Possum’s Story: Vaginismus Shame and Embarrassment
Vaginismus shame and embarrassment are common side effects of being unable to function sexually as a normal woman. This is far too pervasive in my practice. Vaginismus shame is a trait that is shared by so many women who feel like “freaks”, less than and not upholding their end of the marriage. Vaginismus shame is one of the main reasons for the secrecy that surrounds vaginismus.
The following touching story of a woman from Australia shares the impact of vaginismus shame. I asked her permission to post this as an anonymous story because other women with vaginismus need to understand that vaginismus shame is common and carries with it an enormous negative impact on daily functioning and relationships not only with the spouse but also family and friends.
Possum’s post on the VaginismusMD Forum
Dr Pacik has asked me to share my recent story of how I had to face vaginismus in a very public way. Some may have read my story before, but for those that haven’t, here is an overview- sorry it’s so long, but it makes it much clearer to how significant my recent event was.
I was sexually abused as a child by friends of my parents, and later unfortunately witnessed the rape of my four year old neighbour by her father, who after realising I saw him, held me outside a two story window and threatened to kill me and my parents if I ever told. I blocked much of this out growing up, and from a young age was understandably repulsed by sex. However, I carried a strong belief that I would only share sex with my future husband, as I saw this as a way to protect myself from any future abuse, and make our sexual relationship something that would be safe and special between the two of us, unaffected by outside factors. Prior to marrying my amazing husband-to-be, I was aware of my aversion to sex, and sought some counselling to help rectify this, yet like so many stories I’ve read, when it came to our honeymoon, sex was completely impossible. This continued for two years, after many unsuccessful doctor visits, treatments and counselling. By then, our relationship had suffered greatly and whilst still committed to our marriage, decided we needed a dramatic change.
After living for two years of our marriage with Vaginimus, we were offered teaching jobs in a very remote part of Australia, 3000km from our home town, population 3000, where the closest city was 11 hours drive away. During the wet season, (6 months of the year) it was only assessable by plane. It had one supermarket, a few restaurants and pubs, and seemed like just the change we needed. One week prior to moving, I was finally diagnosed with vaginismus. However, the doctor knew little about treatment, told me to buy some dilators online and sent me on my way with no other information or support. At the time, I was happily distracted by the move, and did not foresee how my vaginismus, the remoteness of our new town and the lack of support we had would nearly destroy us.
After 6 months of being in our new town, I completely loved my job and threw every part of myself into it. It was the only area I didn’t feel like a failure in my life, and I began to get promoted and become very recognised in my role. Our home life however, was very much the opposite. After my husband and I having another huge fight over ‘failing’ at sex yet again, I remember typing ‘Vaginismus’ into amazon and came across Dr Pacik’s book. I read it in one evening and emailed him the next day. Long story short, 6 months later, we decided to fly to the US and get the treatment on my upcoming Summer break. I was diagnosed with level 5 vaginismus and the surgery went well. We returned back to Australia hopeful, however due to the severity of my vaginimus and the absolute trauma it had caused, we were still battling greatly. In combination with being so remote, having no family to support us, and the pressure of maintaining a very stressful job, I completely burnt out. By now my husband had been diagnosed with severe depression and had been suicidal at times.
We pushed on though, determined to not let it beat us. After 18 months of living remote, and 3 and a half years of marriage, we finally were able to consummate our marriage, yet due to my husbands severe depression, it was all too much for him, and he was no longer interested in sex and had become too numb, leaving us back at square one again.
After another 6 months of this, we had reached our limit and couldn’t take it any more, so we decided to transfer back to the city to get more support. However, due to our state’s government policy of having to complete 3 years teaching with them if you are permanent, we had to apply on compassionate transfer, which was a very long and drawn out process, but it was eventually granted. As an incentive for teachers to teach remotely, the govt. covers the cost of the move (around $20,000 each way), and I thought because I taught the minimum 2 years, that it would be all fine. I applied for leave with the government, transferred back to the city last December, and pursued other options for a job, to have a break. After 3 months of living back in the city, I decided to resign front my permanent position with the govt, as I had found a perfect little job in a private Christian school, who were incredibly supportive and just what I needed. Shortly after I received a letter from the government saying I owed them $15,000 as part of the cost of our move back, due to my resignation after two years but before three. I was completely devastated. I felt crushed because I had not allowed my vaginismus to detract from my job whilst teaching remotely, and felt like they didn’t care about how hard it was up there, with tough kids, living remotely and sacrificing so much to be there.
I then was faced with the choice of explaining why I resigned, as there was a clause in not having to repay, if I could prove I was medically unfit to remain an employee with the govt. I wrote a letter claiming it was because of a medical condition, and went into as much detail as I could without actually saying it was vaginismus. They replied wanting to know what the medical condition was and my treatment required. When I got their response, I was furious. Why should I have to tell a bunch of complete strangers who didn’t appreciate all I gave up and endured to teach remotely, about the most intimate details of my life? I was tempted to just pay the $15,000 (all our savings) instead of having to tell them. A very special friend who was aware of our journey, asked me why I was afraid to reveal the true reason of my resignation and I realised it was because I was terrified that they wouldn’t think all I had been through was a good enough reason to not have to pay the money. I was completely ashamed of having vaginismus, despite knowing in my head it wasn’t my fault, and was ticking this off as yet another thing vaginismus had robbed from me.
After much prayer, I realised I needed to face this head on. It became so much more than just having to pay back the money. It became about whether or not I would allow the shame I felt in having vaginismus and the pain we’d been through to conquer me. We decided we were going to come clean about our journey and no longer lose something yet again because of vaginismus. I emailed Dr Pacik asking him to help me write the letter. Never in my life have I met a doctor and wife as special as Dr Pacik and Janet- and with no hesitation they gave up so much precious time helping me write it. It went into detail about everything- my past, our troubles living remotely, our depression and complete melt downs and especially the details of the surgery and my condition. It was the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write. Upon submission of the letter, I felt this strange peace. I knew that regardless of the outcome, I had overcome my fear. I was ready to tell a bunch of strangers about vaginismus and not be ashamed. I received a call the next day from the group of people who would decide the outcome. They rang and said after considering everything we’d been through, that they were going to completely waive the debt. This never happens! I couldn’t believe it.
I have a strong faith in God and to be honest, I am so thankful for this trial. It taught me so much- that God recognised everything we sacrificed teaching remotely with this condition, and that he is my vindicator and provider. I had a choice to be angry, silent and not face this, but with courage from God, and the support of my incredible husband, and Dr Pacik and Janet, we faced this and won! I feel so free. The most important lesson for me is that I no longer need to feel ashamed about vaginismus. I knew medically and in my ‘head’ that it wasn’t my fault, but no matter what, I couldn’t seem to stop feeling shame. Well not anymore! I hope this encourages you as well not to feel ashamed. My husband and I still have so much further to go physically, but I feel that finally emotionally, we are overcoming this. God bless.