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“Let's talk about sex”

Here we are living in a society where sex, drugs and rock and roll are easily accessible. To indulge in pleasurable activities you can Spotify a bit of Rock ‘n roll, just have a stroll in Amsterdam to get stoned and I’ve lost count of the amount of services or apps that we can use when you have an itch (Swipe, swipe, swipe)

It’s almost normal to think that we can create our “best” lives and that as an eligible bachelor/rette having sex shouldn’t be a problem, with or without the connection.

But in a fast culture where some expect to sleep with someone after the third date, a culture where we fake an orgasm, take Viagra to last longer and so on, it feels as if the uncomfortable topics are swept under the rug...where are the voices of those who find sex more difficult than others?

So here I am…stepping out of my comfort zone and writing for the first time about a topic that lies very close to my heart.

Vaginism(us). A word that only a few of us know and a lot of us will say “vaginawhat?”. 

“Vaginismus is the body's automatic reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration.” Or “Vaginismus, sometimes called vaginism, is a condition that affects a woman's ability to engage in vaginal penetration, including sexual intercourse, manual penetration, insertion of tampons or menstrual cups, and the penetration involved in gynaecological examinations”

Vaginism has been part of my story that has shaped me in various ways but as it’s not always been a Salt-N- Pepa era it’s a story I have been very selective to share.

On a daily basis I speak to people about the social pressures in and outside the dating world. While staring at those picture-perfect online profiles I sometimes wonder what makes us forget that we can’t really see what’s playing beneath the surface.

I’m certain that there are tons of stories out there with different experiences and while I have been procrastinating on this blog the BBC covered the subject this week (see link below).

Personally I saw it as a sign for me to finish what I started and to reach out a hand to those who need it. As in this crazy world where we weirdly strive to create perfectionism within the imperfect, let me overshare and make people aware that things aren’t always as straight forward at it seems.

So for those who don’t know me let’s start with introducing you to my younger self:

Audrey; a geeky but beautiful, goody two shoes and a hopeless romantic.

The younger version of me started her love life full of hope and dreams. How I “kind of” remember the first time I met my first real boyfriend.  I was extremely drunk and honestly I think anyone could have kissed me on the night that I met him (but let’s not tell him that). A drunken night kissing this stranger seems to have been the base ingredients for me to fall in love and to start a serious relationship.

This boy, or at the time I would have called him a “man”, loved me deeply. He was kind, loving and patient enough to wait until I was ready. 

As I was a hopeless romantic I had made up some rules and I would only sleep with someone if I was in a serious relationship, so to put our seriousness to the test he likely waited for three months or so.

When the big night was there I remember lying there on a single mattress, next to an ashtray filled with cigarettes (ash everywhere…yes romantic) feeling nervous and excited as YESSS I was about to enter a new adult stage in life: having sex…yes the glorious sex like in the movies.

The moment was there… he was about to enter the building…“Is it in?” “No?… what about now?” “No…” “Now?” “No”  Hmmm.

The doors were shut. Not just a little bit shut but on lock down. Even if I mentally thought that they were wide open, my vagina said something completely different. Luckily for me there was no pain but just some penis slapping against a closed door.

I was sixteen at the time and the relationship lasted 10 months. 10 months was a lifetime for me and our break up was a real high school drama with heartbreak, snot, tears and me temporarily going insane but the reason (as far as I know) wasn’t about the lack of penetration.

Without me knowing what was going on I continued my dating life and the next decade I met quite a few great guys who would wait and wait and wait and wait and wait until hell froze over. (Yes, really!)

I did however knock both the confidence of a lovely guy and more importantly my own as the big question remained unanswered. What is going in on?  Questions were raised, and arguments started with “why don’t you feel safe with me?”, “what’s wrong with you?” and “how are you ever going to have a normal relationship?”

Words are powerful, and my inner critic didn’t let me forget. Over time it made me fearful and I almost cursed my younger self for being a prude at times, as what if I called this upon myself?

