If you are looking for tips/advice regarding anything relating to vaginismus continue reading…
I know exactly what it’s like to initially find out that you have vaginismus and to become overwhelmed with what to do next. It’s scary to open up your web browser, search “vaginismus,” and see what pops up. It’s even scarier to sit in the doctor’s office at 18 and hear that you have this condition but not be given any direction on where to go next.
Even after having vaginismus for 9 years now, I’m still learning new things. I suppose that’s a good thing because that means people are still researching and coming out with new ideas to help us.
I’m going to do my best to create a post that includes all of my best tips/advice relating to vaginismus. If you are interested in reading other women’s stories, or even reading about additional advice and these tips in more depth, consider purchasing my book, “Living with Vaginismus.”
Now, let’s begin:
- Breathe. Don’t panic or worry. Take a deep breath once you’ve found out that you have this condition. I remember becoming so overwhelmed when I had even an inkling that something was wrong. Then, when it was officially confirmed by a medical professional, my head was swimming with thoughts of anxiety and depression. I had a hard time holding it together, especially because I didn’t have a support group. I was 18 and I couldn’t tell my parents exactly what was going on. Even when I tried, they dismissed it because they didn’t know how to respond. So take a deep breath, close your eyes, cry for a little bit, then continue moving forward.
- Seek a good therapist. Not many individuals like the idea of seeing a therapist, but I absolutely love it! Personally, I think everyone would benefit from seeing a therapist, but you can’t make people do things that they don’t want to do. I found my therapist on my own when I was 18 and simply googled “therapists in my area.” I read up on all of their bios and felt drawn to the therapist that I still see today. She is amazing and has helped me through so much. I dread the day that I move away from here and have to find a new therapist because she literally knows everything about me. Honestly, it sounds exhausting to regurgitate my whole life story to another therapist. Also, if you go see a therapist and don’t feel a good connection with them, or don’t think they are helping you as much as you want them to, then find another.
- Find a good Physical Therapist. Vaginismus is a condition that really needs to be treated mentally and physically. It’s the ultimate combo. I have seen so many PT’s that I need to use two hands to count them. The reason behind that is simple: not every PT is the same. Some have a repertoire that can really benefit you, while others may only be able to help you halfway and then they run out of ideas. I had one great PT but I unfortunately moved away from that location. Since then, I have not been able to locate another PT that works for me. It’s all about trial and error. Look around and move on if things aren’t working out between the two of you. It’s not about hurting anyone’s feelings, it’s all about you feeling comfortable and ultimately overcoming the condition. Trust me, they won’t care if you cancel and find a new PT. A good PT would want you to find someone that you are compatible with.
- Reward yourself. Always remember to reward yourself for doing something that has benefited your condition. Even if it’s small, like spending time researching the condition itself. It’s important to find ways to tell yourself, “Good job! I’m proud of you!” You can reward yourself by buying a candle, buying new makeup, getting some cute underwear, etc. Make it fun, so that it encourages you to keep going because some days will be harder than others.
- Buy a set of dilators. I received mine from my Gynecologist; however, I was never instructed on how to use them. A good PT can teach you that, but I’ll also be writing a post that will help you learn to use the dilators correctly. Dilators are interesting. In my eyes, they are helpful, but also a hindrance. I can benefit from using them, but they also make me depressed. But, that does bring me to my next tip…
- Buy a nice box for your dilators. Honestly, the cardboard that they come in is not fun or pretty. It screams medical, and that’s the last thing you want to be thinking about when trying to relax to use them. If you find, make or buy a box specifically for your dilators to be stored in, you have the ability to make it uniquely your own. That way, whenever you get the box of dilators out, you won’t dread them or think of them as a medical tool/instrument. Instead, you will become excited and begin to view them as something important and special.
- If you need to take a break from using the dilators, that’s okay. If the dilators are making you so depressed that you don’t even want to use them anymore, then take a break from them. Don’t torture yourself and think that they you need to use them constantly. I felt so guilty whenever I didn’t use my dilators, but also felt depressed using them altogether. It became a chore to get them out and use them daily. So, I simply put them away for a few months and took them back out when I was ready again. You will know when you are ready, but don’t guilt trap yourself into thinking you need to be using them. In order for them to truly make a difference, you need to be in a good mindset and want to use them.
- Heal your mind before you heal your body. Start within. Honestly, you won’t make any progress if you don’t tackle your anxiety or depression first. Anxiety and vaginismus go hand in hand. That’s why Therapy and Physical Therapy are such a great combo to help you to overcome. Once your head is clear, and you feel less anxious, you’ll become more motivated. Once that happens, then you can devote good time and good work into doing things physically, like using the dilators or completing PT exercises. You might also be pleasantly surprised that dilator progression becomes easier because you are more relaxed.
- Discover the root cause. Therapy will help you to discover why you have vaginismus in the first place. By understanding how you were initially triggered, it will help you to find a good strategy to heal.
