Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Six years

(November 2010 - Elizabeth Knox Photography)


Six years ago today we became a family of seven.

It has been the hardest six years of our lives. For all of us. We share this - the struggles, the pain, the very difficult memories.

It has also been the greatest six years of our lives. For all of us. We share this - the healing, the joy, the love that was proven day after day and the family.

We are a family.


(May 2013)


My children are my heroes. They deserve this. They deserve family and hard, hard, hard work from their parents.

I talk with a lot of parents to help them learn and stay present in a way their kids need. I've never experienced anything more challenging than the person I have had to try to become over these last few years. It is hard. It is so hard.  

Ultimately, though, is not about us. The parents. It is about our kids.

Today read this and remember who has the hardest job in all of this.

Our kids have it harder than us.

Our kids did not ask for any of this.

Our kids want to do better and be better, but desperately need someone to help them.

Our kids cannot and will not be able to do it on their own until they have been re-parented through their gaps.

Our kids have been hurt in ways we cannot fathom.

Our kids deserve the insanely radical efforts of therapeutic parenting.

Our kids deserve parents who take good care of themselves so they can wake up and try again.

Our kids deserve love and loving acts, even when no one is feeling warm, loving feelings.

Repeat one of my mantras with me:  the only thing harder than parenting them is being them.

Celebrate your kids today. The fact that they still wake up and breathe. They are so strong and so scared. They are more strong and more scared than us. They are brave and weary. They are more brave and more weary than us.

I invite you to use our day of celebration (with some pain mixed in) to look at your kids in the way we forget to do. Their whole being. Their whole story.



******************************


To my kids,

I love you guys. All of this, everything we've all done, is for you. Because you deserve it. It's not about us, and it's not for us. It's for you. You are so amazing and worthy. I am so sorry that I have had many days of being messed up and human, and I know my words and voice and face have told you otherwise. I know there have been times that I have reflected back to you the very people who brought you pain earlier in your life.

None of the bad is your fault. On those days it is my problem, and I am letting my own issues spill over on to you. What I do know is that you have slowly and steadily responded to the work we've all done. Because that is who you are, in your core and in your very being. People around you did things to bury that and make it feel impossible to truly be your beautiful self. But with some help, the real you has come to the surface. I'm not surprised. You are light and love. And you deserve space to still struggle and still keep working. I will keep working to be what you need.

You are so very worth it.

You have been such a gift to me, and taught me so much about life and being brave. I will never be the same because of you.

It is an honor to be your mother.  I love you.

- Mom

(December 2013)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Help with the day-to-day



I have used Facebook much more over the past two years, and it has replaced a lot of my information sharing I used to do on this blog.  I like the immediacy of it and the ability to engage in conversation.  It also makes more sense to send out quick links to articles on my Facebook coaching page than to create a blog post for those small items.

Unfortunately, due to continued policy changes, fewer and fewer (as little as 5% - 10%) of those who follow my coaching Facebook page actually see the content I post in their newsfeeds.

I have created a solution.  For those who would like parenting tips, challenges and ideas (and occasional coaching discounts) without having to check my page, I now have an email list.  Remember, as well, that the things I share are positive and effective for all homes and all kids.  You don't need a child with a history of trauma to find benefit in being playful, accepting, curious or empathic!

My promise is:  no more than one inspiring or ass-kicking email a week.  No more than one discount email a month.  You may unsubscribe at any time.  Easy peasy.

You will have to verify that you signed up.  So, please don't SPAM your friends and put them on the list without permission ... much less your partner/daughter-in-law/neighbor, insinuating they need parenting advice.  Not cool, man!


Parenting Tips and Coaching Discounts from Christine Moers

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Help and Support for Parents for $3



I am very excited to tell you how you can have instant access to "Chaos to Healing: Therapeutic Parenting 101," day or night, for just a $2.99 rental fee.  Since its creation, this video has been utilized by therapists and foster parent organizations across the globe.  It continues to help parents and other caregivers learn a new way to help children with deep struggles and challenging behaviors.

