Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Review: Completely Overcome Vaginismus

Like many of you I'm sure, I've read tons of books on the subject of vaginal pain and how to treat it. I thought it might be informative to write about these books in case you're in search for some good vaginal reading material. I will start with the latest book I read called Completely Overcome Vaginismus: The Practical Approach to Pain-Free Intercourse.

First I want to say that I really like this book. It is actually a set of two books - Book 1 is the book I read and will be talking about here, and Book 2 is the personal journal and workbook that is made as a companion for Book 1. It uses a 10-step plan and I personally find plans to be much easier when there are well-defined steps. The steps start with being able to properly identify your PC muscle group, learning how to control those muscles, and slowly building to inserting things into the vagina (by things I mean fingers, dilators, tampons, etc). They also include some steps that involve emotions and trying to figure out what events happened in your past that contribute to the involuntary muscle contractions.

Because I've been going to the physical therapist for so long and I see a psychologist every week, I have already done most of these steps, however I still think that this book has some value for me. My personal focus will be on the last few steps, which walk you through the transition from dilator to penis. I had said in an earlier therapy session that even when I am physically ready to have a penis in my vagina, the thought of it is terrifying. How could I go from putting plastic dilators in my vagina and then just one day jumping onto a penis? My therapist assured me that there would be steps in between, but I didn't have a clear idea of what those were until I read this book. There are, in fact, many steps in between dilator and penis and I will be sure to refer to this book when I get to that point.

I am going to especially recommend this book to anyone who, for whatever reason, can't go to a physical therapist. I get most of what this book offers from the PT, but if you don't have insurance or you just can't afford a PT or whatever your reason is, you should know that there are still things that you can be doing to get your body on a healing path. And this book is a much less expensive way of starting physical therapy without actually going to a PT (we're talking $34 for Books 1 & 2 versus thousands).

I will say that the emotional stuff in this book is not enough for me. It might be for you, but I am so screwed up in the head that I need more than a book and some daily affirmations (one thing that the book recommends you do) to get my mind on a randy path. I know that for a lot of you out there, you are ready and horny and can't wait for your vagina to get better so you can get some! For me it's much more complicated and reading 100 books would not give me what I need (hence the reason I see a psychologist every week). But, like I said, I still really like this book and I think it's a valuable read.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this book by replying to this post or emailing me at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Well I went to the YMCA yesterday and did a cycle class. I tried to be really gentle with the transitions from sitting to standing because that's where I can really make my vagina hurt. It went pretty well during the class and it was good to get back out there and do an exercise that I enjoy. Last night my vagina did burn a bit, and today I have noticed that I've been sitting more gingerly and I have a bit of burning. I think I will try to do spinning once a week and see how that goes. I don't want to over do it, but I also want to do spinning! It's such a good workout. I will have to take it slow and make sure that I'm not causing myself unnecessary pain just so I can get some exercise. That would defeat the purpose I think.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Some Positives

Okay so mostly I just want to complain and be sad and frustrated about all this, but there are some good things going on so in this post I will focus on those.

Last week my physical therapist told me that I can alternate the days that I do dilator exercises and stretching exercises. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. That means that I have one less thing that I have to do every day! I am very excited about this and even in the last week I feel more relaxed than I have felt just knowing that when I get home each night I have one less thing on my plate.

My previous post was complaining about exercising. My feelings about exercising haven't changed much, but I do have a little positive exercising news. My wonderful husband, whose perpetual optimism is my lifeline through all this, continues to try and think of ways to make my life easier while I continue to work through all these problems. He has offered to exercise with me (even though he's in great shape and whatever we do really wouldn't be a "workout" for him) and he has tried to make suggestions of things that I can do. So this past weekend we went outside and played tennis! The weather was perfect (about 55 degrees) and I really had a lot of fun. We had so much fun that we actually played on Saturday and Sunday. It was great to get outside on a sunny day and run around a bit. Now that doesn't mean that my work week exercise problem is solved (not at all), but I do feel good that I got off my ass this weekend and exercised.

My husband really wants me to be able to celebrate every step of this process. I have a hard time with this because I just want to be fixed and moving up a dilator size just doesn't seem that exciting to me. But I know he's right so I am trying to focus on the positive and really celebrate each moment.

