It’s been a long, exhausting day. It’s only 9pm, but you feel like it’s 4 in the morning and you’re ready to fall over. Suddenly your other half looks at you in that way, smiles and strokes your arm, and you know they want to make love, but all you can do is stare at them in shock.
Do you NOT know how I’m feeling?
Decreased sexual interest is not a common characteristic of FM. Nonetheless, a 2003 Brazilian study, involving women in their 40s and 50s, half of whom had FM and half of whom did not, found that the healthy group was likelier to have had a regular sexual relationship in the last six months than those with FM. The FM group members were less satisfied with their sex life, had more pain during intercourse, experienced more fatigue during sexual intimacy, and were less likely to initiate sexual intimacy than healthy women.
We already know that FM is more foe than friend. While many of us are too tired for sex, it is the muscle pain that leads to pressure and a squeezing of the pelvic area and lower back that ultimately result in muscle cramping during sexual intercourse. This naturally causes a great deal of discomfort for an individual with FM, making it difficult to engage in certain sexual behaviours.
Sex eventually becomes something that is no longer pleasurable (I can’t believe I said that!), but a negative experience. One’s natural tendency is to avoid such physically intimate situations, especially given that one is too tired or sore for sex. So, who can be bothered?
Further, taking a toll on one’s sex life are FM medications that decrease libido and a man’s ability to attain or maintain erection. Anti-depressants can also take a toll on one’s sexual functioning. A person living with FM may react negatively to bodily changes, like weight changes and the loss of muscle mass.
As lovers feel less connected in the boudoir, their sexual relationship takes a hit (ie: unless they take steps to stay mentally and spiritually connected while attempting to be physically intimate). It’s important to realise that the release of hormones and endorphins, natural opioids, during sex can help to relieve FM symptoms, like pain and depression, and boosting well-being. This double-sided sword is that while sex can relieve symptoms of FM, like pain and depression, FM itself results in a decreased libido, fatigue and pain that hinder the individual’s desire and ability to engage in sexual intercourse.
Maintaining your sex life is vital to your health and well-being. In order to have a healthy sex life, why not try some of these pointers:
- Practice acceptance. Adapt. Make peace with the fact that you need to deal with this condition, and then allow yourself to reclaim your life in every way.
- Maintain a regiment that helps you to feel good about yourself – not necessarily just grooming. Sometimes you need to treat yourself to feel good. Take yourself off for a hot oil massage or a manicure.
- Stay physically active, preferably with your partner, as much as possible, as another way to feel better about yourself, possibly boosting your sex drive.
- Manage stress with relaxation techniques like meditation.
- Talk to your doctor about how your condition is affecting your sex life, including any medications that may be at play.
- Arm yourself with information. Become educated about your condition and how FM impacts your sexuality and sexual expression. This is a must in talking to your partner about everything that’s taking place. Being informed can also help to alleviate your lover’s concerns, helping both of you to stay emotionally connected.
- Allow your partner to be more active during sex if possible (Absolutely nothing bad about THAT!)
- Plan for sex after luxuriating in a warm bath or using a moist heat application, both of which ease FM pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, and stiffness.
- Experiment with different sexual positions. There are plenty of activities and positions that are ideal for fatigue; and many ways to avoid painful sex. And have fun trying them ALL out!
- Enjoy each other despite flare ups. Part of this is not being so goal-oriented during a love-making session. Allow things to happen as they can.
- Stay physically connected by just cuddling (unless such is not made possible by allondynia, where the brain misinterprets neutral or pleasant stimuli for pain).
Finally? Don’t give up. It might feel like you’re never going to want to have sex ever again – but that’s the fibro talking, not you. Lust strikes at the oddest moment, and people can have sex in a myriad of ways. So have fun exploring what works best for you. and you’ll feel IT again. And when you do, take advantage of it, and enjoy it!
N.B. This whole post (and the research involved) developed from me wanting to tell you about the new thongs/g-strings now available in my shop. However, as I looked into it more, it became increasingly difficult to ask if you were feeling unapologetically naughty. Hmm – obviously, I did anyway.
- Health Benefits of Sex (dudendiva.wordpress.com)
Guess what? Acupuncture again today – YIPPEE! Felt absolutely awful on the day after it last week (supposedly that was my body getting rid of toxins), but I was still excited about a positive step towards managing my FM. Anyway, I’m lying there with the little altar thingy on my belly button and needles poking out of the top of my head, my forehead, my legs and my arms; and thinking about buying watermelon and cigarettes at the supermarket on the way home, maybe an Easter Bunny, too (or two!) and how to make it easier to vote on the entries in the Fibromyalgia Awareness Day Video Competition.
My eyes are squeezed shut as a defence against the fluoro lighting and I realise that I’m not really relaxed at all. So, my brain starts chatting to the rest of me:
Deep breath – ok, relax those shoulders…let them sink into the pillow behind my head. breathe deeply. Hey! this would be a perfect time to meditate! if only you knew how to mediate…hmm, clear your head – am I supposed to be thinking about nothing, something, a beach? think about your third eye (that’s supposed to be the area just above the area between your eyes)…weird shapes forming in the darkness of my closed eyes – watermelon – stop! where did that shape go? There behind that even blacker cloud. Now I can see it…doesn’t that look like spades around a circle? oh, with some clubs embossed on top? – watermelon…I wonder if the lady who will cut up my watermelon is working today – stop. look for the shape…maybe that’s meditation. or maybe I should learn to meditate before I try it for myself – ha! maybe I’ll have to write a post about this – ooh, the shape is zooming in and out…or am I closing my eyes too tightly? concentrate on the shape…clear your head of other thoughts – watermelon…
…and so it went until my acupuncturist popped in to extract the needles.
Supposedly, meditation can help us to understand our own mind. We can learn how to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy. Did my mind sound peaceful to you?
The purpose of meditation is to make our mind calm and peaceful. If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we will experience true happiness; but if our mind is not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions.
I find it difficult to control my mind (at the moment, as do you, most probably). Many people have trouble with meditation at it seems as if their minds are like a balloon in the wind – blown here and there by external circumstances. My mind doesn’t seem to need external stimuli; it hops from one thought to another like a frog in a pond.
Meditation is thought to influence the abnormal neurological pathways that make FM sufferers experience pain differently and have lower pain thresholds than those without the condition. It is understood to be due to an imbalance in both brain hormones and the processing of pain signals. Studies over the last 10 years have demonstrated that a regular meditation practice positively changes the way the brain is structured and how it functions.
Furthermore, American professor of affective neuroscience Richard Davidson states: ‘What we found is that the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before. Their mental practice has an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice enhances performance.’
It demonstrates,he said, that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine.
Accordingly, for me (after I practice some more), meditation is good medicine.
***Tomorrow, I’m trying a Pilates session – stay tuned!
 Dr Daniel Lewis, Fibromyalgia and Meditation, http://www.fmaware.org/News28b55.html?i=g6jyL5vriNaHZxABsr2ZKA…