We are all subject to changes in life – changes that may affect our sexuality. Cancer, acquired brain injury, Thrombosis or simply getting older. And it is not always easy when your life suddenly changes. From being fully functioning, active and independent, your body and mind has changed, and you may even be dependent on others for managing your daily live. Typically, your self-esteem and body image will go through a phase of sadness and frustration over the loss of abilities, joy and desire. So naturally it has an impact on your and your partner’s (if any) sex and love life. It is normal for you or your partner to withdraw sexually or emotionally and for sex to go from being a natural part of life to suddenly becoming something you have to plan and rediscover.
However, it being difficult and frustrating does not mean you cannot enjoy your sexuality anymore. There is always a way that takes into account your current situation and at the same time gives you energy and hope for a future life of sex and sensuality.
All it takes is courage. If you have the courage to face the situation and take on the challenge, we are willing to fight with you.
A sexlife after acquired brain injury
A brain injury can affect your sexuality in a variety of areas – sensory, motoric, cognitive and emotional. In addition, your personality, your way of communicating and your behavior may also be altered. Brain injury, combined with medication, may cause endocrine imbalances that can affect your ability to get an erection and ejaculate – and for women it may cause reduced lubrication and fertility, as well as disruption of her menstruation cycle.
Brain damage may also impair all or parts of the sensory organs. This means that the past feeling of pleasure and joy from touches and caresses may have changed. Something that used to feel nice may now feel uncomfortable. At certain times you may experience a complete lack of desire altogether.
You may experience both frustration and anger due to your inability to be as sexually active as you were before – both when it comes to masturbating and sexual intercourse with a partner. Performance anxiety, loss of sexual desire and lower self-esteem are also common in relation to brain damage. Maybe you isolate yourself. Maybe there are periods when you are outraged by your new situation. You may experience being annoyed by yourself and your surroundings. This is understandable and normal, especially if you have not yet found new means of expressing your sexuality.
In regard to reduced mobility, you may become fearful of hurting your partner or of ending up in awkward positions when you have sex. Caressing and kissing your partner may also become a challenge, and many need to recognize that their bodies do not respond the way they would like.
That’s a bitter pill to swallow and even harder if you feel alone with it! We can help you rediscover your sex life so you can live out your sexuality in a satisfying manner.
“Rewarding, inspiring, instructive and moving to learn the way Handisex are working with people with brain injuries! Knowing that we cannot do everything ourselves here at the center, but need professional help to work with the residents’ sexuality.” Housing and rehabilitation center Lunden, Varde, Bernice I. Hansen, dept. Head.
A sex life after disease
If you suffer from a stroke, heart attack, or cancer, you or your partner may have already experienced that it can have a negative impact on sexuality. In addition to the disease itself, you may feel uncomfortable, fatigue, pain and difficulty moving. Chemo or radiotherapy may also have a negative impact on your desire, energy and body awareness. If you are taking antidepressants and antianxiety medication, there is a risk of a wide range of side effects that affect your sexuality. The most common are loss of libido and sensitivity in the genital area, orgasm disorders, erectile dysfunction and difficulty ejaculating.
Diseases like breast cancer may pose a similar challenge to your feminine self-image and your sense of sexual attractiveness. For men, one of the major challenges is how to regain his masculinity and his role as a potent man in case of diseases like prostate cancer.
In other words, there are an infinite number of (disease) factors that can affect your sexuality.
At Handisex, we do not focus on your specific disease. We leave that to the medical professionals. Instead, we deal with your feelings about your body and your sexual life, taking into account your personality and your challenges. We ask you all the questions necessary to clarify your sexual desires, and we help you live out your sexuality in practical terms. We have a lighthearted approach to the topic of “sex”. Nothing is unnatural, and that’s where we meet you.
It is important that you take responsibility and ask for professional help in order for your life to not only consist of disease and symptoms – but also involve your ability to accommodate desire and joy.
A sex life with age
Everyone needs physical contact, warmth and intimacy. Skin to skin. Older people’s sexuality however is surrounded by myths, as whether they have sexual an erotic feelings at all. What nonsense! For some people sexual desire decreases with age, but for many it continues throughout life.
Our experience is that the vast majority of health care workers in nursing homes, institutions, and hospitals feel very uncomfortable talking about sexuality and sex with their patients and residents. It is also reported that there is no mentioning of the common sexual side effects of various medications prescribed by the doctors.
It seems like sexuality in connection with aging remains a taboo.
