L.R. Age 32 – Queensland
I lost my virginity two years ago, at age 17. The first couple of times of intercourse I was confronted, like all virgins (so I thought), with the immediate pain of a foreign object entering my body. I remember then, speaking to my friends at the time about how uncomfortable sex really was but we all came to the agreement to keep on trying, continue having as much sex as possible and soon the pain will fade away… after all, sex was supposed to be amazing!
It was then, in year 11 that I was confronted with the unknown concept of vulvodynia. Not only had I never heard of this disease before, but soon learnt that most gynaecologists in fact know very little, to nothing, about the topic.
I am fortunate enough to be brought up in an exceptionally warm and loving environment. Living in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, my close-knit family is extremely open with each other. I am constantly surrounded by a group of girl friends that adore each other and are extremely loyal, and I am part of an extremely supportive Jewish community.
However being diagnosed with vulvodynia, I felt very much alone, very excluded. Besides my mother, I had no-one to speak to about this, no one to relate to.
At the time I was confronted by the secretive nature of this disease, as I was to some extent ashamed of it. On a social level, I was embarrassed of vulvodynia as the norm and expectation for teenagers is simply, “sex, drugs and rock n roll”. Sexually I saw myself as faulty and thus unable to live up to the social expectation of my age group and my circle of friends. Also, on a social level, my relationship with my boyfriend whom I was madly in love with, was strained. While he was extremely supportive and patient, I always felt like I was letting him down. The physical pain (especially during penetration) translated to psychological pain. I found myself being scared and afraid of my long-term boyfriend, whom I loved and cared for- and thus tensions were ultimately created in our relationship.
Furthermore, on a cultural level, I still question whether such a disease is accepted or in fact looked down upon. Vulvodynia became my little secret. I felt like a failure, as I am apart of the Jewish community in Sydney, and thus expected to achieve, strive and perform to my best. Being Jewish I was brought up with the mentality that sex is spiritual however only within marriage. Thus being a teenager I was forced to repress my sexual problems.
It was only when I found this bio-feed-back program online that I truly understood that many Jewish teenagers like myself suffer from the pain, discomfort and frustrations of vulvodynia. While I verbally still keep this disease to myself, I hope that with more scientific and gynaecological research such a disabling disease will soon be widely understood and accepted, in all families, romantic relationships, social groups and religions. I am pleased to say that with the help of Marek I am now completely pain free.