I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

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FFG
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I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby FFG » Mon Jan 04, 2021 1:45 am

Hi, so I"m sorry, I don't know if this is the right place to write this, I don't really have a question, and this is so so long, I just kind of wanted to talk about this with someone, and I am way too ashamed and didn't know where else I could.

So I grew up in a very conservative household, as a young child I vividly remember my parents taking to me to yell at people walking into planned parenthold style organisations and my mum once told me that girls could not do everything that boys could because girls had to protect their precious child bearing organs. and then 20 years later I walk into the same organisation to get a pap-smear and I couldn't because apparently I have vaginismus and she couldn't even insert the speculum (I don't know if she couldn't physically insert the speculum or like she just saw me wincing and stopped).

I feel just beyond ashamed. Like I just feel broken, like my body has betrayed me. I didn't think I was nervous in the appointment (like obviously it felt a bit weird being half-naked, and such) the nurse kept on telling me to relax, but like I couldn't because like I didn't feel tense, and like I wasn't anticipating it hurting. Like I literally didn't have to do anything, and I couldn't even manage that.

I know this sounds silly but I just feel like "they've" won. Like I consider myself to be a very resilient person, I've successfully managed to preserve and find doctors who would take a medical condition seriously after years of being told implicitly or explicitly that I was a crazy hysterical girl. I had to deal with a lot of sexism and sexual harassment at university and persevered and I'm really proud of myself for doing those things, for learning how to survive. But now I don't feel like a survivor, I feel like a silly little girl.

A year ago I heard of the concept fo sexual shame and I thought that might be the reason I was not really attracted to men, and so I started really trying to tackle that and explore my sexuality and unlearn some of the stuff I grew up with. So for more or less the first time I started thinking about what I was attracted to, thinking about things that would get me aroused, and masterbating and like trying to explore my body more (although I haven't really in the last couple of months which kind of worries me), and I realised that I am probably a lesbian, so at the end of last year I joined an LGBT group and started dating women.

even though it was scary sometimes it was also exciting, and I felt like maybe there was hope for me, that I wasn't broken, that I could like have sex and enjoy it like I kind of wanted. and part of the reason I went to get the test was like part of this, I wanted to take control of my body, before I was always really scared that they'd like ask me questions about my sexual health and I was so ashamed of it, because I didn't need contraception or anything, because even thought I was ashamed of it I had zero interest in having sex with a man, but for the first time, like I actually wanted to talk about it, because like I kind of want to have sex now, and honestly I didn't really know what the risks and I just wanted to talk about it with someone I guess.

I feel so sad because like I actually kind of really liked maybe being a lesbian, like it just, I don't know like the first time I said it in the group, like I couldn't stop saying it (not to my family or anyone) and like I felt like i had found my people. I know that vaginimus is treatable, and the nurse said like part of it could be due to a persistant rash or something and not 100% all me being messed up, but I just,I don't feel resilient, I don't feel like a survivor, because I didn't, and so like even if it gets better, I'm just going to get it again and again because I'm just messed up.

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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby Sam W » Mon Jan 04, 2021 7:58 am

Hi FFG,

This is absolutely an okay space to post about this, and I'm glad you feel comfortable enough here to open up about this and ask for support. In case it's helpful to hear, Vaginismus is not you being messed up; it's one way of many that our bodies can react to certain things, including trauma or shame. While that can be frustrating or scary, it doesn't say anything about your value or function as a person.

Since you mentioned you know that Vaginismus is treatable, did you and the gynecologist talk at all about your options for treatment?

Can you say a little more about that link in your mind between Vaginismus and feeling like "they've" won? For instance, who do you feel like "they" are in this instance? And do you feel like the diagnosis is going to inhibit your ability to embrace or explore being lesbian?

FFG
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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby FFG » Tue Jan 05, 2021 5:18 am

Hi Sam,

So she mentioned that there were psychologists and physiotherapists who specialise in this, and that I could get dilators and that if none of that worked there was a medical option. I'm booked to go see a doctor at the clinic at the end of the month I think to discuss options and maybe get a referral. She said that I could look into finding someone myself-but honestly I've had bad experiences finding people myself and would rather go to someone they recommend.

