Painful intercourse is one of the most common conditions I treat. Each patient has a unique journey and a special story. Jo was one of those who had a unique story and she was kind enough to share it with us…
Dr Elna Rudolph
Clinical Head of My Sexual Health
Jo’s Story: My Broken Vajayjay
Okay, so how do you start writing a story about your broken va-jay-jay?
Perhaps with that time you had to sheepishly walk into a sex store to ask for a dilator – and walk out with an interchangeable purple dildo or the time you got told to put on hemorrhoid cream on the “affected” area 20 minutes before sex?
My 4-year journey starts with my self-diagnosis of Endometriosis, because when I searched “pain during intercourse” and that was Google’s response. Keen on a second opinion, my gynecologist at the time didn’t agree – her diagnosis was vaginismus.
Your reaction was my reaction: WTF is vaginismus? Here’s Wikipeadia’s definition today:
Vaginismus: it is a condition that affects a woman’s ability to engage in vaginal penetration, including sexual intercourse, insertion of tampons and gynecological examinations (pap tests).
The offered solution: apply hemorrhoid cream on your “lady flower” before intercourse and this will reduce the pain experienced during penetration. Sounds simple right? Well it wasn’t that simple.
Firstly, who plans on when they are going to get intimate? Secondly, how do you have sex quick enough so that you and your partner’s bits don’t go numb from the local anesthetic you have just applied to your swimsuit area? Lastly, great, neither of us can climax.
I tried this “method” for 3 months, and during this time I tried to educate myself about vaginismus but there really wasn’t much information on it. I became depressed – what was wrong with me, and why couldn’t I please my husband? I mustered up enough courage for what seemed like the next logical step, to visit a psychologist about my broken “taco”.
Her first question during this first session was, “Jo, do you love your husband?” I was shocked. How dare she question my commitment to my husband, especially considering I was trying to solve this issue for us both? On doing some research, she shared a contact number for a physiotherapist specialising in pelvic physiotherapy, pelvic floor functioning and continence. I phoned immediately and took the first available appointment. Twice a week you could find me lying on my back with my legs open while the physiotherapist “massaged” the tense muscles at the vagina opening – this was accompanied by conversations like “Oh wow Jo! You are so much looser than you were last week.”
I had also started seeing a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with anxiety and depression for which I was given a crazy amount of drugs.
Before I got diagnosed with Vaginismus, I was a prude to say the least, I blushed at a sex joke and didn’t even try to talk dirty. I couldn’t even speak to my husband about it, and he wouldn’t even express his frustration. I eventually became so nonchalant about it, “vagina this, p***y that,” I think it was mostly because I was numb from all the emotional and physical probing that I didn’t have any dignity left.
Replaying my most intimate sex scenes to my therapist like a porno and opening my legs to what ended up being 3 different physiotherapists – all this to no avail. No matter what I did, nothing changed.
This went on for a year. Nothing helped. Nothing! I went to a hypnotherapist, an iridologist, a psychic, got a dilator, started to meditate, lost my faith, went to a specialist physician – even discovered I had epilepsy in the process. I had tried everything.
All of this naturally also affected my connection with my husband, my patience and my mind. I was suicidal, wishing a bus would come and smash me into tiny little bloody fleshy bits. I started to go crazy, making up stories to the point where I convinced myself I was raped as a child. Of course I had no memory of it but, “What if I was drugged?” “What if it was so traumatic I forgot it even happened?” I even considered having children just to “stretch out” my vagina. (God knows how I would’ve fallen pregnant…)
I had had enough, breaking down one day in the physiotherapist’s room and told her that I couldn’t cope, there must be something else I can do, I had watched a YouTube video about a surgical procedure that could be done and it was time. She referred me to yet another specialist, Dr. Elna Rudolph, a specialist in Sexual Health.
On our first meeting it was decided that we were going ahead with the Botox programme, which to me was my last and only hope. The procedure was very quick, 30 minutes of conscious sedation. As Botox is injected to relax your frown muscles in your forehead, the same concept applies to the muscles in your vagina. I had 50 units of Botox injected into my vagina, enough for 2 rounds in the face for the average Kugel living in Camps Bay. The Botox wasn’t an instant fix though. You need to include dilation and apply certain creams before you can even start considering having sex.
I followed the programme religiously and a few weeks in, my husband and I were able to have intercourse a few times whilst the Botox lasted (for about 3-6 months). It’s sad how I had started to call sex (such an intimate affair) “intercourse”.
After 6 months my pop-up p***y palace was closed for business.
I had spent stupid amounts of money on this condition, enough for me to go on at least three trips to Europe. My marriage was suffering, we separated a few times before calling our marriage off.
I was damaged goods, with a broken vagina. Would I ever find someone that would want me?
After the divorce was official, I started dating again. In hindsight it was way too soon to even start considering a relationship. But I met a guy and we had instant sexual tension. Being together with the same partner for 11 years, I had forgotten what it was like to feel that intense lust. The problem was, how was I actually going to engage in sexual intercourse with this guy? But, I just went along with the ride as if there was nothing wrong with me. I was as nervous as hell.
We had intercourse. I mean sex. Passionate. Lustful. Sex.
I was so confused, but relieved, but confused. Who knew getting a divorce would fix my vagina?
Yip, as far as I know, it was all in my head. A lot of people don’t realise a big part of vaginisums is psychological. Suddenly the blame I was carrying was lifted off my shoulders.
I simply wasn’t listening to my body, my subconscious got to a point where it was making decisions for me. Looking back, the question from the psychologist was the most valid one. I couldn’t see it then, as I had to go through this whole journey to actually realise it.
Listen, I am not advocating women with vaginismis should get divorced. That’s defintley not my message. Your journey will be a different one. All the methods I tried didn’t work for me because subconsciously, I believe, I didn’t want them to. There are a million other reasons why a woman could have vaginismus – in my case I just didn’t want to accept the reason and thereby let myself down. I didn’t want to be like my parents and the rest of failed society. This was pressure I put on myself to be perfect and to stand by the commitment I made – till death do us part.
My broken vagina was telling me something and I finally listened. And now, through this journey of getting to know each other, we’re not broken anymore.
We’re also having great sex.
You can find this article and other vagina stories on Vaginalogues.
Click here if you would like to request a consultation with Dr Elna Rudolph to discuss painful intercourse.
If you would like to connect with Jo or contact her for support, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request Jo’s email address.