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A Personal Journey Through Vaginismus and the Path to Healing

A Personal Journey Through Vaginismus and the Path to Healing

I sit down with Laila, a close family friend and someone who has personally navigated the complexities of vaginismus.

Laila shares her intimate struggle, shedding light on a topic many find themselves shrouded in silence due to cultural and personal stigmas.

She opens a door to understanding the emotional and physical aspects—offering listeners a chance to learn, relate, and find solace in the shared experience of overcoming such deeply personal challenges.

We, venture into the delicate intricacies of sexual health, particularly how Laila battles with vaginismus reshaped her understanding of her own body and relationships. It’s a story that strikes at the heart of the shame and stigma surrounding sexual dysfunctions, and one that emphasizes the need for a compassionate and culturally sensitive approach to medical care.

Laila’s candid recount of confronting vaginismus peels back the layers on a journey fraught with challenges, from the initial shock and guilt to the dawning realization that professional help was essential. 

Her revelation about the powerful impact of support and conversation underscores the importance of breaking through societal barriers and offers solace to those silently suffering.

Laila is a testament to the power of self-advocacy and the transformative effect of therapy on both individual lives and relationships.

Her story serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us of the critical role support systems play in the path to recovery, and the importance of honoring each person’s unique journey to health and self-discovery.

Highlights:

  • Laila discusses the profound impact vaginismus had on her life, including her journey of self-discovery, sexuality, and ultimately, the decision to end her marriage. 
  • Laila and Dr. Rahman tackle the shame and stigma associated with sexual dysfunction, particularly around the cultural and religious factors that contribute to the silence around such issues, emphasizing the need for more open conversations and support. 
  • We discuss the importance of seeking professional help and the effectiveness of a bio-psychosocial approach to treating vaginismus.
  • During her healing journey, Laila confronts questions about her sexual orientation.  
  • Dr. Rahman and Laila discuss the various treatment options for vaginismus and the importance of personalized medical care. The episode underlines the combination of therapies, including couples therapy, sex therapy, and pelvic therapy, that can lead to recovery and personal growth.

Get in Touch with Dr. Rahman:

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GynoGirl Website

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Transcript

00:01 - Dr. Rahman (Host)

Hey y'all, it's Dr Samina Rahman GynoGirl. I'm a board certified gynecologist, a clinical assistant professor of OBGYN at Northwestern Fineburg School of Medicine and owner of a private practice for almost a decade that specializes in menopause and sexual medicine. I'm a South Asian American Muslim woman who is here to empower, educate and help you advocate for health issues that have been stigmatized, shamed and perhaps even prevented youth from living your best life. I'm better than your best girlfriend and more open than most of your doctors. I'm here to educate so you can advocate. Welcome to GynoGirl. Presents Sex, drugs and Hormones. Let's go.

00:49 - Leila (Host)

I'm so excited for you guys to listen to this podcast today. I have a family friend as well as a patient peripherally that I interviewed for this podcast. We're going to call her Leila and she's going to talk to us about her vaginismus journey. She is a South Asian Muslim. She's in her 40s. She basically talks about how vaginismus impacted her quality of life to such a degree that it helped her journey with vaginismus for over four years in her marriage Really helped her discover her sexuality, that maybe she wasn't heterosexual, maybe she led somewhere on the spectrum. I think that was something she discovered through her vaginismus journey and also just recognizing that her husband at the time wasn't right for her. It led her to actually even getting a divorce and finding herself. This is a great episode. Everyone's journey is different. We educate to advocate. We're that. I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did. Hi everyone, welcome to my podcast. This is Dr Simena Rahman, gynogirl. I'm here today to speak further about the issues of vaginismus, but this is my podcast called GynoGirl presents sex, drugs and hormones.

02:29

Today I have a special guest for the episode. Today it follows a little bit of what I spoke about earlier around vaginismus In the previous part of this episode I discussed vaginismus sort of what it is, my journey and options and the history around it. Today I wanted to introduce you to someone that wasn't officially a patient of mine, because I did tell you guys that in this podcast I'm going to bring on either former patients or people that I've helped with their journey, or experts in the field. Today I'm very excited to bring on a very close family friend. She's pretty much like a sister to me. We're going to preserve her name and her identity. Her name is Layla, basically. She also has an experience with vaginismus. We're going to talk about her journey and how it impacted her life and also how she was able to come to the other side and recover from that.

