PTSD is a weird thing. I feel like a lot of people assume that most triggers after a sexual assault have to do with the act of sex itself. Not always. Triggers can be a scent, the sound of someone clearing their throat, or the way a stranger stands close behind you. Sometimes we know why we are experiencing a certain trigger, other times, we have no idea. There are times where a survivor will learn of new triggers years on down the road. God, it’s frustrating.Alright, now let’s talk about pain during sex that is trauma related.
*TRIGGER WARNING & DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A DOCTOR! This is just what helped me, and are things I had wish I’d known from the beginning.
If you feel pain during penetration of any kind, this could be a sign of vaginismus. Vaginismus is basically a muscle spasm that occurs in your pelvic floor muscles. There are different symptoms or causes of vaginismus, yet it’s a pretty common symptom after trauma. There are emotional and physical triggers that cause this. Now, because every individual is different, and I am not a medical professional, I cannot give specific advice. What personally has helped me, was a few things. (Dyspareunia and vaginismus are often mistaken for each other. This is why I highly recommend going to your doctor because it could be pelvic inflammatory disease, etc.) There are also a lot of other causes for Vaginismus, but in this post I will be addressing the trauma aspect.) Here is what helped me but I also suggest going to a professional such as a physiotherapist.
Dilators & crystal wands. Yeah, yeah this may sound too woo-woooo or holistic for some people, but this is how I learned to have control of and listen to my body. Dilators come in all different sizes and if you are someone that is experiencing extreme discomfort, I suggest starting with the smallest kind and then working towards crystal wands (mostly because a lot of wands aren’t as small to start with if you’re working through severe pain.) When you insert either, make sure your environment feels safe. Make sure no one is around. You can put on soothing music such as sacral chakra music. Make sure your dilator, wand, and you are lubricated and clean. Before inserting, ask your body for permission. This may sound weird, but this is where the emotional component comes in. If you feel like your body is saying no, respect that. Your mind and body need to learn how to find trust in each other again. Just practice ujjayi breathing for a few minutes and then ask your body again. At the entrance, take a few breaths again. When inserting, don’t force when in pain. If there is a slight discomfort that you can breathe through, hold it there, take a few breaths and imagine the loop/ ring inside your vagina releasing all tension. The most important thing is to stop when you feel the need to stop. This creates trust with yourself that you will protect it in other situations. Heartbreakingly, the trauma created evidence that your body can’t trust you which is why your pelvic floor will tense up. It is not your fault that it happened, but your body is in survival mode and so the tightening is a defense mechanism. Hold the wand inside you for 10 to 15 minutes, three times a week.
When I first started doing this, I wanted the pain to go away after a week. There are times where I still have that tightness. Yet after practicing this, I’ve learned where the muscles are tensing up and learned to breathe into that area. FYI: this is just from personal experience but something I wish I learned a while ago if you feel pain in the beginning on penetration and are still learning where the tension in the pelvic floor muscles is: stop kissing during this moment and just breathe. That might not be for everyone, but focusing on breathing is what helped me loosen the tension initially. Another thing about the tension, that I learned, not from a doctor but a woman on Reddit: was locating where this tension was. She said to take a mirror, use a crystal wand or dilator and then notice where it looks like the tension is. For her (and myself, again maybe not for every woman) it was the same area. If you imagine your vaginal opening as a clock: and the public bone is at 12 o’clock and your anus is at 6 o’clock, the tension that caused a lot of the pain was towards 6. When you practice with a finger using massage and light pressure while breathing into it, you learn where the pain is and how to release it. Check out this pdf on Internal Pelvic Floor Massage for Tension.
Some other tips when using Dialators and Crystal Wands:
-Take a hot bath or shower before.
-Choose a place and time where you feel safe and are alone.
-COCONUT OIL! Lube! Don’t do this dry!
Healing is possible. Having great sex is possible. Trust me. It takes time. I thought it was impossible to take away that tightness and pain. But you WILL heal, I promise. You deserve it.