When Sex Hurts
If you have read the page "My Story" on this site you have seen some details of how one day I woke up and sex hurt. You have read that for me - Physical Therapy and Somatic Therapy changed my life. I am still learning about new emerging methods to continue giving options, and hope to others!
I had a very healthy sex life prior, but after a bad break up and not-so-healthy new significant other sex became painful. The causes and conditions vary as much as the people affected by them.
Vaginismus, Vulvodynia, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) are just some of the potential causes.
You don't have to live this way. Pelvic Pain specialists use hands on treatment for both MEN and WOMEN (yes - men get PDF too). While the Pelvic Pain Specialist treats you physically, Somatic Therapy addresses the emotions, relationships with your body, self, others, and beliefs involved. This is a very complex condition so treating the WHOLE you is essential.
SEX isn't easy to talk about - here we MAKE IT EASY.
Let's meet Georgia.
Georgia was never able to use tampons comfortably, she cannot have PIV (Penis in Vagina) sex. This has been throughout her entire life. Here is her story of body relationships, emotional relationships and self awareness that has helped her deal with her condition. A lesson I too learned through the help of Somatic Therapy many years ago.
How did you come realize something was going on with your vagina and what was that like for you, physically, emotionally and mentally?
I first realized something was "off" with my vagina when I was around 13 and tried inserting a tampon for the first time. I simply couldn't get it in. I didn't know I needed to relax down there, nor breathe properly, and I ended up hyperventilating, and clenching because I was nervous, and hurting myself and getting sick by trying to insert it. That scared me so badly that I didn't try again for a few years-but I failed the second time around too.
I left my vagina alone after that until this past year-I wanted to forget about my tampon issue and put it in the back of my mind. I told myself I was just nervous and I'd deal with it soon, but I had no immediate reason to use tampons so I kept putting it off. This past year I became a much more sexual being and I wanted to incorporate fingering into my masturbation, because I knew it was supposed to feel amazing. It should be easy, right? Just slip a finger up there and go to town! Wrong.
I couldn't get a finger in at all. I am able to touch the opening to my vagina but when I try to insert, my vagina closes up. I am very tight anyway, but it's like hitting a wall when I try to insert. I've never gotten far enough inside to feel how tight my entire canal is, but by observation I can see it looks very narrow.
Throughout my day, I am constantly clenched up down there; like a perpetual Kegel. Sometimes I will have muscle twitches/small spasms if it's really clenched up. I am hyper aware of any sensation at the entrance and inside my vagina-if I feel anything, my brain interprets it as unpleasant, even if it's a benign sensation.
The moment I try to insert a finger or tampon inside my vagina, my brain thinks "Oh no, SOMETHING is trying to go INSIDE!!! That's not okay!" and I tense up and get anxious. This made me worried that my first time having sex would be painful, which in turn just made me MORE nervous about penetration in general. Several months ago I googled my symptoms because I thought this was something more besides normal nervousness, and vaginismus came up. When I read about it it was like it was describing everything I was going through.
So your brain paired up pain and fear with penetration. We need to re-pair that pairing.
Have you attempted PIV sex?
I have not ever had sex yet, I am still a complete virgin at the moment. I have a boyfriend but we are in a LDR and have yet to be physically intimate. I want to in the near future though. I am glad that I discovered my condition before I attempted to have sex, because I think discovering it when I tried to lose my virginity would have been very traumatic for me and my partner and made my issues 1,000 times worse by associating sex with pain in a huge way. I have not been successful with using tampons yet, I have never actually used them during a cycle, never gotten them in fully. I have only used pads the entire time I have had my period. I knew that wasn't normal but I pushed it to the back of my mind, not wanting to deal with it and hoping it would resolve itself. It must be admitted that I didn't try very hard when I was young to use them; I look forward to trying them again with new resolve.
How was 'sex' treated in your house growing up? Often times how 'sex' is framed growing up can have an impact on our own sexuality. These are not our own beliefs - and need to be cast off as they can manifest as we go through puberty or begin to have sensual feelings in ways such as shame, postural hunching, chronic muscle clenching and lead to sexual dysfunction.
I was raised in a very conservative religious family, so sex was strictly for marriage and premarital sex was taught as a sin. My mother never had a sex talk with me; once she realized I "knew how it worked" she just told me that it was for after marriage and she would explain more when I got married. A huge emphasis was put on "being pure" for my future husband and I even wore a purity ring for a year or two.
