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When illness gets in the way of intimacy – how do you make it work?

Who we are and how we feel about ourselves is based on so many different things and can alter, move and change depending on what we’re dealing with at any one time. Right now I feel that I’m a bit lost, I feel vulnerable and raw and in particular I feel I have lost my femininity and sex appeal. And by that I don’t meant how others view me but how I view myself. Feeling sexy feels like a thing of the past.

Sam Cleasby Sheffield blogger chronic illness hospital surgery

I’m generally very much changeable, equally comfortable in make up and sequins as in joggers and a jumper but more and more I find myself in those joggers and less and less making an effort due to illness, pain and fatigue.

Body positive?

In a world of body positivity, we know we’re all meant to love our bodies. But when our bodies are broken, causing pain, are fatigued and disfigured, sometimes I don’t love my body and actually the body positivity movement make it harder to voice that.

Currently my stomach is swollen, it has one large protrusion on one side and a smaller one on the other. I’ve gained a lot of weight because I can barely walk. Im in pain every single day. I hate how my body looks naked and none of my clothes fit me properly.

Its hard to say that though, especially as a blogger without feeling that you’re setting a bad example, not a good feminist, being negative about disability or perpetuating body stereotypes! Dude, sometimes I just want to say I don’t like how I look without it being about society! Sometimes I just want to be able to say I feel shit!

I end up in joggers most of the time because it’s the one thing that fits me and is comfortable. But it doesn’t make me happy, I know I look like a scruffy, fat mess most of the time. I’m so tired and so often I just wear a beany hat to cover how bad my hair looks and naps win over make up any day.

Feeling sexy

I used to feel sexy. And by this I don’t mean a pouty, booby show for others. I used to feel powerfully strong and beautiful and sexual and in control.

Right now I feel a million miles from that and honestly? It’s only going to get worse for a while with surgery and recovery. My body feels like it’s all about illness and treatment right now with no time or energy for looking good, for sex, for intimacy. But because I feel so different it’s like losing a part of yourself. Like feeling like someone completely different. Like you’re a stranger to yourself. And it can be hard to feel sexy, to give yourself to another person when you are not entirely sure who you are yourself!

It’s hard to feel ‘in the mood’ when you’re either in pain or stoned on painkillers, exhausted or asleep, when your body looks and feels weird to you or you’re wearing three different hernia belts! As they say in Hamilton, “It’s hard to have intercourse over four sets of corsets!”

ostomy photoshoot sexy ileostomy 50s pin up photo shoot so bad ass sam cleasby

Feeling lost

Joking aside, I just feel so lost. So sad. So empty today. I have a really physical reaction to upset, my stomach turns and flips and it’s doing cartwheels right now.

I wonder how I can be a partner to anyone in this state? How do you cope as the partner? Can relationships survive when illness gets in the way of intimacy? Is feeling sexy a possibility when you feel bad about your body?

I get lots of emails and messages about this subject and I know it’s sensitive and personal but I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts.

Chronic illness changes many parts of our lives in so many different ways and sometimes it’s embarrassing and difficult to discuss those changes.

Ive had a message this week asking about this subject and I realised what a taboo it is to talk about how chronic illness can and does effect relationships, yet it must be something that so many are dealing with.

I hope this can spark a discussion that could help so many.

✌🏽 & ❤️

Sam xx