Luckily over the years I was always able to speak to my amazing mum and as you can’t miss what you don’t know I considered myself a “special case”.

Then I met a boy who I reallllly liked and I build up the courage to finally go and speak to my GP. This was likely one of the weirdest visits I had to the doctor. Thank god that in those days there were still family GPs who knew you for most of your life. That said, our relationship was doomed when he got the gloves out (but let me spare you those details.) Technically he didn’t know what was going on and I was referred to a sex therapist just in case it was psychological. 

Not to be silly, but I remember almost skipping in, and out, of her office as I was so loved up at the time and I really wanted this to work.

The sex therapist would determine if there had been any trauma in my past or if there was an unconscious or conscious fear that would have caused a lock down - as vaginism can be a reflex of the muscle to prevent pain from happening, like closing your eyes if someone throws something in your face.

Luckily this wasn’t the case for me and I was instantly referred to a physiotherapist who was specialised in the downstairs area.  Personally this was a revelation, as little did I know that I could control my vayjayjay’s muscles with my own mind. It was like being potty trained learning to have control of my muscles and the ability to either open or close the gate. 

I now consider myself lucky to have been together with someone who was willing to face this challenge with me and make a game out of it. 

In the heat of passion it did however stay challenging for me to control my mind & muscles and unfortunately our relationship didn’t last long enough to fully enjoy every little aspect of sex.

But this relationship did give me the confidence to continue to communicate.  It has been a challenging roller coaster ride at times where I shied away from dating and even considered the thought that I should just stay single to make life a bit easier for myself.

Audrey 2018

But let’s “fast forward” to the adult 38.0 version of me: still beautiful, geeky and unfortunately just a little bit pessimistic about her own dating life. 

It has taken some time and some weird moments in my life but “vaginawhat” is long gone (or that’s what I believe at least) but it has shaped me in the good and bad. 

The bad is likely just my slightly pessimistic view about the new dating era, which I find hard to master as patience is not for all when you’re looking for the next shiny thing.

The good is that I’ve learned to create relationships which were built on emotional connection, chemistry, laughter, trust, fun and comfort (and yes I found alternative ways to have fun under the sheets).

From self-doubt and feeling like a weird girl in this strange world where sex is the most normal thing, I’ve learned to rebuild trust and confidence to openly talk to men about myself even when it made some run for the hills.

It has shaped me to learn more about my body and mind and taught me to feel proud about these strong muscles which can allow or deny access to this temple I call my body.

It has shaped me to view this world through a different lens, not to assume or to talk along with the mainstream, it taught me to treasure the few relationships I’ve had and to know that people can love or like me with my imperfections. 

While coming to the end of my story I don’t really know what my message is. I don’t know where I wanted to take you…but what I do know is that I wanted to share my story with both men and women, the ones who are afraid to speak up about having painful sex, the ones who are rebuilding their confidence, those who have given up, the ones who are suffering in silence, the ones who are proud to have overcome trauma, the ones who are patient, willing to explore or those who still don’t have a clue what is going on.

Maybe I just want to say that you’re not alone in your imperfections and if we just keep talking and not silently assuming, or glorifying others, we might realise that we all have a story and that there is no such thing as being perfect.

 “Let's talk about all the good things

And the bad things that may be

Let's talk about sex”

~ Salt-N-Pepa

 

Thank you for reading.

Audrey

Side note: please note that my treatment was in the Netherlands quite a few years ago but if this affects you please find more info below or get in touch if you feel I can help.

Game on

Last week I checked in with a friend of mine who is currently writing his dissertation. It seems my text arrived at the right time as one of the first things he said that he needed a bit of my good vibes.

Please don’t think that I’m the ‘good vibe machine’ but on a good day I’m willing to share and on a bad day I don’t mind tapping into my reserve where needed.

He was feeling drained, not motivated, thinking about what toll this has had on his year already. I could almost hear him making sounds like Ugggghhhrrr, bluhhhh …but as this was through whatsapp I likely let my imagination go a bit.

