Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sex and the Sickly Girl

We were in the kitchen cooking and my mom, in a moment of tenderness, rested her hand on my shoulder. "Ouch!" I yelled, because touching me near my neck was excruciating, as a consequence of my late-stage Lyme Disease. "That amount of touch hurts you? How do you have sex?" she asked. I was mortified, but not surprised, that my mom went there.

I am not someone who has an abundance of libido to begin with, and it is hard to overstate how un-sexy illness makes you feel, between tubes hanging out of your arms and suffering from terrible pain. When the brain is caught in a pain feedback loop, it is not so interested in lovemaking. I think this must be a survival trait! This says nothing of the myriad medications I took/take which made/make me nauseous and sleepy. When I took hydrocodone (Vicodin) for pain relief, that caused its own sexual issue: making my body incapable of orgasm. It took me a while to catch on to this, but I finally brought myself to ask my neurologist if the drug and dysfunction were related. I'm proud to report that I was his first patient who ever mentioned it! That's me, a regular Nancy Drew. The doctor agreed with me that it made perfect sense since Vicodin is a major depressant -- it's hard to excite and depress the nervous system at the same time, right?

I think I have some image of what sexy means and that does not include someone with chronic health problems, so I have a hard time viewing myself as a sexual being. Obviously, sex is so corporeal, it's tough to feel sexual when your body is falling apart on you. Although sex is my greatest weakness in my marriage -- I think it will always be my Achilles heel -- it is also extremely important to me, which my therapist says puts me way ahead of the game. I know people who live in sexless marriages and seem ok with it, but I think it's corrosive. Even if my husband wasn't very sexual, it would still be important to me, because I think sex is an important part of a healthy marriage. It does encourage bonding, and I can't help but think the world would just be a happier place if people got off more. Look at Betty Dodson: she's 81 and looks like she's in her 60's, and she attributes it to a lifetime of orgasms. And who am I to second-guess Betty? Besides, it's nice to do something pleasurable for your body when it's hurting.

1 comment:

Stef said...

Sarah, have you considered going to a cancer-support type group (or some other support group that works with longer term, more "serious" illnesses) and ask them about the sexuality/sex issue? I suspect you are NOT alone in this realm; and perhaps those folks could give you some good counsel? Just a thought.