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Female sexual dysfunction

June 10, 2011

Good afternoon, hope you all are well. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been taking a long hard look at my life over the past few years to come up with a thorough list of all my symptoms for my new neurologist. This has lead to quite a few “wooooaaaaah” moments and a lot of googling. I’m realizing now just how many symptoms I’ve brushed off and how many times my body was clearly screaming at me “OI! THIS AIN’T RIGHT! GET IT CHECKED! I’M BROKEN!” Thanks to various support groups, blogs, and websites I’ve come to realize that I’ve had more relapses than I previously thought, and a visit to the ER during college for a suspected heart attack may have actually been an “MS hug” (more on that in a later entry).

The first major “woah” moment for me was when I looked back at the symptoms I went through during my last relationship, and those symptoms are what I’ll be covering in this entry. If you’re not comfortable with discussions on sexuality then please skip this entry. I’m not going to lie, this is a very difficult entry for me to write because well, admitting to sexual dysfunction, even if temporary, is embarassing. I’ve tried to write this entry several times already but quickly abandoned it each time after remembering that I do have a link to this blog on my facebook account. So, if you know me personally and aren’t sure if you want to read this; I will be sharing some pertinent details of my sex life. This entry is not meant to slander the former partner mentioned. Looking back now, his response to the problem, given his mindset in regards to my physical condition, was honestly…kinda reasonable. I can’t say I would do the same if I were in his shoes, but it would be tempting and I think a lot of people who have a partner with this problem feel the same way he did. If, while reading this entry, you find yourself thinking “gee, I’ve had that” then please see your doctor. You have nothing to be ashamed of, it’s not your fault, and you can get help.

Before I get into that though, just a quick status update: I’m having a lot of numbness today and my tremor is pretty bad. I’m chalking this up to how little sleep I’ve been getting lately. I’m still in the midst of forcing myself back into a normal sleep pattern, and I’m still in the going to bed at roughly the right time but only getting half the amount of sleep I should be getting stage. A few more days of this and my sleep should be back to normal. I’m just about finished with the sleep journal so I will be posting that later today (along with an entry with tips on getting a good nights sleep).

Now, onto the sex!

When you hear the words “sexual dysfunction”, most people think of a flaccid penis and a little blue pill. I won’t be discussing male sexual dysfunction because, obviously, as a female I have never experienced it and cannot begin to imagine how it must feel emotionally. Female sexual dysfunction can be just as crippling to a relationship though, but it tends to get swept under the rug. After all, if she’s not really in the mood, it’s not like she can’t physically have sex anyway right? Just use a little lube and all is well. No, all is not well.

Female sexual dysfunction is more than just not being able to provide your own natural lubrication and telling your partner that you’re not in the mood. Sexual contact genuinely does not feel good. There is a loss of engorgment of the external genitalia as well (that’s right; chick wood is real). It makes you question a lot of things; is this because I’m no longer attracted to my partner? will I ever be able to enjoy sex again? what will I do if I never get my sex drive back? It puts a tremedous strain on relationships (it was one of the main factors in ending my last relationship) and damages your self esteem beyond belief. It can also call your fidelity into question and test the faithfulness of your partner.

So, here’s how it happened to me. My then-fiance and I were living together. It had been about a year I think since my last relapse. There were a few bumps in the road in terms of the relationship but nothing to flat out halt the march to the altar. Then, I started to feel funny. My muscles were aching and stiff all the time, and I was constantly tired. I started grinding my teeth in my sleep, which lead to me waking up with migraines every day. I told myself the teeth grinding (bruxism) was due to work stress, and the aching muscles and fatigue must have been signs of an oncoming case of the flu. I ignored both, but after a month it hadn’t gone away and had gotten worse. After some of the symptoms I had experienced earlier in the relationship (like the mentioned trip to the ER for the MS hug, tremor, etc) and my refusal to see the neurologist again since he hadn’t done anything during a previous visit, my partner passed off my symptoms as either hypochondria, exagerations of flu symptoms, or flat out faking it as an excuse to be lazy (I was having an extremely difficult time keeping up with my share of the housework because of the pain and fatigue). If I had a diagnosis, maybe he might have been more understanding, who knows.