I believe we can all recognise the feeling when we ‘have to’ start something important and POOF, there goes our creativity or our energy levels. Thoughts might arise like

“I don’t think that I can do this?” “Will I be able to make it on time?”  “I don’t know where to start?” “I really don’t have the energy to do all this shizzles.”

Oooh how we wished someone else would come along to take it out of our hands or at least to make a start so we can take over when the easy part begins.

We came all this way and suddenly, we go from a Yay to Nay and start thinking why the bleep we started this in the first place.

Procrastination is a funny thing…By funny I mean we likely will have a laugh when it’s all over. Thinking of how silly we were and how we’ve been playing mind games.

So, if you recognise yourself let’s have a moment and stand still with this draining feeling. Who is sucking up all the energy while you’re on this mission?  For the fun of it let’s turn on our inner game show host.

(Game show host voice) Is it contestant….:

Number 1? The procrastinator: “Ooo let’s do this very unimportant thing right now as I can’t start without having done that first!”

Number 2? The inner critic: “I’m utterly shit at this (full stop)”

Number 3? The victim: “Can’t believe I’m here again. Boohoo…”

Number 4? Blank - Feel free to add any other potential parts of your character.

If it’s stopping you in your tracks they are likely getting a little too much airtime. So now that you realise this let’s put the spotlight on them and ask:

Contestant number X: What’s the name of the game that we’re playing?

(Is there a title – e.g Would I lie to you? Patience? Risk?  Jeopardy?)

What do you want for me?

 (Is there anything that needs to be addressed? E.g: are you hungry, tired, afraid or avoiding anything etc?)

Is there any way you will help me towards the finish line?

(Are you open for bargaining? Do you need an accountability buddy? What do you need?)

What else do you have lined up for me?

(Spot the patterns; have you been here before? Are you going to pull an all-nighter? Calculate it in)

Now that you roughly know the game let’s turn the spotlight on you; the one who made it this far; the one who likely came up with this idea; the one who knows the gain of this game… Yes YOU!

What was your initial plan?

(What was your goal? What was your interest in doing this? What were you excited about?)

And the final question is:

Umming and Awing aside – Will you do it…eventually? (Regardless of the game, will you see this through? Or at least give it a try?)

If the answer is Yes: what’s the use to keep on playing mind games? As you’re going to do it anyway! So keep going and create a game plan.

If the answer is No – what’s the use to keep on playing mind games? As you’re not going to do it anyway!  (If you’re keep on going anyway you might want to ask yourself the question again)

When I asked my buddy where he was, he said he was on his way to the library. I secretly had a quiet giggle as hey – even while feeling drained he didn’t completely believe his victim voice as otherwise he would have stayed in bed, and turned on Netflix.

I know… I know… it’s easier said than done….but now that you know the game you’re playing it's GAME ON!

Thank you for reading (or procrastinating?) and don’t hesitate to get in touch where stuck.

Audrey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 steps to get you into the Xmas spirit (Alcohol-free steps that is)

You’ve likely already had your first Xmas do last week and even though frosty showed up you can’t believe the season to be jolly has arrived.

Personally, this is exactly where I am.  Besides being far from ready for Xmas, I really don’t have a clue what happened to 2017 - I feel we were just getting started.

Getting started with what? I hear you ask. I don’t know, but it feels like time has been speeding up without me realising.

So, how can we get ourselves into the Xmas mode that others might already been enjoying (and let’s try this without instantly drowning our sorrows in mulled wine)?

Let’s try to stop and pause for 20 minutes or so, and think back to 365 days ago…Start thinking about where you were at different times this year.

1.       Grab a piece of paper, create a time line and write down at least 5 significant events from the past year.  It doesn’t have to be anything big, just moments that have a meaning, good or bad (like finding a new job, a break up, a holiday, building that Ikea pack -you name it).

