Chronic illness takes away the pleasure of sex & intimacy, replacing it with fear & loss.
“I have been tearing myself apart because I can't have a baby anymore, I don't have a job anymore, I can't have sex, I am in pain all the time and tired. There have been times when sex has caused the kind of pain that makes me throw up and that makes me want to crawl out of my body. What on earth would make a man want to be with me, even my husband? What would make another man want to be with me if my husband didn't? At no point has my husband done or said anything like that but that is how I felt. I feel horrible because he is still very affectionate toward me but every time he touches me in what feels like an intimate way, when he is only trying to show me that he cares, not to have sex, I pull away and do what I can to not even be close to him. Intimacy and his touch reminds me I can't be what I want to be for him, it scares me, it makes me feel like I am only part of a woman. I feel like I failed me and I failed him.”
Does any of this sound familiar? Do you understand the kind of pain that makes you want to crawl out of your body? The fear that comes with the thought of sex with your partner and how guilty that makes you feel? Let’s talk.
I wrote this some time ago and thankfully most of these issues have resolved themselves, with work from myself and cooperation from my partner. It is this experience and more that lead me to want to study Sexology. I have finished my post graduate studies in the area and it has led me down some interesting paths including the purchase of Bliss for Women but my goal remains to help women and their partners living with chronic illness or recovering from traumatic health events to rediscover and redefine their sexuality.
First things first you should always listen to your chosen health professional/specialist. Any information presented in this blog is what I have learnt both through my experience and in my studies. It is not designed as a substitute for any medical advice you have been given.
Dyspareunia put very simply is a reoccurring pain that happens during or after sex (1). This reoccurring pain can set up a vicious cycle of pain, creating fear at the prospect of pain as a result of sexual activities, which in turn leads to fear reactions. These fear reactions can be such things as inhibited sexual responses, vaginal dryness and automatic contraction of pelvic floor muscles which in turn increase pain during sexual activities (2). Dyspareunia is a personal and intimate struggle and is associated with unfavourable emotional impacts and relational distress (3).
Endometriosis is an invisible disease and is intimately linked with the social taboo of menstruation, that impacts a woman’s life at an intimate and personal level. It affects 1 in ten women, that is 176 + million women worldwide. The symptoms and realities of living with it are not often discussed before or after diagnosis and can cause emotional pain. Endometriosis is one of the possible causes of dyspareunia. Many women suffer from pain during sex at some point during their life (4), however dyspareunia is recognized as a common symptom of endometriosis (5).
Through all the clinical diagnosis’ and associated medical struggles it can be easy for both medical professionals and women to forget or to sideline a woman’s sexuality. It can be easy for it to overlooked by doctors whose primary task is treating the physical pathology and hard for a woman to talk about. The stigma around female reproductive functions and the sociological attitudes towards being a sexually empowered woman contribute to making it hard to talk about.
Let’s be honest the energy it takes to deal with pain and getting through the day is by far the priority when living with a chronic illness. So finding the energy to be sexual, even if it is something you fantasies, it is hard to find the energy to be affectionate and intimate, let alone sexual with your partner. However, a your sexuality is an important part of your self identity and intimate relationship dynamic. Your sexuality is influenced by many factors including psychological, hormonal, societal as well as physical influences such as endometriosis and dyspareunia (6).
Our products are selected with sexual wellness in mind, including that of my fellow spoonies - if you have a chronic illness you will understand that and if you don’t, that is OK. All you need to know is that our products are selected with sexual wellness in mind.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this document should be read as general in nature and is only to provide an overview of the subject matter covered. Please read product packaging carefully and follow all instructions. Consult your medical practioner prior to making any changes to your treatment regime.
1 - Dewitte, Van Lankveld and Crombez, 2010
2 - Montanari, 2015
3 - Vercellini, Somigliana, Buggio, Barbara, Frattaruolo and Fedele, 2012
4 - Elmerstig, Wijma and Bertero, 2008
6 - Furukawa, Patton, Amato, Li and Leclair, 2012