Lets Talk About.....Sexual Dysfunction
This post has been a work in progress for a number of weeks now, as I wanted to give this topic the respect and honesty that it deserved. It has been challenging, and with that I hope you can leave any preconceived ideas and judgements on the shelf and take this post for what it is intended.
Intimacy within a relationship is the sign of a healthy, respect from the two partners in that relationship. Sexual intimacy is the deepest form that can be shown between two people. It is a human need, well let’s face it, without sex we wouldn’t exist. Though sex is not just about procreating our next generation, it is about connectedness at a physical and emotional level. When this level of connectedness is wounded, or broken within a loving relationship, it can form cracks deep within the love that bounds two people. Cracks that if not treatment and mended can break that bond forever, never to be repaired.
When my upstairs decided to no longer talk to my downstairs, it took me some time to associate this with my MS. Though after time and ruling out other possibilities it became obvious that the wiring was broken. I was both confused, because prior to my own experience, through my own ignorance I had associated sexual dysfunction with old men and advertisements for popping blue pills! Never had I heard about a woman with such issues, or had I thought about the disabled. (I know, ignorance right!)
Now I’m not going to go into intimate details because what happens in (or out) of our bedroom is our business, and trust me it certainly does not give 50 Shades of Grey a run for its raunchiness. What I will say is this. When the moans and groans, turned into fumbles and mumbles, it had an impact on our very healthy and happy relationship. I was left feeling inadequate, and a disappointment. There was guilt from both of us, frustration and even at times, I may have said out of those emotions, that if I wasn’t going to fulfil his needs he could go find it elsewhere. All said while my heart broke, that here I was unable to connect with my husband at the deepest physical level. Of course on the other side of the bed, he in turn felt I didn’t love him, or was no longer attracted to him.
Not happy to leave it at that and have our relationship crumble because my wiring was faulty, 0I got over myself and went looking for information about sexual dysfunction and how to combat it. The first place I went was to my MS community, where I was grateful for all of the information I was given by others who have had similar experiences. It is not an easy thing to talk about, even with others who have been there. Society and let’s highlight that we are society have been taught that talking about sex is taboo, dirty and shouldn’t be discussed publicaly! These ideas place those of us who are having troubles in the bedroom ashamed and embarrassed to seek help. For me, my need to mend my relationship and find other ways to connect intimately outweighed my level of embarrassment. So I asked the question. The best advice was, talk about it with my husband and to start thinking outside of the conventions and norms.
So once we did, and he realised that it was not because I didn’t love him, and I realised he didn’t love me any less. That there was a valid medical reason behind our bedroom hiccups, we could start exploring outside our norm for answers. Of course even when we found what works, we had to negotiate the fatigue and occasional incontinence moments, which always came at the least convenient times.
Recently I was chatting with another PwMS about this issue, and she told me this.
‘When I was first diagnosed, I was given all the pamphlets about MS and the possible drugs and symptoms. One of those suggested that if muscle tension during sexual intercourse was an issue, then maybe the patient should consider a muscle relaxant. Obviously the person writing that pamphlet doesn’t understand how a woman achieves an orgasm! Why would we want a muscle relaxant!”
Why indeed! As a woman dealing and finding solutions to my sexual dysfunction, I can only imagine how emasculated a man must feel when he experiences this medical condition. Society again has placed such value on a mans virility, that when met with impotence it could easily knock a mans self esteem to the curb. Isn’t it enough that they are dealing with a disability, let alone the emotions that accompany the notion of a loss of manhood as well?
As a society, and again, we are the society, we will only change these preconceptions by opening the door to discussion. We need to normalise the conversation. Sexual dysfunction is very much in the landscape of Multiple Sclerosis, and other disabilities. I am a first hand witness. Though as a society we need to be able to also normalise the conversation around sex in general, allowing for open, healthy conversation, so when people who are having problems with their sexual function, can seek medical advice instead of hiding it and pretending it is not a problem.
There are solutions, and it may mean that as a couple you have to think outside of what you are comfortable with. Exploring new areas, and finding out what works for you now. If in doubt, ask the question. Speak to others who have experienced the same hiccups. Talk to your health professionals. The main thing is, this does not mean your intimate relationship with your partner is over, it just means now it is different. Adaptability is what us MSer’s do best.