So here I am: today I am celebrating the fact that my daily routine has been shortened and that I exercised this weekend! It's a start. And I am in a pretty good mood today. I'm sure you know that when you have this problem every day is touch and go. I never know when a bad mood will hit me, or when I'll just feel completely down and defeated. But I also never know when I'll wake up and feel encouraged and positive. Today is a positive day and I'm thankful for it. I'm sending you all virtual positive feelings as well and I hope that you too have some positive days.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Exercise. Blah!!

Of course my doctors are telling me to exercise. Of course it will help my problem because exercise is magic and it helps all health-related problems. I get it. But I hate it. It's boring. It's tiring. When people say that exercising gives you more energy, I want to punch them. That may be true for some, but it's not for me. When people say words like "endorphins" and "runner's high" I think, "wow, that sounds nice. I wonder what that feels like.". I can work out consistently, 5 days a week for several months and I don't have any extra energy.

Here's what I have to do every day. 1-Go to work, which involves waking up at 5:30 am; 2-do my dilator exercises; 3-do my stretches; 4-do my kegels; 5-make dinner; 6-eat dinner; 7-clean up after dinner; 8-get ready for the next day; 9-take 30-60 minutes to relax. And that doesn't even include the days when I have meetings after work, work to do after work, doctor appointments, physical therapy appointments, and psychologist appointments! And I don't even have kids like a lot of you do.

I'm sorry, but when the hell am I supposed to exercise? And if you tell me that I should be exercising during my 30-60 minutes of relaxation time then I will punch you! Really, when should I fit that in?And another thing. The only exercise that I really enjoy is cycling. It's fun, it's challenging, and hey, guess what? It's like the worst thing you can do if you have vagina problems! Having that hard seat between your legs and jumping up and down really does not help the situation. But it's the only exercise that I like.

I just wanted to vent. It's hard to be a girl.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My vagina is killing my dreams

When I was a freshman in college, a former Peace Corps volunteer came to one of my classes and told us about her experience volunteering. Ever since then I have wanted to join the Peace Corps. I knew it was a big decision and I did a lot of thinking about it. I also wanted my husband to go with me, so we waited until we got married to talk about applying. Seven years after that first inspiration, my desire to go was even stronger, and we finally took the first steps in applying to the Peace Corps.

We applied in November 2008 and everything was looking great. Our interview went really well and finally in March we heard back that we had been accepted and we even knew what part of the world we would be going to. We were told that we would be leaving in March 2010. I was going to teach English and my husband was going to do something with business. Of course, being "accepted" to the Peace Corps does not mean that you are going to go. Then come the medical and legal evaluations. At the time that I filled out the medical evaluation (which is incredibly in depth and takes about a month) I was actually in remission with my vagina problem (well to be honest, I was more in denial than in remission, but on paper, I was in remission) so my medical part was fine. It took forever, but finally in August we heard back from medical that there were a few things missing. Okay, we went in search of these things. In the meantime, though, we started to really think about my vaginal issues. We started seeing the psychologist and I started going back to the physical therapist because my problem had never really been solved the first time. We were both stressing and worrying about the Peace Corps and our time limit in getting this vagina problem solved, but neither of us said anything for a long time. I think we were both afraid that saying it would make it real and that we would have to make some hard decisions.

Well we finally had to face reality. This problem does not care about my time constraints. This problem does not care that I want to live in another country for 2 years. We finally had to decide that we just could not do the Peace Corps right now because we have got to solve this vagina problem first. It was one of the hardest decisions that I have ever had to deal with. I know that it's the right decision because I certainly don't want my problem to get worse in a country with limited health care, and I know that for our relationship it is a priority to fix this problem. But I am heartbroken. I have been dreaming about the Peace Corps for 8 years and now my dream is over. The time was now. There is no other time. It's not like we can wait a few years and apply again. In a few years we want to have kids, we want to have a house. The time is now. And it's ruined.

