Monday, July 1, 2013

Brace Yourselves

Brace yourselves, people. I'm about to get extremely personal here.

Back when I was breastfeeding, I discovered something curious about my body: it turns out my left boob is better than my right boob. Apparently it is not uncommon to have one boob that is a better milk producer or one side where nursing is a bit easier. But, in my case, my left boob wasn't just better, my right boob was actually pretty horrible. Not only did I produce less milk on the right side, but latching was always a bit more difficult on that side, and for weeks my right nipple was cracked and extremely painful. When it started bleeding (and blood was getting into my baby's mouth) I sought help.

First I went to see my ob/gyn. I wanted to make sure my nipple didn't have some kind of horrible infection. When she confirmed that everything was (at least theoretically) fine, I asked for advice on how to make nursing less painful. Keep the nipple dry, she told me, and never nurse from that side first. She also recommended that I make an appointment with the lactation consultant. But I was extremely frustrated when, upon visiting the lactation consultant, she gave me the exact opposite advice. Make sure the nipple is always moist and always nurse from that side first. Umm....what? The "experts" had given me completely opposing instructions. When I first heard that conflicting advice I had no idea who to believe or what I was supposed to do to fix the problem. 

Which, in case that first story wasn't quite personal enough for you, brings me to my current point: the confusion I felt about what to do about my stupid right boob is almost exactly the way I feel about my sex life right now.

The primary problem with my sex life is that I have basically zero interest in sex of any kind. APL and I face all the hurdles that other parents of young children do: we have very little time alone and we are exhausted most of the time. But, on top of that, I am also dealing with extra fatigue from RA and joints that hurt. To make matters worse I feel overweight and unattractive, basically as un-sexy as I've ever felt in my life. And I am continually frustrated by my inability to do much about how I feel about my body, seeing as I'm far too achy and fatigued to do much in the way of exercise (other than being OZL's primary caregiver, which is a kind of exercise in and of itself). Depressingly I've even had to resort to taking some prednisone just to keep going, which feels like several steps in the opposite direction as far as my body image is concerned. Meanwhile more and more time has passed since the last time we were (successfully and enjoyably) intimate, and the hurdles we have to overcome to fix the situation just seem to keep growing.

My options for fixing this problem seem very much like the polar opposite instructions I was given while nursing. On the one hand, we should probably just do it already (no pun intended, however hilarious). I should really stop letting time pass and turning our problem into a bigger and bigger mountain we have to overcome. Who cares if I don't really feel like doing it? Can't I just do it for APL's sake and maybe "fake it 'till you make it" will actually lead to me enjoying myself?

But, on the other hand, why should I force myself to do something that I really have no interest in right now? Especially if it supposed to be something pleasurable and I am not getting any pleasure from it and, in fact, may even be in more pain because of it. Maybe I should just wait until I feel like I really want to, so I will actually be able to enjoy it? Considering all the hurdles I am facing maybe it is reasonable to take some time to try to get myself to a better place first?

But, then again, what if I never feel like it again? Won't it only become a bigger and bigger deal as more and more time passes? Don't I need to do something about it now, for the sake of my marriage? Maybe I should just go for it? And around and around I go again. 

Here's the thing: although I was supremely annoyed to be given completely opposite advice from "the experts" about my nursing situation, in the end I took their conflicting advice as evidence that there was no right answer and I that I should just do whatever I felt was right. In that situation I simply trusted my instincts and was able to come up with a solution that worked for me - and my solution made nursing extremely successful (until I ended up having to stop so I could go back on my meds, of course).

But, for some reason, the sex problem isn't like that. I can't seem to trust my instincts because I don't have the foggiest idea what my instincts are telling me to do. I go back and forth over and over and over again. I have no idea what the right choice is to improve our situation, and even when I tell myself "just pick one already!" I can't seem to stick with it because it never feels like I'm heading towards improvement.

Honestly? I'm all out of ideas. The nursing experience (as well as hundreds of others I have had while dealing with my chronic illness) has made me wary of what "the experts" have to say about matters that are, in the end, extremely personal to me. But I don't know. Maybe it's time to get some outside help? Because I just keep going in circles on my own.

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