Thursday, May 20, 2010

Things I Don't Want To Do

This is a long list today.

1. I don't want to practice with the dilators. I know I need to (of course I need to), but I don't want to. I don't wanna. This week has been particularly hard for some reason, and I feel like I've jumped two steps back. To make matters worse, my normal dilator treat, The Daily Show, is taking a two week break. I hate it when Jon Stewart can't keep me company.

2. I don't want to write on this blog. Actually, that's not quite true: I do want to write on this blog. I want to write prolifically and hilariously and often so that a hundred people will read it and think, "Yes, exactly, I know how you feel! Thank you, V, for making me feel like I'm not alone in this struggle!" I want to write an inspiring and funny blog that people will read. I don't much like the idea of sending my thoughts--about my vagina, of all things--into an empty void. Readers, are you out there?

3. I don't want to think about my husband's work prospects. Some sharing: I recently got into graduate school on the other side of the country. We really want to go, but first the spouse has to find a job over there. He's working really hard (48 applications and counting), but ti's a tough market, and we'll not sure if he'll make it, which means I might not make it. I'd prefer not to be in a transcontinental marriage, thanks. That's the last thing we need.

4. I don't want to go to Ultimate Frisbee tonight. I know it's good exercise, and the spouse and I know all the people there, and I actually like Ultimate, but I'm just not that competitive. Sports should be about running around aimlessly and feeling free to do cartwheels and talk, just like in elementary school.

5. I don't want to take the bike out. I love biking, I really do, but it's windy and cold and although it's sunny now, it was HAILING earlier. Besides, I'm training myself to ride to work this summer. I live at the bottom of a hilly area and work at the top, so it's a solid 3.6 mile ride to work, straight up. And while I feel like a rockstar when I make it, getting there is not so fun.

6. I don't want to research vaginismus. I do want to discover ways to become a better advocate for this shitty, exhausting struggle that we all find ourselves in, and of course that means researching vaginismus. I want to discover organizations that I can hook up with, places to possibly speak, ways to form a local organization. I do want to do all of these things... just not today.

7. Let's be honest with ourselves here: it's a gloomy, gray day. I don't really want to do much of anything at all.

Hope it's more motivated where you are!



Saturday, May 8, 2010


Good news from the vaginismus battlefield, finally! The husband and I have begun experimenting with what we fondly call "Dilator 5" (that would be his penis) and, unlike dilators 3 and 4, it is actually going rather well. I can insert him at least several inches rather consistently, which is terribly exciting. The other day I almost cried. However, at the same time that we have been seeing glimpses of sexual normality, I have noticed a disturbing trend. I'm a bit neurotic about sex (some common paranoias: Are we doing it enough? Is the spouse enjoying it enough? Are we going to be one of those couples that allow sex to completely ruin an otherwise happy marriage? And, illogically: What if we accidentally get pregnant?). Yeah... I'm extremely neurotic about sex. In some ways I feel that this is only fair. If you woke up one morning and realized that, oh, let's say your right pointer finger had curled in upon itself like a dying star and utterly refused to obey your commands to point, hold a pencil, or do any of the other things that a pointer finger is clearly supposed to do. You'd be a bit preoccupied--perhaps even neurotic--about this yourself, I'd bet.

I am a little obsessed with sex because I can not have sex. I am to sex as the kids from "Footloose" are to dancing. There is a perversion of the natural order of things between men and women in my community, by which I mean my bed, and that fact causes me to fixate on the things that are wrong. Anyway, I digress. The point is that since the spouse and I have been getting closer to having real, actual, intercourse I have noticed my level of preoccupation with the topic climbing exponentially, as delineated by the above bar graph, in which the "x" axis equals the likelihood of the mister and me having sex, while the "y" axis equals my level of mental illness about the subject. My concerns are all of those listed above with the addition of one, nagging, horrifying thought: What if he's not that into it? This terrifies me. What if after all the dilators and the self-assessment, the tears and the low self-esteem, we finally get there and for him it's just another orgasm? My husband and I were both virgins before we got married (and still are, by some standards), but I had enough sexual experience to know how much I want to have sex. My husband had almost none, and I worry that for him sex will always be tainted by these early months, that it will never seem easy or natural even when it is. I'm worried that because it's been so hard for so long* that my husband, whether he wants to or not, will develop an association between sex and work that we won't be able to shake. That because it wasn't "right" from the beginning that it never will be. Readers, if you are out there, what do you think?



*Truly no pun intended, although I doubt the cruel irony is escaping anyone.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

sandwich board

Not much to report today. Since the workbook is on its way I’ve been taking a break. I’m tired of this directionless and painful fumbling with the dilator. I want to start over, from the beginning.