I just can't believe that with all the problems my vagina has caused: pain, no sex, no desire to have sex, low self-esteem, frustration, stress - that it still hasn't stopped. Now it's the reason that I cannot fulfill one of my lifetime dreams. I am so devastated and I don't know if I will ever get over it.

My husband and I talk about perhaps still moving to another country once this problem is fixed, and without the constraints of the Peace Corps. We could have kids and still live in another country. But it's not the same. I wanted the developing country experience. I wanted to learn about how people live in poorer countries. I wanted to help people. And even if we did move to another country at some point, it would not be the Peace Corps experience. My husband says that it seems like I don't even want to do that anymore, and I'm not sure I do. It's like my dream has been ruined and there's no way to get it back. Plus, I guess I'm afraid to get my hopes up again. I mean, what if we decide that in 2 years we're going to move to Switzerland? What if in 2 years I'm still struggling with this problem and it's still not a good time to go? I do not want to deal with this heartbreak again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bloody Bladder

I must tell you about what happened several months ago when I was out of town to visit my friends. I had been feeling for a few days like I might be developing a yeast infection. My vagina was burning more than normal. So when I was heading out of town on Friday morning, I stopped at CVS to buy some Monistat. I bought the 3 day ovule, which I've never tried before. Side note: the 1-day dose, ovule or cream, does not work. I know it sucks, but you have to get at least a 3-day dose.

So anyway, I drove about 7 hours to have a girls weekend with all of my college friends. My vagina continued to burn, but I figured it was just a yeast infection. That night, we hung out in a hot tub. I know, those of you who know about yeast infections are screaming, why? Why would you get in a hot tub?! I guess I just wanted to be normal and to enjoy normal things like normal people do.

Before I went to bed that night I inserted the first of the 3-dose ovule to hopefully start killing the yeast. That night was the most painful night that I have ever experienced in my life. My vagina burned like nothing I have ever felt. It was so intense and I hardly got any sleep. I suffered throughout the night just waiting for morning to come; it was like torture. I finally got up around 5:30 (one friend had a baby and was up as well). I told her how much pain I was in and we started looking up what clinics were around that I could go to (remember, I was out of town and unable to call my own doctor, plus it was the weekend). The clinics all opened at 9am so I was planning to wait until then, but the pain continued to get exponentially worse.Then I went to the bathroom and my urine was pink! At this point I completely freaked out. I tearfully told me friends that I was peeing blood and that I could not wait until 9:00 to go to the clinic. My friend took me to the emergency room. By that time my condition had worsened still and the urine sample that I gave them was completely red and mostly blood. It turns out that I had a bladder infection that was so bad that my bladder was actually bleeding. I have had a few bladder infections before, but never ever like this. I've never had blood or this amount of pain before. So anyway, the doctor gave me a prescription for pain pills and antibiotics (the bane of any yeast sufferer's existence). I also demanded a prescription for Diflucan because there is a 100% chance that if I take an antibiotic I will get a yeast infection. I will say now that the fact that I used Monistat had nothing to do with my condition worsening. Monistat normally is very affective. I just self-diagnosed incorrectly and the Monistat was not what I needed, so it would have gotten worse either way.

So of course the ER takes forever, but approximately 4 hours later I was finally on my way back and approximately 1 hour after that my pain was significantly alleviated. However, it was not even close to gone and I was still in a lot of pain and discomfort. All the other times I've had bladder infections, the pain medicine has done the trick, but this time I guess it wasn't quite enough. And I actually went through the 3-day supply of pain pills and was still in significant pain so I asked my doctor for a refill. When I went to refill it, the pharmacy wouldn't do it because I had gotten the prescription too recently before that. I understand that they have to follow strict drug rules so I do not blame them for that, but that night was really painful for me. Luckily it subsided the next day.
I asked the doctor if he knew of any reason why this might happen and he said it was kind of just like a perfect storm. It had already been building when I got in the car for 7 hours of sitting and not drinking enough water, then I got in the hot tub, and on top of all that I'm very susceptible to all "down there" problems. And then the next day I had to drive back another 7 hours. It sucked, but I did try to stay hydrated and just make more stops to use the bathroom.

