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I guess I knew I was different when I was 13 years old*

I guess I knew I was different when I was 13 years old and every girl was getting her period except for me. I think I went to the gynecologist for the first time when I was 16. She couldn’t examine me because every time she’d even get close to my vagina, I would start crying and shaking so violently that she “couldn’t get in there.” She asked my mom if I’d ever been sexually abused, to which she said no. I don’t think the gynecologist believed her, and I wasn’t even sure what I believed anymore. I didn’t think I had ever been sexually abused when I was little (as many of my female friends had), but I wished I had some explanation for why I was like that. Explanations for things always help me, and I didn’t have one, which made me feel that much worse.

I’d always known I wanted to have kids someday, but sex was never part of the picture in that I’d never had a boyfriend, or thought about having one, and I’d never thought about having sex. My friends always joked that maybe I’d have the next Immaculate Conception… that I’d become spontaneously pregnant without ever menstruating or without having sex. I felt so different from normal people that I wouldn’t have been too surprised if that happened.

When I went to college, I finally had my first (and only) serious boyfriend when I was 20 years old. We had been friends since freshman year, and he was one of my best friends, and the only person I could imagine trusting to the point where I would feel comfortable taking my clothes off and even want to have sex.

This was the first serious relationship for both of us, and being that he was so sensitive and was also my best friend, he never pressured me and we moved along slowly. After we’d been dating for 7 months, we finally tried to have sex. It was pretty spontaneous when I asked him if he wanted to. I really thought I’d be able to. Maybe somewhere in my mind I had my doubts, but I can remember vividly how much I wanted to. My legs were shaking violently, as they had at the gyno, but I told him to ignore it, that my legs always do that, but that I really wanted to, which I did. We tried, but his penis just wouldn’t go in. It was so upsetting, it was like I didn’t have a hole… or that my hole had just closed shut and wouldn’t let anything in, even though I wanted it to open. At this point I was still shaking and was hysterically crying out of frustration, and he wanted to stop, but I told him I wanted to and to just push it in there, but it just wouldn’t go. He finally convinced me to stop, and said he didn’t want it to be like that, and he just held me while I cried. I felt like such a failure, like I’d disappointed him and myself.

Before I left college, I finally was able to get a partial gyno exam from this nice nurse at Planned Parenthood, who would let me visit her after the office had closed for the night. She was so gentle and patient with me, yet it still didn’t work. On my third or fourth visit, after taking the valiums I had asked her to prescribe me, she was finally able, for the first time, to get in my vagina. Instead of being relieved, I was actually scared even more. Because it just felt so bad. It wasn’t even that it hurt; it wasn’t even the pain, since I could tolerate pain. It was that it felt like it WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE IN THERE… like it was all wrong, a mistake, that nothing was ever supposed to go inside there. As if someone stuck a pencil in your ear or a straw up your nose, except way more unnatural. Why did it feel so unnatural, I asked myself, aren’t women supposed to be built for this? I literally felt like God had made a mistake when creating my body, even if doctors themselves couldn’t even see it.

The year after we graduated college, my boyfriend and I finally moved in together. We had avoided trying to have sex again, since we both feared having such a terrible experience again. I was scared to disappoint us both a second time, and I think he was scared to ever bring it up and pressure me. Both of us had a fear of upsetting the other, so we very rarely discussed it. Occasionally I’d bring it up, and start crying that why was he with me instead of a normal girl, but he would reassure me that he wanted to be with me and that he loved me. Even when we were our happiest together, I always had this thought and fear in the back of my mind… the thought of never being able to be truly intimate with him, never being able to have kids with him, him leaving me when he got sick of waiting for something that I feared would never get better. My friends had always been a comfort to me in that they had problems with sex as well, but over the years, as each friend conquered her problems and was able to have sex, I finally became the last virgin alive.

The nurse at PP had mentioned the word vaginismus at the time, but I don’t think I was really listening or absorbing anything then, and only remembered it two years later. So I was searching on the Internet one day and finally decided to do a search for the word “vaginismus.” I then came across the Women’s Therapy Center. After reading all the descriptions and all the women’s stories, I was almost convinced that this was what I had. I wasn’t sure, since in my mind, I didn’t have any “negative attitudes” towards sex, in that I didn’t think it was bad or that I shouldn’t be having sex. What I didn’t fully realize at the time was that vaginismus isn’t so much about having negative attitudes towards sex as having negative attitudes about your own body. I could never look at myself or touch myself when naked, would look down in the shower, and probably would’ve had an easier time having my boyfriend try to penetrate me than to try to penetrate myself. I had tried to stick my finger inside myself, but had never succeeded, becoming more hopeless with each time. After reading the girl-without-a-hole story on the website, I knew that this was the problem I had. Still, I was reluctant to contact the Women’s Therapy Center for a few months, since I felt relieved I had an “answer,” yet wanted to hold onto that hope. This was my last chance, I thought to myself, and if I tried this and this didn’t work, then what?!

Finally I made an appointment. When I finally met Ross and Ditza, and even after talking to them as well as other patients in the waiting room, I knew I had vaginismus, but was still doubtful they would be able to cure me. Even though other patients said they felt like they would be the only ones who couldn’t be helped, I thought to myself, “But I REALLY am.”

My first two or three sessions were by far the most difficult, after that, everything got easier. I finally saw a ray of hope, and knew that it wasn’t impossible. When, finally, they gave me the go-ahead to have sex with my boyfriend! I could hardly believe it… I got in the car and cried, because it just didn’t seem possible that after years of agonizing and worrying, I was told I could have sex so quickly! When my boyfriend and I finally had sex, I called Ross and Ditza crying (happy tears this time) and thanking them profusely. I couldn’t believe how easy it was, after all the years of thinking it was impossible. I still can’t believe that I can do these things now. It seems so unreal!

I just want to thank Ditza and Ross for their patience with me. I was such a difficult patient at the beginning… so anxious, so skeptical, so hopeless at times. They accomplished the impossible when they cured me! I literally felt like pigs were flying. I had never put that much faith in the abilities of other people – or in myself, I guess – and had doubted from the beginning that they could cure me. Well, they proved me wrong, and I’m so glad they did. What’s even more is that, now, I have this belief that I can conquer whatever seems unconquerable. There will be so many more trials in my life, but now, I can say to myself, “If you made it through that, you can make it through anything!” It really helps to give you the faith that you can fight anything and win.

So, thank you to Ross and Ditza, for sticking with me, and for being available 24/7. I’ve never met any other doctor who allows people to call them at home any hour of the night! Your dedication to your job and to your patients is incredible, as well as the active interest you take in their lives. You even got me to stop saying the words “I’m sorry,” which are a regular fixture in my vocabulary! Thank you to my friends and family for supporting me through this whole thing, and especially to my boyfriend for standing by me for 4 years no matter what*.

L.M.

* Results may vary from person to person