Writing by Haylee Penfold // illustration by Isher Dhiman
For years, I’ve contemplated seeing a sex therapist. I’d talked to my usual therapist about my deep routed shame when it comes to sex and how it has affected my sex life and relationships with my partner, and even myself. My current therapist seemed to be out of their depth when we got into the complex reasoning of the real issues: my traumas, confusion with sexuality and my sometimes not entirely monogamous relationship. I made a goal for myself this year to prioritise pleasure for myself, so I pushed through my anxiety and made the appointment.
As I waited for my sex therapist to join the video call, I grew more and more nervous. Do I tell her everything? Like everything? Surely, that’s a little too much. When she joined the call, her face was kind which a small amount of my anxiety at ease. I introduced myself and she asked why I wanted to see a sex therapist. I fumbled, she noticed the hesitation and asked me a different question. She asked me about my relationship with my partner. I told her that the sex with my partner wasn’t the issue – our sex is incredible. The issue, I felt, was me. Sometimes I feel like I’m not there when we have sex. Like for some moments, I’m just not present – my body isn’t mine. And the weird thing is, this doesn’t just occur when we have sex, sometimes when my I’m having a flare up in endometriosis symptoms, my body doesn’t feel like it’s mine at all.
“Is that normal?” I asked,
Her response was comforting.
“If you made an appointment just to ask that question, I have an easy answer for you. Yes, you are normal.”
She explained that in short, It was common for those who have experienced trauma to almost dissociate during triggering times and that it was something that we could work through. It was strange though, I had barely known this woman an hour and I had just confessed things to her I had never told anyone.
I told her about my quest to prioritise pleasure, that it extended further than sexual contexts. Her advice was simple,
“To find true pleasure, you must first free yourself of shame”.
Here’s to me and freeing myself from shame.
I know it will be much harder than a few therapy sessions,
So this is me taking the first step – sharing my experience with you.
And now I want to extend a question to you – what is it that you seek?