Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pomp & Circumstance

Cue the Pomp & Circumstance, my vagina and I are graduating!  How do I go about getting fitted for a cap and gown?

This is my very last physical therapy session.  Dawn is sitting in a chair quietly humming Pomp & Circumstance.  As my PT comes in the room, she is also humming my graduation song.   Actually she is humming something totally different than Pomp and Circumstance but it’s the thought that counts. 

I will admit; I’m a little nervous to be turned loose on the world with a healed vagina, but I think I’ll be just fine. Just a couple of days before this last session I went ahead and scheduled my first gynecological exam in about 8 years.   March 16th is the day of reckoning - the day this whole thing is tested.  If I make it out of there alive, all is good. 

Now it’s all about maintenance.  Every 2 or 3 days I will use the largest dilator that we went up to in order to make sure my muscles haven’t regressed.  Once I have my exam I can probably go down to once a week or so just to keep the muscles used to it.  Use them or lose them as my PT says.  

What’s next?  Starting probably in September we will start trying to have a baby (yay!).   Until then, I will be doing what I can to get involved in helping women get help for vaginismus or other pelvic floor pain issues.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

4 Weeks of Awesome

4 weeks in to my physical therapy – twice a week sessions.  4 weeks of waking up with anxiety knowing I was going to have dilators inserted in my vagina that day.  4 weeks. 

On the first session of my 4th week I went ahead and made my 2 appointments for the following week.  During my session, however, I found out that I was doing so well that the 5th week I was able to go down to once a week.  AND, she said she thought I might be able to graduate that week!   So I went from an estimated 8 weeks in physical therapy to possibly graduating in 5!  I was pretty stoked.   Me and my vagina, we’re so awesome we’re graduating early. 

The 2nd session of my 4th week went a little differently.  We tried to go up to another size in my kit that was a little bit of a jump from the one I was currently using.  This dilator caused some slight pain.  I was unable to relax enough to breathe through the pain this time.  So we decided that I would purchase another one of their dilators that is slightly smaller.  This one went much better.  It’s so odd though, because to me it looks BARELY smaller than the one we tried first.  Still, the following week only one session was the plan. 

I did not in fact get to graduate the 5th week.  I had some minor pain again so my PT decided she wanted me to focus on this dilator (size medium) for another week and come back the 6th week for my last session.  I still think me and my vagina are awesome.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Become One With the Vagina

My physical therapy sessions have all been going very well.  My homework – another story.  I was still having issues doing the insertion on my own at home.  I spoke with my PT during one session about how I never really learned about my vagina.  The instructions from her:  ‘This weekend, I want you to become one with your vagina’. This ought to be interesting.  

I was still having issues all weekend.   So I did some research on the vaginismus forum I visit and finally posted asking for some guidance from anyone else who had also had issues doing the insertion at home.  One very kind lady gave me some advice and once I took her advice – I had success!  This might be a little TMI for my friends reading this blog, but for the women out there who have trouble with the dilators at first- try using a finger.  This allows you to actually feel what you are doing.  For me, the realization came that I was probably hitting the pubic bone with the dilators (not inserting at the right angle).  I still had some minor troubles but knew that my most capable PT would help me figure that out. 

My following session went well again; we were up to the 2nddilator in the kit that I had purchased online (this would technically be size Small).   I asked my PT what was going on with me at home that I was having issues – that I had a minor success but was still struggling.  She put on her ‘thinking face’ and came up with an idea. She had Dawn watch her do the insertion once so she could see what angle she was using.  Then she set me up on the table in a position that was conducive for me to insert on my own, stepped out and Dawn took over as coach.  I was able to insert the dilator with helpful coaching from Dawn!   For the first time in my life I was able to insert something in my vagina with no pain and no tears!!!  I felt very empowered in this moment.  I wanted to shout it from the rooftops!  But – I’m not sure how the senior citizens at the Denny’s down the block would feel about hearing this proclamation during their breakfast.   Still, I felt ready to conquer the world!  Unfortunately, I hadn't even gotten to the part where we actually ‘stretch’ the muscles in my vagina with bigger dilators.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Boycotting Mondays

