Orgasms aren't gone,
they are just more work
Or: issues in a soup pot
Someone wrote to a list:
Still, the lack of a normal sex life is pervasive in all my activities. As a couple we feel uncomfortable when friends quip about their sexual exploits. I am thankful for what I have, but am still in mourning for what I may have permanently lost.
I'm 57, married, 4 months post RP, undetectable PSA so far, continent & impotent. You comment about loss struck a chord with me. My spirits are
generally very good: optimistic,
getting more exercise than I used to, enjoying life. I knew I was getting into something
serious when I opted for the surgery & possible impotence. The possibility of impotence sounded grim, but less so than being dead.
This letter is not about finding strategies for having intercourse. It is
about that other thing, which you refer to, the one that is always gnawing at my spirits. For me it turns out to be the sense of loss in general.
Orgasms aren't gone, they are just more work.
The first one was a hoot:
just sitting there checking this deflated little thing & suddenly noticing some
familiar feelings. All excited, I cranked away -- just a couple of fingers, mind you -- and then, at that moment, there was the stunning treat of having an enormous ejaculation! How could this be?! It took a few seconds for me to realize that it was a great spray of urine! Oh well. It felt good for old time's sake.
Back to business: I miss the familiar easy sexual relationship with my wife. I miss waking up with an erection, ejaculations, getting little signals & messages at random times during the day, getting bigger responses from riper thoughts & fantasies, being able to read alone in bed, idly touching myself & getting a response. I miss masturbating. I miss all of it. There is a lot that is gone.
What is missing took a while to become clear to me: it feels like a relationship has died, and that, in fact, is exactly what happened.
Boys learn pretty early on that a penis has a mind of its own. There are memories of being nervous as a kid, before a physical exam , that 'it' would get hard when the doctor checked me. And what about, later on, knocking books off my desk to stall before standing up and having the lump in my pants revealed for all to laugh at? Or dancing & having HER notice it? Or making out on the couch and having to leave unexpectedly because there was this sudden puddle in my pants? (Only twice, much to my adolescent regret.) Or wet dreams? (Only 3. Damn! Even more regret.)
Of course, later on there are the opposite concerns, when I learned that it doesn't always do what I want it to do, or as much, or as often, or as well, or whatever.
Don't you think it is ironic -- considering how the penis and erections are
so often connected with male power, control, etc. -- that a penis is the one
part of a man's body (and we learn this early on) that he has little control over. It hadn't really occurred to me until after the surgery that I had an actual relationship with my penis, and a pretty intimate one at that.
My wife is smart, savvy, sympathetic, & supportive, yet I knew I wasn't getting across what was going on. At first I was only able to say to her that I was missing erections & our old sex. She did/does too, but we are working our way through that (different) problem. So it didn't seem to be such a large issue to her. However, when it hit me that I was mourning the loss of a whole relationship, and talked with her about it, that we both began to appreciate the depth & complexity of the problem.
So now my wife knows what I mean. She likened it a little to
the sad part of her feelings about menopause. That's what we all do: we grope
around trying to find parallels to help us feel another's pain, but, of course, we only end at best by understanding it better with our minds. A man who is potent can only try to imagine how losing that 'relationship' would affect him, but almost any man will know instantly what I mean as I talk about the relationship itself.
[The next day, Richard added this.]
Oops! When I wrote "This letter is not about finding strategies for
having intercourse," I was hoping to make it clear that my letter wasn't about finding ways to have sex. Different issue altogether. My lament was for the whole package of losses which going limp seems to entail. I guess I mean the feeling of loss in general, with its sadness and frustration.
There are many problems we are all dealing with in one way or another:
communicating with and developing a whole new kind of relationship our
partners (when there is one), mechanics of sex, varieties of sex aids,
having orgasms, anxiety, etc. I was just noting that, for me, all of those
issues seem to be bubbling along in a soup pot. Each of us has a soup pot,
I suppose, and some of us have differing amounts of things floating around
in the soup. Sometimes I feel that, for me, my feeling of loss -- loss of the
whole thing, of the 'old days' -- is the broth it all floats in.
When someone you love or are very close to dies, you respond in different
ways over time -- the 'stages' of grieving, if you will. Recognizing and
feeling the loss, with the anger and sadness and frustration, doesn't mean
you are caving in to negativity or paralysis (although you probably go
through periods of feeling that way). You can feel all those things along the way, I think, and still get on, most of the time, with the process of 'getting on'.
For all of us, whatever gnaws at us is important. Probably we all, at times, use the strategy of bucking ourselves up by thinking of how things could be worse: I think of it as the 'Bombay strategy' (At least I am not destitute & starving on the streets of Bombay.). 9/11 had that effect on most people: "My family is still alive & well." But we probably all find that that only works for a time and then it's back to what is gnawing at you -- perhaps feeling a little guilty--but there it is still chomping away.
In the case of the loss of potency, for some of us (I'm in this group) the uncertainty regarding recovery probably slows down the adjustment. Others are dealing with what becomes more apparent as the years go by: This is, in fact, the new deal.
For me this loss of potency is a significant problem. I have to add, however, that at 4 months post-RP, with an undetectable PSA, I have the luxury of finding that my cancer is not (for the moment) the significant problem. For those of us on the list, however, who find themselves still dealing with cancer, where life becomes the issue, potency is only one of many significant problems.
On that note, a last, overdue thought: Robert Young has shared so much of his story with us, at Phoenix5 and here in his letters. His remarkable journal and his work on the Website have made a major difference for me and I will be forever thankful to him for having for doing what he does. It is his journal that has helped me keep a lot of these problems along the way in perspective. Most of the time. More or less. If you know what I mean.
I need to tell him that, don't I?
[Images are for illustration only and do not represent those involved.]