I hope this is coherent, but I kind of feel like my entire life people around me have had strong opinions on what the acceptable way to be a girl was and really strong opinions when I deviated in any way and sometimes it really really hurt. As I got older, I've tried taking the attitude that I am not going to let someone not intelligent enough to realise that sexism is stupid stop me from doing the things I want to do. So studied engineering because I loved it and I was good at it and I wore skirts because I liked them and eventually I learned to stopped being ashamed of being a female and that there was no one way to be a women, that I wasn't manipulative I was intelligent, and I thought that I had a healthy ego, I really liked myself and haven't felt ashamed of myself for years.

The only time my parents ever talked to me about sex was when I was 20 and my mum said that you did not need to talk to girls about sex because "good" girls would instinctively know that sex was bad and never to have it until they were married to a man trying to get pregnant.

And now I just feel like because I have vaginismus, like I must have actually internalised that message, and all of the other messages about being a "good" girl that I thought I had rejected. I kind of worry that I must believe this stuff, and I must have this deep seated shame or trauma and I must actually be ashamed of myself. And I kind of feel stuck.Because if that is true, then when I thought I was learning to be proud of myself I was still just ashamed of myself, and I could never learn to really be proud of myself. Like the "they" I guess is everyone who told me I couldn't do things because I was a women, or just treated me as a body and not a person, everyone who I thought wasn't letting stop me, but actually were stopping me.

I also worry a bit that because I must just have deep seated shame or trauma, I don't know I kind of feel like I must be oversensitive, and I'll never be able to actually be a lesbian. I would always just revert back to doing what I was supposed to do, and marry a man and have children. Like I know I'm probably blowing this out of proportion, but I kind of think, like what must be wrong with me, billions of people go through exactly the same thing I did, and what is wrong with me that I develop vaginsmus.

Sam W
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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby Sam W » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:07 am

Thank you for all that context, that's really helpful. And I'm glad to hear you're in the process of getting referrals to talk with people about possible treatments.

One of the more insidious things about growing up in very sex negative spaces is that those messages can get under our skin even if we don't believe or learn to reject them. Sometimes, they're in so deep we don't even realize they're still there until they pop up and cause an issue. But that doesn't mean that the people who instilled them have won in some way. From what you describe in this thread, it sounds like you've done an amazing job of unlearning those messages and forging a path that makes you happy even when it goes against the negative things you were taught about yourself or your gender. A diagnosis of Vaginismus doesn't erase or negate that, and it doesn't mean you won't keep throwing off those messages.

Too, internalized shame isn't the sole cause of Vaginismus, and as you work with a healthcare team you might discover it's not the main culprit (or a culprit at all). Keeping that in mind might also help interrupt some of the bad feelings you're having about it right now.

As far as your identity goes, I don't think Vaginismus (even if it is linked to the sexual shame you grew up with) means you won't be able to pursue the life you want or express your sexual orientation in a way that feels right to you. In fact, I wonder if it might help to take some steps to explore or connect with your sexual orientation, just to remind yourself of that. Can you give me a sense of how much you've been able to explore LGBT spaces? Are there many LGBT folks in your social circle?

FFG
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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby FFG » Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:59 am

thank-you so much for talking with me, I've been thinking about what you said and doing some of my own research and realised that the image I have in my head of who gets vaginismus is very different from the reality, and that a lot of people actually do get better-although yeah my head realises this, body/emotions are still taking some time to catch up lol.

I am super new to exploring LGBT spaces. I joined a group at the end of last year and have been to meet-ups, and they encouraged me to get on a dating app and so I've been doing that where I've gone on a few dates and texted with people on the app but thats about it.

I do have some LGBT people in my existing social circle, but honestly they don't feel super safe to talk about this with. My brother for example is gay, and I've heard him express a lot of judgement towards people who tried dating people of the opposite sex before realising they were probably gay like I did. I do have a good friend who is bi who I do talk to, but she is still dating her highschool boyfriend and never herself explored many LGBT space and she's also been struggling with depression, and so doesn't have a lot of energy to talk to me lately.

