Welcome to the fourth post in the ‘Good Enough’ series. Sometimes, we have health conditions which are outside of our control. They can impact how we feel about ourselves. Still, health conditions and all, we are good enough. Please welcome brave Laurel Sparks-Sellers
Ugly word, is it not?
Well, my friend, trust me. It’s an ugly condition.
It has made certain aspects of my life unpleasant, even unusual.
Officially, the term vaginismus refers to painful spasmodic involuntary contraction of the outer vaginal walls on the slightest touch (description from a medical dictionary). The condition is also termed “colpospasm.” In layman’s definitions, vagina muscles constrict so tight when stimulated nothing is allowed in.
In my case, not penises, tampons, or a physician’s speculum.
According to The Merck Manual, further explanation offers “…resulting from a woman’s unconscious desire to prevent penetration.”
With this abnormality, I have never been able to participate in a normal Pap smear or pelvic examination. Yes, you read right … ever. No doctor can go any farther in her examination than a small opening to my vagina, as the surrounding muscles are too clinched.
Is this rare?
I will let you decide.
I am clueless to any situation in my past allowing conscious justification for this plight. In other words, no dysfunctional uncles or strange neighbors are to blame.
I’ve experienced no early rapes or known injuries.
Unless I have suppressed a sexual trauma so far deep in my subconscious it hasn’t reared its head yet.
Could it be from a rigid family attitude toward sex? Perhaps.
My parents taught me nothing about the nasty except “don’t touch yourself down there.”
So, have guilt or anxiety archived into my subconscious?
Or have I not educated my body sufficiently? I do not know.
Vaginismus has awkwardly loomed over my whole adult life like a subliminal message. In my initial sexual history, I had no knowledge of this condition. When men stated I was tight or frigid, I figured my nature or a nameless fear were reasonable responses.
I’ve often contemplated whether I’m a freak of nature despite having no desire to bear children.
Oh, just so you’ll know, I’ve never been on birth control in my life, unless you call condoms a form of birth control. You read right … I have never taken a birth control pill or used any kind of spermicide.
Unsure of proper statistics on women who fall under the vaginismus peculiarity, I assume it’s very few. Throughout my research, and to my surprise, the malady is not considered rare. In fact, I am the only woman in my arsenal of acquaintances having this plight.
However, I do not go around confessing about it and only a few chosen people know of my dilemma. So I may indeed have company.
In my study of vaginismus, I found little evidence supporting effective treatments.
Through a frustrating myriad of doctors, the ordeals have been not only wearisome, but disappointing, to say the least. Each used a different method of medication, behavioral therapy, suggestion, or desensitization exercises, but to no avail. I can remember one doctor mocking me, saying I should go to The Institute For Sexual Wellness for psychoanalysis.
Needless to say, I did not return to him.
For a period of two years, I engaged in psychotherapy/relaxation therapy that helped to a degree, but when the time came for the ultimate examination, I still could not follow through.
Disillusion took on new meaning.
Moreover, my gynecologist began treating me like an endangered species.
For a little more than three decades, I have had many sexual partners. Three-fourths were one-night stands, back in the days when sex was safe. The rest were meaningful relationships, each never lasting more than four to five years.
To make up for intercourse, I excelled in oral sex. Although this satisfied my partner, naturally, I remained distressed, never knowing the true meaning of orgasm.
Then, like a miracle had been answered, a relationship came along ten years ago that gave me reason to believe in hope. My partner actually took the time to please me and gave proper attention to my sexual needs. At every encounter, he concentrated on all the correct erroneous zones of my body, never pleasing himself first. The affection was slow, intentional. For once, I was able to respond to stimulation.
I crossed my threshold and learned the authenticity of orgasm.
Was this the love I had only heard or read about?
Surely it was.
Unfortunately, circumstances being what they were, and I will not confess what they were, he could not, would not, commit to me, and we stopped seeing each other.
Again, I was back to square one.
From then on, I would not sexually trust another man.
Through periods of trial and error, I am happy to report I did discover a female gynecologist who was patient (no pun intended), and worked with me for eight years. In order to perform her examination, I was put under a general anesthesia and the result proved successful.
I had found the answer to my vaginismus.
Recently, however, she has been very reluctant and skeptical to the procedure, citing anesthesia consequences, even though I beg and plead for her help. She and I both know I’ll never be able to accept a speculum or natural penetration.
Little wonder I am discouraged.
To this day, my doctor still remains hopeful I will find the right mood or my phobia will go away in order for her to complete the pelvic exam and Pap smear.
I do not share her opinion.
In addition, my age has become a factor.
There is a bright side to this darkness. I have always been a free spirit, independent, and a nonconformist. Perhaps the condition worked in my favor.
Or did it simply contribute to my destiny/fate?
Periodically, I let it depress me, as I would love to have normal sexual reactions. Yet, I try not to dwell on my disability, learning to live with the consequences and take on my own perspectives. All I know is that sex just is not in the cards for me. And I cannot rely on intimacy in relationships being anything more than a man pleasing himself. Unless I have chosen the wrong men.
Evidently, a higher power assumes the one past source of pleasure was enough.
For some reason, I was chosen not to have children yet I have been so blessed and fortunate to enjoy nieces and nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews in quality time together. They are all precious, beautiful … and fun!
At present, I don’t worry about my health issues. Yes, I realize I should with all the statistics on cancer and other serious complications. But other aspects of my life take priority.
So, should I have bragging rights to this vaginismus dilemma?
Who’s to say?
My best friend’s seventeen-year-old granddaughter just had her first pelvic examination and I’m so envious. At fifty-four, I cannot even imagine carrying through on such an important first step.
Certain people say I’m privileged because I’ve never been pregnant.
Have I been lucky?
Am I sexually dysfunctional?
Or have I merely learned to live with alternatives?
I will let you decide.
Laurel Sparks-Sellers is a former advertising copywriter and is sole proprietor of the “That’s All She Wrote” writing studio located in Lafayette, Indiana. She is a wordsmith of novels, short stories, poems, and lyrics. Laurel is author of two nostalgic illustrated collection of short stories. Her short story and poem work have been published online in Indiana Voice Journal, Pen There, Our Write Side, and TreeHouse Arts, plus elsewhere in print.
P.S. If you’d like to contribute to the series too, please email me at email@example.com.
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