2.       For each event answer the following questions:  What was important about this moment in 2017? What have you learned? What are you proud of? Who do you want to thank?

3.       Step back – breathe and look at your timeline and dot down, what do you want more of, or leave behind, before you emerge into the season?

The following steps are the most important to get you really in the right Xmas spirit:

4.       Now turn on some Xmas tunes: Wham, Mariah, Lennon, anything that floats your boat and start thinking about what gift you’ll  like to give yourself  to celebrate the fact that you survived another 365 days  

5.        So, let’s just embrace it as like all the other days this season might move so quickly that we could actually miss it and we’ll end up having the same conversation again in 2018.

Happy holidays everyone!

Audrey

One of those days

It might be because of my upbeat personality or because I’m a Coach, but some people act surprised when I describe my off days.

I wouldn’t be able to tell you the amount of times that I’ve woken up wondering what the hell I’m doing.  Nor could I tell you the number of times when self-doubt kicked  in, or when I’ve let this little voice take over and decide that I can just as well just switch on Netflix or social media to hide for a while.

Personally I think that everyone has these types of days and I’m still to meet the super human who can honestly say that they have completely defeated their inner critic or the voice that we coaches would call our ‘saboteur’.

One thing that I can tell you is that this critical voice that causes the ‘I can’t’, ‘I should’, the ‘I’m not good enough’, the ‘I don’t have the money’ and so on… this voice does not define you.

But what can we do to stop this broken record of negativity? How do we shift from an off - day to an on- day? Yes, let’s change the tune.

Changing the tune is sometimes easier said than done, but there is a choice we can make: to spiral down or to build the muscle to get back up.

So, let’s first start with something very basic…a human need that we can’t live without:

1. Take a breath

Breathe In…1 2 3… breathe out… 1 2 3 4…  When anxious, uncertain, stressed or in a grey cloud, pay attention to your breathing. It might sound very simple, but in this moment there is a big chance that you’ve been holding your breath without you realising it.

Taking conscious breaths is a real necessity in the right here and now. So let’s wake up your body & mind by taking in some oxygen.

2. Reflect

We sometimes are afraid to stand still with our own thoughts but funny enough we don’t have any issues standing still with the thoughts of others. Our saboteur can take on different tones, creating a crossover of thoughts or opinions about yourself and the world or the opinions of another.

Instead of taking your saboteur’s voice as a truth, simply notice the fact that it’s there. Be curious about what set it in action and what is it stopping you from doing? 

Don’t even bother beating yourself up when having these thoughts, as that would only make it worse. Reflect and wonder if this thought is really true and if you really have to believe it.  More importantly, think of who can you be without the I can’ts and the I shoulds?

3. Connect

While breathing and reflecting it’s now time to connect. On our off days, when believing our inner critic, there is however always this tiny voice in the background waiting to be heard.

If you listen very carefully, there is this voice that knows ‘the why’ behind all of this.  I’m not talking about the dramatic, the desperately seeking an explanation type of ‘WHY OH WHYYY?’

 I’m talking about the voice that knows the deeper meaning, the purpose of what made you decide to go into a specific direction.  The voice that connects you to your gut and that when thinking of ‘the why’ creates that spark within you.  It’s that calm voice that whispers ‘you can do this’, ‘trust yourself’, ‘let’s create’.   When connecting with this voice, turn up the volume, give it a platform and hand it a megaphone.

So BRC:  Breathe, Reflect & Connect.  Nice and short and definitely something that you can put on a post -it note as a reminder for when you are slowly slipping into one of those days.

We might not always be able to change the tune instantly, but as practice makes perfect you can just start by breathing and by being conscious about the thoughts that you decide to believe.

If you get stuck at the R or the C and are getting tired of hearing the same tune then don’t hesitate to reach out to me for a free sample session and we’ll start with building up this muscle.

This said if you are reading this and you’re one of these super humans who already have completely defeated their saboteur, then please do contact me ASAP as we need to talk!

Thank you for reading.

Audrey