I'm so glad my friend was with me at the hospital. Obviously my husband was not there because I was out of town, so I was really glad that at least I was with very close and supportive friends. She also brought some much needed humor to the situation my naming my condition "bloody bladder", which really made me laugh.

So, yeast infections, bladder infections (sometimes bloody), pain with intercourse, burning vagina. This is my life. It's always something. Maybe this was just an anomaly, but I find that hard to believe. They have to all be connected, right? It's just a little too coincidental.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dr. Susan Kellogg Spadt

Has anyone heard anything about Dr. Kellogg Spadt in Philadelphia? She works for the Pelvic and Sexual Health Institute. Do you know if she takes insurance?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dr. Andrew Goldstein

I have made an appointment (or should I say, my husband made an appointment because I'm too emotional to get through those kind of things without breaking down) to see Dr. Goldstein in April. He owns the Center for Vulvovaginal Disorders and has offices in D.C., New York, and Annapolis. Has anyone gone to this doctor or heard anything about him?

Friday, February 5, 2010

All doctors are not created equal.

I realized that in my original post, I did not mention the drama I went through to find a doctor that actually gave me the time of day. All the yeast infections started when I was in college so I went to the on campus clinic for treatment. I probably saw 5 different doctors in my years at school who treated who knows how many yeast infections. At the time, I guess I just thought that I was susceptible to yeast infections, but I never really thought that there could be something else going on. And neither did any of the doctors I saw. Either they didn't care, all college girls have 4 thousand yeast infections, or they were incompetent. I really don't know.

After college I moved to a new state and went in search of a gynecologist. I didn't know anything about any doctors, being new to the area, but someone recommended a certain practice. I went on their website and read the profiles of all of the doctors in the practice. I decided to go with the doctor who's profile mentioned that she focuses on gynecological issues because I thought maybe she would be more open to dealing with all of my problems. So I went to my appointment, and, of course, burst into tears when explaining how it was painful to have sex. Well guess what her recommendation was? Take 4 Advil before having sex. That's it. No really, that's it. And, surprise surprise, 4 Advil makes absolutely no difference at all in the vagina area! She didn't offer to look into possible treatments or diagnoses. She offered no other help. I felt so defeated that I couldn't even muster the strength to look for another doctor or make any further steps toward fixing my problem for at least a year.

My boyfriend finally said enough is enough. I was suffering too much and I needed to find another doctor. So I tried another doctor in the practice; no good. Then I went to the 3rd doctor, and finally, she cared! She was concerned! She actually did a little research and called me back! Then she told me she was moving away. I was devastated. I had finally found someone who cared and seemed like she was open to investigating until she found an answer. But she did have a recommendation for another doctor in a different practice that she thought I should try.

When I called this doctor, she didn't have any appointments available for new patients for several months, but her physician's assistant was available soon. I was desperate and I wanted an in so I made the appointment with the PA (cue angels singing). I want to cry when I think about how lucky I was that the doctor was booked up! The PA is wonderful! She cares so much and she does outside research talking to other doctors and looking things up. Every time I see her she not only offers new information, but she also offers much needed support. And she is the reason that I even know that pelvic pain physical therapists even exists.  She is the one that recommended I start going to PT.  Before I met her I'd never even heard of such a thing.  She doesn't make me feel stupid for crying and she also doesn't act like she has all the answers. She continues to try and learn more about my problem and she doesn't try to make me feel like it's not a big deal. And she is completely supportive of my desire to see a vaginal pain specialist and has offered to do whatever she can to help that process along. I am so thankful for her. We may not have found a solution yet, but at least I have a doctor who cares and continues to search out new solutions. All of you who have had this issue can understand how wonderful it feels to have this small victory. Thank you Dr. Elizabeth! I can't tell you how much your support means to me!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Other Helpful Blogs

I've read a few other blogs on the subject. Some of them are more helpful in just being able to know that we are not alone, and others have good suggestions on different topics and problems. These people don't necessarily have the same exact problem as me, but I would say that if you're writing about pain in your vagina, I know that there's something that will help me.

let me know if you all know of any more helpful blogs.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Anxiety medicine?

