“My relationship to my body and sex was already complicated before cancer. How do I negotiate it all without being triggered by past traumas?”
Psychosexual therapist Kate says...
Knowing yourself is one of the most important ingredients in navigating the can-be-complicated relationship between your body and sex, and being aware of your triggers is a part of that. This may involve you setting clear boundaries for your partner about your ‘yes and no’s. This is not just areas of your body that you might not want touched, or types of touch; but may also be factors like lighting, positions or sounds. Being clear rather than ambiguous with a partner will be a helpful guide for both of you, and will avoid you feeling not heard or listened to, and will help your partner to feel safe too.
You may also have to go through a process of getting to know your body again, not just sexually but sensually. Exploring your body from head to toe in different ways, when you are on your own and with no pressure. Getting to know yourself again is a part of getting to trust your body again and importantly this can take time.
If you need additional support for working through trauma then the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists has a directory of qualified and accredited psychosexual therapists in the UK and talking through with a professional may help you to work through your feelings.
Sex toy expert Renee says...
We’re so sorry to hear this. There is no quick fix, in our opinion, and we’d recommend finding a good therapist (Sh! can suggest a few names we trust) to help you work through the issues. Pleasure is possible. As we see it, the goal is to get to a place where you can focus on the positives instead of the negatives. The journey might be bumpy but the destination is worth it.
Co-founder Joon-Lynn says...
“The body keeps the score” says Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist who has written a book grounded in decades of research around post-traumatic stress.
What causes us to relive what we most want to forget is specific to each of us. In other words, trauma will look and feel different for everyone. For help, support and advice around sex and trauma, see Survivors Trust – the largest umbrella agency for specialist trauma support for rape and sexual abuse in the UK – with a national helpline 08088 010818. Survivors Trust can direct you to support in your area, and includes self-care resources around PTSD, flashbacks, disassociation, and grounding techniques.
Survivors UK help male, trans and non-binary victims of sexual abuse and their friends, including a chat service for men who have experienced sexual abuse either as a child or an adult. SMS 020 3322 1860.
College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists is also good starting point for finding a sexual and relationship therapist to provide regular and in-depth support.