When Billy Kaplan and I created this video resource, our goal was to make something for parents and professionals that was affordable, practical and full of quality information based on the PACE parenting model of Dan Hughes.  We did just that.  In case you were not aware of it, we can also add "easily accessible" to the list!

For just under $3, you can rent "Chaos to Healing" through Amazon instant video.

We also encourage you to share this with your adoption and foster care agencies as well as parenting groups you are a part of.  This adds another wonderful resource for training and continuing education credits.  It makes their job easier, and it's something you can watch at your convenience instead of trying to find childcare and get to another class scheduled at a difficult time across town.  It is such a privilege for Billy and I to be adding a valuable and extremely affordable tool to the "toolbox" all of those who are providing homes and safe spaces for the children who need it most.

You can cut and paste the following link to this post and simply forward it in a text or email (or use the the email button below):  http://goo.gl/TGDhLw

At the bottom of this post, you can also find the buttons to post it to your Facebook page or other social media sites.

Dan Hughes, himself, has viewed "Chaos to Healing."  He had this to say:

“Billy Kaplan and Christine Moers have produced a wonderful video that describes the basics of therapeutic parenting. They don’t rely on special video effects to convey their knowledge and ideas. They simply sit and and have a conversation with us, with empathy, respect, interest, and a clear desire to be of help. 
First they help us to understand the tremendous challenges that children face when they are given the chance to live in a safe home with caring and committed parents, after first having experienced neglect and abuse at the hands of their original parents. Then Christine and Billy let us know that they 'get' the tremendous challenges facing parents who are trying to raise these children. 
They do not give us magical techniques or parenting cookbooks. They direct our minds to the basics: an attitude of playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy (PACE) along with the value of developing a home that provides these children with safety, supervision, structure, and support. They offer no quick fix: Christine speaks of the need to interact with your child, again, and again, and again ... However, they leave us with hope and renewed energy to provide these children with what they desperately need.” 
- Dan Hughes, Ph.D.Quittie Glen Center for Mental Health

SPACE Conference in Illinois


Once again, I will be attending and speaking at the Parenting in SPACE Conference, April 12-13 just outside Chicago, Illinois.  The registration costs will increase again on March 25, so I wanted to put it in front of you one more time, in case you've been putting off your decision to attend.

Lindsay Crapo and I will be hosting the pre-conference for moms.  This will be a relaxed time to connect in a smaller group, receive some encouragement and develop some wonderful friendships which will carry you throughout the following year.

The two of us will also be doing a break-out session during the conference.  I'm very excited about this one:

101 Reasons Not to Do Therapeutic Parenting  
Christine Moers & Lindsay Crapo
This therapeutic parenting gig is hard. When you look at it on paper, it makes sense. You might almost feel empowered. However, doing it in the moment can feel impossible. What we all discover is that we do not like it. Not one bit. It is HARD. In this session Lindsay Crapo and Christine Moers will share their real, raw stories, ways they have done it WRONG, and the things they keep learning along the way. They will remind you that you're not supposed to be perfect, and you are already doing a great job. Even when you are pretty sure you are screwing it all up.

Check out the entire conference schedule and then see if it is something you can make happen. It's more than a conference. The House Calls staff are available throughout most of the weekend for you to pull aside, ask follow-up questions and fill in the gaps we all tend to have after your average conference. It truly has a personal touch in a way I've never experienced in any other similar setting. This is why I push this thing so hard every year, and I am so proud to be a part of it. It is the brain child of Billy Kaplan, and his goal every year continues to be, "How can we better support these parents?"

I know, right? Amazing! I hope to see you there.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

A playa lesson that stuck




This would be me.  Burning Man 2012.


I was reminded again this week (and last month) of another life lesson the playa taught me.

I am responsible for my own experience.

I am responsible for my own pleasure.

No matter what is thrown at me.  No matter what happens to me and around me.  I have choice.  I have power.  I have complete control over my own response to everything.

In parenting.  In relationships.  In travel.  In work.  In life.

