Saying the unsayable

So, I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, but not got around to it. Mainly because I’m not sure where the post is going I think. But it’s a recurring thought, so I guess it’s time to write it and find out.

I want to write about sex. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going get at all explicit, there will be no need for squemishness. Suffice to say that it’s safe to conclude that as we’ve been happily married for over a decade and I’ve been pregnant 3 times my husband and I have a sex life. The details are up to us.

Now, I’ve never really discussed it with anyone, but I’m pretty sure that we’re not unusual in that the rhythm of our sex life varies over time. Stands to reason I think – just think, for example, of the two extremes of the heady early days in a relationship alone in the household compared with the new baby days where you’re too tired and busy and constantly interrupted to even realise that you’re not physically up to it right now.

So, I’m in a long term relationship and we have a sex life, which has peaks and troughs over time, but is there, ticking along nicely as part of our relationship. (Scene nicely set now without too much information I hope.)

Then why write about this? Well, because a major cause of troughs in my sex life is my mental health. When I’m “not feeling right”, when I’m stressed and anxious and want to curl up into a ball, well, that’s not a state of mind in which I feel like getting intimate with my other half. For me to feel in the right mood, I need to be feeling confident, happy, sexy and that’s kind of hard when I my confidence has been knocked for six, I feel like crying and Bitchface has started a monologue inside by brain listing all my faults.

On the one hand, this is very unsurprising. After all, mental health issues are health issues at the end of the day and having a raging cold or a stomach bug most definitely put me off as well. However periods of stress and anxiety can go on longer than your average cold or stomach bug and therefore have a bigger effect.

And then add in the disturbed sleep patterns I associate with poor mental health that often lead to different bedtimes – after all, when you’re limited to times of day when the children are asleep, not being awake in bed at the same time has a major impact on these things.

Taken at face value, this fact gives me another reason to resent the issues I’m facing, another negative to add to the list that makes me want to stamp my feet at the unfairness of it all. But I’ve come to realise that the effect is deeper than that. Because, for me at least, my sex life isn’t just a nice perk of being married, it’s part of the way that our marriage works. Hmm, maybe that doesn’t make much sense. And I’m struggling to think how to explain better without my usual resort to random metaphors, which somehow seem inapropriate here.

I guess I see our marriage as a team and it works because we work together. And our sex life is part of that bonding process that binds us together. So when it’s affected for noticeable periods, it starts to affects how well we get on too. And when say, we take it in turns over weeks (months?) to “feel rubbish”, the impact this has via our impaired ability to be intimate creates a distance between us that starts to erode the support network we are for each other, just when we need it most.

So, not only do periods of mental ill health have a negative impact on my sex life, that in turn chips away on the mechanisms by which my marriage works, thereby starting to distance me from my best friend and number one ally, which of course then has a knock on effect on my mental health.

Maybe I’m overstating this by trying to explain it. But, like I said, this thought has been sloshing around in my brain for a while now and it’s not something I’ve come across elsewhere (also, it’s not something I’d like to try using a search engine to find out about – shudder), so I thought I’d put it out there, not because I have any searing insights into fixing this issue (I don’t) but because I hope that talking about these things – and maybe realising you’re not alone in them – can help.

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