03:30

I mentioned the treatment options in the previous discussion that I had, but I wanted to get further into personal journeys because everyone's journey is different. I think that's something we have to realize and recognize that I do not practice a one-size-fits-all medicine, because medicine doesn't fit everyone in the exact same way. That's a point I want to hone in on in this podcast in general that the society we grow up in, our cultural background, our religious background and everything around how we are raised, as well as our genetics and our biology, play an important impact on us as we get treated in society, but also just in terms of our medical conditions and how we should go about treating them. That's why you can't say that everyone that has postmenopausal symptoms should go on hormone therapy or everyone should not go on hormone therapy, why you can't say that dilators will fix everyone's issues with vaginismus.

04:33

There's so much that contributes to at least what we know around sexual medicine, the biopsychosocial sort of approach to treating patients that have sexual dysfunction. That's very important. That's why it's usually multimodal treatment. Multidisciplines are involved in sort of treating and helping patients that are suffering from all of this. It's my pleasure to have on Layla onto the show. She is going to talk to us a little bit about how she discovered. Well for her, she'll introduce herself and I'm going to give her an opportunity to do that. Then, layla, why don't you tell everyone who you are as much as you want to say about that and when it was that you discovered that you had sexual dysfunction? Then we can talk about your journey a little bit.

05:28 - Dr. Rahman (Host)

Hi Samina.

05:43 - Speaker 2 (Host)

I'm so excited to be on your first podcast. Then I'm both Muslims.

05:49 - Speaker 4 (Host)

My name is Layla we're practicing Muslims and Islam is going to be part of our culture too.

05:56 - Speaker 2 (Host)

I discovered that I had vaginismus early on in my marriage to a man. Maybe about yeah, no, absolutely yeah, that is. That is my upbringing as a practicing Muslim, and just conservative upbringing. So basically conservative in the sense of discovered she was married for a year and so my understanding, Laila.

06:36 - Speaker 4 (Host)

just I know that we had back then, so it's a high recollection when I was in, that maybe we're not able to have any kind of penetration with your husband at that time.

06:47 - Leila (Host)

And this was a new discovery for you. Obviously, you know you can let us know as well, like historically, like, were you ever able to use tampons? Did you ever try to use tampons? Was that even discussed in your household? Like I know you have other sisters, so you know maybe you had that discussion. But you know, tell me a little bit about that and then and then you can tell me a little bit about how, with vaginism is, how severe it was, like could you not get penetrated at all, or are you able to get some penetration but not all the way? I mean, in my previous video I talked about sort of the grades of vaginism is and how we seem clinically, but I want you to kind of express to me what you felt and how that was for you in terms of your discovery.

07:50 - Speaker 2 (Host)

Another thing, okay and yeah, this is all so emotional and I want to bring my emotion into this because it is. It is such an emotional experience. My husband was my, my first sexual partner. I that's why I say relatively traditional, conservative upbringing of religious, in that sense that I just I didn't want to have intercourse with anybody until I was married. And then, of course, I didn't get married until my early 30s. So that was a bit of a challenge.

08:22

But so I always thought that I would, that it would just happen, that I hadn't used tampons before either and I just, I just I was like I don't know what if I want to stick anything up there, and I just the idea of that prior to marriage, I just even then, so I wasn't even using tampons and so I always thought it would just happen. And I remember the night of our wedding, you know, which was supposed to be sensual and exciting and all of that stuff, and I started off that way Then. And then I just started, I started getting emotional, I started crying and it, because it just wouldn't happen, it, it hurt, and I just I just said this is not happened. It didn't even get his penis, didn't even get close, like it was just there.

09:13 - Speaker 4 (Host)

And it.

09:14 - Speaker 2 (Host)

just there was I, just the way I was, like I don't know, I thought this would happen, but then I kept wanting to try it again and, you know, bring it up. So it was.

09:23

it was a very emotional and you know I'm sad for both of us, my ex husband and I know that, you know that was the experience that we had, I mean, but that that's, that's how that started. And then your question about tampons. So then so we continued to try to in this way, where it was, I wasn't doing any exercises, I wasn't doing anything different. But the thing was, yeah, I didn't even know, because what I heard from friends and it was still very embarrassing to talk about anything like sexual like that was just not something I did with my sisters or my friends.

