Surviving a stroke earlier than what’s considered the normal range of one’s life to have one can certainly feel like a death sentence; especially when you’re talking about sex. But it’s not. I was thinking about this in the shower this morning after I greeted my shower head because, let’s be honest, that happens.
I think it’s important people understand that all the things you fear about sex after a stroke is completely normal. I have not been very successful discussing this in online support groups. Every time I try to bring it up– especially masturbation, for some reason, people freak out on me. People don’t like to discuss it and I don’t understand why. They call me rude, disgusting, and inappropriate. I’m sorry but if there’s a kid in the group they are probably the ones that need to have this discussion with fellow survivors the most.
I should probably remind my readers, and tell those that don’t already know, I had my stroke during an orgasm. I won’t make any excuses, I was horny and I had a few minutes to spare. I don’t tell people in real life how I had a stroke since it’s not necessary if I tell them why (pregnant, cerebral AVM, increased blood pressure, bad mix). If someone does ask what I was doing, I tell them though I may have a deep blush as I do so. People usually want to know more but only ask what I assume to be less than half of what they’re really wondering.
I was afraid to have another orgasm afterward. I waited about a month. My first post-stroke orgasm was insanely intense and informative. One of the first morning’s home I woke up the same as I had the morning of my stroke. Kasper was already out of bed. I was wearing cotton shorts and seeing I was alone in bed was all I needed to initiate an orgasm through my clothes. I discovered that the sensations that are all screwy on my left side benefit me in all of my sensitive areas. My orgasms were never so intense before and I had a lot of them before my stroke. My record is 24 orgasms in half a day (I don’t know if that’s impressive or shameful) . Totally pointless information unless you factor in that part of my history with my statement about never having such intense orgasms as I’ve had post-stroke.
I don’t know about other hemi’s but it is virtually impossible for me to fake an orgasm now. I was never a good actor so this isn’t a real problem for me since I was never ashamed or angry if my partner had an orgasm and I didn’t. The thing is, my left body has a mind of its own. It only listens to rebellious reflexes and labors through my commands as if every task were the hardest, most pointless task of all time.
When a “normal” woman orgasms, her body pulses and shakes, tightens and loosens (varying degrees, of course). When I have an orgasm, my entire left body goes crazy. I couldn’t possibly fake that– I don’t have enough control of my left body. My left arm juts out straight and down like it’s trying to punch whatever is giving my womanliness such great pleasure. My leg usually goes straight and vibrates uncontrollably. The more intense the orgasm, the more rigid the leg and wild the vibration. I can feel it shimmy down my leg like a stripper on a pole to my toes. It’s impressive since I have such little sensation on that side. It’s like the orgasm parades down my left body, high-fiving every friendly nerve hand waving along the route before they return to their siesta.
At first it was interesting to see and feel my body react this way to an orgasm. Kasper thought it was wild the first few times he experienced it. I imagine that if my limbs get tight, well… Now, I find it annoying. It was one thing to be cautious when learning to have an active sex life while living with the paranoia another big O could be my last. But there’s more to learn than how to get over that fear that it could happen again.
Aside from always being aware of how my left side and head feels during sex and masturbation, there are other distractions that can reduce the quality of an orgasm. Like everything else, orgasm requires a little prep work for me now. Most positions permit me to pin my left hand under my left side somehow to keep it from trying to punch Kasper in the face or the hip or something. This means I have to know when an orgasm is coming moments beforehand. Sometimes I hold my hand up above my head which sucks because then my left leg is flopping all over the place.
Let’s talk about my hand in general. I can’t replicate it exactly now because it’s probably impossible for me to type, orgasm and take a picture of my left hand all at the same time… So this is kind of almost what my left hand looks like during orgasm:
You can see how my thumb curls up over my fingers at an unnatural angle and you can see my nails digging into my palm. Usually it’s a tighter fist with my nails really digging in deep. This is so painful that it can and has completely dismissed orgasms. In order to prevent that disappointment from entering my day or night, I pre-tuck my thumb under my fingers; it still hurts but not half as bad. The arm is what makes it difficult for me to enjoy sex to the fullest. I can handle a floppy leg but the arm just gets in the way.
I needed a lot of help those first months after my stroke. Kasper helped me use the restroom, shower, dress and shave my bikini area. When it came to having sex, he was just as carefully caring. Having a partner you can trust is crucial after a stroke for many reasons but now we’re only talking sex. This partner needs to listen without judgment. I had a lot of paranoia during sex after stroke. Kasper had his fears but mine were different and I needed him to understand that. Having a stroke during an orgasm is one of the most humbling, frightening and earth-shaking events I can imagine. You realize how little control you have over your body even when you’re pleasing it. You can’t predict its behavior and it won’t think twice about killing you off if you don’t listen to it. No one wants to discover this during orgasm. Give me this lecture during something I don’t need in my life, like smoking a cigarette (quit thanks to stroke).
