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Well, I thought I might tackle yet another difficult post about S E X!
As a mediator, I hold the same rules of confidentiality that a doctor or lawyer holds when it comes to clients or patients, and I do take that very seriously. I guess I convey that to the patients I speak with though I’ve never had to explain it to them. It’s almost like being in a confessional with some patients who are very forthcoming about certain issues. I feel it’s necessary to make each person feel there is no topic taboo to speak about, after all, if not with either Dr. Smith or myself, then with who? I’m ok with a no holds barred kind of atmosphere. That way if I really sense an added concern, I might bring it to Dr. Smith’s attention for him to deal with it before it goes too far. Whatever I do augments his practice in a positive way. So it came as no real surprise when I had this encounter.
I recently had a male patient ask if, at some point after his recovery, would he be able to be the “husband” he once was to his wife. He said he and his wife had talked about it at some length because it really bothers him not being able to take care of her intimate needs. She’s a very understanding partner in the fact that she lovingly told him sex is only a part of who he is to her and that his heart is so devoted to her that’s enough for her right now. WOW! That’s one hell of a keeper if ya ask me!
The vast amount of understanding that goes into a person who cares for someone who has horrendous back pain is unbelievable. So many concerns on the surface run through a patients mind about the mechanics of the condition as well as for the care taker. If it’s a spouse, they have an even bigger vested interest in your wellness. Everthing that happens to you affects them, directly or indirectly. Some good, some not so good. It’s the drug induced lack of desire that bothers many back and leg pain sufferers. And then there are all those underlying issues you hold your breath about because you don’t dare bring them up out of fear of rejection, or anticipation, or unrealistic expectations. Having back surgery doesn’t always mean you can get back to a vigorous sex life. There are other mitigating factors that need to be taken into consideration. A heart condition, diabetic medications which alters your desires, other physical ailments not addressed by your back surgery… the list could go on… BUT, for an otherwise healthy individual who just needs the back and leg pain to go away…. there’s hope.
In any case, thoughts of intimate sexual relations are there in the back of every back and leg pain sufferer’s mind. If they say they don’t think about it if they’re in a relationship, they’re lying to themselves at the very least. Intimacy is a big part of a relationship. It’s even necessary to thrive! To have gone without intimacy for a long period of time, is damaging both to the patient whose self esteem sinks tremendously just because of the lifestyle they loose, as well as those who are watching their loved one go through it who may be in the prime of their life with a healthy appetite for sexual relations. There are unspoken things the sufferer is forced to give up. Between the pain and the drugs to kill the pain, they pretty much put a kibosh on any natural sexual desires one might have as a normal, healthy adult. Given the length of time most people suffer before having anything done is yet another factor on how adverse the condition can affect one’s sexual drive.
For the ten years I suffered with the debilitating pain, I can only say I went through the motions I was required to go through because that was in the fine print of my marriage contract. It came to a point when even the obligation of the fine print didn’t matter to me. And just suffice it to say, the road back hasn’t been easy. I’m not one to discuss my intimate life with anyone, I’m not the kind that kisses and tells. So I won’t be discussing in detail here what has transpired for me. I will, however, keep it as subjective as I can to make it informative and enlightening for you.
According to the research I’ve done, barring any other circumstances or health issues, you are certainly able, once all of the healing has taken place, to return to as normal an intimate life as you can have. By that I mean, there may be some modifications necessary of positions you once did that you’ll no longer be able to do, and the return of your fullest desires may be slow. Have patience with yourself in that respect. Ask for patience with your partner. You were meant to be intimate with another human being, that’s how we were designed, but it may take a larger amount of understanding on both your parts to get back to a place of synchronized euphoria. This condition you were in didn’t happen overnight, and it’s not going to undo itself overnight either! TAKE YOUR TIME! Any partner worth their weight will just be grateful you are back in the game to any greater or lesser degree, hopefully.
At this point I’d like to talk directly to your partner, the one who tolerated your pain, who, if they are a compassionate person, suffered in many ways, though different, right along with you. Yes, I know you suffered too, as you watched helplessly your loved one slowly go downhill, loosing abilities and vitality for an extended period of time without much hope. It’s just as tough on you as it is on the person suffering some times. It takes a toll on everyone who surrounds the sufferer. As the days pass and your partner gets weaker and looses more and more hope and abilities, often it’s not such a stretch as to want to walk away from the person in pain. Sometimes, though you may want to, it’s not possible for financial reasons. Which puts the partner into a funk as well. That downward spiral goes quickly into an abyss hard to climb out of. It’s hard to stay positive for two people. BUT THERE ARE THOSE WHO DO IT, and do it willingly because of the commitment and love one has for the other.
