Counselling directory magazine accessed 30.09.19 September 2019 • happiful.com • 25
Rediscovering your sexual self, post-trauma
Raw and real, trainee counsellor, author and self-belief boss, Grace Victory, explores tough topics and shares her personal insight each month
Iwanted this piece to be empowering, and maybe even upli ing, because writing this stu makes me sad – and at times resisting sadness is my
default way of protecting myself. Delving into your past is never
easy, whether you’re yet to process it, or you’ve healed. So when I decided to talk about sex a er sexual trauma, I de nitely wanted to skim the surface, in the hopes I wouldn’t feel while writing. But that goes against everything I believe in, and sometimes speaking the vulnerable, raw, and ugly truth, is exactly what you need to release parts of the pain.
So this is my sadness.
But this is also my strength. Although I’d experienced abuse
of power and control for pretty much my entire childhood, there is one pivotal moment, from when I was 16, that changed my life forever. This incident took away the very little voice I had, and it confirmed to me all the intrusive thoughts I believed about myself.
I would tell myself over and over that I was damaged goods, that
I wasn’t worthy of anything but abuse, and that I deserved it. At one point I even convinced myself that it didn’t happen; I had made it all up in my head. My rape broke an already shattered young girl,
and has shaped pretty much all of my sexual experiences since.
Disassociating is something I o en did during sex. It was a way for me to zone out but look like I was participating, and maybe even enjoying myself. I’d see myself on a cloud, or a beach, or as another life form. It’s funny to write this now, but once I saw myself as an alien!
When I’d disassociate, I’d feel oaty, light, and calm. I would lose all feeling physically and emotionally, which would result in faking an orgasm, and not really knowing what had just happened. It’s only in the past year or so that I am remembering many of my sexual experiences and, if I’m honest, a lot of my life in general.
As a child and a teenager, I learned how to forget my memories, so I wasn’t reminded of the pain. But with therapy,
I am learning how to not only honour my feelings, but to actually remember what I’ve experienced, and integrate those memories.
I would love to say that healing my issues with intimacy and sex has been easy, but honestly, doing this work has been the hardest fucking thing of my life.
There are some parts of healing that are pretty empowering and fun. Things like learning how high my sex drive is, and wanting
to hump my boyfriend every day, feeling heard and safe while having sex, and asking for what I want without feeling guilty.
All of these things make me so proud, and remind me of how far I’ve come. But, as we all know, healing isn’t linear...
Before I could stop zoning out and disassociating, I had to visit so much of my pain with my therapist. Telling him my fears, my memories, and my pain evoked unimaginable shame. I cried and cried, and I think I’m still crying now. I’ve cried for my 16-year- old self. I’ve cried for blaming her, and I’ve cried for how long she kept it a secret. I’ve been learning how to be present in life, so when I have sex now, I can be in the moment.
Personally, it’s also been about unlearning misogyny, and letting go of the notion that sexual pleasure is only for men. That you don’t need to perform during sex, or pretend to be a porn star (you can but it’s not a requirement). You can be yourself, and show up regardless of your past, body size, or anything else that you believe makes you less than.
I’ve had to face my fears and recognise my projections in order to become self-aware. Accepting my experience has enabled me to begin to move past it, and understand that what happened to me, doesn’t de ne me.
w h Gra
I would love to say that healing my issues with intimacy and sex has been easy, but honestly, doing this work has been the hardest thing of my life.
Trauma and sexual trauma o en a ect our attachments, identity, sense of self, and stress receptors – to name just a few. And all of these things can impact our sex lives, so re-learning how to engage our sexual self in a way
that is individually healthy, can take years. Patience, compassion, and kindness
make the process, and journey, a lot easier.
My voyage of sex and sexual trauma isn’t over. Some days it’s an uphill climb, and some days I am lying, but no matter what, I will remain in my power and trust this process. I am truly thankful that from my greatest sadness came my greatest strength.
Ailment know as lichen sclerosus. www.dailymail.co.uk ( health) accessed 26.05.19
The agony that thousands of women are just too embarrassed to tell their doctor about
About 1m British women suffer from relatively unknown ailment lichen sclerosus
It causes severe inflammation and irritation in the area on or near the genitals
As well as being itchy, skin is cracked, blistered and dotted with white patches
In about 3% of sufferers, blisters can develop into squamous cell cancer
By SAM BRICK and EVE SIMMONS FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
PUBLISHED: 22:06, 25 May 2019 | UPDATED: 01:47, 26 May 2019
How you can relieve the misery
By DR CLARE FULLER, Dermatologist
Wash with water only, or use aqueous cream or emulsifying ointment as soap substitutes.
Dry yourself carefully after using the toilet to reduce the contact of urine with your skin.