I am responsible for my own experience.

"In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened."  ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Negative things will continue to happen the longer I breathe and walk around.  For a while I wanted them to stop.  I wanted to avoid them. Cause, you know, that's possible.  *cough*  Now I know I can embrace the negative, feel it and then choose how to respond.  Respond instead of react. Raymont Anderson is a life coach who tries to help his clients understand the results of responding in anger when something is thrown at them. For instance, someone cutting them off in traffic or being hurtful. Maybe our children responding to us in a not so pleasant way. Our natural response is anger or lashing out.  Fighting back. Anderson asks, "What did that give you? What was the benefit? You are the one who raised your blood pressure, levels of cortizol, and testosterone as you responded in anger."

Hmph. I hate how right he is. Those things are already elevated. And we can feel them and stay with them, waiting for them to subside (all the while, not reacting from the middle of that muck). Or we can react in a way that actually increases all the negative.

I am responsible for my own experience.

I have choice and power. Granted, I might not have all the choices I want, and I might not be able to exercise the amount of power and control over a situation I would prefer. That does not remove the fact: I still have choice and power. I am not here to experience my life passively. I want to participate! Own it!

If I want something to change, I am responsible for asking for change or making that change occur. Again, it might not be my ideal, but I have the power to speak, ask, compromise, find contentment in what is handed to me, think outside the box to do so or walk away.

"My life is perfect, no matter how it looks."  - Jackie Woodside 

I have stopped for a moment to ask myself if I really believe that.  My life is perfect, no matter how it looks? I believe I'm a perfect parent. I really do. Not because I do all of the right things all the time.  I'm a perfect parent because I am human and I keep trying. Keep leading by example. Keep loving. Keep showing them how to fix stuff when a person messes up (which means I have to mess up for that to happen). It is not possible for any person to make the best possible choice in every circumstance, so that can't ever be the definition of a "perfect parent." Can I apply this same thinking to my life? That it's perfect, no matter how it looks?

It is. Because I don't let my negative life experiences dictate my happiness or my fulfillment. I don't let them own my head and my heart. I do not let them feed me lies that I have no choice or no power.

Screw that!

I am responsible for my own experience.  And how.
 "Self-Love is about embracing your unity and equality.

It is about knowing that this is your life and that you are the one responsible for your experience of it.  It is about being your own hero. 
It is about creating space for yourself instead of waiting for that space to magically appear. It is about knowing that there is room for you on your to-do list." -Christie Inge (emphasis is mine) 

I'm going to head out and make my day what I want it to be. No matter what is thrown at me. Then I think I might just do it again tomorrow.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Maybe it wasn't what you were expecting

I just had the best Sexuary of the six years I've been doing this.

I started Sexuary (Sexperiment) because I had spent most of my life trying and opening up to things that might improve my sex life.  Because, ummmm ... it would be stupid not to, right?  That makes sense.

However, I was doing it because I thought I was broken.  I wanted to be like the women who wanted sex all the time.  I wanted to want sex.

I wanted to be a guy (although, yes, even plenty of men struggle with what they think their sex drive should look like).

I wanted to fix me.  But I wanted to fix me for my husband.  I wanted to be a better wife.

Now, I don't have a problem with doing things to be a better partner or a better friend or a better mother.  Those are all good.  But over the last few years I have discovered just how important it is to be a better me, before I can do any of those other things.  If I don't love me, I can still go through the motions and do the right/good things, but they bring about no internal growth.

I had to make it about me.

While most of the posts over the years have been about sex with a partner, I was simultaneously doing my own internal work.  It was deeply personal.  Many times painful.  Often empowering and amazing.  Not the kind of thing you want to share with the world while you are working through it.  So, this year was the ideal time to encourage others to try the same.

Several years I have had people admit that they "hide" Sexuary from their partners, because they don't want to set sexual goals.  Or they just get depressed because they are single or in a sexless marriage.  Or gay/lesbian/bi in a heterosexual marriage.  Or they just plain hate sex.

They many times echo what I have felt:  "I am broken."