My 2nd PT appointment was on a Monday morning at 9am.  Know what I learned pretty quickly?  Not to ever schedule another appointment on a Monday.  I did not sleep at all the night before and my anxiety level was at an all-time high that morning.  Guess what my PT told us that morning – Mondays are the worst day for anxiety and more heart attacks happen on Mondays than any other day of the week.  So yeah, no more Monday appointments for me.
My homework hadn't been going well and I explained that to my PT.  She assured me that what I was going through was very normal.  So forget the 10 reps and just do what I can in 10 minutes.  That made me feel a whole lot better about failing at my homework. lol

This second session went as well as the first one.  We moved up to the next size dilator after working for a little while with the X small.  So now I’m on the X Sm+!  More breathing through the pressure of insertion and I haven’t experienced any pain which is good.    I will tell you one thing that is difficult – not shooting a dilator out my vagina because I’m laughing during my session.  Dawn and my PT are both really funny (I have my moments too when I’m not worrying about having a dilator in my vagina) so there are times that I am laughing pretty hard, but also trying to concentrate on what I’m doing!

One thing I want to point out is my case is mild compared to what many women experience.  I recently read on a forum about many women who have never been able to consummate their marriages because of intense pain during sex.   I have heard of women who went to PT for several weeks before they could even handle the PT touching the opening of their vagina with a gloved finger.  There are so many varying degrees of vaginismus!   Unfortunately, many women are too embarrassed to talk to their doctor about this and they go undiagnosed and without help.  I wish I could do more to get women the help they deserve.   If I were younger, I would consider becoming a Physical Therapist and specialize in this area.  But being almost 36 and wanting to try for a baby this year – it’s not feasible.  So I blog, and I hope that my blog reaches at least one woman who is struggling with this and she can get help. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vagina Homework

Homework.  I hate homework.  I was never a good student- I hated studying and I hated homework.   So yeah, I was super stoked to have vagina homework!  My homework after my first session was to work on inserting the first (called X small) dilator.  10 minutes a day is all I am supposed to work on it. 

I decided that Dawn should do the inserting so I could just relax and work on my breathing.  And I’ve never inserted anything so I was a little concerned about even finding my vagina.  We set the timer and started trying. 

Dawn: “you ready?” 
Me: “sure, why not.”
Dawn: “ok, I’m going to touch now, remember you aren’t supposed to flinch.”   She touched the dilator to me – I flinched.   
Dawn: “you aren’t supposed to flinch”

A little about us- we typically don’t work well together.   A lot of lesbian couples don’t.  Just ask any lesbian couple you know if they can put together a piece of furniture without killing each other.   It’s also very hard working with your partner in this type of situation.  She doesn’t want to hurt me, I feel vulnerable not being in control, she’s never done this before, and I’ve never done this before.  There were tons of variables in my homework.   We were able to only get the dilator in an inch or 2 because of muscle resistance.  I was a little bummed, but Dawn reassured me with the following statement: “A week ago, you couldn’t even do this, you are doing great!” 
The next night was pretty much the same.  And the next night (the last night before my next session) – you guessed it, the same.  That night I broke down.  I was very frustrated.  According to my PT I *should* be able to do 10 reps in and out with the dilator.  She learned quickly not to give me goals.  In my head, my shy vagina was going to get the best of me.  I was never going to be able to do this.  I felt like a failure. The point was there was nothing stopping the dilator from going in – so technically I very much should have been able to do 10 reps in 10 minutes.  But, I was still learning about my vagina so this might be slow going. 

I wasn’t real sure what to expect the next morning in my session if I wasn’t able to do my homework.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Physical therapy for the Vajajay

Vagina physical therapy.  What a concept.  And what physical therapist really wants to specialize in that?  Technically, it’s more of a specialty in pelvic floor pain problems.  So it’s not really JUST vagina physical therapy.   In my consultation appointment my PT (who owns the place I might add which made me feel even more in capable hands) talked about how she got into helping women with vaginismus.  She started out as a PT to female athletes.  Spending so much time treating women means you hear a little bit of everything.  She was treating gymnasts and competitive swimmers (among other athletes) that could not use tampons.  Imagine being a gymnast in those tight outfits with a big bulky pad on!  They were all going to Indianapolis for treatment so she decided to job shadow to find out what the treatment was all about.  This led to a fellowship and a new passion to help women overcome these issues.   

