The One Absolute “Must-Have” For Pain With Sex in Vulvodynia and Vaginismus
I see dozens of women in my clinic every month who have pain with sex.
Some of them have been diagnosed with vaginismus. Some have been diagnosed with vulvodynia, but have vaginismus as well. Some have been diagnosed with vaginismus, but their symptoms are more like vulvodynia. And some have no diagnosis, but just know the most important thing – that they have pain with sex they wish they didn’t.
The “secret” to conquering pain with sex – or at least a big part of it – is the same as overcoming any obstacle.
Most of the women I see do really well. Some women, of course, don’t continue with treatment. When I contact them, some of them tell me their reasons. Sometimes they haven’t come back because their symptoms resolved after the first two treatments. More often than not, they cite other reasons: family, finances, or the all-too-frequent “I’ve just been so busy!”
So how do you ensure that you are one of the women who are a “Vulvodynia/Vaginismus Success Story”?
After more than a decade of seeing hundreds of women with vulvodynia and vaginismus every year, I have a long and fascinating list of answers to this question. But today I want to focus on just one of them. In the words of one of my patients today (with vulvodynia):
“You have to want it.”
A big part of recovery from vaginismus and vulvodynia is motivation: that powerful drive to solve the problem, and the strength of character to persevere until you get there.
(Now, I am not for one minute suggesting that’s all you need. Please don’t be offended if you know you want this more than anything, and have done everything in your power to fix the problem, but haven’t yet seen success. Of course, there are many other factors involved in success as well. So if you already know you are super-committed, this post is not for you. You don’t need this.)
But without motivation and commitment, you’ll be treading water at best.
This commitment needs to be visible through all of your daily actions, the choices you make, the way you live your life. It needs to pervade your whole lifestyle and be more than just words. As we all know, actions speak louder than words.
Here’s an example of where a person’s actions tell the story of their life.
I recently visited my sister in her self-designed, self-built Tasmanian hideaway. I spent a morning with her watching her chop wood for an hour. At her place, if you don’t chop wood, you don’t get warm. There is no getting out of it: it’s either do the hard yards, or suffer the consequences. After she finished woodchopping she went and practised her flips on the trampoline for twenty minutes. She has very specific targets in her gymnastics training (which she only started as a mother of two a few years ago). She knows she won’t master the skill without the dogged, repetitive practice.
As we wandered back up the hill towards the house, my sister muttered to herself, “Hmmm, I need to find time to do a training session today.” My sister does high-level gymnastics-style body weight training, which enables her to get to the second floor of her house by climbing a rope (arms only, no legs), as there is no staircase in her house. (She does have legs, she just chooses not to use them when climbing a rope).
As I chuckled to myself at her comment – which was made in all seriousness – it got me thinking about how we all live our lives.
When we talk about what we want – or about what’s not going right in our lives – do we take action? Do we really put our money where our mouth is? And is our commitment visible through our actions and habits, day in, day out?
My sister did manage to squeeze in the training session, and her results are visible from this repeated commitment. But even if she had missed the training session she felt she needed, her lifestyle already tells the story. She had spent an hour and a half being physical in a way few women commit to. She had chopped wood and jumped on the trampoline. The day before she’d probably be up on the roof checking the solar panels. The month before she’d been rendering the walls of their cabin. The year before she’d been planing the logs to finish building the walls. Her lifestyle is a commitment to physical activity and maximising her body’s capabilities to achieve the goal in her mind’s eye.
Commitment is easy to spot from the pattern of how you live your life.
What do your patterns say about your commitment? Are you watertight on your program, your stretches, your dilators, whatever it is? Are you prioritising decreasing stress in your life? Are you working on maintaining the best mental health and attitude? Are you keeping a journal of your progress?
There are no guarantees with health of course – or life in general. But commitment is the closest you will get to a guarantee of results, and progress, in some shape or form, is a certainty.