Sam W
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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby Sam W » Thu Jan 07, 2021 8:51 am

I'm so glad that talking here and doing some extra research has been helpful!

It sounds like you're already dipping your toe into LGBT spaces (including our boards) and there are definitely ways to explore that more. And, given that some of the LGBT folks in your circle may not be the most supportive if you confided in them, it sounds like increasing the number of LGBT friends you have would be helpful. Would you prefer to look for in person resources (if those are an option, as I know the pandemic is more under control in Australia than it is in U.S), online ones, or a mix of both?

FFG
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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby FFG » Fri Jan 08, 2021 5:22 am

hmmmm yeah, that does sound like a good idea. Honestly I'm not sure, maybe I mix? I don't actually really know where to find many in person spaces or resources, and online places I know of are more forums like this or reddit, which aren't really good for making friends, or I guess I'm better at making friends in person.

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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby Siân » Fri Jan 08, 2021 7:25 am

So social media is one place you can start digging around. A lot of areas will have LGBT facebook groups for example, where you can interact online or, depending on how pandemic things are going, there might be in-person events too. If you are in or near a big city, you might even find groups dedicated to some of your hobbies. For example, I like to climb and my city has a queer climbers group where people can get together around a shared interest.

If you're at school or work for a big organisation it's worth seeing if they have an LGBT network. All of these can allow you to start connecting with people virtually and also tap into in-person things when they happen. You can even ask some of the people you meet on dating apps for their recommendations! Tap into their local knowledge of which cafes and bars see a lot of LGBT patrons, what the cool queer shows or nights are in your town, that kind of thing.

Beyond that, I'm more an in-person person than an online one, so I might leave recommendations for online spaces to some of our more internet-savvy volunteers, but a search of your area + LGBT might throw up some results for local organisations too.

Sam W
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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby Sam W » Fri Jan 08, 2021 8:19 am

Chiming in to add a few things to Siân's excellent recommendations. If you can find a local, or even semi-local, LGBT center, a lot of them have a mix of in-person AND remote opportunities to connect as part of adapting to the pandemic. That can give you multiple ways to dip your toe into the local LGBT scene, and sometimes having a concrete even to go to can make it a little easier to get involved in the community.

I'm also a fan of Q Life, which is based in Australia. It's primarily a helpline/talkline, but it also has a solid resources section that can help you find more local LGBT resources, perspectives, and spaces: https://qlife.org.au/about-us.

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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby lilikoi » Mon Jan 18, 2021 9:31 pm

Hi FFG!

I noticed your title on the message board and immediately empathized. I also struggle with vaginismus. It is something I've been mostly self-treating because I don't have insurance or money to be treated (I started with the light tampons, graduated to medium and larger then a diva cup then my fingers then a vibrator. None of it was for pleasure at first. Every step took a lot of strength for me to do and I would just lay down listen to calming music and let my muscles become accustomed to the feeling.)

It's been a struggle and a journey and I wanted to let you know that I totally relate to that struggle of feeling ashamed or like "they've won" and also my body is betraying me. I wonder if it would be helpful to create an affirmation for yourself to counter those thoughts with the truth that your experience is not a wrong way to feel or unnatural. Your experience is the truth of FFG! And I can tell you, overcoming vaginismus is the truth for my queer-self! We are diverse and EVERYONE goes through struggles so it doesn't make you less than anyone else to experience the world the way you are experiencing it right. now.

Also, your resilience in overcoming harassment and sexism is not invalidated by your vaginismus. You are a survivor. Maybe vaginismus is a scar you carry from that trauma. It's inspiring hearing your stories of claiming your identity amidst the family pressure and social pressure to conform! We've all got a long way to go in our personal journeys to beat the patriarchy and envelop ourselves in self-love. Wishing you the best in your journey!

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Re: I have vaginismus and I'm so ashamed

Unread postby Heather » Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:19 pm

(What a wonderful and supportive post to add, lilikoi. <3)
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead


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