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How Pelvic Pain During Sex Affected My Self-Worth

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In a society driven by sex and the constant need to be sexually available to all possible partners, pelvic pain is a lonely, lonely experience. When I began dating my new partner-at-the-time, sex was exciting and new. It was fun and easy to ignore what was likely there long before our first kiss: my chronic pelvic pain.

Long before I was ever properly diagnosed, I experienced pain with sex that ranged from mild to excruciating. In time, it would become a constant, burning and searing pain. As the pain worsened, my then-partner and I initially believed it was the result of our long-distance relationship and the stress that brings. Long-distance relationships always create extra tension, right? But when all of our attempts to overcome that perceived problem failed, I started searching for answers elsewhere. This is where dating with pelvic pain really fell apart.

When I began searching for answers after knowing something was wrong, things got much worse before they got better. For six months, my OB-GYN gaslighted me by saying my chronic pelvic pain was due to “my anxiety” or “maybe I just didn’t like my partner enough.” What bullshit. Despite knowing in my mind that it was untrue, I slowly internalized it over time and began to slowly doubt my relationship. I mean… Maybe my doctor was right? After all, my then-partner and I both had no idea what was happening. Maybe it was not the stress of a long-distance relationship or my abusive job or pending unemployment… It must be my lukewarm feelings about my then-partner that was causing my pain! That’s it.

As the pain worsened, sex became excruciating and unbearable. Even 30 seconds of penetrative sex led to tears and an immediate shift to non-penetrative activity such as snuggling. This never-ending and worsening cycle continued for years. Each incident, coupled with worsening and unexplained physical pain, led me down a deeper spiral that it really must be us growing apart. Eventually, it became a self-fulling prophecy and we finally broke up. I felt like it was in large part due to my body’s personal “failings,” although in hindsight I see how unfair that was to both of us. That thought would continue to plague me long after the relationship ended as I continue to replay the medical gaslighting that has haunted me for years. I ended a relationship largely, although not solely, with a loving partner I saw a long-term future with because my doctor who was supposed to relieve my pelvic pain told me it was my fault. My hurting body was caused by my inability to love my partner more, despite his kindness and compassion as we tried to navigate sex without penetration.

Feeling heartbroken and sick, I finally had enough and demanded a referral to a doctor who would believe me. After finding proper medical care following two years of intense pain and a failed relationship, I had a diagnosis: neuroprolific/provoked vestibulodynia. As I then began a series of grueling and failed treatments, the emotional toll of this whole ordeal grew. Since pelvic pain is not discussed, I didn’t share the emotional toll that the process took on me with family and friends: the hurt from the lies of the medical system and its failures of me, the hurt from feeling as if the end of my relationship and my pain were entirely my fault, and the hurt of my former partner immediately beginning to date someone new, someone who looks too much like me, within weeks.

Recently, I made the decision to (hopefully) surgically correct the issue. With it, I have finally reached what I hope is the end of the road and the start of a new chapter: a vestibulectomy. Following an extensive recovery and lengthy pelvic physical therapy, I hope there is a pain-free life in my future.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Originally published: January 22, 2019
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