *********** badge of honor. My wedding night would be special. It would be pure.

It would never happen.

I had successfully shamed my vagina into being good, and she wasn't about to quit. I had berated her desires, scolded her for not only wanting it, but being good at it. For LIKING it. Good girls do not LIKE sex. They endure it like a soldier, for the good of the team. Girls who LIKE sex are sluts. They're used goods. They're spiritually inferior. I had done everything I could to tell my vagina that we were no longer "that kind of girl," and that we were going to control ourselves.

She believed me. She embraced my manifesto like a boss. She closed up shop and went into submission. She was good. We were saving ourselves, saving our shared soul.

I know the exact moment of conception for all three of my children because they were all preceded by months and months of sexless devotion to our cult of good girlness. We tried everything. Counseling. Fancy lubricants. New Positions. Extensive foreplay. Vaginal dilators of increasing girth and discomfort. We finally resorted to painkillers in advance of sexual encounters. Bryan was patient and gentle. He also lost hope and interest and rarely felt like trying. "I don't like hurting you," he would tell us. We were heartbroken.

Over the years - over an entire decade - my vagina became more relaxed. Music helped. Kissing help. Tongues helped. Massages helped. Always, it took coaxing and reassurances, like taming a tiger. One wrong move and the trust was lost.

Then a friend ordered me my very first vibrator.

It was a shiny silver egg on one end of a cord with a control at the other end.

It blew my mind and rocked my body.

But it did more than that.

It relaxed my vaginal muscles like nothing else had.

We opened up like an enlightened lotus and reached a sexual nirvana like nothing we had ever experienced in our entire lives.

We wanted more. The next night. And the night after that. Until we wore it out and broke it.
I am reuniting myself with my vagina. I am bringing her back from her exile as "other." I am forgiving the good girl and setting her free."
This is a very raw story to tell, but based on conversations I've had with many other women, I felt it was truly an important one. I conversed with married women with children who had never orgasmed. Women who did not like sex. Women who thought penises and vaginas were dirty. Not just in conservative circles, but in every circle - women whose messages about sex translated to simply not having it and not enjoying it when they did.

Bryan and I became very in tune with each other's bodies in other ways. We became skilled in "other arts," wink, wink. We found ways to enjoy each other. But we still felt a little cheated and broken. 

For us, the answer has been to abandon many of our beliefs entirely. That is not the answer for everyone. On the contrary, many people I've conversed with who are conflicted about their religious traditions find the confusion causes a great deal of internal and external conflict, and they found peace once they made up their minds to fully embrace their beliefs and dive into them. I know an equal number of people who found peace when they finally decided to let go of them. I can't make a recommendation one way or the other. 

The important part, though, is to let the shame go. Find a way. Books, therapy, friends, meditation and prayer, one way or another, expel the shame from you. Feel around for those beliefs and traditions that bring you joy and comfort and feel right and lift you up. Give yourself permission to let go of the ones that weigh you down and make you feel wrong or unforgivable. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can keep some and let go of others.

Very few people are completely emotionally and spiritually disconnected from sex. What you think and how you feel do matter, and can impact your life outside of the bedroom as well as in it.

Here are some resources I think might prove helpful. If you have one of your own please share it.

http://www.vaginismus.com/products/vaginismus_kit_dvd
This kit did not cure my Vaginismus, but did help. I used these unpleasant things when I took showers. I don't think I spent that much on this kit, but it was 7-8 years ago.

http://mormontherapist.blogspot.com/?zx=b9b344bff3badbf
A Mormon family therapist and sex therapist blogs about sex issues.

http://daughtersofmormonism.blogspot.com/2011/11/episode-30-good-girl-syndrome-part-i.html
Several women I know personally, and a few I don't, discuss "Good Girl Syndrome." Includes a list of additional resources.

http://health.howstuffworks.com/sexual-health/sexual-dysfunction/sexual-guilt-and-shame-dictionary.htm 
General article about sex and shame from a non-religious perspective

http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/sex-with-jaiya/id419207343
I've sampled several podcasts about sex and this one is my favorite. Even her youtube videos are detailed without being explicit. It's a nice middle of the road sex education source. There are plenty of sex and marriage podcasts, videos and resources that pile on the shame, and plenty of ones  that are explicit to the point of making me cringe. This one is done by a pleasant woman who covers everything from simply making marriage last to cultivating polyamorous relationships, from erotic massage to bondage and anal play. Take what you think you can use, leave the rest.