I was not broken.  I am not broken.  You are not broken.

But a lot of us get into a routine of regularly not stating our needs, or seeking out solutions.  And that's what this year was about.  It was a year to be brave and peel back very scary layers.  Look at what was underneath.  Dare to have really terrifying conversations not knowing what the other person would feel or say ... but having the conversation anyway because it was the best thing for you to do for yourself.

It's hard to post that in a way to help you understand what I saw this year.  I can never capture the amount of vulnerability and bravery I witnessed in such a diverse way from such a diverse group of people.  It wasn't just the people in our Facebook group, but plenty of you out there sending in emails and writing about the big, scary, amazing ways you were finally taking care of you.  And being honest with yourself and those you love.  Finding answers.  Negotiating.  Hearing your voice continue even if it was shaking.

So many of you "got" it.  Stating your needs and asking for things to change, or for compromise, is not being a bad partner.  It's being a person of worth and value and treating yourself with just as much compassion and respect as you do for others.

While I will not be writing posts throughout February in the future, that month will forevermore be Sexuary for me.  And I hope it will be for you, too.  I have a feeling I will do a private group each year, where people can have a similar experience.  We'll all need it at different times for different reasons.

Who says your big, brave thing has to happen in February?  Do it this week.  Next month.

You are worth it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What you've been learning about "me"



I've asked some people to share what they have been learning this month as they make themselves the focus.  The Sexuary group encompasses about 100 people.  They are all participating in various ways.  Here are what some of them have to say.


"I have become more aware of the pieces of myself that I am still not loving. I didn't even realize how much of myself I still have hang-ups over until trying to complete the daily self-gratitudes.  I thought I was pretty self-accepting but have realized during this month that I have so much farther to go yet. (Further? It seems like it should be further.) I have been challenged, reassured, intrigued, and at times even a little shocked--not by you, but by my own lack of comfortability in thinking about and discussing sex. Thank you for the opportunity to take a loooong...hard (pun intended) look inside for these few weeks. I look forward to the continued conversations with you and with myself."

*************************************

"This theme hit me right when I needed it the most. SO far I have learned/am learning: my language affects my children. My complaints about my body are training them to self-loathe. I'm using different language that promotes appreciation, not disgust for who I am. I've always been happy- dependent on the acceptance of others and i'm learning that I don't need others to tell me i'm good/right/a Christian/beautiful. I am learning that I make those perceptions myself and then they are MY reality. Their perceptions cannot affect my reality, and that's a hard one. I've always had a fear of being alone in many capacities and this group has shown me that I am not. We all have the same fears/desires/wants/needs just on different levels.  But, in the end we are all so very much the same. It has been thought provoking, inspiring and life changing to me (and opened up a lot of new dialogue with my husband and I)."

*************************************

"There were moments early this month because of the nature of the Sexuary group (such a variety of people and types of relationships) when I thought 'how can I be focusing on the ME theme when I am constantly pondering other people's experiences?' Then it hit me that this context IS EXACTLY how. Thanks to you amazing people I have spent everyday this month examining my own freedoms and limitations, my triggers and my turn ons. You all have unwittingly challenged the areas in which I've remained cautious and have exuberantly applauded when I am badass and brave. And in practicing grace, gentleness, acceptance, excitement, and pride for all of you - it has become easier to extend the same grace, gentleness, acceptance, etc to myself.

I needed to get to know all of YOU so that I could get to know all of ME! ("Circle of Life" soundtrack begins now :-))"

*************************************

"Participating in Sexuary was the final piece to the puzzle to bring me to the point where I can say that I love my body. I don't hate my body anymore. I even took a full frontal nudie pic of myself. And liked it. And kept it (courtesy of an app that lets you password protect photos). There is no way I could have done that a month ago. Or ... well any time in the past."

*************************************

"Probably the best thing has been putting faces to the whole spectrum of sexual behaviors. In Christian circles people who have sexual practices other than a lifelong monogamous marriage relationships tend to get demonized. We're afraid of the unknown. So thank you for being brave and out there and honest and sharing a small part of your lives with this Sexuary community. It doesn't change my own preferences but I'm not offended or afraid of the differences anymore."

