The sex talk

Continued from “hope for a real life”. This part of my therapy session got much more serious, and we do talk about sex, and my feelings surrounding it. Please be careful reading, as I’m sure it could be fairly triggering. 💜
“So, we don’t have to talk about the sex stuff, but I do want to just say that sex is complicated. It’s complicated for everyone, and even more so when abuse is in the mix. I don’t know one person who was sexually abused that doesn’t have some part that just wishes sex didn’t exist.” Bea’s tone is careful, she knows this is not a safe topic for me. 

“It’s okay.” I realize I want to hear what she has to say, and I’m having one of those rare days where I want to talk, and nothing is upsetting me or triggering me as much as it normally does. “It’s okay. You can talk about it. We can talk.” 

“Are you sure?” She asks me. “You seem a little far away all of a sudden.” 

Hmmmm. Maybe that is why I am feeling okay with the idea of talking, “it’s the ‘old normal’ far away,” I tell her. This means that I might be far away, but it’s the far away I lived my life in for as far back as I can remember. I can function fine in this state. 

“Allright,” Bea says. “I can imagine how getting married, hearing people discuss your wedding night was very triggering for you.”

“It was really….yuck. Just not good. I don’t know.” My face reddens at the memory. 

“So this bit about not being able to physically say no? You aren’t weird. This is so common, it’s normal. This is why college campuses are changing ‘no means no’ to ‘yes means yes’. Have we talked about that? I think I told you about the ‘yes means yes’ campaign.” 

I shake my head. “Maybe. I don’t remember.”

“That’s okay. What’s been found is that many women can’t say no when they really do want to. So, a lack of saying ‘no’ does not mean consent. That’s why this campaign is saying girls should be asked if they want to engage in sexual activity and only yes means yes.” She explains. 
I find myself nodding my head, liking the idea of ‘yes means yes’. 

“It would be good if you could bring hubby into this. If you could express a need for touch, but not sexual touch, and to not have things turn into sex.” 

“No….I can’t. Can’t we just work on this with me first, and bring him in later, when I can handle it?” I ask. The idea of hubby and Bea together is still frightening to me. I’m also afraid to tell him how I feel, what has been happening, all of that. I’m afraid of to hurt him. 

“Yes. If that is what feels okay to you right now, we can start there.” She really sounds supportive, and it feels like she is here. “Maybe now would be a good time to talk about the words. I do think that, as you say, you’ll need to be able to use the words in order to tell your story. I think if we can work to make them not have the impact they have right now, that should be our goal. Maybe we can do something very silly, like make a matching game. To help lessen the impact, and the matching game can help make it less serious.” 

Inside, I groan. “I….I don’t know. I mean I….well…” I’m stumbling over my words, and struggling to say what I want to say, but Bea gives me space to talk. “I like…….I like that you are….willing to do….um….to be creative in ways to help me. But I feel……like…well…..ridiculous.” 

“Are you feeling like a matching game is over the top?” She asks and I nod. “It’s not. These words really effect you. They are a strong trigger. We need to work on desensitizing you to them. This is okay. It’s not too much.” She tells me firmly. 

“I feel stupid. They are just words. I should be okay. But I’m not.” I’m a little whiny right now, but I decide it’s okay. 
“Well, everyone has words that feel bad, that they react to strongly and negatively.” 

“Everyone?” I ask, disbelieving.

“Well, I imagine so. I have words that make me sick.”  

“You do?” 

“Yes, I do. So I understand how hard it is to need to use words that really trigger you, and can imagine that it is horrifying to need those words to tell what happened.” She’s speaking softly, but matte of factly. 

“Will you tell me your words?” I ask. The question slips out of my mouth before I can sensor myself, or question if it’s okay to be asking. Bea is a very open person, and she does tell me about herself. Usually it’s something relevant to what I’m working through, or it is a talk about normal day to day activities to help ground me. I’ve asked her to talk, to tell me a story before, but I’ve never asked her an outright question like this before. But the little girl needs to know, and so does the teen. The little girl wants to know so that she feels less alone. The teen wants to know because she doesn’t believe Bea has words that make her uncomfortable; she is worried that Bea is just saying that so she feels better. 

“I….well…..I don’t know. I’m not sure I can say it.” She sounds uncomfortable, and as of she is truly feeling the way I feel about my yucky words. 

“Can you write it?” The teen isn’t willing to give up so easily, or to let Bea off the hook. 

“Maybe. I think I can. Yes, I can write it.” She grabs her whiteboard, and a marker. I hear her writing. “I’m feeling sick to my stomach, and thinking how disgusting this word is. I’m feeling guilty for even writing it, and feeling bad for showing it to you.” I appreciate so much that she is describing her experience to me. A lot of what she is saying is how I feel about my words. 

“Well, I asked. You shouldn’t feel bad,” I tell her. “And you don’t have to show me. It’s okay.” The teen believes there is a word. The little girl feels less alone. I’m good. 

“Well, I will flip the board around, and you can choose if you want to look or not.” She sounds quiet, and uncomfortable. 

I lift my head, and glance at it. “Ugh. That is a awful word,” I agree. Bea erases it, and puts the white board back. “I think your word is probably upsetting and sickening for most people, though. My words….they are just…regular, I guess.” 

“And your reaction is very normal. It’s okay. These words are very triggering for you, and with good reason!” Bea is quite adamant about this. 

We talk a little more about words, and then she asks if I want to talk about the bad night. We don’t have a lot of time left, and so I’m on the fence about it. “This is one of those times where you have to ask yourself what you need? Are you going to feel alone and upset if we don’t talk about it? Or is this a time where talking about it just before leaving is going to feel really triggering and hard? Focus on the inside, and see what you need today.” 

