We Can Reclaim Self-Love by Rediscovering Our Sexual Selves
We suffer many losses in our lives with MS. Sex drive and self-love are two common casualties. I think they are closely linked, and I’ll attempt to describe the ties that bind them.
MS scared the lust right out of me
Like a lot of you, I hurtled into adulthood with a healthy lust and a hunger for satisfaction. But, at age 41, the trauma of my first MS attack scared the lust right out of me. I watched it gallop away into the wide distances, wondering if it would ever return.
Lust rode off and disappeared
At the end of the movie SHANE (1953), the title character rides off in like fashion as young Joey screams at him to come back. “Shane! Mother loves you! I love you, Shane! Father needs you! Shaaaaane!” Joey cranes his neck to keep Shane in view for as long as he can before turning towards home. It was the end of the story, but we can guess that Joey would eventually shake off his grief and loneliness, help his dad and mother with the chores, and grow up to marry and have children. Shane was Joey’s first guy crush, and he would have found a way to remember the stranger as the interloper that had changed his thoughts about himself, his parents, and his community. At some point, Joey stopped wondering whether Shane would return. After my lust rode off and disappeared into the sunset, I stopped wondering, too.
Sex didn't matter
For years, sex didn’t matter. For years I looked at men and saw only human beings. Before the MS, I’d zero in on a muscular forearm, a deep, mellifluous speaking voice, broad shoulders or a neatly-cropped beard. All the things that made men different from women in deliciously sensual ways. Vive la difference! was my motto. But after disease onset, none of those things stirred me. My once fertile fields lay fallow, resting.
My libido returned
Resting, but not dead. It took years, but my libido did return. I’d been telling myself that sex didn’t matter, there were other more important things in life. There are, of course, and I explored them with a new freedom and focus that I’d never experienced before I lost my lust. Looking back, the trauma of MS made me focus on only those things that were vitally important: work and study. I believe it prevented me from falling into a serious depression. Losing lust was a by-product of fear. Years later the fear subsided and I felt safer and more secure. This return to inner peace is what allowed me to become sexual again. That release from lust led me back to it at a later time when I wasn’t feeling so vulnerable.
Still, things had changed
Still, it didn’t come back full force and resume as if nothing had happened. My body had changed. It responded in unpredictable ways. Things were missing. I couldn’t quite gather up all the pieces necessary for a return to my sexual baseline. I couldn’t remember what they all were since it had initially fallen into place so effortlessly. It came back in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the missing piece came home to stay in the form of sexual fantasy.
MS breaks sexual arousal in a hundred different ways
The brain-skin connection is what makes sexual arousal happen. Multiple sclerosis breaks that connection in a hundred different ways, so it’s no wonder that lust becomes one casualty of the war raging in our CNS. As I’ve stated in my previous articles about sexual dysfunction and how to get one’s mojo back, it takes time, patience, and the right tools. You can view some of these articles here:
We Can Enjoy Sex Despite Having Multiple Sclerosis
Sexual Healing: Why Masturbation is Good for Your Health
Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?
Sex is a path toward self-love
One of the most important factors is to think of sex as one path back to self-love. Not only do we lose our mojo, we also become estranged from our bodies. It doesn’t work like it used to. Frustration builds, self-confidence flags. Drugs and a sedentary lifestyle change how we look, further eroding our self-love. Combine that with work loss and abandonment by friends, family, and lovers. Self-love is tied up in all these things, making it even more difficult to enjoy touching ourselves both sexually and non-sexually. No more self-massage, the occasional caress or acupressure at the temples to quiet an anxious feeling, no more admiring our positive physical traits in the mirror. Gradually we feel unworthy of such self-care. Where before we didn’t hesitate to bring ourselves to a sexual climax as a way to relax and fall asleep, we now lie in our beds with eyes wide open while our errant sexual energy spins its wheels in our minds and keeps us awake.
Multiple sclerosis turns our bodies against us in a hundred cruel ways. Sadly, this colossal betrayal clarifies the state of self-love we were in by tearing it away and leaving us to feel the empty space, as though we’d lost a limb. But unlike a lost limb, we can reclaim that self-love. One way to reclaim it is by rebuilding a sexual relationship with ourselves and our partners.
One reason this is hard to imagine is, I believe, that we might define sex in too narrow a sense. Our culture still defines it as being phallus-centered. Penetration is only one technique of sexual intimacy among many. Multiple sclerosis changes that game for both men and women, so redefining sex is very important. It can start with non-sexual touching as a way to get reacquainted with our bodies, remap its sensations as they are now. Concentrating on the now helps free us from memories of the before time, thereby quieting our grief. That was then, this is now.
Recapturing self-love to heal and become whole
Physical exploration with a partner has multiple advantages. Not only is it a pleasant way to share intimacy and giving — massages go a long way to help relax spastic muscles, for example — it can also be an important method of finding trouble spots that doctors need to know about. Our partners can observe new moles and growths, as well as suspicious lumps in places we can’t see or feel. Such physical intimacy could save a life.
Recapturing self-love not only improves our quality of life, it allows us to love and help others to heal and become whole again. A healthy serving of love goes around and comes around in ways more wonderful than we might ever imagine.
Do you celebrate your MS Anniversary?