I’m a bit nervous and also excited to share this story. It’s super personal but it’s also super important for me to spread this story. A few years ago I already shared this story in Dutch (you can read it here), but I think it’s time to share it with the world. Ready for it?

I am. And that took me a while. But I feel that I want to help people going through the same thing as I did, and the only way to do that is to go public. It’s scary, but I feel it’s for a higher purpose, so it’s not about me but about the subjects. And the subjects are sex, shame, growth, happiness and problem solving. Here we go!

Vaginismus; how it all began

Sex. For most it is super exciting, but in the past for me it was a true nightmare. Even though people saw me as a girl with a strong personality – as someone who knew what she wanted and went for it – on the inside I was feeling small, insecure, vulnerable, alone, ugly and absolutely worthless. Of all of these emotions, feeling alone was probably the worst thing. I want nobody to feel like that so I hope this story might help.

I was a late bloomer when it came to sexual feelings and guys. I wasn’t really interested in guys and was one of the last of my friends to kiss someone. I was okay with that and didn’t feel any pressure at the beginning. When I was sixteen I had my first boyfriend. It felt good. I was in love and he was super nice and caring. I decided I wanted to wait to have sex because I felt I wasn’t ready for it yet. I was confident enough to discuss this with my boyfriend and luckily he was supportive of me in my decision. Too bad not everyone felt that understanding. I was living in a small village and soon everyone new that I wanted to wait. It sounds ridiculous, and it actually was. In no time I was called ‘virgin’ at parties and there were even girls approaching my boyfriend offering him some good sex. I was amazed. How could people be so stupid and cold? I was actually very proud of myself for feeling confident enough to wait and they had no idea how they hurt me with this.

Because everyone knew about my situation, it felt like I was being watched. People were talking about it, so they would probably also be talking about it when I would finally have sex. That idea scared me so much, that I just didn’t dare to do anything anymore. But after a year of waiting, I felt it was time to do it – even though I didn’t feel ready at all – but I couldn’t imagine that moment would ever come. I cramped every time someone touched me. My whole world was about sex and not having sex, and I felt like every touch should end up in sex. I felt insecure and pushed. Not even by my boyfriend, but by the expectations from society I guess. But yeah, it was about time. So we did it. He was careful with me, but it still hurt so much that I had tears in my eyes, but I didn’t want him to stop. ‘Let’s get this over with,’ was my naïve idea.

We did it

Afterwards I felt relieved. I did it. I wasn’t a virgin anymore. But I didn’t even want to think about doing it again. My fear became even bigger and I couldn’t stand my boyfriend touching me anymore. I was keeping a distance and even things that had nothing to do with sex were not fun anymore. If you can’t be intimate and open with each other, there is not that much left from a relationship I figured out. It broke my heart to see him become this insecure because of me. I didn’t want to do this to him, so after two years we decided to break up. Even though I was still in love with him.

Again I felt relieved. I didn’t have to have sex anymore. I didn’t even have to think about it. I felt free. Although I cried myself to sleep for half a year, because I was so lovesick, I was doing better. I worked out a lot, did good at school, and had a big social life. I felt in control. The best feeling in the world. I kept guys at distance. Now and then I would kiss someone, but that was it. Nobody was messing up my perfectly organized life. But everyone understands that you can’t keep up with that. I was getting a bit depressed whenever I thought about my future. How would it be? Would there ever be a man in my life? Had I something to offer?

It scared the shit out of me

After a few years I fell in love again. Even though it scared the shit out of me, I decided to give it a chance. It couldn’t go on like this forever. I told him my whole story and he was very understanding and positive. We wanted to work on this together, but actually it wasn’t going anywhere. I cramped every time he touched me. I was becoming more insecure than ever. Overthinking everything. Would I ever be happy? Would I ever enjoy sex? Would I ever have children? I couldn’t sleep anymore, had a headache almost every day and my body was so tense that it hurt a lot. To me it looked like every conversation was about sex. With friends, at work, where ever. It made me tired. I was going crazy and felt super sad and sometimes I couldn’t stop crying, all the while nobody knew what was going on. It was already going on like this for five years and I felt like it sucked all the energy out of me.

I couldn’t handle it anymore

One evening I couldn’t handle it anymore. I went for a ride in my car to think, but I actually drove straight to my best friend. I asked her to join me and the first half an hour I couldn’t speak. I was just crying like crazy. Then I told her my whole story, about how lonely it made me feel and how difficult it had been. She was shocked and really wanted to help me. I needed someone to listen, but also someone to guide me. I had no idea what to do. The next day she took me to an osteopath to see if he could be of any help for me. He couldn’t, but at least the first step was a fact. I could talk about it. From then on I talked with a lot of people, and I still remember the conversation I had with my sister. She was so sad for me because she wanted me to experience how loving sex can be. It was a smack in my face. I never even thought about sex being related to love. For me it was related to pressure and fear. I realized this perception needed to change.