10:00

But I had a close friend at the time who got married around the same time I did, and she was also having trouble. She said it took her about a month to consummate or allow penetration. I don't know the technicals, her and then I heard that from from other people. So I remember asking you at some point too, and then my sister, and so I heard that that was the case, that it that's just how it happens, and so I thought I just let, I just I didn't think there was anything I per se had to do mentally or physically.

10:32 - Leila (Host)

But I did start trying to get tampon on and you know what I expressed in my previous discussion about my own experience that, properly, here we are, just like trying to walk around limping you know, really does a lot of sexualization in our society, and so even with a tampon right Like this is a term that we hear all the time and I think for me, and I think it was probably the case for most of us South Asian Muslims born and raised here, but our families tried to maintain sort of the cultural respect that they from previous generations right. So we're, we're dealing, we're kids of immigrants who immigrated here, and what do immigrants tend to do? They try. They either totally assimilate into society or they try to hold on to their culture. And I think for us, we were raised very similarly. We were how our culture was held on. It was, it was believed. It's no, it's surprised to anyone that culturally in Pakistan and in Muslim countries, like, sex is not discussed, periods are not discussed, health care is not really discussed, and so you're supposed to not even interact with men. And then, all of a sudden, you're getting into a situation where you hit 30 and your parents are now like why aren't you getting married? This is what this was.

11:42

The frustration that I think most of us had was like, okay, we're not even supposed to even look in that direction, and then we get to a situation where we you know we're we're in a situation where we waited to have sex for marriage, and then we're in the situation where we should be having sex. Right Like we, we envisioned this great moment. You hear about all the great orgasms people have, all the pleasure, the connection you get with your husband when you do, and it doesn't happen. And this is a very typical situation where I have patients that come to me in a similar way as I did. Was you set up this great honeymoon situation and it doesn't happen and it just and it was baffling. Right Like you and I are both edgy and it's it crosses all socioeconomic backgrounds and educational backgrounds, because you and I are both. You know advanced degrees, you know I'm a doctor, you're a PhD like this is something that we all think that you know shouldn't happen to educated women. Right Like I think that's the biggest shocker.

12:37

I always feel like, oh, my God, I mean, I'm an actual gynecologist and I suffer from this and I should be able to doubt what that on my own. But I think you know this is a big issue is, like you think, like it's just supposed to slide in and it's just supposed to happen. And when it doesn't, because your body has an involuntary reaction to the potential pain of penetration and some of that can be due to just you know, like, the historical shaming around it and how we shouldn't close your legs, don't insert anything inside of there, blah, blah, blah that we all grew up with. And then you're in a situation where you want to have sex with your husband, and this is something you've waited for. Us like to learn our 30s to do, and other people are doing it when they're teenagers and we heard about it as teenagers. Right, like it was one of these things. I think that was a big shock to most of our systems. Like, wow, like why is this not so easy? Like, why is this not happening?

13:44 - Dr. Rahman (Host)

Right.

13:49 - Speaker 2 (Host)

Yeah, no, absolutely it was, and I think that's what delayed, like it took me. I was shocked and then and then, and then there's the guilt that I felt for for my ex or my husband at the time, just being like shit, I ruined this for him too and like. So I'm like carrying all this guilt and I thought, I thought that it would still just happen, because I heard these, you know these stories, and I just prolonged it. I think it was up until about a year into it, my sister had said oh, you know, I watched something on TLC called Strange Sex and I think what you have is something called vaginismus. And so I watched the episode and there was.

14:36

It was about a Muslim woman and I just felt her pain because she wasn't able to. At the end she did pelvic floor therapy and she she ended up she really wanted to get pregnant, and so that was the story. I wanted to. I wanted it. This is holding me back from getting pregnant and having a family, and I'm denying my husband of this, this opportunity and stuff. And I didn't really get into. You know, I reached out to, to, to Samina, I reached out to you after that episode I don't remember exactly when cause then that's when you told me about, like vaginismuscom, and then the resources there, the book and the the practice guide and the dilators and stuff and I don't remember exactly.

15:23 - Speaker 4 (Host)

I think after watching that video from TLC or the Strange Sex, I just thought it would happen still. I don't know what it's like when you have a just sat with it and talk about anxiety with patients Sometimes I call them brain hiccups we get these intrusive thoughts that you can't shut down.