We also went to the psychologist last night. Lately we've been talking about how much anxiety I feel surrounding this whole ordeal. I get so upset that it's hard for me to talk and I just break down into a crying mess. The best way to explain it is a feeling of pressure. When I get really upset, I feel like there's all this pressure in my body - my chest, my throat, my head. It just feels like there's something pushing me from the inside out and it just wants to burst. Apparently this is called anxiety.

I was resistant at first when anxiety medicine was mentioned. I don't like the idea of taking a drug that alters my mind; that is scary to me. I also worry about what kind of side effects the drug might have, and wouldn't it be the worst thing ever if this drug had some kind of side effect that made the whole vagina problem worse? But my therapist convinced me that we would talk to the vaginal pain specialist about it before doing anything so that he can make sure to prescribe a drug that does not have those specific side effects. She also talked to me about the fact that it might just help me be able to get through this better. I mean it would be nice not to feel like I'm going to explode from the inside out every time someone tries to talk to me about this problem.

It would be nice to feel a little less worried all the time about what if I never get fixed? What if I can't have children? What if my husband is stuck with me forever because he loves me so he wouldn't leave me, but he'd live a life that is sexually and intimately unfulfilled? It would be nice to feel a little less of all of that. It's a lot for one person to worry about all the time.

So anyway, if the doctor agrees, I am willing to try the anti-anxiety medicine. I'll let you know how it goes.

Nerve Endings

Yesterday I went to the physical therapist and we were talking about what we can do to solve the mysterious burning problem. She says that there are several nerve endings right around the pelvic floor area. And when I sit for long periods of time, those nerve endings can get irritated and sensitive. So she did what I guess you would call nerve stretching exercises.

The first one she did was to hold my leg up and push on my butt bone in different directions. Then she put a finger in my vagina and pushed the nerves around in different directions. I definitely felt pain while she was doing this, and she apparently was doing the light version because she said she didn't want to exacerbate the problem. Right after I left, I felt a lot of discomfort while I was sitting in the car driving away, but the pain subsided in about 30 minutes. And I didn't really feel any burning the rest of the night. I woke up this morning with no pain, but I have felt a little burning here and there so far today. We'll see how this nerve stretching works, but hey, I'll try anything at this point.

I also got hooked up to the EMG (don't know what that stands for, sorry) machine at my appointment. This machine measures how hard I clench my muscles and how much I'm able to relax them. I had two probes stuck to the inside of my butt cheeks (to measure my pelvic floor muscles), one on my hip, and one on my abdomen.

The abdomen probe was sort of like a control and was supposed to stay at a steady pace to show that I don't flex my abdomen muscles when trying to flex my pelvic floor muscles. I'm happy to report that at least I'm doing that part right. My abdomen muscles stayed very steady.

Apparently the resting number for the pelvic floor should be around a 3 (I can't remember the units, so sorry the number 3 doesn't have much meaning) and the first time I did this, my resting number was 10. This means that even when I was trying to relax my muscles, "relaxed" for them was really quite clenched. This time around my resting number was at 7, so I have made some improvement, however there is more to go. We did some muscle relaxing exercises (basically kegels) and I was able to bring that number down to a 5 in about 5 minutes. So that is encouraging to know that even if I am quite clenched, I do have the ability to make my muscles more relaxed.

For those of you who may have this clenching problem, it really does help to squeeze all those muscles down there for about 5 seconds, then release completely and do a pelvic drop, which is basically beyond release. My PT says it's like an elevator, when you release the muscles it goes down to the ground floor, but when you do a pelvic drop, it goes below the ground floor. Try it, I can really feel what she talks about. Anyway, do the clenching and releasing at least 3 times and your muscles will relax some. And the more you do it every day, the more you will have control over the ability to both squeeze and relax your muscles.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to Prevent a Yeast Infection

Being someone who has had to deal with numerous yeast infections over the years, I have a lot of good advice on things you can do to prevent them.

-I use a PH balanced body wash called Very Private to clean "down there". You can order this body wash online. Before I learned of Very Private, I used Dove sensitive skin unscented soap. The key is to use something very gentle and with no fragrance.

