Vaginal Pain Made It Nearly Impossible To Have Sex
But Doctors Wouldn’t Take It Seriously
I experienced symptoms of endometriosis long before I became sexually active, but it wasn’t until my first serious relationship in my early twenties, and lost my virginity, that I understood the full spectrum of life experiences that the disease would take from me. But unlike the way it stole food and dance from me — which were associated with pleasure and, to the point of the former, pure survival — I didn’t recognize the impact it was going to have on my sexuality.
I had been instructed throughout my life — by older women, by books, by society — that I wouldn’t enjoy my first time, but that gradually sex would get better, so I should just stick it out. It was true that the first time was painful, but because I had been anticipating that, I wasn’t particularly surprised or disappointed. What did surprise me was that, despite the pain of penetration, I really liked everything else sex involved, the vast majority of which was brand new to me.
But it felt like having your hand slammed in a car door. My belly clenched, and I guess I made some God-awful noise, because he immediately looked down at me, a heaving breath away from a stilted apology.
I swallowed hard, tears pooling in the corners of my eyes and sliding down my cheeks as I smiled, telling him I was fine, to keep going. I had expected it to hurt, and it had hurt.
The problem was, it never stopped hurting — but it took me at least the first year of my relationship with Max to admit that something was wrong. It ultimately gave me a vital education of my body that would prove to be invaluable later on. The knowledge that intercourse was intolerable because of disease became an answer to a question I hadn’t found a way to ask.
We continued to have sex, but it never got better for me. As months turned to years, it steadily became more intolerable. While this never seemed to get a rise out of any doctor when I fretted over it, once I started taking Max with me to appointments, and he corroborated—or better yet, expressed his own frustration—suddenly it seemed like doctors started to listen. I was extremely peeved to have made this observation. It either meant that they hadn’t believed me in the absence of Max as an alibi, or that they had believed me, but my suffering alone wasn’t enough to inspire action. Becoming a disappointment to a man, though, seemed to do the trick.