Why write PTSD & Sex?

Because my mates asked me questions and I wanted them to know they were not alone.

The questions that came after we posted that blog on PTSD & Sex?

Shitcups.  Brian will be writing a response to those questions tomorrow, but I wanted to get a wee bit ahead of it and start the conversation.  Uncomfortable silence …..

How about those canucks? The quotes are comments from me.  (Brian)

One of the biggest questions/statements (painfully detailed sometimes and my heart aches for those of you who have shared with me) I received from women revolved around the same issue: a feeling of failure to perform as requested or expected, a strong need for personal space that as a mother and wife is very difficult to come by and a welling resentment that we are on duty 24/7.

the failure to perform as requested or expected is a struggle.  I’d remind people of my favourite home repair guy, Shell Bussey.  Shell Bussey always presented solutions with a three pronged solution.  Good , better, best.  Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good.  Don’t let the idea that you aren’t knocking socks off drag you straight into NO.  Hey, if today is a no, then its a no.  Partners need to get that.  But don’t let the chances for decent, or OK, or good enough, or a solid 65% try turn needlessly into a NO. Take your space if you need it.  Swing off the chandeliers is a crotchless Wonder Woman costume if you can, but trust me on this; if its been a while your other half would take good enough gladly with a smile.  Drop the issue of body image as well as much as you can.  We aren’t 19 either.  Parts of us are flabby and make weird noises.  Walk it off. One thing thats helped us a bit is if you need space, you have to actually say the words.  You may think that we see the laundry that needs doing, the meals that need making , the kids that need hugging, and we do.  We see them.  We just don’t see them as impediments to washing the car, walking the dog, or sex.  You do.  Ok.  You have to say so, each time.  NO is so much harder to take than “I need a break for an hour.”  We can’t see the thoughts, so you need to put words to them, and we will have an easier time understanding that you’ll come back in a bit.

Sisters, this is for you.  And, you know what, dudes for you too. You need to hear the truth.

 

No I don’t always want to have sex.  No.  Nope.  Nada.

Neither do we. We generally do more, but sometimes tired takes over.  Theres many things in life I feel like ought to happen today, that do not happen today because …. reasons.  We get it.  In fact we can fight this one too.  As we age and as mental health kicks the crap out of our bodies, they don’t respond the way they used to mentally and physically.  Sometimes we struggle with not wanting it as much as we did, or are told we should , or used too.  Lots of stuff in the mental health world take shots at a mans sense of manliness.  Yes, it shouldn’t .  Yes it does.

Often it is the last thing I want to do. I want to have everybody just leave me alone for awhile.  I want to not have to answer all the “where’s my …”  “have you seen… ”  … and yes, I sometimes do not want others touching me.  I want to smack those hands away.  But sadly I’m not a bear.  I shave too much.

I have lived for decades without sex.

Shrug.

Men do not do well without sex.  This is just a fact.

I’m told I get cranky, but I’m not sure it’s true.

“Men” that’s a big statement because it isn’t accurate.  People who do classically male jobs tend towards the same hormonal instincts.  So, I will tell you now, if you are with a Corrections Officer, a Soldier, a Cop, a Firefighter, a Paramedic … etc ….  it doesn’t matter what sex they started out as, they will morph into requiring the same stimuli.  One day some fancy pants psychologist will bother their ass to study this but until then, trust me on this as somebody who has been there for all of them for years.

I was married to a man who did not find me sexually attractive.  I was absolutely what he wanted, just not sexually.  He literally could not be bothered other than what was required every other month or so.  I understand rejection.  I understand the utter and complete deprivation of self that comes with being rejected by the man you are married to.  It is devastating.

Careful what you wish for, it might just come true.  Smirk.  Smile.  Sigh.

With Brian came a hell of a lot to handle.

For one thing, Brian warned me that I was not used to having other people in my life and I laughed.  Of course he was wrong. Completely wrong, but I figured I’d humour him.  It took me a few months to realize just how right he was and how unprepared I was.  I came to Canada with my two babies alone; I knew nobody and I had no family.  As tough as that was at times, it suited me just fine.  Sure, holidays were a tad hard because I missed what we didn’t have (family) but on the few times I’ve dipped my toe in that water I’ve quickly realized the facade of “family” for the most part is exactly that, a facade.

 

This is big.  One of the things that Kate wasn’t used to is vocalizing what to her was the obvious.  Because being alone means talking to your self in your own head.  Theres a conversation there. So you think you’ve had the conversation because you remember the words.  But perhaps, they haven’t actually been said.  This applies in the bedroom as well.  Theres more to NO, than just no.  No , not right now.  Can we tomorrow, I’m feeling crappy right now?  No, because what just happened pissed me off.  All these are better than NO. Yes I know that the women lib world will tell you that you don’t need to ever justify that answer to anyone.  No means no.  Yes it does.  But if you want to have a relationship more than an afternoon you may need to explain that a little bit.

Two new sons.  A whole gamut of MH, emotional and human issues I never thought I’d ever have to handle up close and personal.  I am the human who literally chose to move to the other side of the world rather than have to face the shit that came with her own baggage.  I have successfully protected my children from their awful, and I mean child damaging awful, grandparents on both sides, etc … etc… etc…  The girls’ father deigns to visit them every couple of months for 36 hours, he has taken to texting them more regularly over the last year or so and that’s it.  That’s the sum total of the BS in my life prior to hitching my wagon to Brian’s.  I was not in any way prepared for any of it.