Also during my consultation I got a great anatomy lesson, complete with a visual aid – a sculpture of the pelvic floor.  There are 3 layers of muscles in the vagina.  THREE! The point of the physical therapy is to retrain the muscles to stop spasming when something is inserted.  3 sets of muscle to retrain.  Oh yeah, this will be fun. *note the sarcasm*

Here is the point where I might lose some of you- we’re going to talk about what is exactly involved in physical therapy for vaginismus.  Just 3 days after my consultation was my first actual PT appointment – remember -she likes to hit the ground running.   I was going to have to go alone since my partner (her name is Dawn by the way and I should just use her name from now on) had to work.  That was a little scary for me, although I did feel very comfortable with my PT.  Imagine my relief when I pull into the parking lot and Dawn’s truck is there.  She had taken off work to come to my appointment which made my heart happy.  :)  The physical therapy building is set up with a few private rooms and then a small gym for the regular physical therapy.  I was put in a room at the back of the building and given my instructions - set out my dilators from my kit that I had (remember the plastic pointy things I talked about before?), undress from the waist down, lie on the table and cover up with a sheet.   When the PT came back in, she shut off the overhead light and the room was just lit by a lamp in the corner.  There were no stirrups on the table so it was definitely not a ‘clinical’ feel in the room.  This helped – a little.  Dawn sat in a chair up by my head to hold my hand.  *awww* :)  It turns out that the smallest size dilator in my kit was really too big to start out with, so we ended up purchasing one from the set that the PT has there.  The first dilator was about as thick as a pinky finger.  So she puts some lube on it and tells me she will count down from 3 before touching me with it. 3, 2, 1, touch, *flinch*.  Yeah, I’m supposed to try not to flinch.  YOU tell my muscles that!  2nd try I did not flinch (yay for me!) and she was able to slowly insert the dilator a couple of inches.  She brought it up to show me how much had been inserted and I said, ‘Yay! Do I get an A?’  To which she replied, ‘oh, we’re not done yet’.   Damn.  The whole session was about me learning to breathe through the insertion as that will relax my muscles.  Breathing big yawning breaths helps the muscles to relax and allow the dilator to go in.  She was able to insert the dilator all the way this first session with no pain!  This was huge for me considering my problems in the past with anything being inserted.   I aced my first PT session!  Just 15 more to go! And the smile fades.  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bow Ties and Naughty Bits

In my last blog I introduced you to the wonderful world of vaginismus.  Now I will start the chronicle of my overcoming this issue.
My first step towards overcoming it was to meet with a gynecologist that we trusted.  My partner has seen this doctor for several years and trusts him implicitly.  So I went.  It was weird.  He wears bow ties.  BOW TIES.  And he’s not 85, he’s late 40s maybe.  And he wears bow ties.  And they don’t really match anything; they are just strange bow ties.  So, I had a consultation appointment with him to discuss my vaginismus and how to overcome it.  30 minutes of talking to a man in a bow tie about my naughty bits.  What an experience.   We never really talked about
how to get help for it, just what might be the root cause.  A few weeks later I realized that the 2nd appointment I set up with him was for an actual exam.  So he basically was expecting me to actually work with my kit (yeah, remember in my last blog I said I was lazy?) and come back and everything was hunky dory and he would do an exam.  Yes, I cancelled that appointment.  It turns out my partner needed to have some tests done so I was going to get another chance to talk to him.  This time I asked him how he counseled his patients on vaginismus and he handed me a card for a therapist.  This therapist was an expert in helping women with vaginismus and had been treating women for years for it.  He also mentioned physical therapy, but I shook that off because it just seemed weird to me. 

So the next step - I met with this therapist (A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) who specializes in helping women with vaginismus and other sexual dysfunction.  I won’t bore you with the details of these visits; we simply tried to figure out if there was anything ‘blocking’ me that would cause this condition.   One day she mentions that darn physical therapy again.  She asked me how I felt about it.  My answer?  FREAKED OUT.  So she gave me the name of a physical therapist here who comes highly recommended in treating women with pelvic floor pain issues.  This was in December so I told her (quite clever if I do say so myself) that I will think about it over the holidays and make a decision after the first of the year.  I went home and talked to my partner about it and we both decided it was probably worth talking to this PT.  Oh joy.   I set up a consultation appointment for the first week of January.  Let’s think about this physical therapy thing for a sec - if you hurt your shoulder, you go to the physical therapist who touches around on and moves around your shoulder.  You hurt your knee, you go to the physical therapist who touches around on and moves around your knee.  So if I were to go to a physical therapist for vaginismus, will they? Seriously? 

