Shelby Had first started experiencing the symptoms at the age of 14, said her complaints were dismissed by different doctors.
A 25-year-old filmmaker whose work explores issues of gender and identity open about her personal experience with a painful pelvic floor condition that has prevented her ever having sex. Shelby, whose short animated film Tightly Wound is based on an essay she wrote, she said at first that something might be wrong at the age of 14.
They had said she was in “excruciating stabbing pain” the first time that they had tried inserting a tampon, and that they are not able to use up to the age of 21. She was eventually diagnosed with vaginismus, which is characterized by involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles that tighten the entrance of the vagina, pain, penetration problems, and inability to have intercourse.
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In her film, she documents numerous trips to the doctor and failed relationships. For the most Had the adolescence, she claims that doctors told her to just relax and friends told her to try drinking alcohol to help. Speak Refinery29, Had requested “some doctors refused to examine me, because I was not sexually active.”
Instead of being given support and understanding, Had alleged she was “a lot of bad advice and little empathy.”
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Not only was she met with a lack of knowledge of doctors and friends, but they said that they also faced scrutiny of the male partners.
“Here I was – literally, figuratively, completely naked – to tell of him and trust him with my deepest, most personal and painful secret,” Had called a partner. “He laughed me in my face.”
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Had said that the lack of understanding of the men has an impact on the way in which she approaches dating.
“Vaginismus is the reason why I never had a relationship, fell in love, or ever had sex,” she said.
Had undergoing pelvic floor therapy for a year, and discusses the pain of “rejected for a part of yourself that you work so hard to change” in her animated film.
Her film was chosen to be screened at the Athens International Film & Video Festival and the Nashville Film Festival in May.