-I try to avoid using tampons unless I'm in a swimsuit and I always use fragrance free tampons on those rare occasions. I know some women think that pads (again, fragrance free, of course) are gross, and I agree, it does put all your business right there for you to see, but tampons have been known to increase your chance of getting yeast infections. Plus, when your vagina is as sensitive as mine, it's really quite uncomfortable to have something even as small as a tampon in there.

-I blow dry my whole crotch area on the cool setting of the hair dryer when I get out of the shower. Yeast thrive in a moist environment, so it's important to keep the area as dry as you can.

-I take Probiotic Acidophilus in a pill form every day (you can buy it online or in health food stores) - it is the live bacteria found in yogurt that can fight yeast.

-I also eat yogurt frequently for the live bacteria.

-I take a garlic supplement every day (I recommend a small dosage so you don't end up burping up garlic all day - I take 100mg)

-I only wear 100% cotton underwear.

-No tight pants. Let the girl breathe.

-I drink lots of water. I find that on days when I get a bit dehydrated, that's when my vagina starts to burn more.

-When I do my dilator exercises, I use lubrication that is glycerin free. One of my physical therapists is actually studying the affects of yeast infections on vaginal pain and she says that you absolutely must use a glycerin free lube. Apparently, glycerin can really irritate a sensitive vagina. I use either KY Sensitive Jelly or Slippery Stuff Gel Lubricant.

-I use fragrance free detergent and dryer sheets.

-I have read and heard of several studies that show that oral birth control can be a contributor to both vaginal problems and reduced libido, therefore, I have stopped taking it. I mean, I can't have sex anyway, so what's the point?

All of these things are so second nature to me now that I don't even really think about having to do them anymore. It sounds like a lot, but once you get used to it, it's just normal life. If I think of any more I'll add them in.

I still get yeast infections. I don't know why, the doctors don't know why. But these things above do help, so try them out. If you have any additional suggestions, please leave them as a comment on this post.

The burning problem

Literally. I have a burning problem. My vagina burns for hours, sometimes days, with really no explanation. I noticed it most when I was out of town for Christmas and spent many hours sitting in cars, sitting in restaurants, sitting in movie theaters. Whenever I sit for long periods of time, especially on hard seats or in seats where I can't move around very much, my vagina starts to burn. Even though I say that it happens mostly when I sit for a long period of time, it also happens at completely random moments (or so far as I can tell) when I haven't been sitting. And there's really no explanation for it. Naturally, I'm paranoid about getting yeast infections, so sometimes I think I have a yeast infection. I'm starting to be able to tell the difference though. I can't explain it, but the burning problem is not the same as a yeast infection.
I told my physical therapist about the burning problem and she has made two suggestions:
1) Put an icepack right on the area kind of like you're icing a pulled muscle, and 2) put lidocaine in my vagina twice a day. Lidocaine is a gel that is supposed to numb the area. At first she wanted me to try soaking a cotton ball in lidocaine and putting that in my vagina. That just did not work for me. It felt like my vagina was being plugged up and I could not stand it. So now I just put it in with my finger. The downside to this is that I have to wear a pantyliner or I'll get gel all over my underwear. The intent of using lidocaine twice a day is more of a long-term goal. It's supposed to make me less sensitive over time, so it's not necessarily supposed to work right when I put it in.

Do these methods work? I don't know. The icepack feels good at the time, but when I take it away, the burning is still there. I haven't been doing the lidocaine for very long, so maybe it's affects have not shown yet, however, it's supposed to be numbing right? Well when it's in there, I don't feel numb at all. Is that normal?

Anyone else have this unexplainable, indescribable burning vagina problem?

Monday, February 1, 2010

What I do at the physical therapist

When I go to the physical therapist we do several things. So far my problem has been diagnosed as vaginismus, although who knows what the heck that means? What we are trying to tackle at the physical therapist is the tightness of my pelvic floor muscles. The tightness is caused by two things: 1- a physical problem (vaginismus? maybe.) and 2- it's also a mental thing. When something try's to go in down there, I can't help but clench. I've been training my body to do it for several years now. I'll take you through an appointment:

First I undress from the waist down and I lay on a giant heating pad for about 10-15 minutes. The heat is supposed to help relax the muscles and I do believe that it does help.