The consultation.  We went for the consultation and I immediately felt this was going to be ok.  The PT was very nice and funny (I love to laugh so this was a good thing) so she immediately put me at ease.  She has treated thousands of women so I felt like I was in good hands.  I was comfortable until she said ‘now I would like to do an exam to get a baseline’.   I started to panic and according to my partner- my face went white.  I was not mentally prepared for her to look at my naughty bits that day!  I tried the ‘but I’m on my period’ excuse (it was the truth!) and she said ‘we’ll put a towel down’.   I was not getting out of there without an exam.  Seems she likes to hit the ground running.  After some hesitation I agreed and she did the exam - and it was fine (well about as fine as it could be when you have vaginismus).  The good news?  8 weeks at the most for me to be over this as long as I do my homework!  Vaginismus is a 2 way street, I have to put the work in at home and it will go well.  Yay!  Freedom in just 8 weeks!  No more planning vacations around my period, no more painful exams, and when it’s time to work on having a baby I won’t have any trouble inseminating.  And this starts my journey in physical therapy.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Shy Vagina

My name is Angie and I have Vaginismus.  You guessed it!  This is something to do with my vagina.  This is your out right here - if you don’t want to hear about my vagina journey.  Take it - now.  If not - don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
I was never really schooled on my body, sex, all that good stuff.  I was pretty much in the dark most of the time.  It wasn't until I had a couple of experiences with my vagina that I thought there might be an issue.  I won’t go into THOSE details.  :)  The biggest issue started about 10 years ago after I moved away from home to start my very own life.  I went to a gynecologist and ended up in tears on the table because the exam was painful.  Said doctor cared not.  He did the exam even while I was crying on the table.   His response, ‘You have never had sex with a man so you just aren’t used to it’.  Yeah, nice dude, REAL NICE.  The following year I did go back to him after having a discussion with the lady who answered the phone about his attitude.  That time, there was no doing an exam on me.  But again, he didn’t try to help me.  I talked to a friend about it at that time and she suggested going to see a female doctor - that maybe a female doctor would do the trick.  This doctor was at least a lot friendlier.  She was also unable to perform an exam, but she gave it a name:   Vaginismus.   What a word!  Really.  I guess it’s better than Shy Vagina.  But… she just gave me a sticky note with the word on it.  That’s all I got.  This was the end of the world.  There was no help for my vagina.  I was going to die with a shy vagina.  

Let’s fast forward a bit and get schooled on the vagina!  Vaginismus is – ‘the German name for a condition which affects a woman's ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration, including sexual intercourse, insertion of tampons, and the penetration involved in gynecological examinations. This is the result of a reflex of PC muscle. The reflex causes the muscles in the vagina to tense suddenly, which makes any kind of vaginal penetration—including sexual intercourse—painful or impossible. A woman suffering from vaginismus does not consciously control the spasm. The vaginismic reflex can be compared to the response of the eye shutting when an object comes towards it. The severity of vaginismus, as well as the pain during penetration (including sexual penetration), varies from woman to woman’. (Thank you Wikipedia).   I did some research and ordered a kit online to fix myself.  Now, a little about me… I’m lazy.   That should tell you right away that I didn’t do a whole lot with this kit.  These things were pointy plastic things that I was supposed to shove inside myself.  Let’s fast forward a little bit more - I never used the kit. 

Now for a little about my personal life.  Yes, I know we’re already talking about my vagina, but here we go anyways.   11 years ago or so I realized I was gay.  This made vaginismus VERY easy to avoid because I didn’t have any boyfriends that I had to deal with sexually.  And did I really need to use tampons?  Nope.  But still - I needed to deal with it.  For my health I really need to be able to have exams and I really want to have a baby.  Now is the time.  I have a wonderful partner whom I have been with for over 7 years and we decided recently to start our journey of having a baby.  Yep, now’s the time I need to deal with my shy vagina. 

This blog will chronicle my journey in overcoming vaginismus and our journey of having a baby.   I’m hoping I can reach other women that deal with this condition and may be too ashamed to talk to their doctor about it.    Be prepared - there may be a bit more detail than you ever want to know about me ;)