*************************************

"While I do enjoy porn, I would also say it's had a negative impact on me. Because I started checking out porn as completely unexperienced virgin, and I do not recall one conversation with my parents about sex or the body, I took those falsified videos as the norm. That's what my body should look like. That's how I should shave. That's what sex always looks like.

However, I don't hold it against porn. And it's not JUST porn, it's media. Even if someone never touches porn, it's not like they don't still get images of what they 'should' look like. But through life and experience, we learn. We learn what's realistic and what's faked. We can learn to accept and love who we are. We realize that every body (literally- body) is different and that it's okay.

Again, though through porn videos, I did develop a false idea of sex/body... I think that can happen regardless. Fact is, it is easy to feel insecure. It's easy to feel like you don't measure up. It's easy to feel like you're not beautiful enough, smart enough, sexy enough. But it's our thoughts that need adjusted, not necessarily our actions.

I had to adjust my thoughts and my beliefs about who I should be. For me, porn wasn't the enemy... I was my own enemy. And I had to make friends with myself. Still working on it, but we're getting there."

*************************************

"I have not only found that my sexuality is not shameful, it is natural and loving. I have learned that it is okay to ask for what you want and that it is okay to admit you want to be loved. For me I was not worthy of love from anyone else. I picked men that were unavailable to me. They were married, here in the same state because of school but are leaving. I have always set myself up to be left. I have now come to understand that its my fault and mine alone. I have learned that I can love myself, ask for what I want and not be ashamed of it. The result is a long term loving relationship with no shame attached. In being brave comes true inner peace because my bravery helps me get my needs meet. I also learned a lot about anal play. LOL. I am a bad a** mother f*****."

*************************************

"I love what [she] just wrote about the symbolic meaning behind the ways we modify our bodies all the time--claiming it as ours, using it to make statements to the world about who we are. So much of what I find I am sharing in all these threads is not really about sex at all. Or about preferred pubic hair length. Or back door or front or toys or none. All my reflections & comments are really about me wanting to be real with myself, be completely vulnerable with *somebody*, to be true to me, to figure out how to come to terms with all these different areas of sexual expression and what they make me think and feel about me. I want to figure out who I really am sexually and then empower her. Boy, I am so dense. In other words, I am learning about my innermost self through all this. Which was the whole point."

*************************************

"I had no clue that I had a crazy amount of shame issues. This Sexuary I has opened me up to be more honest and much more exciting in my (almost) 10 year marriage. Honestly I was scared to communicate what I wanted or what I liked."

*************************************

"One of the biggest things I’m learning, and this community has majorly helped with, is simply that it is okay. Who I am, things I’ve done— it is okay. As far as I can think, outside of intentionally harming yourself or others, anything is okay. It might be something different for all of us, but we all have struggled with something that we feel is unacceptable. Whether in regards to our appearance (tattoos, breast size, weight, how we dress, etc), our sexuality (gay, polyamorous, open marriage, queer, etc), or another part of who we are, a person or group tells us that who we are is not okay. And that sticks with us. It’s hard to shake. If we’re not careful, we can easily let fear and shame and guilt and feeling inadequate drown us. And we start to believe these people. That we are not okay. This is bull***t. And you don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it. We are okay. And not “okay” meaning simply satisfactory, but acceptable. Lovable. Decent. Beautiful. Permissible. Who you are is okay. What you’ve done is okay. That does not mean everything is good and right… sometimes we need to correct a wrong. Sometimes we need to apologize. Make a change, adjust an attitude. But what it does mean is this— there is no part of you or I that is completely unacceptable. We should never, ever feel bad or shame about who we are. Even making a mistake is acceptable. Learn from it. Then move on. Do not carry guilt with you. There might always be that person or group that tells you that you’re not okay, they are wrong. Love them anyway. But let them carry the burden that their judgement creates. It’s their burden, not yours. I accept you. With your pubes sticking out of your panties, your naked smooth vag, your chest hair (hopefully just the men?), your love for porn, your “vanilla” sex, your polyamorous relationship, your sex toys, your beer belly, your flat chest, your penis that doesn’t always cooperate, your lack of libido, your insane fantasies, your wavering faith, your monogamous marriage— yeah, you. You are okay."