It was important that Kasper be patient while I learned to communicate with my body again. In this journey I found my husband more desirable than at any other point in our relationship. My stroke and disabilities bonded us on a level I don’t understand. I often say that my stroke was like being shoved through time back to puberty where I had to explore to learn to understand myself to control my emotions and grow up like everyone else. One thing I missed during my initial introduction to this stage of life was something Krank Ficken took from me. I discovered with Kasper that I really didn’t know myself on an intimate level. Because I was so concerned with learning about me and I was teaching myself how and what to feel, I experimented my way into greater orgasms. I don’t know if I locked something away to hide from Krank Ficken and lost the key or if the stroke unlocked something that had nothing to do with Krank Ficken at all. I never thought of myself as sexually repressed until after my stroke when I had my first vaginal orgasm. I truly thought they were fake; something porn stars made up to shame us homely, handsome women or something (lol).
We found that one of the safer positions for us (as in, less pain for me, more comfort and less work for both of us) is on my side with him in whatever position he prefers. Missionary gets boring and according to Toto that’s all she does now. I feel really bad for her. There’s a lot you can do on your side, a surprising amount of angling and stretching can bring you various types of sensations. I love this aspect of my post stroke sex life. Kasper has nothing to be ashamed of, he’s right near the top of my [reasonably] long list of past partners when it comes to length and girth, but I’ve never felt him the way I can now. I don’t know why or what it is but…it’s just amazing. Before, I’d ask for deeper because I wasn’t getting as much enjoyment as I felt I should (according to whom? I have no idea; instinct?). I now have a fuller, fuller, understanding of why deeper is better.
I know where my “g-spot” is; I thought that was a hoax–it’s not like I never tried to find it on my own before. It exists, or something like it does and it’s exactly where I was always told it would be and where I’ve searched before. The first time Kasper reached that area, I cried, I literally cried. I wouldn’t tell anyone this face-to-face but it happened. It was actually a panic attack of some sort. It’s such a sensitive area that when reached, my entire left side tingled straight up to my head. I thought I was going to have another stroke or seizure it was so startling and dizzying. Kasper ended up holding me while I cried and I never told him what made me freak out like that. I wouldn’t really know until next time later when I was so wrapped up in the moment with my right thumb being squeezed by my left hand’s grip that I couldn’t do anything but let the wave take me. And I had my first vaginal orgasm that night.
You try to recreate these events that are so awesome they tickle your tummy every time you recall them but it never works. So it was time to try on top and I recommend this only for those that gained some strength on their affected sides. You have to trust your partner can physically support you or be confident enough to support yourself. The first couple times were awkward. Toes get bent funny, limbs aren’t exactly easy to keep aligned and what’s worse is your stupid arm just wants to punch your guy in the face repeatedly unless you hold it. Oh, and keeping steady rhythm is a fantasy. It always seems like once I find that grind my left body goes completely loose and I lose it. I can’t figure this one out. It wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t afraid of stamping Kasper with my fist or grabbing and twisting his flesh at the stomach– there’s no predicting what the mighty left hand will do. One thing is for sure, it is a great workout for the affected hip and thigh when you’re on top. I feel my thigh burn for days after I am on top so I know things are getting used that I normally can’t stretch and that’s always good with hemiparesis.
I keep talking about paranoia and fear during sex and orgasm, what I’ve yet to mention is the insecurities and lack of confidence. Both are necessary for sex to be even halfway decent no matter the people partaking in the activity. After stroke you have fear and anxiety to contend with. I think those are enough to handle during sex but it’s not easy to evacuate the rest of the negativity holding you back from enjoying yourself and/or your partner. This is why open communication with your partner is essential. If you need help, you need the shame-free ability to ask for it. If you’re afraid of your arm getting in the way, ask your partner to hold it; if your leg flops too much, ask your partner to control it. If you’re afraid you can’t feel anything or are unsure of what you’re feeling (this happens with hemiplegia) don’t be ashamed of your confusion. Your partner should help guide you by telling you, showing you what they’re doing. I usually feel everything Kasper is doing but there is one angle he comes from that I can’t feel whatsoever and I have to tell him to stop until I find him.
If you’re paranoid of stroking out during sex, definitely say something to your partner. There are times where I feel my left body become heavier than its new normal and I have to tell Kasper to wait a minute while I do a systems check. He doesn’t mind. If I need to stop he doesn’t shame me for “giving [him] blue balls” and that is incredibly important. Don’t be ashamed of your fear no matter how much it is affecting you and never let anyone shame you for it, either. If you have any fears, simply slow down; listen to your body and do your best not to panic.
Having a stroke does not end your sex life no matter your age. I’ve been fortunate enough to find larger portions of my sexuality as a result of my stroke. I’m fortunate enough to have a partner that not only stayed but has been a participating supporter on my journey. We are not perfect, our sex life is not one for the movies but it hasn’t ended. The fire simply leans with a wind that takes more effort to keep from blowing us completely out. We survived a stroke, we can make our sex lives thrive as long as we’re willing to work for it just like everyone else; a stroke or disability doesn’t change that.