- Try exposure therapy. If you are afraid/anxious of intimacy, or if you realize that the cycle of pain has caused you to hate intimacy and distance yourself from your partner, try exposure therapy. I go into this form of therapy in great detail in my book, but I’ll give a brief introduction. Gradually increase your exposure to intimacy with your partner. This doesn’t mean sex. This is everything but sex.
- Exercise. Exercising releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body and can reduce anxiety or pain. You want to relax as much as possible, and exercising can truly help you to do that. If you hate exercising, try different forms of exercise that sound fun. This can be yoga, dance, an exercising class, walking or even pole dancing. Honestly, anything that is a form of physical exercise.
- Massages help. If you have a partner that is willing to give you a message or you are able to reward yourself with a massage every so often, this will benefit you so much. Massages not only reduce stress, but also help relieve tight muscles. Remember, massaging your PC muscles are important too. Bonus: If your partner gives you a massage, it will help relieve anxiety related to intimacy and will also help both of you feel closer to one another.
- Use the dilators correctly. Many women are not using the dilators the correct way. If you spent money on them, and have already invested the time into using them, then you might as well learn how to get the most bang for your buck. I’ll be writing a post next on how to use the dilators correctly.
- Find a support group. Even if that person is your therapist, it’s important to find someone to talk to about how you are feeling and what you are going through. Just having someone know what it feels like inside can truly make all the difference. Don’t isolate yourself and avoid the condition. That won’t solve anything. Also, don’t be afraid to talk about it. You can open up on a vaginismus forum or with a close friend or family member. You might even be pleasantly surprised by their reaction and their willingness to help you get better.
- Set the mood. When using the dilators, create a space that makes you feel happy and comfortable. You shouldn’t use them when there are distractions going on. Instead, create your own personal oasis. Light a candle, turn off the lights, burn some incense and listen to music. The happier you feel, the more motivated you will be to use them again. Using the dilators might even become your own personal “me time.”
- Be with someone who respects you. This sounds like an obvious tip, but some people might be in a toxic relationship and either not realize it or are too afraid to leave. Being with a person who respects and support you makes all the difference. If you are constantly being treated poorly, your subconscious will try to protect you by tightening those PC muscles even more. How can you advance in treatment if someone is forcing you to have sex when it hurts or are putting you down for expressing sadness due to the condition?
- Find the right lube. I have a blog discussing lube that have worked for me in the past; however, the one that I felt worked the best was not listed. Unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me remember the name, but also this lube has been discontinued. I’m testing out a new lube at the moment and will provide an update on it after about a week of usage. I’m also looking online for lubes that are specifically designed for women who suffer with pain during intercourse and, once I’ve purchased those, will give an update as well. I’ve used lidocaine before, but the prescription I was given wasn’t strong enough. I could still feel pain. I’m hoping to find a higher prescription, so that I can get my body used to having sex. If I have pain free sex a few times, my muscles and mind should begin to rewire and see sex as a positive rather than a negative, much like the idea behind the Botox procedure.
- It’s okay to use a penis as a dilator. Some articles or individuals might tell you that doing this is a mistake, and to be honest, I thought it was too. However, I’m learning that it’s helping me in more ways than one. Again, I’ll explain this in more detail in an upcoming blog. Now, I’m not saying to have sex, I’m simply saying that, if your partner is willing, try using his penis as a dilator by slowly inserting it and remaining in that position for a little while. It will probably be difficult for him to remain erect the entire time, but it will also help you to feel less terrified of intimacy. Additionally, dilators aren’t really penis shape or feel anything like a penis. If you want your body to get used to having a penis inside, without your muscles wigging out, then it makes sense to use an actual penis to get your vagina comfortable to the idea. Training with an actual penis makes more sense than only training with silicone or plastic that is in no way shape or form like a real penis.
- Don’t bike ride. This was actually something one of my PTs told me not to do. Apparently, the impact is hard on the PC muscles and they tighten dramatically during a bike ride. I tested out this theory by using dilators before and after I rode a bike. My muscles were even tighter after the bike ride, and I couldn’t even insert the dilators at all by that point.
- Never do kegals. Again, a PT will warn you that kegals are not good for women suffering from vaginismus. They are great if your muscles are loose and need to firm up, like after childbirth, but they don’t make sense if you already have super tight muscles to begin with. Instead, you do the opposite of a kegal. You relax the muscles, like you are peeing, and hold this position for so many minutes. I explain this technique in more depth in my book.
- Learn good breathing techniques. I go over various breathing exercises that my PT gave me in my book, but I will say breathing is essential as a form of treatment for vaginismus. It’s a key component because, not only does it reduce anxiety, but it also helps the muscles relax if you are using the right technique.