Then the physical therapist comes in and uses an ultrasound machine with a small probe that she puts in my vagina and pushes it around the muscles - they call these muscles the pelvic clock. She goes around the clock holding the ultrasound probe onto the muscles until they relax.

Sometimes she will follow that up with her own finger so that she can feel what the muscles are doing. (See what I mean about other people being down there more than my husband?)
Then I have a lot of homework:1) Every day I'm supposed to use dilators to do the work that the ultrasound machine does. Dilators are basically different-sized dildos. I use the small one to push on the muscles around the pelvic clock and then I use a larger one for the "prolonged stretch", which is basically just sitting there for 10 minutes with a large dilator in my vagina. This is supposed to help stretch the muscles.

2) I also have to do kegel exercises, but they aren't just your regular kegels. I have to do "quick flicks" and "long holds". Quick flicks are hold for 3 seconds, relax for 3 seconds and long holds are hold for 10 seconds, relax for ten seconds. I have to do each of these about 3 times in about 6 different positions - standing, indian style, laying on my stomach, yoga bridge. You might be thinking, if her vagina's so tight, why is she trying to strengthen her muscles? Well, I have learned that it's important to have strong muscles down there even if you have my problem of clenching too hard because it's just as important to be able to relax those muscles as it is to be able to flex them. So I do the kegels to train my muscles how to relax.

3) I also have to do leg stretches. I know! Why? I am really inflexible and this part is not fun. But all of the muscles in your legs are directly connected to your pelvic floor muscles so it's important to stretch them as well.

Well, I'm exhausted from all this explanation. I hope someone reads this and finds it helpful. Please feel free to comment on the post if you have any questions. Coming next: why I think I need more than a physical therapist - the burning problem.

It started with a yeast infection.

Well, actually, it would be inaccurate to say a yeast infection. It was more like a hundred yeast infections or one giant unending yeast infection that lasted for over two years. I'm still not sure which.

When I was in college I decided to start having sex with my boyfriend of three years. At first, it was good, and then I got a yeast infection. How was I to know that that yeast infection would still be hurting me 8 years later? We went to different colleges in different states, so I guess I partly didn't realize how serious it was because we hardly ever saw each other anyway. But if I'm being honest, when we were together, I didn't want to hurt his feelings or make him feel rejected, so I continued to have sex with him even though it was very uncomfortable and sometimes painful. We had a long distance relationship for 5 years so I guess I thought I could deal with the discomfort since it happened so infrequently. Little did I know that I was setting myself up for years of pain and sadness later.

After I finished college, I moved in with my boyfriend. And then it became a game of what kind of excuses can I come up with to avoid having sex? It was awful. He felt rejected and confused and I felt like I was broken. At this point it was not just about sex being painful and uncomfortable, now I honestly did not want it at all. I was repulsed by it and had absolutely no sexual desire.

And then we got married. I should point out that my now husband is the most wonderful and supportive person I could ever hope for. Through all of this he has never let me down and has never purposely made me feel guilty for not being able to give him what a wife should be able to give her husband. I don't need him to make me feel guilty, I feel guilty enough on my own. I've been married for two years, I'm in my twenties, and I have absolutely no desire to have sex with my wonderful, handsome husband.

I hope that this blog will help other women out there know that they are not alone. This isn't something that people talk about much and sometimes we even feel like we have to hide it. My husband gets very frustrated with the shame of it all. He says that there's nothing to be ashamed of and it's just like having any other physical problem. Intellectually I agree, but it's still hard to talk about. I am completely heartbroken and I break down crying every time I have to talk about it.

Currently I am seeing a vaginal physical therapist (who knew they existed?), a gynecologist, and a psychologist. I'm also planning on going to see a vaginal pain specialist soon, so I'll let you know what I learn when the time comes. My husband and I go together to the psychologist because she thinks that my non-existent sex drive is an us problem, not a me problem. I'm not sure if I believe that, but I hope it's true. It would be nice for this problem to not be completely about me. My next posts will update you on what I do at the physical therapist and at the psychologist. Hopefully you'll get some helpful information, or at the very least, a virtual shoulder to cry on.