Intimacy With A Chronic Illness

Sex, the beautiful intimacy between people.Where breathing gets deeper, heart starts racing, the excitement, and the anticipation of two bodies coming together. Sex is such a fun and healthy beneficial activity. It has the potential to reduce the risk of heart attacks because it reduces high blood pressure.

During sex your body releases more hormones, including oxytocin, also known as the cuddle hormone. I have mentioned before in my blog about stress (https://betteryouspace.com/2019/01/29/can-positivity-help-you-deal-with-stress/ )that oxytocin aids your heart to recover any damaged tissue and it improves your mood. So it’s safe to say sex is the perfect activity for intimacy and health.

So what happens when you don’t have the energy to do it anymore?

It has been three years since I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, Hypothyroidism, and Fibromyalgia. These diagnoses have changed my life in more than one way.

Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism is centered in the fact that there is an imbalance of hormones. In one hand Hypothyroidism is the lack of hormones produced by the thyroid. While Hashimoto’s is your own immune system attacking your thyroid. Having Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism is like being thrown in the ocean with an oxygen tank that is only 50 percent filled and with a leak.

Now Fibromyalgia is a central nerve disorder where you feel widespread pain in your joints and bones. In other words, your nerves have a miscommunication with your brain and translate pain in an amplified way. It’s like trying to swim while getting poked by needles.

So having them all together is like trying to swim with needles, a leaking oxygen tank that’s only 50 percent filled. Swimming to safety may seem impossible right?! That’s surely how it felt.

Everyday life seemed it had to be methodically planned out. At my worst, showering was a task I had to plan for because there was simply no energy to get out of bed! Every step taken was like shooting pain of needles going up my feet. My joints hurt so much, my body felt swollen, and I was no longer present.

So what about sex?

Having these three conditions/ diseases has definitely effected my sex life. My physical, mental, and social aspects of my sex life.

Physical

As I mentioned before, at my worst, I couldn’t even get out of bed. So sex was a task that felt like such a huge sacrifice.

In any intimate moment the foreplay, the anticipation is filled with excitement, but that was not the case for me. My body had constant migraines, sensitivity, and irritability. My body was in constant pain and the energy levels were simply not there. Being intimate was painful because a simple caress felt like needles. Any agitation to my body, or any harsh movements caused migraines among other things.

When I did get the energy and the desire to be intimate the aftermath was not good. So much energy is used during sex that anyone can get exhausted after a nice intimate moment with their partner. However, the level of exhaustion when you have low energy to begin with is extreme. Not to mention my Fibromyalgia amplifies pain. After being intimate I felt so exhausted I couldn’t keep my eyes open or talk. My nerves felt activated so I felt restless. The scary part is that I felt I would sink in my bed. I had no true perception of where things were around me. I simply felt my body sinking.

Mental

My idea of feeling sexy was attached to physical intimacy. I felt sexiness was only physical. It was my body and the way it moved. It was attached to how others perceived me. I felt only by the desire of the opposite sex was I truly sexy. So when I got sick I felt my image as a “true” woman was stripped. I was no longer sexy. I had no energy to even fix my hair, or do my makeup. It messed with me mentally and I became depressed.

What is suppose to be a fun, healthy, and intimate activity became a taunting subject for me. I began to self pity,”who would want to be with me?” I thought. That self doubt made me stress, which in return made me get more sick. The more sick I was the less I could have physical activity. It was a vicious circle of depression and pain.

Social

Communication in intimate moments was something I struggled with but it became a bigger struggle when I got sick. I didn’t know how to open up about how I felt physically because visually I look fine. My conditions don’t come with big physical changes. So the fact that I was no longer taking care of myself and I was withdrawing can make any partner doubt. I felt I wouldn’t be understood so I became cold. I wondered how I could explain the fact that I needed to be hand held so I wouldn’t sink in my bed. Or that when I said no it wasn’t a rejection towards him but that I truly physically couldn’t.

Things I had to learn

1.Health comes first

I needed to focus on my health. Not only physical but mental and emotional as well. Getting my body in a better state would allow other things to get better. More energy, better mood, and better state of mind would allow me to be more present and more willing to be sexually active.

2. Give yourself time

People with chronic illnesses sometimes lose hope because well, what we have is chronic. There is no cure. What we have to remember is that there is remission. Give your self time to heal. Give yourself time to feel good in your new skin because let’s face it, having a chronic illness feels like the old you is gone. Find ways to make your everyday life better.

Sure, Booty calls might no longer be our thing, but give yourself time to connect. I have found that the deeper the connection, the more I can ease my body into intimacy without pain.

3. Redefine sexy

I had to redefine sexy and how I fit in my new definition of sexy. I began to understand sexy for me is self confidence, intelligence, and sense of humor.

I have always been attracted to guys that can make me laugh over guys that are super attractive. But I felt it was different for myself. I felt as a woman I had to be this mysterious, seductive, sensual, beautiful, and a charming creature in order to be sexy. That’s not the case! We define what is sexy to us. I had to love myself and give myself permission to be sexy in my own terms.

4. Speak up!

Talking with your partner about what it is that you have and how you experience it, will help them understand. Let them know what to expect when being intimate. That way they don’t get caught off guard, and so they can be more perceptive during intimacy. If something hurts please don’t power through it, speak up! Voice what position, or stroke is more comfortable for your body and condition.

5. No doesn’t mean rejection

This is specially for your partner. The love and the desire might be there but if there is no energy it might be difficult to get your body going. This is beyond the traditional no means no, which still stands, but this is more to let your partner know that there is nothing wrong with them. Communication is key. Remember, it effects them too. Not communicating what’s going on might make them feel like something else in the relationship is failing.

6. Intimacy is more than sex

Lastly, I had to learn to be intimate in other ways. Now, a deep conversation can make me feel more flushed and more connected to someone. I find a connection when someone can make me laugh like a little kid or make me think on a deeper level. True intimacy goes beyond physical pleasure.

I hope this helps you understand if you are someone in the beginning stages of a chronic illness and have found sex is becoming challenging. Or if you are dating someone with a chronic illness . Communication, communication, communication. It is the best way to make things more pleasurable for both parties.

If you have any tips or question, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Written by: Lupita G.

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