Use a soft paraffin such as Vaseline, or cream called hydromol or epaderm over the area each morning and evening.
Wash hair in the sink to avoid shampoo coming into contact with the vulval area.
Wear loose-fitting underwear.
Use perfumed soap and gels, bubble baths, antiseptics or vaginal wipes.
Wash underwear with fabric conditioners or biological washing powders.
Use coloured or bleached toilet tissue.
Try thrush treatments not prescribed by your GP.
Delay in visiting the GP if you notice significant skin changes that may indicate a cancer, specifically persistent skin thickening or soreness.
Causes of stress - www.helpguide.org accessed 25.04.19
The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you can be stressful. This includes positive events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or receiving a promotion.
Of course, not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be internal or self-generated, when you worry excessively about something that may or may not happen, or have irrational, pessimistic thoughts about life.
Finally, what causes stress depends, at least in part, on your perception of it. Something that’s stressful to you may not faze someone else; they may even enjoy it. While some of us are terrified of getting up in front of people to perform or speak, for example, others live for the spotlight. Where one person thrives under pressure and performs best in the face of a tight deadline, another will shut down when work demands escalate. And while you may enjoy helping to care for your elderly parents, your siblings may find the demands of caretaking overwhelming and stressful.
Common external causes of stress include:
Major life changes
Work or school
Being too busy
Children and family
Common internal causes of stress include:
Inability to accept uncertainty
Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility
Unrealistic expectations / perfectionism
Improving your ability to handle stress
Get moving. Upping your activity level is one tactic you can employ right now to help relieve stress and start to feel better. Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction from worries, allowing you to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are particularly effective, especially if you exercise mindfully (focusing your attention on the physical sensations you experience as you move).
Connect to others. The simple act of talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when you’re feeling agitated or insecure. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system. So, spend time with people who improve your mood and don’t let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you don’t have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections.
Engage your senses. Another fast way to relieve stress is by engaging one or more of your senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that works for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting an animal works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you.
Learn to relax. You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how much it affects you. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the polar opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities can reduce your everyday stress levels and boost feelings of joy and serenity. They also increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.
Eat a healthy diet. The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with life’s stressors. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress, while a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with life’s ups and downs.
Get your rest. Feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally. At the same time, chronic stress can disrupt your sleep. Whether you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep so you feel less stressed and more productive and emotionally balanced.
Mood for sex from WWW.healthywomen.org accessed 12.03.19
Our partners can be remarkably out of touch with understanding what gets us in the mood. Instead of limiting seduction to fancy dinners
and bottles of wine (which may be more likely to put you to sleep), suggest that physical intimacy on any given night is more likely if:
You are touched during the day. A lingering kiss in the hall, a hug, even a neck rub can all help get your head out of the laundry room and
into the bedroom. If the only time you are ever touched is when your partner wants sex, it can be a turnoff rather than a turn-on.
You get help with household chores. Partners who cook dinner, clean the kitchen, check the kids' homework and take out the garbage, for
example, give you some downtime. You may want to unwind in a bath and pamper yourself as a reminder that you're a woman, first and
foremost, not just a household manager.
Intimacy is planned. Both partners should take responsibility to set times and dates to make love. Putting it on the calendar (like any other
appointment) helps you mentally prepare for sex rather than having it sprung on you before you have a chance to get in the mood.
Your partner comes to bed clean and smelling great. Clean is sexy!
Your partner shares something intimate. Few things turn on a woman as much as hearing her lover open up and talk about feelings.
However, you can't put all the responsibility for your
sexual desire onto your sexual partner. You have to
take some responsibility for your own libido and help
out a little. For instance:
Talk about what you like. Do you prefer to be touched here but you cringe when you are touched there? Do you want to have sex more
Less often? Talk about it. Remember, no one can read your mind.
• Surprise your lover—and yourself! Every now and then, break out of your comfort zone. Be the one to initiate sex. Wear something (or
nothing) totally unexpected in an unexpected setting.
Practice. The tissues of your vulva, vagina and clitoris, as well as your pelvic muscles, need regular circulation and exercise to be their best.
Practicing with pelvic floor muscle or Kegel exercises, masturbating regularly and using vibrators and fantasy to improve physical arousal
all can increase blood flow and keep your genital area healthy and responsive, improving orgasm and lovemaking.
She says lack of respect in the bedroom can lead to lack of respect in other areas
By ROWAN PELLING FOR DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 22:07, 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 23:59, 12 December 2018
New US research confirms what most women already know: men are twice as likely to orgasm during sex with their partner than women.
This discrepancy in sexual pleasure is now known as the orgasm gap.
But while the name might be new, the experience is all too familiar - despite women being better educated about our bodies and expecting more sexually from men.
