Intimacy After Injury

 I have been disabled with a C6 spinal cord injury since I was twenty-one years old. I was right in the prime of my sexual life (so I thought) when I broke my neck and my life changed forever. Being intimate again after injury as a young male was extremely crucial to me to help with my recovery and acceptance of my disability.

After my accident, I was still the same person. However, I didn't have control of my body like I used to. As result of this, I was really unsure as to how I could perform now that my new body didn't function the way it did. As a quadriplegic, I have paralyzed hands and arms, along with paralyzed legs and core muscles, but I have retained some form of sensation below my injury level. This is very beneficial for me when it comes to pressure relief, skin break down, and sexual function.

While re-learning what my body could and couldn't do, I felt like I was back in Junior High School. I can vividly remember while in the hospital, fresh out of neck surgery, a nurse came to my bed in the middle of the night. She was there to empty my bladder - using a catheter. This procedure caused me to have an erection. I remember feeling embarrassed about this, but the nurse let me know that it was very common and made me feel at ease about it.

I now have a better understanding of my body and can control what happens better then when I was first hurt and when the "wind blew". I learned that your body will adapt and you will become more in tune with yourself.

At the time of my accident, I wasn't married or dating any one. I really wanted to be with a female again as I began to adjust to my disability. I had feelings of insecurity as to whether I could perform up to her standards or to what I thought my standards were. This made it very intimidating for me to try and be intimate again. I knew I wanted to try, but I wasn't sure how I would be able to do that. I met with a specialist, while in rehab, who advised me to start with self-exploration to see what my body could do and what it could handle. I noticed that I could get an erection very easy but I wasn't able to maintain it for an extended period of time.

I met with my doctor and discussed the use of prescription medications to help with this. For me, these drugs worked wonders. The confidence I felt when using these prescription drugs made me even more ready to be intimate again and gave me a greater level of acceptance of my injury. Talk with your doctor, they can provide you advice on what would work best for you.

My first experience with a woman after my injury was actually extremely unsuccessful. The girl I was with was very accepting and understanding of all of the issues that can happen. I really wasn't sure what I was trying to accomplish and I think I was just more concerned about myself at that moment. I have since been in a couple of long term (5 year) relationships. As I began to get into a serious relationship, I found that if I were open and honest about what I could and couldn't do, it made things more comfortable. Not only for me, but also for the woman I was with.

I have learned a few things that have made this process a little easier. The first thing I do is to make sure I don't take my medication prematurely. These pills are pretty expensive, therefore I don't want to take one and not use it. Now this is a fine balance for me. They can take upwards to forty-five minutes to work. I have found this is the perfect time to open the line of communication and begin to get comfortable around my partner, letting her know what I can do. The second thing I make sure I do is to make sure I have completely emptied my bladder. I use an intermittent self catheter to ensure my bladder is empty. I don't want to have any leaks or accidents during this time.

I know it can be very intimidating and early on you might feel that you will never gain control of the situation. As time goes by and you become more and more comfortable with your disability, you will find that you can lead a very healthy sexual and intimate life. Be honest with your partner, and don't be afraid to share with them what you want or what you can or can't do. Some of the most fun you will have will be experimenting and finding out what you can do.

David

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