15:40 - Leila (Host)

It's the same thing. Like you have this intrusive thought, probably, that this is going to hurt, or you know you're historically told not to be even be doing this, you know. But now you can cause it's in the context of marriage and all this stuff and all of a sudden your body just responds in its own way Right, and so I think that's what people just imagine at some point. You know I'm just going to relax. At some point this relaxation will hit and patients that have like anxiety or underlying other biological situations can have worsening vaginismus If they're on hormonal stuff like birth control pills. I'm going to talk about how that might affect the pain at the opening. You know, in one of the episodes you know giving someone provoked vestibulodinia which then can lead to vaginismus. But for most of us I think that had not been on anything and no other precluding factors.

16:28

It's really sort of this staunch shame around sex that we've always grown up with and I think that at some point you think you know I'm not, I don't feel the shame anymore. I'm brave, I'm going to do this. I talked to my first episode about like is are you brave or are you shameless for coming on my podcast, which I'll ask you later but but that's something we all grapple with Right. Like is this brave to talk about? It? Is this shameless? This is the culture that we have, you know it's, it's, it's not like, it's not prevalent in other cultures and I think the purity cultures is kind of, you know, throughout many, many religions and cultures. But I think you're, you're not, you're not wrong in that you feel like at some point and that's why people wait so long to seek help is that, you know, at some point, my body's just going to relax, it's just going to like happen for me, you know.

17:12

You know sex just happens for people, but it has to be a very active process. You know like it has to be and and and you have to come to terms with it too, right, you have to say like okay, I'm ready to do it, and that that, I think, takes patients a little bit longer. Right, because at some point, you realize it's not going to happen on its own, and I think that's when patients will come and seek medical attention, either with physical therapy, gynecology, whatever. You know primary provider that you have, and I don't know if, at what moment, you felt that way that you need to do something other than just like it's just going to happen. You have to go through that whole desensitization process that I spoke about, and I think that's what a lot.

17:53

That's what precludes a lot of people from getting help. And then the shame around it, right, like am I? I'm a 30 something year old patient and I can't have sex on like 15 year old. That's what's something my patients tell me all the time. Like I've seen teenagers having sex and I can't and I feel like an idiot, you know. So I know that aspect also prevents patients from coming forward earlier, until it becomes one of these things where it's affecting your relationship, quality of life, your desire to conceive all of that stuff, and that's what the big impetus usually is. So you can tell me what you felt, layla, like, what did you feel and what was the turning point for you to say like I need to get real help. And thank you so much. You know I know this is very emotional for you. It's affected your it. I would move to say that obviously, other things have probably affected your relationship and your life, but I think this had a big impact on you in a lot of ways, and you can tell us about that if you want.

18:50 - Speaker 2 (Host)

Wow, yeah, so this is a heavy question and part of the reason I'm going in.

18:57 - Leila (Host)

Yeah, yeah, absolutely no. This is something we're going to battle all the time.

19:09 - Speaker 2 (Host)

We can't hold the shame of time, yeah, of course Don't feel bad about yourself and I'd like to I just preface that it's heavy. Maybe I'm prefaceing it to myself because it also makes me look bad that I didn't prioritize. Yeah, yeah, yeah, appreciate that, samina. So I didn't my priority at the time I was pursuing my PhD and then I was exhausted when I came home and I just I didn't want to put in the extra work or I just didn't have the energy to try to make something work, because every time we tried it would be really heavy emotionally and just take a lot of energy, and we tried, you know, as I know, I'm a practicing Muslim, but we even tried alcohol.

20:07

I was like you know, let me try to get drunk, maybe that'll do something. That's what we tried actually on the wedding, not the wedding night, but the day after.

20:14 - Speaker 4 (Host)

I was like okay, let me.

20:16 - Speaker 2 (Host)

So here I am now trying to drink, and I've never drunk, had alcohol. I mean, I may have had like a sip here and there, but I never had drunk enough to get buzzed. And so here I am now, like trying to get buzzed at the same time. So two experiences that are both very jarring, and it didn't work. All I did was get sick and throw up, but as far as how long it took, it just it became a comfort to not have to try. And I saw that that my husband wasn't was was somehow doing okay and still wanted to be married to me If he, if he like in that TLC video, the strange sex video I saw, the husband was a bit more like I want to have sex.