Researchers interviewed 1,683 newlywed heterosexual couples and asked each partner how often they had orgasms, how often they thought their partner had orgasms and how satisfied they were sexually.
The result (published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine) was depressingly consistent with former research: 87 per cent of husbands said they consistently experienced orgasm during sex but only 49 per cent of wives could say the same.
Why don’t women orgasm as much as men do?
Anatomical differences play a big part but expectations, culture, attitude and ineffective sexual technique also contribute.
Even more worrying: most men are oblivious to what’s going on. Forty-three per cent of the men in this study weren’t aware how often their wives climaxed.
We need to stop pretending
Seventy-seven percent of women find it easier to reach orgasm alone rather than with a partner - even when we’re including the infinitely more reliable tongue and finger techniques.
Even girls who have the courage to show their partner the technique that does it for them, often cave in at the last moment because their partner doesn’t do it for long enough.
That protective male ego has to be protected at all costs, right?
Except studies show men actually prefer to be told what to do and don’t mind adding extra stimulation for a long period.
The first step to closing the orgasm gap is for all women to speak up during intercourse.
We need to stop faking: it’s sabotaging our sex lives.
Tracey Cox, suggests liberating your vibrator to up your 'success' rate
Be very specific about what you need – his fingers, a vibe, a certain style of thrusting – and tell him how long you need it done for.
Research proves the more sexually educated, experienced and assertive a woman is, the more control you take and fuss you make to get everything just right during intercourse, the more likely you are to have real intercourse orgasms.
Do the opposite: lie back passively while he thrusts in the usual manner and I guarantee those moans are more likely from frustration than frenzied passion!
Rethink how you have sex
Change the way you think you’re supposed to orgasm with your partner and you might just make it happen more often.
This involves thinking of his penis and pelvis as more of a pleasure tool – something to rub and stimulate your clitoris with and against – than an appendage that thrusts (ineffectively, if pleasantly) in and out.
Stress is the number one libido killer: Feeling frazzled puts people off intimacy more than anything else, survey finds
A survey of 2,066 adults found 45% report stress as the biggest passion killer
Expert claims stress creates anxiety, which puts couples off intimacy
By ALEXANDRA THOMPSON SENIOR HEALTH REPORTER FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 14:42, 20 Noember 2018 | UPDATED: 17:09, 20 November 2018
The survey, by BBC Radio 5 Live, found physical health has the second biggest impact on a person's sex life, with 32 per cent reporting it as a passion killer.
This was followed by mental-health issues, which affect 26 per cent of the public's libidos, having children (20 per cent) and work (18 per cent).
And watching porn has a negative impact on the sex lives of 12 per cent of those surveyed.
Ellen Brady, a therapist from the relationship charity Relate, was also surprised to discover only 10 per cent highlight social media as being an issue.
She added, however, the likes of Facebook and Instagram probably have a bigger impact than the survey's results suggest.
'There's not the basic connection happening in couples, they're not even making eye contact or talking to each other, so it's no wonder when they get to bed that sex is difficult,' Ms Brady said.
Other family members, aside from children, affect the libidos of 10 per cent of those surveyed, while reality TV and friends are an issue for seven and five per cent, respectively.
Overall, half of the men surveyed were happy with their sex lives, which rose slightly to 53 per cent among the female participants.
And 58 per cent are confident about their performance between the sheets.
However, 38 per cent of the men and a quarter of the women questioned were dissatisfied.
To improve your sex lie, Ms Brady recommends imposing a temporary ban on getting intimate and then starting from scratch.
'Ban sex, because whatever you've been doing sexually it's gone wrong, so you want to wipe it out and start again, and just reconnect emotionally and in terms of intimacy,' she said.
'There's a big gender divide on that one, because women very often want to buy into emotional intimacy and kisses and cuddles and quite often men don't see that as a priority, they see sex as the priority.'
Ms Brady added, however, most men come round to kissing, particularly when they learn it often leads to more.
The survey also found men and women have different views when it comes to cheating.
Three quarters of the women surveyed considered kissing someone else or having cyber sex to be unfaithful, compared to just half of men.
The types of people men and women would consider being intimate with also differs - 58 per cent of males would have sex with someone more than a decade older than them compared to just 28 per cent of females.
Statistics suggest 74 per cent of Britons have felt stressed or unable to cope within the past year, with women being the most likely to suffer.
Stress can then lead to anxiety, which is a known libido killer.
This comes after research released last year found having sex at least once a week slows ageing in women even if they do not enjoy being intimate.
Being active between the sheets increases the length of women's telomeres, according to a study by the University of California, San Francisco. These 'cap' the end of DNA strands, with longer lengths being associated with slower ageing, longer lifespans and improved overall health.