Went to my best friend's birthday party tonight. Pretty raucous; lots of jokes about sex and erections (many inspired by me thanks so much). Fascinating to be in a roomful of people and to know that even though Spouse and I are the only married couple we are also the only virgins. I feel this strange compulsion to tell everyone we know about our problem. I want to wear a sandwich board to church that says “VIRGINAL: ASK ME WHY!” I don’t know what it is, but for some reason it drives me crazy to think of everyone just assuming that we’re having sex. Maybe it’s just because whenever my friends have been married I’ve been happy for their newly sexual state and have always thought about it, at least a little (this is less creepy in my head than I think it sounds on paper). I think musing on the sexual habits of our fellow planet-goers is pretty normal, and I hate to think of people thinking of ours. It’s a lot like how whenever people find out I’ve been molested I compulsively tell them some of the details, that it wasn’t (comparatively) a big deal, that it happened at night, that it was non-penetrative and just the once. The phrase “I was molested” comes burdened with some pretty big clich├ęs. In Mormonland, “we just got married” does, too. I hate that.

Valentine’s Day is coming up, which means sex—sex positions, sex toys, the no-sexed-singletons—is coming up, too, a lot. It breaks my heart to know that, barring a miracle on par with a water-into-wine type scenario, this Valentine’s Day will pass sexless. As Spouse and I joked about sex tonight with the assembled at my friend's party it occurred to me several times to wonder what those people would think if suddenly I decided to announce that, actually, Spouse and I are virgins, thanks, and any “that’s what she said” joke coming out of my mouth is purely speculative. Ba-doom-and-a-ching. Thanks for coming, we’ll be virgins all week.

Maybe This Time

*Hi readers, whomever you may be (if you exist yet at all)... I've been keeping a fairly steady vaginismus journal, which I've been neglecting to update here. I'm going to try to remedy that. The following post is from this last Wednesday.

Tonight I discovered that I did not make it as Sally Bowles in my local community theater’s production of Cabaret. I will be a featured Kit Kat Klub dancer, and I am certain I will enjoy it, and yet the rejection stings more than I expected. Somehow this part has become clearly connected in my mind with my attempt to overcome vaginismus. It makes sense, really; there are many similarities between the two goals. In both pursuits I’m facing an uphill battle. Although I can act and dance the part of Sally, her low range is well beyond me. I’m not qualified; even I know that. I would be competent as Sally, even good, not great. And Sally, with her rampant, uncontrolled sexuality, represents something I cannot currently have. Sally is sex just as certain as I am not. Being rejected for the part seems like another failure on my part. Illogically, I feel like my performing skills aren’t even the question; it is the idea of me as a sexual person that has been rejected.

On Monday I went for my first visit to Dr. McCool. He was handsome, charming, and exceptionally unhelpful. I wrote a somewhat reactive note about it on Facebook tonight, shouting in all-caps: “WHY HASN’T THERE BEEN MORE RESEARCH ON WOMEN’S HEALTH????????” I almost never repeat punctuation, finding the practice a cheap shortcut. But desperate times. The irony, of course, is that I was at a women’s health clinic, at which, one might assume, I should have been able to find the best possible of research and advice regarding pelvic pain. Instead I came away with a bruised arm (thyroid test), two new medications (a different birth control prescription and Celexa, an anti-depressant), an order to buy yet another expensive dilator (yet to be done), a whopping, almost $400 bill, and the nagging feeling that none of my questions had been answered and I had not advocated for my own care. Who prescribes anti-depressants without discussing possible side effects? Better question: who allows her doctor to do so? This girl. Failure number two (failure number one, of course, being the failure of my body).

Last night I came home from the disappointing auditions to Spouse. I wanted him, needed him. Needed some emotional closeness, needed his body, needed to feel beautiful and orgasmic and sexually interesting. We’ve been working on our sexual relationship, and I’ve been trying not to exert too much pressure on him (I am the higher desire spouse by a lot). So I tried to gently ask him if he was interested, reassuring him that of course, any answer was fine, that we didn’t need to have "sex" (a thinly veiled, if well intentioned, lie). He looked hurt and scared and sad and didn’t answer, and I was crushed. Failure number three.

This morning I was tense and anxious and depressed. I picked up the Celexa yesterday and knew I should start it today. I felt nervous and sad and oh-so-broken. I started to cry and Spouse left for work. I called him on his way and berated him for not being interested in me. He told me that it was all in my head, that it’s not that big a deal, that I’m making the situation worse. We almost never fight. Failure number four.

I tried to do my dilator and cried because it stung so badly and I was so frustrated and I don’t know what else to do. Number five.