21:00

That you know he had. They made it a priority, like not just priority, but he was very aggressive, in my opinion, about it. In the video that I walked. But my ex wasn't like that, my husband wasn't like that. So I wasn't getting any pressure. So I was like huh, I'll just kind of let this. You know how we do with other things in our marriages. I'll just kind of let this go on. It wasn't until like I don't know. I mean I was, I don't even want to remember maybe four, four years into marriage, three, four years, four years, probably when? So there's a lot of complications in my story, but one of them was that I discovered that my husband was a sex addict and so like oh addicted to porn.

21:47 - Speaker 4 (Host)

And so I was like oh well, you know, that makes sense. That's why he's not having sex with me.

21:52 - Leila (Host)

Because he's you know, watching all this porn.

21:54 - Speaker 2 (Host)

And it wasn't. You know that's a whole other episode, but it wasn't just. Oh, he's watching porn. It was a little, you know it's an addiction.

22:01 - Speaker 4 (Host)

you know sex addiction and you know he was very supportive.

22:04 - Leila (Host)

And.

22:04

I think that's important to say because I find it varies. The majority of the patients that I see that are similar to us. I think most of their spouses are pretty supportive when I find that you know they're either arranged in marriage or not. You know, fully comfortable with them when men start getting affected by it. You know, a lot of times when you have unconsummated marriages, a secondary impact is erectile dysfunction, and you know the old phrase of impotence, but erectile dysfunction comes with that, or premature ejaculation, particularly in patients that you know maybe you're both, you know virginal at the time, you know we'll say virginal but haven't had coitarchy, and so I think that that's important to note that, you know, because it isn't just a you problem, right, it's, it's, it's a relationship thing, right, like it's a relationship thing.

22:51

And so is it possible that you know things would have gotten better if he had pushed you more. You know we don't know these things, right, we don't know. But you know these things kind of evolve on their own and it seems like, at the very least, he didn't pressure you and he was supportive of you and then dealing with his own problems at the same time, which is which is very, you know, much the case for most couples, I think. So that's not abnormal to hear. But yeah, I mean, you know, four years into it that means that your muscles are probably that much more hypertonic that the degree of anxiety of penetration becomes that much worse. I mean, I think the most, the patient I've taken care of the longest amount of time that didn't wasn't able to consummate was 11 years into her marriage.

23:40 - Speaker 2 (Host)

But it's the same thing, yes, yeah, that was another thing in my marriage.

24:06 - Speaker 4 (Host)

As our parents are getting older, we have, as we get older, caregiving for our parents as well. A lot of insipid things.

24:13 - Speaker 2 (Host)

So you're just in all these roles and you're still, you know. So. I had other distractions at the graduate school and then caregiving for parents. Yeah, so yeah.

24:27 - Leila (Host)

You know, I know we talked for a while about it and I think that the big thing is, like you, know you have to come to the terms with it and try to you know. It's all about self-advocacy at the end right.

24:40 - Speaker 4 (Host)

And so, whenever you were ready, that was the best time for you to go right. Maybe you were kind of, maybe you were kind of mushed up as far as vaginine, you're studying for your finals, and so it takes time to overcome vaginism.

24:52 - Leila (Host)

You can't do it overnight, especially if you've had it for four years, and so I think that that's an important factor is that life happens to us and that's a lot of times put on the back burner, and I think that, you know, once we realize we need to get this solved, then I think that's when you know we can start advocating for ourselves.

25:12

But with regard to what you said about using the alcohol, it's not uncommon for patients to do that honestly, and I remember so many of my patients being told from other doctors like, oh, just have some wine and it'll happen. You know, and, like you said, these are like a lot of these are, you know, very religious patients or whatever, and they come to me appalled like, can you believe? The last doctor told me just to have some wine, relax, and it'll happen, because that was the old adage. Like people, especially the ones that are not experts in the area, don't know how to do it, they don't know the right way to tell patients, to get help or to find a physical therapist, but I think that what you're saying is normal.

25:49

for a lot of the patients that I hear that I take care of, I would say common, or common than you expect.

26:01 - Dr. Rahman (Host)

Yeah, yes.

26:04 - Leila (Host)

Yeah, yes, both things have been raised all your life not to want to do right. Yeah, wow.

26:13 - Speaker 2 (Host)

I didn't realize that. Yeah, yeah, and it adds another layer of anxiety because you've never drunk before. So, like here you are doing something new with something new.

26:28 - Leila (Host)

Yeah, yeah.

