Thoughts from Anna Rose, Part 1
I’m twelve, and I get my period, a brown stain on the bed on Thanksgiving Day.
I try to put in a tampon, smear a little Vaseline on the top. It doesn’t go in. I search for the right hole, wonder if I even have it. Something stings a little. I stop, scared, stuck somewhere between girl and woman.
Sixteen, and ready to try again, for maybe the fifth time. I mentally brace myself, and read on the little pamphlet that virginity can’t be lost to a tampon. I smear some Vaseline on, and mimic the line-drawn woman in the diagram, one leg up on the toilet, mirror at the ready. I examine the picture, and it seems like the tampon is some alien invader, piercing her where no hole should be, hard and stern in her soft system.
Mom says if I do it right it won’t hurt. Cringing, eyes on the mirror, I find the hole. The blood comes from somewhere, I must have the hole, even though I can’t put my fingers inside at night. Don’t know why. My body just won’t let me.
When the tampon is next to my skin and I press, it stings, and I inhale hard, but keep going. Soon the tampon is in, and the sting stops. I exhale, body loosening, which I guess makes it easier. I leave the bathroom proudly, knowing in two hours I’ll be able to do it again.
Only sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. They hurt to put in, and sometimes I can’t do it unless I make myself a little wet first. It always hurts. Sometimes I stand up, almost scream with the way it seems to burn, and take it out and start over.
It hurts when my boyfriend tries to put his tongue inside me. Laying in the dark, naked in front of a boy for the first time, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but it still feels good, I guess, unless he tries to put his tongue inside me. I ask him not to twice, three times. I don’t know why he doesn’t listen. But he says he’s not doing it at all. He says he's barely touching me. He's concerned.
Maybe it’ll feel better once I have sex.
A week into nineteen and I’m ready, I’ve loved my college boyfriend long enough, and feel some inner stirring asking for recognition and fulfillment. I ask him to put his fingers inside me, he’s the first person to make me come and the fourth to try, I just want to feel all of him, and it hurts a little, probably because his fingers are salty.
I lose my virginity that night. A half hour it takes him, and for maybe twenty-nine minutes it is all pain. But in the last one the pleasure is there, everything I’ve heard about that makes me want to do it again. It’s tender and loving and even though it stabs I feel loved and cared for. I am loved and cared for.
A few days later we do it again. It still hurts at first, but it’s better, and there’s more pleasure in it. It hurts when he takes himself out of me. We joke that my body just wants him in me all the time. But I barely ever let him put his fingers in me anymore, and never for more than a minute or so.
Penetration hurts every time, and that’s all there is to it. After a while, I finally just have to admit that.
I just have to get through it to the good part, and I know he hates that it hurts me, his big green eyes fill with concern, a pain of his own. I try to be strong. But it hurts. I ask my best friend if it ever hurts her, and she says sometimes. But not really. I have no one else to ask.
Sex hurts every time. It hurts like a knife wound, massaged by insensitive hands. Every time, ever.
I am a patient of pelvic floor dysfunction, one of the many disorders that causes chronic pain during intercourse--a phrase that sounds so technical, for something that comes with so much emotion. I get asked stupid questions, and a lot is assumed about me, by people who just don't understand and have never heard of such a thing. It's no wonder that they haven't, since no one's talking about it. Most doctors don't even know these disorders exist. That's why I'm talking about it.
Before I continue, I encourage you to please post this article, and any in my seven-part series, anywhere you like. You may know someone who's suffering, someone who isn't talking about it, and doesn't know there's anything she can do, or anyone who understands.
For me, sex is an experience of masochism, and I am by no means a masochist. Every time it starts with pain, and sometimes the pain just keeps going. There's guilt and failure in stopping, agony in continuing, fear in not starting at all. Sometimes the pain lets up, and when I first started having sex, that's what I banked on. Once the pain stopped, I could actually enjoy sex for a while, till I got too sore to continue, which doesn't take long.
I learned later that the release from pain is something called the Gate's phenomenon: The nerves in pain get so tired of fighting that they just shut down. I suppose I could have lived with that for a while, but eventually, the rest of my body started to rebel. Before sex, every time, every muscle in my lower body would involuntarily clench up, and so I developed a new and different pain.
My journey through the medical labyrinth began eight months after I started having sex, and it's been about as much fun as the sex itself. Now, as I write this, I think I'm about to come out on the other end. I've just turned 24, so it's a full five years that I've suffered.
This is the first in a series about my experiences, and what they've taught me, which I'm sharing to open the door for others to share their own. I want to spread information and sympathy. I don't want to give advice, since to me, advice always seems vapid and irrelevent. I know that no matter what advice I give, someone who reads this will find that the opposite applies to her, and that's just shitty to read. I want to hear your impressions, your experiences, your thoughts and reactions, and if you really want to share some wisdom, that's great too. Success stories, and stories of full healing would be awesome. I know I'd love to hear some.
The only advice I will give is this: If you have chronic pain during intercourse, and you know that you are not a survivor or rape or incest, and you don't have huge anxiety about sex, you most likely have a real physical pain disorder. Go see a doctor you trust. There are cures for many such disorders. If you are a survivor, or have serious anxiety, you may have one of the psychological disorders that can lead to such symptoms.
Stay turned for my next post, on the different types of disorders themselves.