Masturbation was taught as a sin. Anything sexual, any sexual thoughts or desires, were taught as wrong until I was married. Despite all this, I masturbated my whole preteen/teen years and was quite a sexual being anyway; having fantasies and searching out any information on sex and how to be good at it that I could. I always had guilt in the back of my mind, however, that I was doing something wrong, and I would go through stints where I tried to "be pure" like I was taught. I couldn't do it though. It felt like I was trying to repress a part of me, a crazy sex kitten side to me if that makes sense, lol. I am now trying to purge my subconscious views on sex-I know that guilt in the back of my mind is a huge player in my vaginismus. I resent those teachings very much, but there is nothing I can do about the way I was raised. If and when my parents realize what a sexual being I am and that I do not plan on following their views on sex, they will be extremely disappointed. To them, it would be like losing a daughter. But it can't be helped.
Another potentially damaging association, sexuality and masturbation are WRONG. So your body was reacting. Your body got that message growing up. It's ingrained in your system and it wasn't even YOUR message.
What was the relationship like that YOU had with YOUR VAGINA during the onset and how is it NOW?
The relationship I had with my vagina before I discovered my symptoms; well, I didn't have one. I was not taught about sex when I was little so I didn't even realize what it was. And when I was 13 and couldn't insert a tampon, I was scared, frustrated, and defeated. I ignored my vagina for years. I pretended my problem didn't exist-I lied to myself that I was just nervous and I would be able to easily use one whenever I wanted. But obviously I knew this wasn't true because I kept putting it off and avoiding it.
This past year I made it my goal to get better-especially since I fell in love and want to be intimate with my boyfriend someday soon :) I guess that was the push I needed. In the very beginning I was still lying to myself, saying that I would have no problem with sex when it came down to it; but I knew that ok reality the chance was very great that I would be unable to achieve penetration with him if I couldn't even insert a finger! I put the physical treatment on hold for a few months and worked on my mental relationship with my vagina. It's much better now, I am not angry at my vagina, it's not "her" fault. I like to think about my vagina as a "her" that is a part of me that is connected to my mind and also has her own. I think of my vagina as a victim of unfortunate circumstances, I feel sorry for her, and it's my priority to make her better. I want to pamper her, lavish love on her, and care for her in the best way I can. Basically "love" her better :) This problem isn't her fault. She and I want to achieve what she was made for, and we will work together until she is cured.
As a Somatic Therapist, it's often the case that the relationship we have with our body, especially our vagina is critical to healing. You can't heal when you are war with your body.
Do you experience stress as a factor in your condition, if so how? In Somatic Therapy we look to un-pair to repair how stress manifests and how you can modulate stress in ways that work benefically to you.
I would say stress definitely plays a role in my condition. I find that the more stressed I am, the more I clench my pelvic muscles throughout the day and the harder it is to keep them relaxed. If I'm perpetually stressed my condition will worsen to where I have little spasms sometimes because my whole body is so tense. I am a bit of an anxious person-which is a big player in why I have this condition in the first place-anxiety about having pain from penetration. The more anxious I am the more my muscles close up and the harder it is to attempt any treatment at all. Relaxing and de-stressing is imperative for successfully treatment. If I am stressed, my whole body is a ball of tension and won't let my muscles relax.
Now that you have improved the relationship you have with your body, and have given yourself agency in your own beliefs about sex, how has that helped?
Now that my relationship with my vagina has improved so much, I am so much more optimistic about my condition. I KNOW I can reach a cure. I am happier and hopeful. Knowing I had this condition used to be a source of constant anxiety for me, I thought I would never have a normal sexual relationship. But once I changed my mindset and my way of thinking, I realized that I had won half the battle.
Overcoming the mental issues that I had with my vagina and sex has made me ready and prepared to now tackle the physical issues with optimism and excitement. Of course I still have my bad days where I will get frustrated and down about it all, but those are so rare and I am happy to say I love my vagina even more for going through this. It forced me to get to know her and observe her-before discovering my problem, I hardly looked at my vagina and had no idea how she really worked. It's brought me closer to my own body and helped me to become more in tune with myself. I've learned so much about the female anatomy and that is a very empowering feeling. I feel in control now. So there is a silver lining in all this :)
Does sex hurt? Contact me for a free 15 minutes phone or skype session for a personal exploration consult.