She Couldn’t Have Sex, Interview with Tasniya PART 2

Tasniya Continues Discussing Suffering from Vaginismus  

 In the blog “Her Body Says No to Sex,” Umm Zakiyyah gives a brief introduction to the condition vaginismus, which is described by Drs. Ditza Katz and Ross Lynn Tabisel in their book Private Pain: Understanding Vaginismus & Dyspareunia as “a panic attack in the vagina,” which is often triggered by cultural upbringings that teach girls that sexuality and female and male genitalia are sources of shame and “dirtiness.”

In the first part of this interview, Tasniya Sultana, a 23-year-old Muslim woman, discusses how vaginismus prevented her and her husband from having sex for more than one and a half years. She continues to discuss her struggle in PART 2. (Read PART 1 here.)

UZ: If a woman believes she’s suffering from this condition, what advice would you give her?

woman's face pink drawing2TS: If you believe you hare suffering from this condition, please know that you are not alone. Please know that Allah (SWT) has not abandoned you and He is listening to every prayer and every tear of yours. Keep making du’aa to Him and He will bring ease in you and your family’s hearts. Also know that there is a name for this condition (vaginismus) and there is a cure. Alhamdulillah, I got cured by going to the Women’s Therapy Center (www.womentc.com) and so have others. The hardest thing is to take that first step and seek help. But the doctors there are so amazing and so understanding. Alhamdulillah, they have changed my life and they can help you too insha’Allah. Trust in Allah (SWT) and reach out to them! They can help. In the mean time, there is a book called Private Pain by Ditza Katz and Ross Tabisel. They are the doctors who helped me and they wrote this book. You can get it on Amazon and read more information and stories about sufferers who went through this!

UZ: What can parents do to prevent this from happening to their daughters?

TS: I think parents need to educate their children about their bodies in a healthy manner. They should also be open about topics such as menses, intercourse, wet dreams, etc. I believe that one of the main reasons I had vaginismus is because of my lack of understanding my body. I never knew what my vagina looked like until I went to the clinic. When the doctors asked me look in the mirror and see what my vagina looks like, I literally had a panic attack. However, I needed to go through that. After that, I came home and looked at my vagina for a couple of minutes a day just to show myself that it really isn’t a big deal and this is a part of my body just like my eyes, nose, and mouth are.

Therefore, when I have children insha’Allah, I am going to have these conversations about the genitalia, and ‘taboo’ topics that are not discussed in the Muslim family. I believe that education truly empowers a person—even when it comes to their body. Once I understood my body and I was able to get over the fear and negative feelings associated with the vagina, I felt much more liberated and slowly I got better alhamdulillah.

UZ: How can husbands help their wives overcome this condition?

TS: The biggest thing a husband can do is be patient with his wife. Do NOT force her to have intercourse because that will just make things worse. Alhamdulillah, my husband was really patient with me and never complained or regretted that he does not have a ‘normal’ marriage. That kept me strong and helped me fight through vaginismus. So be patient, ask Allah (SWT) to help you through this, and understand that this is NOT your wife’s fault and she is NOT doing it on purpose. Wives will already feel guilty and ashamed for not being able to have intercourse and the worst thing a husband can do is to make them feel more guilty on top of that. So please be patient, if not for her, then for the sake of Allah (SWT).

UZ: What can Muslim communities and masjids do to help sufferers overcome this condition, given that they may never know who is suffering specifically?

TS: Again, I believe the number one thing that Muslim communities and masajids must do is to educate themselves and others. Before I knew about vaginismus, I went to an Imam and told him about my condition. I asked him if other women had the same issues. He said they did and that because intercourse is new for me, I am having a hard time with it. [He also said] Insha’Allah if we try it a couple of more times, I will be able to get over it. MaashaAllah, he was a very nice Imam and may Allah bless and preserve him for being caring towards me. However, I did not have intercourse after trying couple of times. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t have intercourse for more than a year and a half.

Therefore, Muslim communities first need to educate themselves and acknowledge the fact that there is something called vaginismus and it affects many women regardless of age, race, or religion. And Imams especially need to know about vaginismus and know about the Women’s Therapy Center in NY so that they can point couples to the right direction insha’Allah.

I also believe that our khutbah topics need to be focused more on taboo topics such as vaginismus, domestic violence, or alcohol and drug abuse, so that we can create more awareness. Jummah [the Friday prayer] is the few time that many Muslims gather at one place so we need to seriously make use of that time by spreading awareness and giving resources that can guide the ummah insha’Allah.

UZ: What are some mistakes that friends, family, and Muslims do to worsen the condition for sufferers in your experience?

TS: People really need to be sensitive about topics like pregnancy and children. After I got married, one of the first things that people in my community asked me was about having children. I know they mean no harm but for someone who was suffering from vaginismus, it was a blow for me. Every time I used to go to the masjid, the sisters would ask me about children and whether I am trying to have children. I would come home in tears every single time because a part of me felt like I could not have children due to vaginismus. I felt more isolated, depressed, and out of place. So I would highly recommend if people would be more mindful when they ask such questions. Honestly, it is the couple’s business whether they will have children or not and when they will have children. I wish people would stop nagging married couples because we never know what someone is truly going through.

I also realized that people got surprised when I finally opened up about my condition. Instead of being empathetic and understanding, I had people ask me things like “Are you sure this is real?” Again, when someone asks things like this, it reinforces in the sufferers mind that they are just an odd ball because they have something that others don’t. Do you ever ask a cancer patient if cancer is real? I bet not.

UZ: Other than professional help, in your experience, what are some things that are most helpful in helping your recover?

TS: The main thing that was helpful in my recovery was making du’aa to Allah (SWT). Whenever I felt like the world did not understand me or misunderstood me, I could find solace in Him. Allah truly guided and helped us through this. He gave patience in my husband’s heart and gave me strength to endure the pain. Alhamdulillah, I am truly grateful that Allah SWT gave me vaginismus because I learned so much from it.

UZ: Do you believe full recovery is possible? If so, how? If not, why not?

TS: Absolutely! Alhamdulillah, I am fully recovered! Anyone who goes through the treatment are also fully recovered! I can have intercourse without any problem, I can use a tampon of any size, I can use spacers, and I can have a gynecology exam without freaking out! Allahu Akbar [God is the Greatest]!

UZ: What do you hope readers will learn from your experience?

TS:I hope readers will understand that there is something called vaginismus and it is real. If you or a family member or friend is going through this, know that there is help. Please visit www.womentc.com to learn more about vaginismus and the Women’s Therapy Center. I hope that readers understand that it is not the sufferers fault for having this and the best thing they can do is to be empathetic, non-judgmental, and patient with the sufferer.

To learn more about vaginismus and other female sexual health issues, visit the website for Women’s Therapy Center at womentc.com or read Private Pain: Understanding Vaginismus & Dyspareunia by Ditza Katz, PT, Ph.D. and Ross Lynn Tabisel, LCSW, Ph.D.

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