My son gave up so much of his young life because of my condition. It wasn’t easy or fun to watch at such a tender age your mother, your only legal caretaker, be engrossed in such hainious pain and stand helplessly by, not being able to aford her a measure of relief. I so wish I could give back to him all that lost time. But, it’s forever lost. Pain took away the best 10 years of my life, but not only mine, my son’s. My heart still hurts when I think about how compassionate he was, how loving and caring he was, and how much understanding and maturity it took to watch what happened to me. I gave him the best I could at the time, but it certainly wasn’t the best I could have given him if I had not been in so much pain.
I once had a patient call me and talk to me about how bad his pain was and that his family had gotten to the point they no longer believed it was real. So many doctors he’d seen felt he just had to live with it or that it was psychosomatic. HOGWASH! When he finally was able to reach a doctor who properly diagnosed him, he’d come to the end of his rope with many of his friends and family who would be vital to his recovery but weren’t there for him. He shared that he took a cab to the hospital, and in his mind reasoned that if he didn’t make it off the operating table then he wouldn’t know the difference anyway. He saw this one opportunity to be pain free and took it. The family, including his mother would have to deal with it.
He came through the surgery with flying colors and the day he was released, called his mother for a ride home. He shared she was annoyed that he’d not given her more notice to make arrangements to go to the hospital instead of straight to work. She was more annoyed about being put out than her son not allowing her the opportunity to help. WOW! The coldness of some people! She went but the whole trip home she spewed forth her thoughts on how she felt it was a mistake and that she still thought it was all in his mind… CAN YOU IMAGINE SOMEONE BEING SO COLD? I actually can, and, that’s what scares me most about the patients I see. I don’t want any of them to feel they have no one on their side!
And, then, there are those who have little or no empathy for the debilitating state of the sufferer for they cannot feel the pain, therefore it doesn’t exist. Those are the most difficult conditions to be a sufferer among. Not only do you have to deal with the pain, often in silence, you are expected to do the everyday tasks your partner wants no matter how you feel. The expectations that, you are allowed to be in pain, just be able to function at normal capacity to fulfill all of your duties according to your living agreement prior to your injury, is often not possible to cope with. Depression usually accompanies pain that stays any length of time but is often taboo to discuss in many households because it makes you look weak or looking for sympathy or the “easy” way out. THAT could be further from the truth. There is NOTHING easy about being in excruciating pain or being depressed because of it. The sufferer often becomes numb, to emotions, to the outside world, to what needs to be taken care of for their own sake. HOW ON EARTH CAN A PERSON PERFORM “NORMALLY” UNDER THOSE CONDITIONS? THEY CAN’T! It’s that simple!
So how then can a sufferer be expected to perform normally the intimacy of love and at the very least “sex” as an act, if they can’t wrap their head around it. It’s been said that sex is 90% mental and 10% physical. AND THAT’S A TRUE STATEMENT. (I remember, I had sex once…. or twice! LOL) If that’s the case, and a back and leg pain sufferer is preoccupied with the constancy of the pain, HOW IN THE HELL IS IT EVER GONNA BE POSSIBLE TO HAVE INTIMACY??
Encouraging the sufferer to seek a remedy from the pain is the first step in getting back an active sex life. Once that’s behind them, rediscover on a different plain all the things you found unique in one another. Learn to adapt to the new capabilities of your healed partner. Allow time for desires to come back, give broad understanding to the relationship to accommodate the necessary changes for the sake of the pain sufferer and help them discover a new-found freedom, one that through no fault of their own was taken from them and has been graciously awarded back to them.
EXPERIMENT, SEEK OUT NEW WAYS, FIND NEW INNOVATIVE WAYS TO ENJOY THE PLEASURES OF ONE ANOTHER. You might be pleasantly surprised. Throw out all the old sexual paradigmes you once held and let your new attitude let you explore the human body through touch in a way you may never have looked at it before. The mind is limitless…. let it take you to new heights, new places of pleasure… you deserve it for all that you’ve been through, all that you’ve suffered from, all that you reached the other side from…. fill your days with wonderous exploration, share your fears with your partner, open your minds to endless possibilities but first, make sure you get permission from your doctor that you are healed enough to engage in such wanton abandonment!
REJOICE that you are back among the functional living! ENJOY your new body in such a manner you embrace all that it was, is and can be to you. TAKE CARE of your whole being, spiritually, physically, and sexually… you have a right to do that…. and if no one else has given you permission to do that…. I will… because you are worth it!
By the way, when I was done talking to this male patient, he gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek through his tears, I’d just given him back his life, right after Dr. Smith fixes him!
And as always take care of you and yours,