The term sexuality comprises questions around function, reproduction, relationships, self-esteem and body image; all of which can really impact a persons confidence. Sexuality is one of the main concerns people have after spinal cord injury yet many healthcare professionals may not broach the topic of sexuality during rehabilitation. Perhaps they feel the person may be coming to terms with quit alot in a short space of time during rehab and maybe the subject of sexuality can wait until a later stage.
I was single leaving the rehab hospital so I never got “that chat” despite being the ripe young age of twenty eight. Perhaps you really need to feel comfortable with a doctor who will “openly discuss” these topics in a non-judgemental manner. The first gp practise I visited after leaving rehab, I watched in horror as the doctor automatically put “n/a” through sexual health information as if I was a non-sexual being from here on.
How Has HAVING A DISABILITY IMPACTED MY DATING LIFE..
In the beginning, I avoided dating for a substantial time after acquiring my injury. Eventually, feeling abit bolder I tried some dating apps trying to get to get people to forget about the disability and focus on myself. To be honest everytime I felt like I was making progress, chatting to nice guys, they woud hit me with a whooper statement such as “So can you have sex or not” or “can you feel anything down there”….. and that was the end of that conversation. Why are people so shocked that disabled people have the same sexual desires as them and have sex lives too. We are sitting down not dead.
It’s no different from being a woman without a disability…we just look a little different.
Then I eventually started dating again but it took a long time to build up the courage.
There has been several outcomes to date.
I didn’t click with the person through no fault of either person.
I’ve been seriously friend-zoned by a number of guys who see me as a non sexual being.
I’ve had a guy admit to really liking me as a person but couldn’t get past the other stuff (eg. the health issues); feeling emotionally drained watching me go through frequent chest infections, pressure sores, autonomic dysreflexic episodes and so on. I explained to him that it was not his responsibility to completely understand my disability or to feel responsible for my health..I’ve got that covered myself after almost six years of living with a spinal cord injury!
I think there is also an assumption that if you date someone with a disability, you will become their carer. In reality, this couldn’t be further from what I want as a young woman. I have carers and whilst a partner may do some aspects of care, I am such an independent person that I would always want to maintain a high level of independence as I imagine most people may want. I don’t want a career to mother me and treat me like I’m weak/sick…I want someone to laugh with, to give me a hug when I’m feeling down, to eat dinner with on the couch after a long day…
Of course there’s no denying there has to be an additional element of trust and communication when it comes to sex because you are in a more vulnerable place than someone without an injury may be.
It adds a whole new level of commitment. I am my own worst enemy because I am always putting up barriers to prevent the possibility of a relationship possibly because I’m afraid of feeling like a burden. I think there is always something bubbling underneath my surface wondering whether or not this would be ‘fair’ to a partner. Also, I am dealing with challenges related to my disabilities everyday relatively on my own which take’s so much energy that I’m empty by the end of the day to face the complex world of dating!!
There needs to be greater visibility of disabled people in the media in order for wider society to understand the inequalities that exist. We need to stop and think about that. We need to be aware. Awareness is the first step of change.