Friday, 20 April 2012

Auntie flo

Ugh. Don’t start with me today vaginistas, OK? DO NOT start, because I’m feeling irrationally teary and am craving a bushel of doughnuts like nobody’s business. And ouch! My stomach feels like I’m early-career Britney, and I’ve just spent the morning stomach-crunching my perfect little abs in matching tracky b’s and crop top, which I know for a FACT isn’t the case because my skinny jeans won’t do up (and did I mention the doughnuts?). UGH. Pass me the hot water bottle, would you? And the Sharpe DVD boxset. And doughnuts.

Some things about being a lady-woman just aren’t as fun as others, like this monthly ritual of aches and blood and hormones and men shuffling away looking a bit scared because I’ve mentioned aches and blood and hormones. At best, it’s an inconvenience – a messy, achey, undignified inconvenience.

For the lady with a clamp, it can be another irritating hurdle.

I refer of course to tampons. Ah, the humble tampon. They’re stored down supermarket aisles that have names like “Feminine Hygiene”, “Women’s Healthcare”, “Blood-trappers”, and “ALERT! YOU WITH THE COCK AND BALLS! THIS AISLE IS NOT FOR YOU! GET OUT, GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN!”. And then there’s using the flipping things. The suggested stance of putting one leg up on the bath, like it’s a valiant beast you’ve overcome with naught but your wit and a ruddy great gun, while fiddling about *down there* is one I’ve personally never mastered. Now I come to think of it, it’s probably a very particular form of yoga.

For women with V, tampons can be more than an inconvenience; they can be simply unusable. They sit there on the shelf in the lady-aisle, all prim and multi-coloured, and mocking the reluctant frou. I know this to be a true fact, because this was the case with me for years and years. Until 3 years ago, I genuinely thought that it was probably because I was a *whisper it* virgin, and gave up trying, but know now that it was because of that dastardly vaginismus.*

Now, I went to a Catholic all girls school, so my sex ed wasn’t exactly cutting edge. It was fine, but it wasn’t, you know, progressive. One particularly memorable class featured a video of a woman giving birth, and the message “DON’T EVER HAVE SEX OR YOU WILL GET PREGNANT AND GIVE BIRTH AND PROBABLY DIE, unless you’re married, in which case go for your life but DON’T USE CONDOMS”** Basically, I was an innocent type.

If you are struggling to use tampons, and are wondering if you may have vaginismus, ask yourself the following:

  •  Do you I feel anxious, scared or panicky when I think about, or try to, use a tampon?
  •  Am I certain that I am inserting it in the right place?
  •  Does it hurt when I try to insert it?
  •  Does it feel like something is physically stopping the tampon going in properly? (If you’ve got it in, but it doesn’t feel quite right - that is, you can feel the tampon - it’s not in properly.)

If the answer to any or all of these is yes, you may well have Vaginismus - maybe have a look at my page "do I have vaginismus?" to check further. 

Now, I know there are lovely, soft, un-intrusive sanitary towels, which obviously ladies with V can use. But that is not the point. Because honestly, tampons are amazing. They are OK? They have really and properly changed my life. I can swim! I can wear normal, not awful knickers!*** I can quietly change one in a communal toilet without that loud CSSSSSHHH! sound that lets EVERYONE in a mile radius know you are changing a sanitary towel.

They are a start. Honestly, if you are just in the process of starting to treat vaginismus, they are a good, small, manageable size. If you are struggling with using tampons, try applying the tips I’ve given on using dilators to see if they can help – it is important to say also that I’ve found applicator tampons are far, far easier to use than non-applicator types. I still can’t use these without the old familiar feelings of panic and fear. Applicators all the way.****

And now, strap on your favourite thong sister, and welcome to the club!!!!!....The…tampon club… yes, OK so I didn’t really think that sentence through....shhh.

*I don’t blame everything on vaginismus OK? I know that I only got a B in my BEST SUBJECT at school because I was a bit lazy and didn’t try hard enough, and not because my fnny doesn’t work properly. But in this case, it IS V’s fault. So there.

** Shame on me. This is incredibly reductive; I went to a brilliant school, and I’m pretty sure they never shouted this at us… Pretty sure.

*** I said CAN, not DO

**** Obviously make sure you properly follow all the instructions for usage etc in the tampon packet. *disclaimer face*

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