Unnatural, sexless and startled awake
Things have been pretty good recently. Generally, I’m a pretty happy person. I know it’s hard to tell from what I write here, but ‘Hey, today was nice. How are you guys?’ isn’t a very interesting blog post. I usually write about things I’m working with because… well, because that’s what this blog is about. Practice in the real world. Working with happy is a little… easier. I write about it nice-nice sometimes (check the tag ‘optimism’), but mostly just when I have grist for the mill. QED.
Wearing it down, refining until the barriers dissolve… that’s practice with living. So last night, when I was rapid-fire texting with my beloved, I had a lot to work with. This wasn’t a marital argument or anything… not really, I wouldn’t reveal things like THAT here… but suffice it to say that one of my major avoidance issues cropped up.
I’ve mentioned before that I had a hysterectomy. I guess it was about five years ago now. I was in a tremendous amount of pain from fibroids and endometriosis, and the overflow of hormones from said masses was making me an exhausted, emotional mess. After the hysterectomy- a complete one, I have no functional sexual organs left whatsoever- I was on a high of energy and relief that carried me through… well, until about last year. Once my daily meditative practice began to unknot my bungled psyche, that bubble got burst.
I’ve been in pain ever since. I thought it would pass… so many times, it’s just a matter of adjusting to the hormones. But this has obviously been affecting my sex drive. Not for the reasons you might think, not the pain. It sure didn’t help, but as you’ll see below it covered up a far more integral issue to how I identify myself. I didn’t realize how deep it was till tonight.
Pain is a funny thing. Chronic pain was what led me to go for a hysterectomy when I was so young. When the pain came back, I thought, “Well, this is familiar. It’s not so bad. Maybe I can deal…” and just lived with pain. If I couldn’t handle pain, I’d never be able to function. Because obviously I’d never be able to live without it. F*ck it, I thought. Suck it up. At least it’s not as bad as post-partum depression. Nothing was worse than that. That was hell, from which I tried to escape by getting high from the adrenaline and endorphin rush of burning myself (literally).
What triggered my latest gigglefest was that I found this thread on About.com called ‘Is there sex after a hysterectomy?’ 266 comments from women (and husbands) despairing from the same issues. Totally lost it. I couldn’t hide anymore. The jig was up. And it wasn’t the sex- all my feelings about not really being female anymore came bubbling up. I touched on it a bit when I wrote about the Bhikkhuni Ordination scandal in Australia about six months ago on Examiner. Since then I have veered from looking at the issue. In one of the articles (linked above) I wrote:
Which characteristics make a woman? The existence of glands on the chest that express milk seems superficial, and is certainly a temporary phenomenon for those who have experienced it. This is not a permanent condition. If it is the presence of a set of ovaries or the complete reproductive organ, then women who have had hysterectomies should be fully ordained. If it involves a functional set of ovaries, then post-menopausal women and infertile women should be ordained. If the definition is that of being able to carry a child within the body, then only presently pregnant women can be denied ordination by this logic. In short, every female (or male) characteristic can be reduced to demonstrate the validity of men and women being intrinsically similar, particularly in regard to the state of being human, and all other factors are conditional and conventional labels that are open to interpretation according to situational degree.
Below is my text conversation. It was an explosion of guilt, of blame that I brought it all on myself. I felt like I should have suffered through. But really, I couldn’t have. I know that in reality. But this wasn’t reality. This was my store consciousness, saying ‘Hey! you missed a spot!’
I only post it so that other women can find it on a search and know, like me, that they are not alone and that not denying the reality is the first step to healing. Cancer patients undergo this kind of grief, the grief of their body betraying them. Killing itself, consuming itself. Consuming themselves.
I edited out most of my beloved’s comments. I won’t invade his privacy by posting them here. But I left a few in to show that he was being supportive throughout.
Me: You have no idea how much time I’ve spent obsessing over whether the hysterectomy was a mistake
Me: Kept going over and over the ‘quality of life’ thing
Me: Was it worth it?
Me: I still don’t know
Me: I was so very unhappy
Me: I’M STILL NOT OVER IT- not having that organ
Me: I am still at square one
Me: So I’m sorry
Me: I was scared
Me: Its all my fault
Me: And my inability to deal with
Me: The pain
Me: And the bleeding
Me: And the bloating
Me: And the crying
Me: And the insomnia
Me: And the complete lack of motivation
Me: And exhaustion
Me: But my solution- which unfortunately worked
Me: I feel BROKEN
Me: And everything I do to fix it makes everything worse
Me: Just muscle through
Me: Do you know what it feels to be missing your entire sexual organ family?
Me: Do you?
Me: I don’t know WHAT I am anymore
Me: But not female
Him: Yes you are
Me: I am sexless
Me: I am deformed
Him: No you are not sexless
Me: I am something OTHER
Me: A freak
Me: I have to take medicine to pretend to be female
Me: And I love you more than ever
Me: But you’ll never believe that if I can’t act like I’m something I’m NOT anymore
Me: What the hell AM I?
Me: I’m only 31
Me: I’m only 31
Me: This wasn’t supposed to happen
Me: There’s nothing there
Me: What am I?
Me: A half breed
Me: Like in sci fi
Me: There’s a hole but it has no purpose
Me: It feels nothing but pain
Me: Even walking hurts
Me: I should be blind
Me: Or deaf or mute
Me: So you can SEE that I’m broken
Me: But I can’t do anything but try and keep up
Him: You are my Emily always
Em: I don’t know what she is anymore
Em: But she is yours
Him: She is you and you are she. I know it’s gotta be weird and sucky, but you are you.
Him: And I love you
Me: As I love you
When I first read the article I didn’t feel sad. I noted the tears running down my face and thought, “Huh.” It wasn’t until I began communicating my thoughts to my beloved that the feelings came rushing out. I had been so numb, but that wasn’t reality. That was the rug pulled over the mess. Even having breasts felt like a betrayal. All they’re good for post-hysterectomy is cancer breeding ground, and having to deal with the damned things every day is a constant reminder of all of the above. Unless you’re in denial, of course! Magical denial.
So, once again, my nice neat little package of angst has been ripped open and dumped all over the place. Honestly, I’m relieved. It was a lot of pressure to keep that facade up, keep anyone from guessing how insecure I was about the whole thing. Not that I was conscious of doing it, but…
There seems like there is nothing more basic than your sex… every form I filled out: ‘Name, Date of Birth, Sex…’ and I just wanted to check ‘neither’ for the latter. If there was such a box. Which there isn’t. (Ha! ‘Box’… I made a funny pun. Ok, maybe not. But I tried.)
But I am not my name… or sex… or body… or career. What I am is beyond any of that… as are you. You as YOU, as Seiho would say. At zero, we have the same raw material to work with.
Follow up post: Don’t say it! Don’t say it!