Testimonio desde San Francisco

This is the story of Callista Jane, a fashion stylist from San Francisco who spent 10 years living with undiagnosed sexual pain.

When Callista first tried to use a tampon aged 12, she experienced a searing pain at the opening of her vulva. For years after that, even while she was sitting down or going about her day she would experience a burning sensation between her legs. When she touched her vulva, she says the pain was much more intense and it felt like she was being cut. I personally resonate with her story, I remember when I tried to use a tampon for the first time, it hurt like hell as well.

Callista finally worked up the courage to talk to a doctor about it when she was in her 20s. They did an examination and said she looked perfectly normal and that the pain must be psychological. So she went to see a counsellor, who told her the same thing.

As she got older, it became even harder to deal with.

“When I was in my mid-20s I met someone amazing and we fell in love and we got a place together by the beach,” says Callista. “We had sky lights in the kitchen, a piano and a big dining table where we hosted dinner parties… It was the life I always dreamed of. We talked about marriage… but there was always a ‘but’. ‘When we had sex it was excruciating. I either had to black out and leave my body, or get really drunk to endure it. When you’re with someone who loves you very much, it’s horrible. He couldn’t accept it.” Eventually Callista and her boyfriend broke up. “It was the saddest thing ever. I was heartbroken.”

The pain wasn’t just affecting her relationship. It made her depressed, distracted her at work and damaged her relationship with her parents. Counsellors said the pain may have been linked to the fact that her parents were religious, so Callista started to blame them. Eight years later and after seeing 20 different doctors, Callista finally found herself in front of a specialist who told her she had congenital neuroproliferative vestibulodynia. It meant she was born with 30 times the normal amount of nerve endings in the opening of her vagina – and she was able to have surgery to cure it. Callista was able to have pain free sex for the first time in her life.

“What I want the most in the whole world, is for young women who are up against this to know that there is a language for their issue, it’s not some mysterious, imagined thing. It’s real,” she says. “I want every young girl and woman to know it’s not her fault and that she isn’t the only one.”

Pame Clynes