My interest and passion in navigating sexuality through life’s transitions isn’t simply theoretical. I’ve spent the past year and a half navigating my own health crisis, one which has had significant impacts on my sexuality. There were side effects, there were relapses, there were uninsured, safe, but off label treatment choices. There was loss of libido, pleasure aversion, inability to orgasm. And there was the almost impossible to articulate sense of just being cut off from my sexual energy, which I equate with life force energy. I want full access to my life force!
The place I’m at in my own recovery is that of realizing that this shit just takes a loooonnnng time. Every time I think “it’s almost over!” I discover that there are more layers to float up through, more integration necessary, more patience required. And that goes for healing the impacts of this wild ride of illness and treatment on my sexuality as well.
I changed my treatment specifically because of sexual side effects. And it works. There are no sexual side effects with this treatment. So why was I never engaging in self-pleasure? I took big risks and made tough choices to find a way to recover and still hold on to this part of myself. To not “take advantage” of that?…It’s like buying a really expensive car, one you really, really wanted, and then NEVER driving it. Actually, it feels more like covering the car in a sheet, shutting it in the garage and never even looking at it. I would think about masturbating. Sometimes in a rather “prescriptive” way. “Shauna, you should probably masturbate. Orgasms are good for you.” Uh…that’s very true, but not exactly the relationship I want to have with my sexual pleasure.
The problem was that I still didn’t “feel” like it. Which, frankly, freaked me out. I “fixed” the problem—no sexual side effects. Why did I still feel broken?
I’m not sure what pushed me through the ennui this morning, where the tiny amount of energy to pull out my vibrator and see what happened came from. But my body responded immediately, with ease and, yes, with pleasure. After I came, I lay there feeling the energy move through my body, savoring the sensation. Life force, vitality. There it is! My sexuality, my body’s pleasure capacity is a resource in my healing. I know this, of course—it’s the basis of my professional practice. But this morning I was reminded of that fact in an embodied way.
That powerful reminder revealed a new perspective on what’s required right now to really reconnect to my sexuality. I need to rebuild trust with myself. I was genuinely surprised when I felt my body respond this morning. And in noticing that surprise, I realized that I, unconsciously, still thought it “wouldn’t work.” My body has been liberated from the impacts of the drugs, but the imprint the side effects left on my psyche remains.
I’ve been waiting to just suddenly feel like “my old (sexual) self” again. But I’m not my old self. I’m the me who has been through a year and a half of illness and recovery, with all the incredible learning and the unfortunate baggage that comes with that. I’m going to have to accept that I’ve been impacted emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, that just fixing the physiology of eroticism doesn’t automatically make all that go away. I’m going to have to choose to engage with my sexuality to bring it fully back online. I’m going to have to court her, like two lovers coming back together after each have been off on separate adventures. People who have been changed by their experiences but are still committed to being in relationship, and who choose to feel into a new dynamic of connection. Maybe even one that is more fulfilling, more satisfying than before.
And I’m going to need help. Even a sexuality professional can’t do this work all alone. I’m reaching out to colleagues to get myself some sexological bodywork sessions, to join me in an Erotic Embodiment Practice accountability group.
Like every aspect of my recovery, this is going to take time—more time than I want it to take. At least this morning I was reminded that when it feels like too much, when I don’t think I have the energy to continue to heal, access to the life force energy that I need to recharge is, literally, at my fingertips.