(yes, that actually deserves an announcement.)
One of the many disheartening aspects of having a painful physical disability has been the way it’s affected my sex drive. Which is to say that it basically killed my desire for partnered sex. It also greatly reduced my desire to masturbate, though that was at least somewhat limping along. Between the exhaustion, the pain, and a limited amount of mobility/positions I could comfortably be in, most nights that I had any sex drive, I’d rather masturbate than have sex. Not only because it would be faster and easier, but (to be painfully honest) I’d only be worrying about my own pleasure.
Also, it’s damn hard to feel sexy when one feels so exhausted and painful. There’s also dealing with a different body. Having a very limited ability to exercise has caused me to put on about 30 lbs over the last few years. Though I don’t look unattractive, I look different than I used to, different in ways that I don’t know how to interact with. When I stretch or bend over, sometimes my fat stops me from stretching before my joints do. I’ve never had that happen before. My thighs rub together a LOT, which is another sensation I’m not used to (a little bit yes, but so much that the skin chafes, that’s new to me). I don’t feel like I quite know how to dress for this body shape. I feel insecure and awkward and unattractive.
Then there’s the whole thing where society in general has a hard time portraying women who aren’t unhealthily thin as attractive and sexy. Luckily, my normal state of being is to ignore advertising as much as possible. My friends come in all shapes and sizes and are accepting of people of all shapes and sizes, which certainly helps (my mom’s comment that she hopes that I don’t “keep chunking up” was met by a pointed comment that I do think I look perfectly lovely the way I am right now (goddamnit) and that if I do want to lose weight, it’s because I prefer being more muscular and I like the way my body feels when it’s a different shape and not because I’m trying to confirm to some ridiculous beauty standard. She quickly changed the subject after that). Even so, I feel awkward when my body jiggles or chafes or doesn’t fit into something the way it used to. Feeling awkward doesn’t feel sexy for me, it feels…awkward. It makes me withdraw a little bit, as I redraw the lines around what my body shape and size are and how those interact with the world.
All these difficulties definitely caused some sense of disconnection and distance between me and Jon. Not insurmountable or permanent, but even cuddling has been hard for months, between the braces and support that I need to sleep, and the limited number of positions I can sit or lay in. None of them are particularly cuddle-friendly, so a lot of times, we’ve done our best to foster a sense of closeness by having our feet or lower legs touch. Or hold hands. Or brush arms.
I haven’t mentioned it before, but since this post is about sex, I will say that most of the sex I’ve had in the past…probably six months, maybe more has been…how do I describe this? Saying it hasn’t been enjoyable wouldn’t be correct, it has been enjoyable, though not in the usual way. Though Jon was always the initiator of this sex, I didn’t have sex with him because he pressured me into it; there’s been many times when I said no (or didn’t even have to say it, but obviously wasn’t interested, and he didn’t push). My main reason for not being the initiator was that I’d completely forgotten that sex was a thing that Jon and I did (which is a scary indicator of how exhausted and miserable I was). Saying that I had sex only for Jon when we had it also wouldn’t be correct, I wanted to have sex for me too. But not because I felt passionate about it or was dying to get off. I didn’t expect it to be awesome, or even really really good. I didn’t have any interest in having an orgasm, but I did want to have the pleasure of watching Jon enjoy himself.
That was the main reason I wanted to have sex, when Jon brought it up. Because it did still give me some sense of deeper connection with him, and because I love watching him enjoy himself, even when I can’t enjoy myself in the same way.
Have enough orgasms for both of us, Jon!
Things have gotten a lot better in the last few months. I’ve turned a corner in physical therapy. I’m able to do complete exercises that I haven’t been able to do since I started working with this physical therapy group about two years ago. My therapist is actually talking about the possibility of me doing weight training in a month or two instead of “sometime when you’re doing better”. I haven’t needed steroids, cortisone injections, or a nerve block in nearly two months – that’s a record for me.
In addition to having more energy, more flexibility, and less pain, my sex drive has finally…come back into existence. I want to have sex. I actually initiate sex with Jon, sometimes even more than once a week! Ok, that’s only happened once so far, but the fact that sex is something that I want, not only emotionally, and spiritually, but also physically…that’s big for me. I didn’t even realize how big it was until I started wanting to have sex again. I didn’t realize exactly how much I missed that flavor of pleasure until it was accessible to me again.
Now that I have the energy to remember and actually want to have sex at times, life feels really, really good. I feel more myself. And my relationship with Jon feels…it’s hard to explain…more itself? I wouldn’t exactly say that our relationship suffered for the lack of sex. If sexlessness was the typical state of our relationship then I don’t think the relationship itself would be lacking in any way. But since part of our relationship is very sexual, having that back to some degree feels wonderful and natural.
I’m still not where I’d like to be, not by a long shot. By my physical therapist’s estimation, if I continue to make progress the way I currently am, and don’t have any flare-ups (Which would take a miracle, really. Part of this process is coming to terms with it not being a continuously upward road), it would still take another good year to year and a half to get back to my “normal” level of fitness. To get back to an “average” level of fitness is at least another six months.
To get back to an “average” level of sex drive for me? Well…I don’t talk about that one with my physical therapist. 🙂 And I don’t have any idea how long it will take. I guess we’ll see. For now, I’m just extremely grateful to feel more like my usual sex-interested and sexy self.