Friday, February 21, 2014

On being naked

(photo by FOTOCROMO; used with permission)

There are so many way to be naked.  You can take your clothes off.  You can talk about feelings that you would rather avoid.  You can put yourself out there for a job or a date or a sex act, not knowing if you will be positively received.

Naked.

Exposed.

Every Wednesday this month I have encouraged everyone to do a little Kick Your Ass Hump Day.  A lot of people participating in Sexuary have coined it Brave Day.

Have you been brave this week?  How can you get naked?

Here are just some of the things others have been doing:

Watched porn with their partner for the first time in years.  On a big screen TV. 
Dared to meet up with a crush for swimming.  In a bathing suit!

Took a dominant role in the bedroom to please a lover. 
Asked for help. 
Bought condoms and had a sex positive talk with their teens. 
Addressed a disagreement with a neighbor. 
Asked for a wrong to be made right.  And it involved money. 
Came out to someone close to them. 
Brought up fantasies with a partner. Gave them a safe space to be honest. 
Made safe choices and didn't choose to self-harm. 
Stated sexual concerns out loud to others and asked for feedback. 
Set boundaries with a family member. 
Told someone clearly that they would enjoy a physical relationship.


"And those things are what sexy truly is. Vulnerability is sexy. Trust is sexy. And no matter what we look like, or how flawed we are, vulnerability and trust makes us sexy both in and out of the throws of passion. At least in my opinion." - Let's Get Naked by Single Dad Laughing.

Think you could dare to try his little naked exercise?

If you're not up for getting naked literally, maybe find a way to be naked figuratively.

But literally is good, too.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When your sexual desires do not align




A question was raised within the Sexuary group about differences in sex drive.  What do you do when one of you wants sex every day and the other doesn't?  When one of you wants more kissing and touching and the other doesn't?  I have read many responses to this same question for years.  There is no right answer for everyone.  However, I wanted to share the following response from a group member that I felt would bring a lot of value to many of you.

"I would need to make a huge investment in lube if a man wanted to have sex with me every day. Every person is different and every body is different, but the amount of lube I'd need to keep from chafing during daily sex with a sizeable, circumcised partner would mean he wouldn't have enough friction to be satisfied. Men who want sex every day don't always seem to understand the physical (let alone emotional) consequences that demand can have for their female partners.

There were two big 'red flags' for me in [the above post]. First that you 'feel guilty for not giving it up enough,' and second that you 'feel pissed off that he can't value my body aside from sex.' In my personal experience, these feelings indicate there's a rift in your sense of trust and intimacy that can wreck havoc on your sex life.

First, consent should be ongoing and enthusiastic. 'Giving in' feels begrudged, breeds resentment, and doesn't leave either of you feeling fulfilled or eager for the next sexual encounter. Someone who keeps pushing for sex in that climate is hungry for intimacy, not simply sex, though they may not know another way to experience it. If sexual release is all he wants, masturbation should do the trick. If he specifically wants more sexual activity with you, he's craving intimacy with you, though he (or both of you) doesn't seem to understand that a good sex life is the result of emotional intimacy, not the cause of it. Working outside the bedroom to make sure you both feel heard, valued, respected, desired, and secure will do so much to improve sexual satisfaction for you both.

