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How do I stay present during sex?


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This stuff has been all over my blog recently, but I thought I'd take it downstairs to see if anyone had any further tips or ideas. There's an old topic about this, but nothing recent I can find.

Anyway, my sexual issues sort of wax and wane over time - I had a lot at the start of my relationship, then they died down, and recently they've come back with a vengeance. Most recently, even kissing has sent me completely out of my body and even if I try to get back, I just go off again. Anyone have any tips for dealing with this?

My gf knows that I dissociate, and she's gotten pretty good at catching it, but usually not right away (understandably). I've at least managed to get past the point where I don't even consciously realize that I want to stop (THAT led to some incidents), but I still don't really feel comfortable stopping my girlfriend when I don't want to go on. I feel sort of like a tease. I know it's stupid, but I worry that she'll be angry. I KNOW she won't be (and I know you're all going to say that if she would be, I shouldn't be sleeping with her, but she actually IS really sensitive and caring, I just still feel bad)

I want to talk to her about having a rule that if I dissociate, things have to stop, but I'm nervous to have that conversation. Has anyone ever made that rule? How did you bring it up/talk about it? How do you let your partner know that you're gone/need to stop? Do you just say "stop" or do you periodically check in? What if you don't even realize you're dissociated? Should I try to teach her my dissociation cues (if I can even figure them out) or try to manage it by myself? I don't know what would be fair to ask her to do.

Also, if anyone has tips for staying present during sex, I'd like to talk about that too.

My biggest issue is leaving my body and not being able to get back, but sometimes I also start to hear voices. There's a voice that sounds like my voice that narrates what's happening as if it were writing a book ("And then I..."), that happens sometimes. And sometimes I hear other stuff too.

Pdoc says things are NOT supposed to be talking when you try to have sex. And I'm pretty sure she's right.

When I'm being sexual and things are okay, I know it because nothing is talking and I can feel my body (it feels warm). When things aren't okay, my body goes numb and I close my eyes and go really quiet and everything goes dark and fuzzy and cold and I start hearing the voices.

One way that I keep myself present when things are going well (this is sort of embarrassing) is by making noise. Because making noise keeps me connected to my body, and also listening to my body enjoying being sexual reminds me that I'm enjoying it and that this is different from other traumatic sexual experiences which were mostly defined by being as quiet and still as possible. But when I dissociate, I just go dead quiet and that trick doesn't seem to help get me back. I guess that's more of a trick for STAYING in my body rather than getting back to it.

Thanks everyone ;)

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Gosh, tryp...

All this stuff is so...well, normal for people like us. I wish I had good answers for you.

I'm all for as much talking and making noise as one wants to make during sex. Hell, rattle the windows (and the neighbors) a bit!

I'm also definitely in favor of partner education. If your partner doesn't know what's going on, she can't help the experience be pleasant instead of hellish. I know its hard to have the conversations. Especially because we tend not to talk as openly about sex and sexuality as might be beneficial.

I am also a big fan of periodically checking in anyway, even without trauma history... how else does one learn if it feels good or if something else would feel better?

Would it help to have your partner say your name or you to say out loud or in your head,

"I'm doing such and such with [partner's name] because we are getting our rocks off/because we love each other/ because this is a physical expression of our passion" or something like that... just to make it as absolutely clear that this is NOT in any way related to abusive situations? Just a thought.

I'm off to go avoid talking to my tdoc about breast self-exams, pap smears, dental appointments, and the like. Maybe that PRN ativan might be a good idea!

Peace,

Woo

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I would ask her to check in every few minutes to see if you are okay, my SO knows this from years of us being together, when we first started off I told him from the door before we ever had sex that I had issues and what was going on with me. He would just make sure I was okay, if I liked what was happening, if he needed to stop (not in so many words) but making sure everything was good and I wasn't having problems.

I would tell her that you don't want it to be uncomfortable for either of you so if you guys could maybe talk through it, it may help, there is nothing wrong with talking during sex, things like do you like this or is this okay are not going to damper things but will still help in making sure you are there and in the moment and if you are goo if not she knows. If you aren't able to go on be honest, don't force your self to do something you don't want to or cant do.

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PTSD I'm not so good at - however sexuality, I am good with. So, I'm probably only going to be able to offer a partial answer with this one.

My gf knows that I dissociate, and she's gotten pretty good at catching it, but usually not right away (understandably).