To have to step into this quagmire of human relationship treacly bullshit, and watch my kids dip their toes in it has been more than my brain can handle.  The unending nonsense, yes I call it nonsense as I see it as completely unnecessary because I loathe drama and crazy.  Say what you think, do what you say you’d do and move on, is my way.  Prior to Brian all things were my way or the highway.  Having to accommodate and bend like a pretzel into a new way of being has literally driven my  body into an auto-immune spiral.  I have been fighting to get my life back this last month, no point running to the medics because there is nothing they can do.  I have what I have.   The endless dizziness, nausea and all the other fun things that come with my syndrome are less than pleasant.

Don’t be afraid of the schedule.  Or the calendar.  Yes I know, the novels and movies you were exposed too told you that it has to be spontaneous and amazing, filled with unbridled energy.  Truth is, much like changing the oil in the car, body contact gets pushed off into the “when I have time ” file.  But I’d guess that if you felt it’s the glue that holds the relationship together, it wouldn’t be pushed to later.  But shit happens. Life is tough, and fucking busy.  We have to remember that in a relationship theres three entities, you / me / us.  And while something may not be needed by you, or even me, the us needs it.  So, if it gets pushed off like washing out the inside of the truck (I will get to that Kate), pencil it in. Literally right it in.  And don’t pressure yourself with declaring that the act of sex will happen because god knows, hydraulics are a weird thing and so are brains.  But you don’t have an excuse to avoid scheduling in body to body time unless you don’t see it as important or your avoiding it.  Thats how our brains work.  Theres this box, and that box, and that box.  So sex is either A) happening, or B) you are intending it to not happen, or C) I am intended it to not happen.  There is no option D.

SEX AND PTSD

Truth?  It’s fucking tough.

Yup

To talk to Brian requires him to be in a safe place.  Which means connected to me physically.

For me to be physically intimate with Brian requires safety.

Safety for me is a big deal.

Safety isn’t just a physical thing, trust me I can slit a throat soon as look at it (I literally check the jugular out, it’s automatic), it’s .. ethereal.  I need to encompass my space in a good place whatever you wish to call that, it is what it is.

I can fake it for sure and I have.  But if that ethereal feeling of safety doesn’t return?  Adios.

What the fuck does “encompass my space in a good place” mean?

My emotional brain pretty much stopped at age 5.  PTSD in early childhood sucks because the brain is so young, so immature and without the experiences to lean on later.  When triggered, a PTSD brain will go back to the emotional state it was when first it was traumatized, for me sadly that’s two years old.  I have learnt all the coping skills, I do all the things but there is one thing I can’t do and that is change the hardwiring in my brain.

The traditional male response is to fix shit.  I’ve had to learn to ride these more.  In truth the last thing she needs as she rides through a process is to have someone trying to stickhandle it for her.  Thats my deal to sort.  Instincts are hard to squish.

My formative years then were around paratroopers and constant threat of violence from those who were supposed to be my protectors.  Encompass my space in a good place means I find it almost impossible to ignore or circumnavigate my responses which boil down to the following:

  • don’t let me catch you in a lie: from there on I do not trust what you say
  • I watch what you do not what you say
  • If I bother my ass to care about Your people and you do nothing, that is a problem
  • I have been bred to do violence in expert ways, to go into situations nobody else would, to think nothing of self only of duty.  This is not conducive to a successful “modern” relationship
  • fuck with me, fuck with my people, one day, not today but one day, you will feel immense pain and see my smile.

Now the above is not your normal FEMALE response or thinking.  Women for the most part share their emotional states, I do not.  I am a closed book and have had to force myself to be more open, which is why I have zero holdback: I am either closed or open.  There’s no grey in this chick.  Just full throttle or stopped.

I have a vague memory of a hairy assed man who’d recently dropped out of the sky on a short drop with a gun blazing and a cigarette hanging out of his lip, asking me if I could fetch him a beer from the coldstore.  He later pulled a worm out of my child ass twice the length of me.  Worms and Africa go together like chocolate and coffee.  Others used their cigarettes to burn ticks off my skin.  I still get boils when stressed sometimes on my legs or arms, if you’ve never had them you are lucky.  Those hairy, smelly, gorgeous men who died nameless in Africa were my safety, and it is by them I judge all men.

That little child that was me likely didn’t get much in the way of hugs and gentleness.  Certainly I have no memory of moments of tenderness and quiet protective love.  Not ideal preparation on any level for the life I have chosen.

I share the above to give you some idea of the weird crap that runs through my brain 24/7.  I can’t compartmentalize.  I can’t switch it off.  Brian can.

Is the requirement to be physically available easy?

WTF?

No. Of course it isn’t.

Is it worth it?

Yes.

Do I always succeed?

Hell no.

And there, is the truth of it.

 

Brian and I are a team.  We do not always get things right.  I mess up more often than I care to numerate, but I try.  I try to be there for him and I try to be available in the ways he needs.  He in turn tries to give me space when I need it.  The one thing that we do is talk and we do so honestly, openly and as best we can without recriminations.  My all time favourite song that has got me through life is Tubthumping by Chumbawamba.

The truth is I thought it mattered…  I thought music mattered…. does it bollox not like people matter.

And

I get knocked down but I get up again and you are never going to keep me down.

That is my #truth.

 

Kate Gillie
Author

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