The medical part

From then on the healing began. I went to a lot of doctors, physical therapists and psychologists. I started with my doctor. She told me that physically it was impossible for me to have sex. My body was locked down. I couldn’t even use a tampon, so this was not new information for me. But I didn’t know it had a name. Vaginismus. She told me it’s actually quite common. If you want to know more about it, you can read here. The doctor recommended me to go to a sexual therapist, a physical therapist specially to learn how to relax, a therapist who taught me how to use my muscles around my vagina, and a psychologist. It was a lot, but it made me feel good that something was changing. Even though it took months before I felt a little change.

In the meantime, me and my boyfriend weren’t doing very well. It was too much for our relationship, so we decided to break up. But at least this time I didn’t have to blame myself for not trying anything. And all the work wasn’t for nothing. After a full year of ‘recovery’, I was doing so good that penetration was possible again. And even more important, I actually enjoyed the sex and didn’t hate myself while doing it. That was totally new for me. Before, I hated myself and my body, but now I started appreciating myself.

I had treated myself like shit

I felt that I still wasn’t confident enough. These five years of treating myself like shit have had a huge impact on me, so I decided to keep going to a psychologist. There were still a few things that made me super insecure. I was hurt, by myself and by my ex-boyfriends. I never blamed them, because I felt it was all my fault and it was already difficult enough for them. But my therapist made me see that we were in it together and comments from my boyfriends like ‘’I wish I never fell in love with you’’ and ‘’Be happy I stay with you, any other guy would have left you’’ were not okay and I shouldn’t have been okay with it. There was no room for self-pity anymore. I was worth being loved and anyone who couldn’t do that wasn’t good enough for me anymore. And of course, it all started with loving myself. I never thought I was able to do that, but I am!

At the moment I’m doing super good. I feel confident, I love myself, I love my body (most of the time), I love the fact that I am a sexual person. That might have been the biggest issue. How I saw myself. Because how you see yourself, other people will see you as well. And you don’t want that to be full of hate.

I will end up all alone in a house full of dogs

Sometimes I still feel a bit insecure, but now I know that talking helps. I can share my insecurities and that solves half of the problem already. I learned that a problem looks so much bigger when you can’t share it. It will get into your head and drive you crazy. I actually thought I would end up all alone in a house full of dogs. Well, that might still happen, but now it would be my choice and there might be some room for an amazing guy 😉

When I shared my story, I felt so relieved and free. I will never wait that long again to open up about a problem or insecurity. Nobody should. After I told my story, there were so many people who shared their insecurities with me. I would have never believed that everyone had their secrets. If you think about it, it’s crazy, all these different people with different secrets or insecurities and nobody is sharing. Why not? If we all do it, it would make us all feel better. You don’t have to share it with a big public if you don’t want to, but start with some people you trust.

So many adults have no idea how to really talk about sex

Sometimes I’m still amazed by the fact that so many adults have no idea how to really talk about sex (or about insecurities in general). When it comes to sex, people are willing to share their threesome stories (which I now like listening to), but they don’t share their insecurities. During the Nomad Cruise for instance, there was a lot of sex talk, but when I asked what had been the longest period of time going without, it was quiet for a while. I want to encourage people to start those conversations. It’s cool to talk about the fun stuff (and I’m happy there is a lot of fun stuff to talk about), but it’s even cooler when people feel confident enough to share the less glamorous stories. And believe me, everyone has them.

What to do?

If you recognize yourself in this story, I want to let you know that things will get better. Try to accept the situation as it is, and later on try to accept your sexuality. Ask for whatever you need, because people can’t read your mind. Start sharing your story with people you trust, and from there on you can find help.

If you’re dating someone with vaginismus, I would advice not treating her with too much care. You don’t want to be looked at as a child or a sick person. You want to be treated like a woman and a sexual being and you want to feel the desire just as much as anyone else.

Remember there are people around you going through the same shit

If you don’t recognize yourself in this story, remember there will be people in your surroundings going through the same shit. One in every nine women experience an intense pain during sex. That’s a lot of women. And even then I’m only talking about vaginismus and not about other problems or insecurities in bed for both women and men. You can make a difference for others and yourself by opening up to the conversation. Let people know and feel that there is no room for judgment and no need for shame. The best way to do that, is to share your own story.

It would be amazing if you would share this story as the start of a conversation… and if you feel confident enough, please share your own story too.

Thanks a lot!

Love Jantien

P.S. I would love to talk about this subject at schools or other places where it might be necessary. If you are someone, or you know someone I can help with this story. Please send me an email: jantiensstijl@gmail.com