At first our sex life wasn’t affected dramatically because he backed off a bit since he thought I had the flu. After about a month though, he was understandably frustrated. I was still tired all the time and had absolutely no sex drive. At first I tried to give logical reasons for turning him down everytime (ex: I have a headache, I’m really tired, I have to get up early, etc) but that can only go on for so long before he finally says what’s on his mind: you’re using excuses to cover up the fact that you just don’t want to have sex. When he confronted me about it, I was finally honest with him. I explained to him that I just didn’t want to, it had nothing to do with our relationship or him, I just had no drive whatsoever. He took it very personally though; when I said “I just don’t want to have sex”, he heard “I just don’t want to have sex with you.” While that reaction was extremely frustrating and disheartening for me, it was equally crushing for him and is a normal reaction. I suggested we just try to wait it out and he take care of his needs on his own in the meantime (this was not satisfactory, as he felt he shouldn’t have to masturbate because he was in a relationship. I can’t say I agree with that viewpoint, but to each their own).

This is when things started to really affect our relationship. He would continue to come on to me, and I would continue to turn him down. I think he started to see how much it was affecting me emotionally, and lightened up a bit. He would try to be affectionate without bring up sex, just to keep some intimacy in the relationship, but I took it the wrong way. He was not the snuggly sort, so I interpreted any physical affection as a means to obtain sex. It eventually got the point where we would never snuggle, hug, kiss, or even hold hands because of all the miscommunication. It was devastating for both of us. We had essentially gone from being an engaged couple to being roommates who slept in the same bed.

After a few weeks of this, I was fed up. We were both miserable, and I decided to try to just go along with it anyway despite having no desire for it. It was horrible. It did not feel the same at all; I had absolutely no physical response to anything he did. No engorgement, no lubrication, nothing. It didn’t feel good at all, so I was nowhere near able to achieve orgasm (either with him or on my own). To top it off, I had started having muscle spasms. At that point in time, the spasms were only hitting my feet and calves, but were exceptionally painful. When my foot spasmed, it would curl down like I had my foot pressed ontop of an invisible ball and I could not straighten it. Sex was constantly interrupted by yelps, tears of pain, and me attempting to massage what I thought was just a charlie horse away. The spasms would last long enough that he would lose his erection and sex would be abandoned for the night. We tried different things, hoping that spicing things up would help me get my drive back, but it didn’t work. No amount of new positions, different lubes, toys, or anything else helped.

The last time we attempted sex, I had started to have unusual sensory perceptions. Any touch tickled like you wouldn’t believe. I tried to stiffle my laughter as much as I could, and at first we both just had a giggle then tried to keep on going, but it didn’t work. Even a firm grasp on my arm sent me into hysterical laughter for about half an hour that made my eyes water and my ribs ache. Because of my complete and utter lack of obvious physical arousal, ticklishness (which he may have interpreted as being made up), and lack of sex drive, the wheels started to turn in his head.

“She really doesn’t want to have sex with me….maybe she’s getting it from someone else.”

That thought was swirling around in his head for the rest of the of relapse. The relapse lasted for 3 months. That is an extremely long time to be left stewing in the thought that you’re being cheated on. It was enough to turn someone who was normally very laid back into a jealous, paranoid, nervous wreck. When he finally confronted me with this possibility, I was blown away. I have never cheated on anyone, and to me, it felt like he was trying to guilt me into physical contact. By the time I had finally regained normal sexual function, the damage that had been done was irreparable. While I had regained desire, the accusations killed my desire for him. He had finally had enough, and eventually started looking elsewhere to have his needs met.

Sexual dysfunction wasn’t the direct cause of the end of that relationship (there were other factors that I’m not discussing here because they are irrelevant to the subject), but it was the final nail in the coffin. Physical contact is essential for a relationship. We are social creatures, we need eachother. When deprived of that intimacy, it changes you and your partner completely. Again, if you are having problems with your drive or your physical response, please see your doctor. It is going to suck fessing up to it, and it’s going to be extremely embarassing discussing the details of the most intimate aspect of your life while someone scribbles down notes, but that embarassment is temporary. The frustration, pain, and depression that come along with sexual dysfunction however, may not be temporary if you don’t seek help. Be open and honest with your partner. Yes, it is your body that is affected, but they are just as much affected by it emotionally as you are. Don’t let it drive a wedge between you, face it together.