Sally Bowles. Number six.

Had productive conversation with Spouse about sex and sexual hang-ups. Redemption point number one.

I’m going to shut this off now. Liza Minnelli’s torch song from the film version of “Cabaret” is running on a strange, echo-y loop through my head:

Maybe this time, I'll be lucky

Maybe this time, he'll stay

Maybe this time

For the first time

Love won't hurry away

He will hold me fast

I'll be home at last

Not a loser anymore

Like the last time

And the time before

Everybody loves a winner

So nobody loved me;

'Lady Peaceful,' 'Lady Happy,'

That's what I long to be

All the odds are in my favor

Something's bound to begin

It's got to happen, happen sometime

Maybe this time I'll win.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

My PT just broke up with me.

Actually, she told me I should "see other people" and that she'd "keep my chart open," but we all know what that means.

I've been seeing PTA nearly every week for the last sixty-plus days. That's meant a lot of visits, a lot of time lying on my back, staring at the ceiling, and trying to forget that there was currently an unwelcome finger stretching out my vagina. I'm really grateful to PTA, actually. She's been great, but we've hit a plateau. Here's the skinny: every week I advance in PTA's office. Every week she can stretch farther, and now she's gotten to the point where she basically can't go any farther. Unfortunately (why does that word always seem so euphemistic?), my at-home progress with the dilator has not progressed as well. It's been weeks and weeks, and I still can only insert it an inch or so, and then only with great discomfort and/or pain. Since my husband and I don't intend to be attempting sex in PTA's office, this is clearly a problem. So I got broken up with.

It's okay, though: I've already made a date with someone new. Goodbye for now, PTA. Hello, Dr. McCool,* an actual, bonafide MD and, apparently, a specialist in pelvic pain disorders. Let the great merry-go-round begin.

It's been almost three months since spouse and I married. Irony of ironies: I actually thought I might be "cured" by now.

*Note: Dr. McCool is not actually my new, male (!) gynecologist's name, but it sounds a little like it, so as such he (!) shall henceforth be known.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adventures in Physical Therapy

I had a physical therapy appointment this morning. I've been seeing PTA (that would be my physical therapist, whose name starts with an "A") about once a week for the last sixty days. I know it's been that long not because I've been counting (I'd prefer not to keep a minute-to-minute tally of the time I haven't been having sex with my husband, thanks), but because today PTA told me that my gynecologist will have to sign off on my treatment if we're going to continue. Apparently, Oregon law states that after sixty days of treatment for any kind of ailment all physical therapists must get an MD's signature to continue. I think this is hilarious, because it basically assumes that if you, the patient, have a problem requiring physical therapy which hasn't been solved within sixty days, there must be something really wrong with you.


I know, Of course, that most MDs approve further treatment immediately, and the law was mostly implemented to insure that lower back pain is evaluated as a possible radiant symptom of some kind of organ failure, and that it takes about six months for most vaginismus sufferers to achieve pain-free intercourse. But still. I can't help but feel like this particular law is yet another "screw you" (pun most ironically intended) to the chronically unsexed. Yet another example of the "it's all in your head" mentality that I have come across almost everywhere in my study of this ailment.

But maybe that's just me.

My appointment went pretty well, all things considered. Tonight is New Year's Eve, and Mr. R and I have tickets to our favorite band's annual New Year's Eve concert. I want to look fabulous, of course, which presented me with an interesting dilemma: I have the kind of hair that looks best within about four hours of showering, I reasoned to myself this morning. Ideally, I'd stay in all my grungy glory for most of the day and shower just before Mr. R gets home. But then I would be unshowered for my appointment with PTA. Those of you who also have weekly dates with a PT understand my dilemma. Sure, I want to look fabulous for my husband, with whom I hope to get frisky sometime this evening (it is New Year's Eve, after all). But that is an uncertain intimacy, whereas the chances of intimacy during my "date" with PTA are all too certain.

Ultimately, I decided to forego showering until later this evening, and I was consequently humiliated during my half-hour appointment. The tragicomic thing about this is that I probably have no reason to be so embarrassed. First of all, I showered yesterday morning, and I seriously doubt the likelihood of any particular grossness developing in a scant twenty-four hours. I also understand that PTA is a licensed physical therapist and as such she is surely professional enough that she doesn't have any particular opinion about my vagina, beyond whether or not it's cooperating (which it's not). And yet something deep within me truly desires to look and feel good when I have my appointments. Because I don't care how clinical and professional my physical therapist is, when you get right down to it physical therapy for vaginismus is a totally intimate thing. So I dutifully go off to my appointment every week, scrubbed and shaved like a tramp on a blind date.