You guys are still new enough in general that you are still learning each other. Very understandable, even in the non sexual arena, but especially in the sexual one - since that's an issue for you.

I know it's stupid, but I worry that she'll be angry. I KNOW she won't be (and I know you're all going to say that if she would be, I shouldn't be sleeping with her, but she actually IS really sensitive and caring, I just still feel bad)

Good to know that you already realize that you shouldn't be sleeping with someone who would get angry over that. But, from a few months of reading your words - I'm not going to jump on that bandwagon because from all you've said she's very good about being understanding with you and your needs. And because, honey, you do tend to worry a bit - I lean more toward the feeling bad having more to do with the fact that you're prone to worrying. And - of course - I don't mean ANY offense by that!! I think you know that anxiety is part of your M.I. - and that's all I'm trying to say.

I want to talk to her about having a rule that if I dissociate, things have to stop, but I'm nervous to have that conversation.

I think generally speaking, talking about sex makes LOTS of people nervous!!! I also think that's it's an essential part of having a healthy relationship. So, let it make you nervous - but talk about it anyway. Talk about it as much as you need to. PTSD or no PTSD, every relationship should have it's own rules between partners about what each is comfortable with sexually. Rules, preferences, etc., - that's all important stuff for you both to know. I very much think that this warrants a conversation with her. You're being intimate because it's a way people show love, so making sure that both half's of the equation understand the other's needs is as it should be. If you want to know if she wants to know your triggers (as you figure them out) - ask her. As to the how part - I'm sure she's already aware to some degree what's going on with you. If it's something you want to let her know in advance - tell her you would like to talk further about that - so she knows that you need to talk - and she knows the subject and that's it's nothing to worry about. If she knows you well enough (she should already know that you can get anxious) so you can probably explain that you've got things on your mind you've been worrying about and want to talk out - so you can stop worrying, and so you guys can get to know each other better and make your relationship as good as it can be. Put it this way: you never know - SHE might be as nervous about triggering you as you are about talking to her. She could be giving you your space on the subject so that she doesn't make it worse. So, you bringing it up might be something that she's waiting for you to do. If bringing it up in advance will make you more nervous - I've always been a fan of quiet evenings at home being a good place to talk. I'm also sometimes a fan of instant messages - but that's a personal thing. Talking in person is usually the best way to communicate when it comes to touchy subjects but sometimes I'm more comfortable bringing things up in a written form to get the ball rolling and then talking about it later once I've put it out there. But that's me and I'm weird on that one.

Pdoc says things are NOT supposed to be talking when you try to have sex. And I'm pretty sure she's right.

She is.

One way that I keep myself present when things are going well (this is sort of embarrassing) is by making noise.

Umm, don't be. Noise is great. Talking is great. Do it as much as it comfortable for the two of you. *cough* Somehow I have a feeling that your girlfriend appreciates the noise. It's feedback. How else is one to know what you like and don't like if you don't react in some way to communicate that? If it keeps you more in the moment - all the better. So yeah - noise all you want. I'm dead serious on that one.

For your own piece of mind and mental health - you should not carry on with things when you're dissociating. You don't want to make that a pattern with her. You don't want to relate your past trauma with your relations with her. That was what it was. She is what it is. If that line gets fuzzy - by all means stop. It's nothing to feel bad about. She probably doesn't want you to carry in that state anyway, and would be fine with cooling it down and (for example) just holding each other instead. You don't have to have every detail worked out here to talk with her. If you want to know the best way to let her know when you're not totally present - ask her what would be the best way for you to communicate that to her. Your past is your own, but your sex life is something that you share with her. You should be working some of this stuff out together, so ask her about things you're unsure of. Give her a chance to help you and participate in figuring out what kind of cues and communication will work best for you both.

And if none of that is useful - forgive me ;)

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Thank you, everyone ;) I guess I'll letcha all know what happens when we talk about it. Gf has her own MI and dissociation issues, so I know she'll understand.

I'm just trying to figure out what I think might help.

I think it's a good idea for us to check in with each other every so often. That way, it won't get to that horrible place where I don't even realize I'm dissociated. Maybe gf can help me get grounded again by using my name and reminding me where we are, if I go really far out.

And I know that when I'm dissociating, I go really quiet and I don't move very much or talk. Those are good clues.

And I guess otherwise I can just concentrate on physical sensations and remind myself where I am. I'll see how it goes.

My Celexa is messing with me, which is messing with my head.