26:31 - Speaker 2 (Host)

And you know I had to. I know the word codependence is. There's like a word protependence instead of codependence. It's not used as much melody BD like her book about codependent. No more Like that. But I was very codependent as I defined myself.

26:50

And so it really took until my husband at the time, you know, until he said he had an addiction we went through the discovery phase of it and he started and that was, you know, it didn't just happen linearly, like it was like all ups, fits and starts, but when he's actually started going into therapy he's like let's get you a therapist too. And I'm like sure you know, like, oh, you're ready, let me let me. You know, like there were no decisions that I was, there was something else going on with me, that I was just completely dependent, and I don't know whether it's religious or a me thing or whatever, but like I just I was deferring completely to his. But I'm grateful that in a weird way, that that, that the addiction came out, because that's when I started going to a sex therapist and then I always wanted to actually like.

27:42 - Leila (Host)

that's when I started to help you on some capacity.

27:44 - Speaker 2 (Host)

Really talking to you more about it? I think it may have mentioned it earlier needed and then so you basically, you know, corroborated with the, with the same purpose, as you say.

27:59 - Leila (Host)

Yeah.

28:04 - Dr. Rahman (Host)

Yeah.

28:08 - Speaker 2 (Host)

Yeah, I remember asking you about her. I was like, hey, do you know, like if? Then you look, I think you looked her up or something, but you're like, you gave me a thumbs up and like and so, and then she said which is you said as well, but you know, I I these were like sessions, I was like having regularly with her. I started meeting her weekly yeah.

28:30

And I had started as a partner of an addict. But and then you know, uncovering the vaginismus stuff as well. And and she said you know, pelvic floor therapy, I'll write you a prescription for it, and you know. And so then they started going to a pelvic floor therapist. Finally, like four years into my marriage, you know.

28:49

And and then there's another twist in the story Because because ultimately, you know, I think the pelvic floor therapy confirmed, because I thought I always in the back of my head, still thought, you know, although I was getting the the talk therapy, I always thought that I I was somehow making it up still. And so the pelvic floor right, we don't believe it. And so the pelvic floor therapist confirmed. She's like no, this muscle is really tight. We have to, like you know, relax and massage this muscle. And I was like, oh my God, it's real.

29:25

And then she even, like you know, linked me up to I don't know if it was a, what type of machine they look you up to, but like to be able to see the contraction, yeah. So so I was able to see how, how tense the muscle was and I was like, oh wow, this is real, not just I'm not making it up. And then, you know, with the dilation, with the talk therapy, with, with practicing the dilators, whatever I started coming to to terms and I was getting excited about things. And then it wasn't just a point.

29:59 - Speaker 4 (Host)

I don't know how it happened, it was always there in the back of my story somewhere, but I just I never, as I started becoming more able to, to receive my husband you have to work with the muscles.

30:12 - Speaker 2 (Host)

By the way, he's really big, so this was like not only.

30:16 - Speaker 4 (Host)

And cause it was, you know, maybe to get penetration, but it was like from.

30:19 - Dr. Rahman (Host)

Like you know, there's issues around the vestibule which I'll talk about it.

30:23 - Leila (Host)

The point of vulvar vestibule, which is the opening of the vulva. But I mean there's multiple potential biologic factors involved. But what we're dealing with, I think, is this involuntary muscle contraction over and over again, and so you were able to have successful consummation at some point. And so you were able to have successful consummation at some point.

30:56 - Speaker 2 (Host)

Regular sex, yeah, I was, I was, and as we started, you know doing, you know, having having more, you know sex, yeah, regular sex, and it wasn't, you know, but it was just, first of all, the first time. It was more like it wasn't even about orgasm, it was just like so exciting because it happened, I know, like you know, and and and, but then, as, as we got more into, as he, as he got more into his recovery and I got more into, you know get, you know the pelvic floor therapy et cetera.

31:36

I started. I just started wondering about my own sexual orientation. I remember being exactly when the first thought that I allowed to happen. I don't know, I don't. To me it feels like these thoughts were they. They surfaced, but it's not like I was depressing them my whole life. That's my experience with them, but I was. I remember being in the shower and being like what if I'm not sexually attracted to men? And I just at the time I used to wear a lesbian. I now identify as bisexual.

32:13

You're just that that's how I sell. You know label myself. It can mean many things, but but I said, what if I'm not attracted to men?