“I just want you to read something,” I say. She hands me back my iPad and I find what I want her to read. I had not planned on doing this, but it feels okay to do so. I’d written out what happened Tuesday night, with a lot of detail (minus the words).

Bea reads through it. “This sounds really hard, and really scary.” 

I nod my head. I’m slipping back to the far away that is safe, farther away than I was before. I’m suddenly scared that Bea is going to reject me after reading about the bad night, and so I need to distance myself more. 

“Are you too far away right now?” 

“No. I’m okay, I can function like this. It’s okay.” I tell her, and it’s true. 

“Okay….” She is uncertain, but then she continues on. “How do you feel about just cuddling? If you didn’t have to worry about more, would cuddling be okay?” 

I think about it. I’m not sure. I can’t really separate the two. “I don’t know. It’s….I really don’t know.” 

“Okay, that’s okay. You know, hubby probably was very scared and he probably wanted to fix whatever happened. I think, when you are ready, he would be open to working with you on this. And he is so gentle, he is a good guy to do this with. When he was here, when you sent him in after we told him about the abuse, I remember him saying that he believed any kind of sex was off the table, and he was okay with that. He is clumsy at times, but he really cares about you being okay.” 

“Not now….I can’t…just not right now.” I tell her. 

“I know. And that’s okay.” Bea’s feet move back and forth as she swivels in her chair. “I’m wondering if….well, if this is not just about sex, but about anything that gives you pleasure. Like eating. Do you ever just eat a cookie for pleasure, and enjoy the whole thing and not feel guilty?” 

Her question is so foreign to me that I’m suddenly feeling more present, just from the shock of it. “I….well…..” I think about it. If I’m restricting, I wouldn’t eat a cookie. And if for some reason I did, I would have a running commentary in my head about how awful I am. If I were to binge on cookies, I wouldn’t really taste them. I might notice if they are sweet or chocolatey, but I wouldn’t taste them. And when I stopped binging, I would be suddenly more aware of what I’d just done, and I would feel horribly guilty and have to fix it by throwing up. If I were to eat a cookie with Kat, because I do that sometimes, to model good habits, I would be telling myself I was doing this for Kat, and I wouldn’t be very present at all. And I’d hate myself for eating that cookie. “No. No I always feel bad.” 

“I think this is maybe about pleasure, and being able to feel pleasure from things. Do you ever just feel pleasure from a hug?” She asks. 

“Well……no. I’m too worried about more.” 

“Is there anything you do that you just feel pleasure from?” She’s really pushing me today on this. I wonder if she is right. 

“I…I don’t know. But I need…I mean…..ugh…can we……um…..I need you to use a different word!” I mumble and struggle to say the words. Once they are out, I feel like a big giant idiot. I’m such a drama queen. “I’m sorry, I’m stupid.” 

“Yes, we can use a different word. I went with that word because I was hoping it would be less triggery than other words……do you have a word in mind?” She is okay, not upset or sounding like I’m crazy, or too much. 

“I don’t know. I just….I can’t…I need a different word. It makes me feel yuck.” I cringe, and my stomach feels upset, and I’m uncomfortable in my own skin. 

“It’s okay. This isn’t silly. It’s okay. What if we said enjoy?” 

“Okay. That’s better.” I breathe a sigh of relief, still feeling like a child who is a needy drama queen. 

“Do you get enjoyment from a hot bath? Like, just getting into the water, it feels really nice and warm, and you are just enjoying it, that moment and how it feels to you?”

“Yes. That’s a good one,” I tell her. 
I don’t remember where the talk went from there, only that it continued with the same subject matter. Then Bea said something about a part of me wanting a normal sex life. 

Oh my God, I wanted to throw up. “No….I don’t…I just…no.” I couldn’t even form complete thoughts. “It’s not…I don’t want…I want to make it go away. It’s gross.”

Again, I think parts of this conversation are missing. And then Bea asked me if I felt like I did not deserve to feel enjoyment? 

“No…it’s not that. It’s just…..it’s gross, wrong, ew, yuck, bad, disgusting, no. Ugh.” The words spilled out of my mouth at an incredible speed, and I shook my hands, holding them away from my body, in the way you do when you touch something revolting. 

I don’t remember Bea’s response. We wrapped things up pretty quick after that, Bea switching the conversation to normal things, and trying to help me be a bit more grounded. We talked about the fact I discussed and allowed so much to be said, both of us a bit surprised by it.
Before I left, Bea asked me to come up with a list of words that trigger me, and to try to think of things I get enjoyment from. 

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8 thoughts on “The sex talk

  1. Just wanted to let you know that you’re definitely not alone in this – there’s a particular word my therapist uses that really triggers me, and every time I want to ask her not to use it but the words get stuck. Well done for having the courage to discuss it with Bea. That’s no small thing.

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  2. About a year ago, during a flashback in her office, my therapist was gently talking me through the memory and used the word “he” and his friends used to describe what they were going to do to me. I didn’t allow her to talk to me about sex after that. I would shut down and even walk out of her office when the subject was broached. I finally got the courage to write it all out in an email after finding your blog. I told her what she had said that triggered and upset me. I still can’t say the word and others, however, I don’t cringe when I hear them and can now allow the conversation to go on. You are not being silly by any means!

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  3. No part of this process is easy. From identifying what we are feeling, to actually feeling it, to sharing it with another person. This is really hard work, and you’ve doing an incredible job. xx

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