Hopefully things are better the next time than they were the last time.

Anyone have any other tips on staying in my body?

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Tryp,

I totally emphasize with you. I also tend to dissociate during sex and find it very difficult to get back in my body. I usually fantasize about some unknown stranger in order to finally get off. I know this is a little different than what happens to you, but it definitely takes me out of my body. I have conflicting feelings about fantasizing. I would prefer to there with my hubby and not off somewhere else but it is a pattern that I am having a hard time breaking. I think it has to do with needing to objectify myself. Not being able to really be in my body, love my body, love what my DH is doing with my body.

You say it is hard for you to talk or move when you go out of your body, but what if you arranged a signal, like you could just push her shoulder with your finger so she knows you have gone somewhere else. Then at that point, see what happens. You both could stop, not stop, or whatever but at least she would know you are dissociating. Definitely come up with a signal if you really do need to stop. Or two signals, one silent (covering your face or something) if you can't talk, and the other could just be one word, like 'rainbow'. It doesn't have to be the word - stop. Which may be a bit too harsh to say.

I was also wondering about how you two get in mood for sex. Maybe you already do this, but what if you lit candles, incense, prepared the scene romantically. It might make it easier for you to stay in your body. I find that sometimes, depending on my mood, time of day, etc, my whole self is more involved.

Another idea - focus on your breath. When you find yourself numb and disconnected, breathe deeply, slowly in and out. Follow your breath with your mind as it goes into your lungs and through your body into your belly, legs, arms and then out again deflating the lungs and belly. It is very hard to stay out of your body when you breathe deep, slow breaths in and out.

Last idea - talking about the sex during sex. This is so hard for me, but very, very rewarding. Tell her what you want, what you like, what works. Engage with her not just with noises, which is a great idea, but with real words. Like "that's nice honey, do more of that", or "do this instead", or whatever.

To sum up - I would absolutely, no question about it, talk to her about all of this. I am sure she will totally understand, totally support you. I think this is where sex can really go to another level when you can communicate your needs, wants, desires with your partner during sex, or even after when you are lying together cuddling in bed.

I don't know if any of this will help, but I wish you all the best!!

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Well, I did talk to gf about it, in a really low-key way. I just said that if I dissociate again, I'm going to want to stop her, and she said that would be fine.

And I tried really hard to stay in my body. Every time I felt myself starting to drift away, I reminded myself that I was with gf because I wanted to be, and that we were having fun because we care about each other and that's okay (I think some of my issues stem from a core belief that sex is disgusting and dirty). And I mostly managed to stay in my body. Not as well as I have some other times, but far better than the last time.

I kept my eyes open, too, and made noise and talked, and all of that helped remind me that we're having consensual sex for FUN.

The voice in my head was talking a little bit, but not constantly the way it was before. It just sort of chimed in every few minutes and then was quiet. Which is an improvement. And I didn't have anybody else in my head, which was a BIG improvement. When I'm trying to have sex and all of a sudden inappropriate people get into my head and start talking, it's really disconcerting.

So I guess I'll just keep trying ;) Thanks for all the sharing and insight, everyone. It makes me feel less like a freak.

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Well, I did talk to gf about it, in a really low-key way. I just said that if I dissociate again, I'm going to want to stop her, and she said that would be fine.

So glad you guys got to talk! I hope you start to feel more comfortable in the future with keeping the lines of communication open on this subject ;)

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So I guess I'll just keep trying

I know it sounds cheesy to say something like, "Yeah, that's the spirit!" but that's really what it comes down to. You're pretty much retraining yourself to react differently in certain situations, to reclaim a part of your life/yourself so you can do with it what you want. Some days it'll go fine. Others it might be harder and not work out, but you can learn things from that. You've gotten a bunch of suggestions from people here, and your girlfriend seems great about it, and, possibly most importantly, you have yourself, willing to keep trying and already having made progress so far. That's pretty cool, if you ask me. Well, which no one did, but I still think it is. Heh.

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hmmmm...you got me thinking here. i don't have dissassociation problems, but i've heard others discuss it enough to know that often grounding yourself in the immediate environment is helpful. have you tried adding some additional sensory info, like a soft fuzzy throw blanket or silky clothes or scents, something to focus you back into the now?

i also second the checking in idea. you know, by having her do that, she may start be able to help you figure out the cues that show when you're dissociating. maybe she'll get good enough to spot it before you really get lost and help you break the cycle.

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