32:22

And so there was a period of like whatever several months to a year, where here's my husband getting into recovery and I'm like a mess, like I felt like, yeah, like the first time I, I thought of that and I just tried to push it away and we he was the first one I told he's been, he's my best friend even now, and he was the first one I told and we both thought, you know, we're naive, we thought we could work around this, you know, somehow, because we didn't I neither of us identified me as being, you know, queer, so like I was like okay, well, you know, maybe this is just a symptom. Whatever, we worked with that same sex therapist that was mine and she was our couples therapist not couples, but couples sex therapy for a while as well.

33:12

We were also doing couples therapy. We're doing all sorts of therapy. He'd him individual, me sex therapist, us doing couples sex therapy, us doing couples therapy. And no matter what, though, as as our, our emotional bond grew stronger because we had grown distant because of the addiction and, of course, not having physical intimacy, that that was the other part of this confusing journey. It's such a such a weird story. I wouldn't have you know. I look at it now from a distance and it's like if somebody told me this, I would be like, no, that's not a real story, but anyway, so so he was ultimately very supportive in that, ultimately, we got a divorce, and he I liked the analogy that that we said we it was with, that it was in that sex therapist's office, that it was June of 2020. And we said that we're not going to be together anymore.

34:12

And but we'll, we'll continue living together till the end of the year as best friends and you know, just then there was no pressure for intimacy or any of that stuff. But it's weird that we ended up making that decision with the sex therapist and not in the couple's therapist's office. I don't know how that, but it kind of makes sense based on the journey of vaginismus and stuff and the sex.

34:38

but we, we made that decision and he's, if he, wasn't so supportive of of me, you know he was my first, support for, like, in terms of, if we can't have all four legs of the table, we have the, the friendship, the love, the caring I don't know what that third leg is, but you know like but we don't have the fourth intimacy legs. So we deserve that. Each of us individually deserves that. So we ended up filing for divorce at the end of 2020. And then I moved on and started discovering myself as a woman and that that raises I know I'll pause, but I know that raises a whole bunch of questions. Thank you so much. You're really like, was it?

35:25 - Speaker 4 (Host)

the vaginismus. Does anybody does that mean you're queer? Is that me? A couple of things I wanted to highlight about your journey.

35:31 - Leila (Host)

Number one is that vaginismus treatment and everybody's is individual In my case, all of that is really a multi disciplinary treatment, right, like you have to usually get seen by, you know, a clinician, as well as couples therapy usually is involved, sex therapy usually is involved, pelvic therapy usually is involved and it's a very much, like I said, a bio, psychosocial approach, right? So we have to analyze all the aspects and that's what we know happens for for especially, you know, women and sexuality. Is that the by a lot? The biology is there. There's hormones involved. There might be, you know, medications you're taking that affect you? There might be, you know, underlying anxiety or the site comes involved and how that affects your pelvic floor, makes you hyper tonic. And then, and then there's the social aspects. Right, there's the issue around, you know, were you, did you miss cues when you were growing up? That you know, maybe you weren't solely attracted to, to, you know, men, or was it that? Or you know. Then there's this issue around, you know, did vaginismus, you know, scare you from penetration? I definitely have patients who feel that way that they think that they were just so fearful of penetration. The idea just was like, not anything they ever wanted. And then, you know, they realized they have more of a connection with you know, same sex people. Whatever the case may be.

36:51

Everyone's journey is different and I think that you know your response was what you could do for yourself, and you did self advocate for yourself. And that's the next point I want to make is that we my whole point in educating, and I think your point in coming out, is that we need to be able to advocate for ourselves as women, because the government's not going to do it for us. The many doctors won't do it for you, many clinicians, pt's, whatever they're they're patients out there that don't get the help they need because they don't know how to get it, and a lot of that is lack of education, but also just not being able to advocate for yourself. So the fact that you came forward and advocated for yourself is wonderful and it's helped you with your journey.

37:35

Now you know people might look at this and say, oh, vaginismus caused her to get a divorce, vaginismus caused her to. Those are not. You know these, these are correlations, they're not causations. Right, like this may be contributed, everything contributes to something, but none of it is the root cause, right? So? But you know, I know that's one of the reasons you came out as well is that you wanted this information to be out there for people, for people to understand that everyone's journey is unique and that you know what it may be that you're speaking out in the way that you have might help, and I think that's the whole point that you you were willing to come on my podcast is that maybe if I speak out, then I'm going to help someone either save their marriage or realize you know where they are on the spectrum of sexuality, whatever the case may be right.