Erotic toys are one option for exploring your sexuality and enjoying sexual desires. If you can use your hands, we can help you to find the toys that suit you best. If you are unable to hold a toy securely yourself, assisted masturbation is an option. If your need is more about caring and intimate touch, a sensual massage (link: sensualitesmassage.dk) could be just the right thing for you. Naturally the massage is available to both men and women and is provided by Asgerbo
If you live in a care home, ask the staff to engage in a conversation about your sexuality. If you live in your own home, you will have to call or write us an email. One thing is for certain, whether you live in a nursing home or live alone or with a partner – having sexual desires and needs is perfectly normal, even in your later years.
Spouses are easily overlooked when their partner becomes ill and thus loses some of his or her functionality. However, there is more at stake than that. The person you fell in love with is not the same anymore – especially if your partner’s mentality has been affected. The roles may also have changed – instead of you being an equal partner you now may have the role of caretaker as well as spouse and the sexual initiative may rely on you, creating an imbalance in the relationship. It’s hard to have to help your partner in the bathroom and into bed, and then turn around and play the role of the great seducer.
If you have had a close and well-functioning sex life, the contrast and loss becomes even clearer. Suddenly your levels of desire no longer match or your sexual needs seem irreconcilable, and as a spouse, you have to accommodate the changes in your partner – your partner may respond differently to touches or may be unable to move and caress you like before. The entire sensory apparatus may also be affected. Scents that used to stimulate may now awake disgust and naughty words suddenly become vulgar. Moreover, you may feel that suddenly everything is on your shoulders – at the risk of forgetting yourself and your own sexuality.
We will do our best to remind you that, you need not just survive – but also to live.
Sometimes it can be sufficient just to admit that you are tired and frustrated as hell and just want to run away from it all. If so, you are welcome to call and unload – if you need guidance and advice on how you and your partner can regain your erotic interaction, it will probably require more than a phone call.
Asgerbo is experienced in restoring polarity, trust and openness between you and thus reinstating the necessary attraction and intimacy in your relationship.
Overcoming physical challenges
Certain sexual challenges are primarily physical. If you for instance suffer from paralysis, you may experience a lack of feeling in parts of the body as well of having difficulty moving the way you desire. It may also mean that you have a harder time achieving an erection and orgasm. Perhaps you have a prolapsed pelvic floor. Maybe you get tired and exhausted quickly. Perhaps you have difficulty keeping your saliva in your mouth. There is an abundance of situations that can make sexuality a tough nut to crack. However, that does not mean you cannot enjoy your nuts – or whatever your preferences are. Today, quite a few sexual aids are available to compensate for physical limitations.
However, the key is to accept your body’s limitations – without giving up and allowing your desire to drown in self-pity or in anyone else’s prejudices. Let your limit be your strength – explore the body you have right now, as if you were a beginner or a teenager again. Your body holds up to 50 million sensory cells, so it’s just a matter of getting back on the horse – or pony if a horse is too challenging. You may discover that your neck or your ears or your back is incredibly sensitive and filled with sexual sensations.
A great example from real life is a woman who contacted us after her whole body was paralyzed. A combination of in-depth conversations and bodywork revealed that not only did she get her first orgasm at the age of 50 – she turned out to be multi-orgasmic. Something most normally functioning individuals do not experience.
So find the curiosity and persistence to explore the enjoyment your body contains – disability or no disability. And if you get stuck, we’d like to help you with inspiration and guidance.
Overcoming emotional challenges
For some people, mental or emotional changes creates the biggest challenges. Your role in the family may have changed and the same may apply to that of your partner. Disabilities that occur later in life can present a great challenge to cope with.
In principle coping is plain and simple – you just need to relate to your current life as positively as possible and find new things to look forward to. However, we are rarely as simple as that. If you have a disability, you will probably at times feel sad, frustrated, and angry about life in general, and upset about your changed sexual situation in particular.
Typical signs that you are not thriving:
− You often feel lonely
− You often feel sad
− You often feel frustrated
− You become angry/aggressive easily
− You become self-destructive
− You overeat or lose your appetite
− You become apathetic or inactive
We can all feel that way when life becomes challenging. If you sense that it may be a matter of deeper psychological problems like depression, we recommend that you seek professional help from a psychologist. At Handisex, we are not psychologists but we are closely associated with Michelle Miller, a sexologist and psychologist.
There is always a psychological dimension to physical disabilities and diseases, a dimension always present in our practical approach as well. Handisex helps you, in both therapeutic and practical ways, to deal with your emotions when your dissatisfaction is associated with your sexuality and your disability.