Second, feeling as though you are unwanted aside from the sexual and domestic services you can provide is a horrible feeling. I wouldn't want to have sex if I felt my partner viewed me that way either. The last time I felt that way, it helped to communicate that feeling to my partner, to tell him what I needed (more cuddles, more caresses everywhere aside from my breasts and bits, how the contact he was providing could be improved for my pleasure, etc). Women tend to approach sexuality from a place of awareness of and focus on our partner's pleasure. In my experience, men seem prone to falling into 'auto-pilot' mode, focused more on their own experience than on what their partner actually finds pleasurable. By affirming that he does want me to be enjoying myself and by gently but firmly correcting his behavior, we moved into a place where I felt valued. One impromptu back massage without any sexual agenda on his part did more to improve our intimacy and my sexual desire than I can explain. Being touched in a non-sexual way just because I would enjoy it made me feel valued. Feeling valued increased my desire for my husband.

The last piece of advice I have is to make sure you both feel like your husband is valuing your time. His stated desire of sex every day and oral in between is realistically a lot of hours out of your week. If your schedule is full, the thought of fitting in one more thing, one more act of service while your own needs go unmet, can be completely exhausting. If you both have a healthy respect for each other's time and need for self-care, this can drastically improve your mental availability for sexual desire. If I'm worried about getting a dozen things done, I can't relax enough to enjoy sex, especially with a partner who's being petulant about it. If he respects the other demands on your time, and especially if he steps in the help out (showing that he values you, your home together, and your partnership in life), it could make a big difference in your ability to relax, build intimacy, and enjoy sex. I hope some of this helps." - Eleigh

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sometimes sex hurts





Today is a guest post from a reader.  This is someone who, despite issues around sex, made themselves a priority and kept searching for answers and found some solutions.  I am so thankful they are willing to share their story.  I hope your month has pushed you to make yourself a priority for YOU.

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If sex is painful - there is very likely a physiological reason and there are things you can do to get better. For many many years, sex was painful for me but whenever I talked to my primary care physicians (incidentally and sadly, all of whom were women) I was told something along the lines of "sex is painful for a lot of women. Just keep doing it and it will get better." I tried that. And guess what - it didn't get better. In fact, I came to dread sex and wanted nothing at all to do with that part of my body, which was obviously a strain on my marriage.

Finally I raised the issue yet again with my doctor, who sent me in for various tests which found that I had endometriosis, which can cause pain. She put me on the generic version of Seasonique birth control, which controls my menstruation so I only get my period 4 times a year. That helped the endometriosis, but I still wanted nothing to do with sex. When I spoke to my doctor again, she gently suggested that at this point the problem was probably mental/emotional and I should see a sex therapist. My medical diagnosis was "dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse)".

It took all my willpower and love for my husband to research sex therapists and make an appointment with one. I did NOT want to be there. The sex therapist was wonderful however! One of the first things she asked me was "have you seen a physical therapist?" I looked confused; she looked sad. She explained to me that you can get physical therapy for pelvic floor problems and she recommended an all-women practice for me to go to.

Another difficult appointment. I cried during the first visit with my so-nice physical therapist as I explained how I felt about "that region" of my body. She understood! She explained that this wasn't an uncommon thing. If a women experiences pain with sex at some point for various reasons (could be endometriosis, could be abuse, etc.), her body becomes defensive in order to protect itself. The pelvic muscles tighten, which leads to sex being even more painful. The cycle reinforces itself. Meanwhile, the brain, to protect itself, disassociates from the entire region, making it very difficult to relax "down there". And here's the thing - just having more sex doesn't make anything better. In fact, it just reinforces that cycle. But physical therapy can help. I've undergone manual therapy (used by the physical therapist to relax pelvic floor muscles both externally and internally), biofeedback to help me see and understand how to relax my pelvic floor muscles (which I was so initially disassociated with I couldn't feel them), and exercises to use at home to reinforce the physical therapy sessions. Down the road, I'll work up to dilation to be used for stretching and desensitization.

I'm no longer seeing the sex therapist but I'm seeing the physical therapist regularly. And I'm making great progress. That is wonderful but I'm really saddened that it took nearly two decades before a medical professional came up with a solution other than "just keeping having sex and it will work itself out". I was in pain because I had actual physical issues. And those issues can be addressed and resolved. I want to share this so that someone else might benefit and not spend twenty years feeling like all the problems are just in her head.