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Severe vaginal pain: “When someone asks you to rate your pain from 1 to 10, it’s hard to say 10”

Cutting the Pain (2024, Marabout), In her intimate yet instructive essay entitled Cutting the Pain (published by Marabout in February 2024), production designer Lisa Dayan traces ten years of medical wanderings regarding her intimate pain problems. Vulvodynia, vaginismus or dyspareunia: these disorders are explored with precision in a fascinating testimony, useful to everyone.

Interview with Lisa Dayan, author of the essay Cutting the Pain

To miss. Why did you write this book?

Lisa Dayan. During an event with my association Safe Place, I talked about endometriosis with the speakers and I came to talk about my pain. I started to stutter, to tremble, and I realized that I wasn’t completely healed, that I hadn’t released my anger yet. Everything I say in the book I had never talked about before, not even with a psychologist, it was a way of doing a sort of therapy. As I wrote I realized that I no longer had pain, of course, but I still didn’t understand where it came from and why these pains had persisted in my body for so long. When I started writing there were no books on the subject, despite several Insta accounts already teaching. By doing my research and interviews, I realized the true usefulness of the project.

You have a way of describing pain that is both sensorial and poetic, you talk about taste, color, sensations, why this choice?

First of all, I am a person who has synesthesia, which means that I associate things, people, sensations or numbers with aspects, colors, that’s how I function. I had done an exercise in London with my traumatologist who asked me to give shape, consistency and color to my pain, to try to evacuate it. It’s a good exercise, you can do it with any kind of pain. Pain is hyper subjective, everyone feels things differently in their own flesh and we judge people a lot when they are in pain. Describing precisely was my way of being as accurate as possible, invoking the imagination. When asked to rate your pain from one to ten, it’s hard to say ten, you don’t want to sound like the person in a lot of pain, hence the importance of naming the pain differently.

Far from being a simple harmless physical pain, dyspareunia (all pain in the vulva area) also affects the relationship with sexuality, love, self-esteem… Why these pains occupy such an important place in the life of someone? ?

Nowadays there is a certain injunction to pleasure, to sexual satisfaction. When you feel pain in this intimate part of your body, you have the impression of being belittled, undesirable, since you are not capable of feeling pleasure. You’re not that strong, independent, sexual goddess. working girl. Having pain in this place makes you feel super just because no one talks about it. You get stuck in pain and lose self-confidence in the intimate aspect, which affects your self-esteem in all areas of your life, even at work. You enter into a relationship with yourself where you always need to prove something. And especially: pain alienates us completely. I could go from laughing to angry, I couldn’t stand anyone and at the same time I didn’t want to be alone, I felt like I was constantly missing out on something.


Physical therapy, vaginal Botox, anesthetic cream, removal of the vestibule (tissue at the entrance to the vagina)… What does your personal medical journey to stop the pain show about treating these issues in our current society?

There is a real problem in our medicine where the patient is not included in their recovery. No one ever asked me how I felt, what I really wanted. We are taking away your ability to heal yourself, because with this type of pain you need keys, tools of the medical profession to heal. Doctors have an omnipotent speech, we listen to them, we drink their word, we never question them, they say what to do and we carry it out, without understanding why or what it will do. There is also a lack of bridges between each practice. If we had doctors who worked more online, without having to constantly repeat what you have already tested, what works or not for you, we would waste less time.

Among the paths of diagnosis and healing you mention the crucial aspect of being supported on a psychological level, why?

I didn’t do it, it happened with the book. I think it’s very important because chronic pain is very psychologically related. Regardless of the professional, the sexologist, the psychologist, the traumatologist… you must be able to understand your relationship with the body, with sexuality, with your partner, with pleasure, with puberty, for example, to understand where does the pain come from?

Cover of the book “Cutting the Pain” by Lisa Dayan // Source: Éditions Marabout
Cutting the pain, Vulvodynia, vaginismus, pelvic pain: healing is possible, by Lisa Dayan, published by Marabout (224 pages).

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