Living with vaginismus often means becoming intimately acquainted with dilators. There’s a bit of a love-hate relationship there (well, truly a hate-hate relationship until you finally heal). Many of us spend countless hours, perhaps even months, on a single size, feeling the frustration of what seems like no progress at all. I’ve been there, stuck in a seemingly endless loop with one dilator size, and I’ve seen it in my clients too. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re not moving forward, but I want to challenge that notion.
Progress isn’t linear
Progress in overcoming vaginismus is not always linear, and the process can be slow and frustrating. Spending extended periods on a single dilator size can leave you feeling defeated. But I promise that with every moment you invest in the process, you are actively engaging your mind and body in a transformative journey that will make intimacy all the sweeter.
Resetting our perspective on true progress
When faced with vaginismus, your body encounters a challenge that requires time to desensitize and establish a sense of safety with the new barrier – insertion. It’s not just a piece of medical equipment there to “stretch you out”; it’s a tool that teaches and retrains your body to relax, find control, and reframe the current challenge. If your perspective were that dilators stretch and make you bigger, then yes, this would suggest you’re kind of stuck. But the dilator training process is an intricate part of teaching the mind and body what safety and security looks like.
Progress can be determined by how we respond to our emotions
Feeling ‘stuck’ can trigger a range of emotions, from anger to sadness, and it’s natural to want to push through and achieve your goals quickly. And when we don’t see the kind of progress we’re expecting, we lose motivation and stop showing up for ourselves. However, the true healing in vaginismus lies in your response to these harder emotions and feelings. The impatience to advance, perform, and reach the end goal needs healing just as much as the physical aspects of the condition, and can often impact our ability to heal from the physical components.
The key is learning to be present in the slow growth. It’s not about being stagnant or back-sliding; rather, it’s about training your body to feel safe, secure, and nourished in the face of a challenge. Vaginismus recovery is a holistic process that involves not just physical progress but also a mental and emotional transformation.
Building and reinforcing neural pathways is progress
Furthermore, when we’re not seeing physical progress, it doesn’t mean our mind and body aren’t laying the internal foundation for tangible progress. We can’t downplay the role of neuroplasticity in this healing process. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s incredible ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. And it’s usually a pretty slow process that doesn’t have a lot to show for itself in the beginning. While it may be a slow process, it is an immensely powerful and lasting one. As you work with your dilators, you are not only training your muscles but also rewiring your brain’s response to intimacy. This transformative process takes time, and acknowledging the slow pace is an integral part of fostering a healthy mindset during your journey.
Internal progress is better than external progress
Throughout your vaginismus journey, we benefit most when we shift the focus from reaching the next dilator size to embracing the personal growth occurring within. I know, how can a dilator bring about personal growth from within? Start with taking note of why you’re feeling a certain way about your slow progress. What is it about the speed of healing that is making you feel this way?
Then create some space for feeling and processing these answers. Try journaling your thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. Acknowledge that these are hard things to confront and embrace. Pushing past these emotions or suppressing them in the name of progress will likely just make progress down the line harder.
True healing lies in breaking free from the pressure to constantly advance. Instead, it involves finding rest in the process, appreciating the resilience you develop, and understanding that healing is not a destination but a continuous journey.
If you find yourself struggling with this mindset shift or need guidance in transitioning successfully from dilator to more intimate experiences, know that support is available. Embracing this journey requires a shift in perspective, and I’m here to help you navigate it. Consider scheduling a free 30-minute consultation with me, to see if my neuro-informed vaginismus program is a good fit for you!