If you or your partner have MS and would like more information on ways it can affect your sex life, as well as tips for couples, please click on the link to the right for the SomeoneLikeMe website. Go through the the toolbox, select emotional, then click on intimacy, sexuality, and MS. That page is what made me realize what really went on with my body during my experience and made me decide to write about it.

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From → Journal

5 Comments
  1. Thank you for this (and for the page recommendation). When I was first diagnosed I looked all over for some honesty regarding sex and MS. I didn’t find much so I started my own blog where I can talk about it if I need to. My sex drive comes and goes and I am very fortunate to have a totally kick ass partner with a good sense of humor. I get super sensitive sometimes and last week he just breathed on my neck and it sent me into a laugh attack. I laughed like a little kid being tickled to death. He just sat back and watched me and laughed with me.
    During phases where I can’t orgasm, Hubby gets more frustrated than me and when I really don’t feel like having full on sex, he’s pretty good about not giving me a hard time and sometimes settles for oral. Our problem is that we are newlyweds and should be banging like rabbits and Hubby is always horny!

  2. OMG So the ticklish thing isn’t just me! I may have been laughing when it happened but I felt like I was going nuts or something lol. It’s so weird living in a society that glorifies sex yet hushes you the second you start talking about challenges in your sex life. There is no where near enough information out there for people like us, time to stop staying quiet and speak up. There is so much focus on male sexual dysfunction, when it comes to females, it’s just…”who cares?” Sad really.
    Sounds like you’ve got a very good, understanding husband though 🙂 Being able to still have affection and a bit of a sex life despite the dysfunction must be wonderful (when I read the part about him laughing with you it made me go “awww”). Congratulations to the both you on your recent anniversary, btw 🙂
    My drive still comes and goes, but I wish I had paid closer attention to everything that was going on when it happened in the past. I never thought to count it as a symptom in the past because the possibility of MS wasn’t brought up by doctors until recently. At least now that I’m single the lack of drive doesn’t affect anything 😛

  3. It is true that female sexual dysfunction does get swept under the rug. I am really lucky that I have such an amazing partner. If something happens (funny or not….like legs spasticity/spasms) he says things like, “Geez babe. If you didn’t want to have sex with me, you could have just said so. No need faking symptoms” or if I start laughing hysterically because he barely breathed on my neck, “Geez babe, I know it’s tiny but no need to laugh in my face”. We always try to keep a good sense of humor and hopefully we do for the next 40 or so years.
    We were chatting on a social networking site before we even had our first dinner together and when I got my diagnosis, all he wanted to do was help. He knew about my MS before our first date and he has a friend who’s mom has MS and is pretty progressed so he knows what our future could possibly look like. He reminds that even if I didn’t have MS, he would still open doors for me and stuff. The Universe dropped him in my lap just when I needed him.
    Just an FYI, there is actually medication for people with MS who laugh uncontrollably…..seriously. It’s a real problem. Sometimes I laugh at something and then proceed to laugh for like 10 minutes (my “laugh attack” I call it).

  4. Forgot to tell you, Wheelchair Kamikaze wrote about sex recently too! Must be in the air.
    http://www.wheelchairkamikaze.com/2011/06/bits-and-pieces-sex-sells-edition.html

    • Heh, I actually read Wheelchair Kamikaze’s entry about sex right before I started writing mine 😛 I think it was the final little kick in the butt I needed to finally post it. His entry is fantastic, absolutely love it. Hehehe I love your husband’s sense of humour, he sounds like such a great guy 😀 I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to tackle the whole telling a potential romantic partner about my condition though, it really depends on the guy I guess. I’m going to have a lot on my plate over the next few years with school though so it probably won’t come up (not too many men in nursing school). Very interesting about the medication for laughing, I never even thought to look into whether or not it could be controlled with meds, I’ll have to ask the neurologist about that. Right now, it’s infrequent enough to not need medication (my tremor and spasms are the main hurdles I have to get over now) but it’s comforting to know that if it does come back and get worse it can be taken care of. Thank you 🙂

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