Sex is good for the brain. Unfortunately, if you are like many people with pain or other symptoms affecting your brain, they affect your sex life too. Despite these obstacles, there are things you can do make it better. This is important, and worth doing now.
Most people rarely, if ever, talk about sex with their healthcare providers. Other issues usually take priority, and most people don’t think that sex is something they are supposed to talk about. Some of us feel too awkward or embarrassed to talk about it.
This is a shame. While there have been virtually no studies on the health benefits of sex, it can certainly nurture intimacy with our partners. It triggers the release of sex hormones and other neurotransmitters that are good for the brain. It is also very good exercise, toning core muscles and creating an aerobic workout. When you and your partner touch and caress, when you share personal thoughts and feelings, you are literally healing each other.
But people with injured brains have many reasons to have less sex. The most obvious reason is that it hurts. Pressure, movement, twisting and turning all cause pain. Some people avoid sex because they avoid movement in general. This is called kinesophobia, and it is very unhealthy.
Depression is a common problem, and it makes it much harder to get in the mood. Depression can make us lose interest in many other things we used to enjoy. It can affect our libido, and it can also interfere with erection and orgasm.
It is heartbreaking to see how lives can be ruined by chronic pain and brain symptoms. Jobs lost, families scattered, social networks lost … with the victim left alone, drifting in a fog of confusion and suffering.
One of the critical supports that can make it all fall apart is the bond of intimacy we share with our partners. When two people drift apart, whether physically or emotionally, the loss is greater then they realize.
If you and your partner are having intimacy issues, get help. If you feel comfortable with your doctor, ask for their advice. Choose a friend you respect and trust, and reach out to them. If you are seeing a psychologist, or any therapist for that matter, tell them that this is a concern. They can tailor their treatment to address this specific issue.
Most importantly, talk to your partner. Ask them to come to an assessment or a therapy session so they can understand your situation better. Have a conversation about it, just the two of you. Feel free to tell them about your worries and frustrations … and be ready to listen to theirs. But don’t get stuck on these issues. Focus instead on identifying specific problems … and possible solutions.
It is important to recognize that this is a problem you can turn around. When it comes to specific strategies you might want to consider the following:
- Listen to music that makes you feel good. Do this alone and do it together. Gently move and sway to the rhythm, observing any tension in your hips and shoulders, neck and back, fingers and toes. Do this every day.
- Choose a natural essential oil that you both find appealing. Smell has a powerful effect on the nervous system, especially the limibic system that can be affected by trauma. That can make the right scent a turn on for the parts of you that have been turned off for so long. Add one drop of essential oil to a few drops of water in your hand. Rub it around your head and neck, avoiding your eyes, nose and lips. They can be irritating, so dilute it at first.
- Take turns doing partner massage. This is therapeutic, it is intimate, and it can restore balance in a relationship where one person feels they are doing everything for the other. If you have spent years being ‘the patient’, playing the role of the healer can sometimes be transformative.
These practices will help, but only if you practice them. So don’t skip doing them just because you don’t feel like it. Even if you are tired, or cranky, or sore, or don’t feel like it. Let me be clear – you should not have sex if you don’t want to. But you and your partner should make a disciplined habit of getting yourselves in the mood.
It might not happen the first time. But practice makes perfect. So practice.