Before I dive too deeply into the various lessons I have learned throughout this journey I want to take a moment to describe some of the pain I have experienced. We all experience different types and different levels of pain throughout our life, and one individual’s level 10 may be different from another’s.* I can only describe what I have personally experienced and acknowledge that there are many others out there suffering from much worse. It is very difficult to put into words and describe in a way that you as a reader can understand. I believe it is not possible to truly understand unless you have experienced it first-hand.
I have suffered from different types of dyspareunia, or painful sex. First, there is the superficial pain, at the opening, which is especially bad during entry. This vestibulodynia, or pain in the vestibule (genitals), can’t really be compared to any other pain you might experience in your body. It is like taking your most sensitive area and trying to rip it apart. This is a sharp, burning, piercing pain, and no matter how relaxed I may have been in the moments before, my entire body would tense up in reaction to it. Even worse were the times that my husband would pull out during sex and then go back in, repeating the excruciating shock to my body.
The next type of pain I have is within the vaginal canal itself, which is specifically felt with any in and out movement (I know, right, isn’t that kind of the definition of intercourse?). I read another person’s account of this who described it as sandpaper, which is a very appropriate description in my opinion. Think about your most sensitive area on your body—the soft skin of your underarm, perhaps—and imagine someone rubbing sandpaper across it, repeatedly back and forth. I would try to breathe through the pain and attempt to shift my thoughts to something else, always praying that he would hurry up and finish.
The third type of pain I have felt is also the most severe, and that is with deep penetration. Although this can be the most easily avoided by appropriate positioning (and consideration from your partner), it is the pain that led me to tears most often. I honestly do not know how to describe this pain to you. I think there is something different about pain that occurs within your body. It literally felt like my internal organs were being stabbed repeatedly. There was no way to take my mind off of this pain—I couldn’t help but wince with every contact. I could feel the pain deep inside, reverberating throughout my body.
I have experienced other types of physical pain with my disorder which I will describe in later posts. However, these three types of pain were the most common and what I experienced most often during sex. Any time I make a reference to dyspareunia or painful sex in this blog, you can keep this description in mind.
*Doctors will often ask you to describe your pain on a scale from 1 to 10. Personally, I never describe my pain level beyond a 7 or 8—I prefer to reserve those 9s and 10s for the brave (or crazy) mothers who deliver 9 pound babies with no epidural!