- Avoid any triggers. Once you have determined the root cause of your vaginismus, avoid anything that could be a trigger for you. I did not, and that only made me regress or not improve where I was at with the dilators or my anxiety. Today, I’ve gotten smarter, and will avoid anything that may cause me to become upset or bring back negative memories that could hurt my progress. So, if certain romantic comedies upset you, don’t watch them. If a song reminds you of something or someone, turn it off. If conversations relating to sex trigger you, walk away from the conversation or politely ask to change the subject.
- Find a creative outlet to express yourself. This has been very beneficial for me because it has reduced my anxiety, helped my depression, and has also gotten my mind away from constantly thinking about vaginismis in a negative way. This could be drawing, journaling or poetry. I find that blogging really helps because it is a way for me to open up about how I feel and, once the words are out, it feels like a weight has lifted and I no longer feel as upset as before. Additionally, talking about it publically has made me less anxious about sex altogether.
- Don’t hold in your pee. It’s in the same realm as not performing kegals. By holding in your pee, you are contracting your muscles for an extended period of time. If you have the ability to go to a bathroom, just go! Don’t make it a challenge to see how long you can refrain from using the restroom.
- Buy something that makes you feel sexy. Many women don’t feel sexy when they have vaginismus. That’s because they feel like less of a woman since they can’t have sex. However, you are not less of a woman because of this condition. But, if you need a boost of self-confidence, buy yourself some sexy underwear or lingerie. Even if no one is going to see it, it will make you feel good about yourself and confident with who you are.
- Stay positive. Use positive intentions when talking about vaginismus. Always say “When I overcome vaginismus” not “if.” By doing so, you are telling your subconscious and the universe that this will happen and that you will overcome it.
- Be patient. I’m the least patient person around. Literally, ask anyone. I sometimes feel like I was given vaginismus to teach me to become a patient person. Vaginismus is different for every person, and every person has a different journey. Your experience with the condition might take longer than others to overcome. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing something wrong. Just be patient and keep at it. All of your hardwork will pay off, and you will feel so much stronger and happier having accomplished such a tremendous success.
- Don’t feel guilty. This was difficult for me because I felt guilty about so many things relating to vaginismus. I felt guilty that I was not being intimate with my partner, I felt guilty that I was not giving him sex, I felt guilty when I wasn’t using my dilators regularly, etc. However, let go of that guilt. It eats away at you and only drags you down. Once you have realized that you do not need to feel guilty for anything regarding your condition, you will feel a weight lift off of your shoulders and it will become easier to relax and continue on with your treatment process. Also, if you feel guilty about your partner, tell them and ask them how they feel. If they truly love you, and don’t just see you as a piece of meat to fuck, they will tell you that you mean more to them than sex. Also, intimacy does not mean sex. Remember that!
- Try different treatment options. Never settle for just one form of treatment. Do your research and look around for the best treatment options for you. Some people need various forms of treatment in order to overcome their vaginismus and that’s okay. In fact, it’s normal!
- Do your research. Stay up to date on the condition so that you are aware of any progress being made in the medical field. Also, if you discover a form of treatment, but are unsure of the risks and side effects, be sure to thoroughly research the treatment before testing it out. Don’t just automatically agree with what someone has told you or from what you have read based on one person’s perspective. Research multiple perspectives before coming to an ultimate conclusion. For instance, if a doctor is telling you to get surgery because of your vaginismus, I would seek multiple opinions. Very rarely, if ever, would this be an option.
- Become comfortable with your body. Learn the female anatomy by looking at diagrams, feeling around down there and even holding up a mirror to see what it looks like. Many women who have vaginismus were told that their vaginas are dirty things and not to be touched or looked at. However, by becoming comfortable with that part of your body, you will become less anxious with it and anything sexual associated with it. This leads me to my next tip…
- Don’t be afraid to orgasm. Again, from a young age, many women were taught that they should not masturbate because it is seen as either dirty, wrong or sinful. This has put the idea in their mind that pleasure is wrong when that is not true. It may take awhile to get used to the idea, especially if you have always been told that it’s wrong, but by having orgasms, you will retrain your mind, body and muscles to see sex as good and enjoyable.
- Don’t give up. If you have made it this far and have not given up on reading this post, then kudos to you! But in all honesty, this is a very important tip. So many times I felt like I wanted to give up. Not only did I want to give up on trying to overcome my vaginismus, but I also wanted to give up on life altogether. Everything became too much for me. The anxiety, the depression, the guilt, the PTSD. It was all too much, and I was falling apart. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere on overcoming the condition, so I felt completely hopeless. It seemed like every step forward I took, I would take three steps back. But, despite these thoughts, I knew I had to stay positive and keep moving forward. Honestly, tips 1-33 that I have just given you, are all the things that I did and that I’m doing now to keep moving forward. Many women have overcome vaginismus, and you can too.
I hope these tips/advice helped you. They truly have helped me, even if I am still learning and trying to overcome.
Walk the journey with me by following this blog, so that you can stay up to date on treatments, research and so that you can truly see that you’re not alone.