38:43 - Speaker 2 (Host)

Yeah, there's two things that came out when, or two thoughts that came up while you were speaking. So, absolutely, you have to advocate for yourself in that list of folks that won't advocate for you, often it's your family and friends, and it's not you know, it's because they're like I had.

38:59 - Speaker 4 (Host)

So many times you were one of the few people who understood.

39:03 - Speaker 2 (Host)

That's why I was like thank goodness, like that, understood that I wasn't just doing this to be cool or to be like I mean, that's such a juvenile word, I'm trying to think of the appropriate but anyway, I wasn't just doing this to to like, be selfish and like you know.

39:22

But there were people because we did this, you know, this is also another story, but we did that exercises is to call your family members and your friends, the ones that you're close to together, and tell them that you're getting a divorce and so forth, and the folks that you know.

39:40

Those were some painful calls, you know, but as so as I was talking to people through those calls and then afterwards whatever, but like, so I was reaching out to, as I was reaching out to family and friends, they were trying to, I know they were being protective, but they were like you know, this is a big stake. I was in my early forties and, you know, married to a great guy, and so they were like are you sure I've never seen this in you? And I was like well, neither have I, you know. But they're like is this, you know, your therapist that's trying to do this, is this, is this like? You know, where did you get this idea? I have a sister who's a, who's a lesbian, and even she was protective and was like I don't know this about you?

40:25

Where is this coming from? So, yeah, family and friends are in that circle of people that can. They're just in their own trauma about, because your trauma is also. Nobody, people who love you don't want to see you sad, so they're not ready. They're grieving too. They're, you know, they're grieving with us for the, for the marriage.

40:45

There was one more thing about the marriage and people thinking because that I think early on when you discover you have aginismus and you're like shit, but then I don't want to divorce and I don't want to be, I don't want to be queer and I don't want to divorce Like you know those, but I hope my story isn't, isn't that? Because I was, I worked my ass off to to, and so did my, my then husband, to to make this work. So I very much support healthy, beautiful relationships, whether they're marriages or or partnerships or whatever. So, but after we made the decision to be a three legged table or to be a four legged, I see that each of us is, is happy, is. There's a certain joy in, in our lightness. I feel light. I'm not saying I don't grieve my marriage still, but there's, there's a me that that's now free and I wouldn't, I wouldn't trade that. I don't regret at all my, my, what's my path and being married to him at all. Just, it was part of my life and it brought me to.

41:50 - Leila (Host)

I think that's a great way to end our discussion so.

41:53 - Speaker 4 (Host)

Layla, I would not trade that for being in something that's called, you know a relationship that would ultimately be there to to please others or to feel like I had to fit a certain role, and he's not always the case, but he's still in my life.

42:08 - Dr. Rahman (Host)

I'm still in his life. Very cautious, because you know he's seen someone right now.

42:12 - Speaker 2 (Host)

I was seeing somebody for a while too.

42:14 - Speaker 4 (Host)

And we don't want to like you know it wasn't in that way, but we're still friends.

42:18 - Leila (Host)

Money and understanding you know all the aspects that have contributed to how we respond to you know, society and our expectations. You know this is all part of just, I think I think growing up in some ways. You know you get, you get kind of like your midlife and your forties and you realize like I'm going to live life on my terms and I'm going to do this my way and I think that's great and I feel that that's most women, when they hit their midlife, are like they have no f's left to give, for lack of a better term. You know, like it's like I've done everything. You know other people's way or whatever way, and now this is gonna be my way. So I'm very grateful for you to come out and talk about your journey. I know it's not easy, I know it's difficult to relive it and I really appreciate you and you know maybe we'll have you back for Discussion around. You know the sexual spectrum and when I have a talk around that.

43:10 - Speaker 2 (Host)

Thank you so much, samina. I'm so grateful that you're doing this. It's it's, it's wonderful, thank you.

43:17 - Leila (Host)

We have to educate to advocate right. So we need to educate people to advocate, help them advocate for themselves.

43:22 - Speaker 2 (Host)

Wonderful. Thank you so much.

43:25 - Leila (Host)

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43:46 - Dr. Rahman (Host)

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43:56 - Leila (Host)

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44:01 - Dr. Rahman (Host)

Additionally.

44:02 - Leila (Host)

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