Sex and intimacy can be particularly tricky for those of us who have experienced trauma. As a kid, I grew up in the midst of chaos and abuse, and as an adult, I’ve had some troubling romantic relationships in which my emotional boundaries have been repeatedly violated. After my last relationship ended with me getting a protective order, I decided to take a break from dating for a while and focus on the most important person in my life: me.
I turned to Chamin Ajjan, psychotherapist and author of Seeking Soulmate: Ditch the Dating Game and Find Real Connection, for some insight. “The most common difficulty people with past trauma face is trusting a partner,” says Ajjan. “Once you have learned to identify and manage your trauma symptoms and to provide yourself with love, support, and care, then you are ready to embark on dating or on new sexual relationships. Healing from trauma does not happen overnight and cannot be rushed.”
I’ve had sex just once since my last relationship. It’s not that I’m absent of desire during dry periods, it’s just that casual sex feels impossible. It presents a kind of conundrum; I need to trust someone in order to have sex or intimacy, but I feel an almost physical resistance to vulnerability. It feels like opposing ends of a magnet.
So I do a lot of work. I go to a therapist with experience treating trauma. I try to be gentle with myself. And as a past substance abuser, I maintain my sobriety. I do things that make me feel good in my body, like dancing, yoga, breath work, walking, and meditation. I joke around a lot and focus on friendships with people I feel I can be totally honest around. The works of writers like bell hooks, Rupi Kaur, Maggie Nelson, Maya Angelou, and Roxane Gay have also helped, as has the guidance of psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach. And I recently purchased a crystal dildo from Australia made of rose quartz. Apparently, it’s a stone of forgiveness. Not a bad compromise until I feel ready for the real thing once again.
BY BUZZY DAVID
ILLUSTRATION: MAI LY DEGNAN
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2017 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!