Let's talk about.......

Over the months, this blog has touched on many of the aspects of life as a strokie - the depression, the despair, the worry, the physical problems in all their various forms.

But I haven't yet talked about a three-letter word which is as crucial to strokies as it is to everyone else. So this week, let's talk about SEX.

The human sex drive is, of course, controlled by the brain. And if the part of the brain which controls it is damaged by your stroke, it can have dramatic effects. I have met stroke-survivors who previously had normal, average, sex drives and who now have absolutely no interest whatever in the subject. Conversely, I have met stroke-survivors who previously had low libido and whose sex-drive has now gone through the roof.

Depending on your age, of course, this can be devastating; for someone in their late-fifties, when libido starts to decline anyway, it may not be an issue. But if someone in their early-twenties loses their sex-drive through no fault of their own, it can completely ruin their life and that of their partner, should they have one.

For the Warrior, things have gone up and down, so to speak. For months after I came out of hospital, sex was out of the question because everything hurt too much; My legs and arms were stiff and sore, so getting into any suitable position was unrealistic. But eventually, Mrs Warrior and I decided to take the plunge back into the water; we started to get inventive, as you have to and things worked wonderfully - for a while.

Then, financial stress started to get in the way (not just an issue for strokies, obviously) and things went downhill again. But now I feel as if we're on an upward curve. Long may it continue.

I mention this because I was talking this week to a girl in her mid-twenties called Melanie, who is one of the most dramatic cases I have ever encountered of this type. Her car was broadsided by a truck and the impact caused massive brain damage, which resulted in the stroke. She was in a coma for a month and broke, in her words, 'a fair bit of stuff." She now has arthritis in a lot of her joints and finds that sex really helps to ease it, while the brain-damage has triggered a change in her libido which has left her 'permanently horny' and keen to try anything; in her words, to 'seize the day."

I won't go into some of the stuff she's involved in but let's just say that as long as it doesn't involve children or animals (and it doesn't) she's probably done it/is doing it.

Anyone with a mild interest in sex might think this is a terrific situation to be in and I totally understand her 'seize the day' attitude to life - I have it myself, but not to this extent - but feeling 'permanently horny' can surely be massively frustrating, especially for a girl of her age at a certain time of the month.

And of course, to have your libido completely killed by a stroke in your twenties or thirties (something which I have seen happen to perfectly happy couples) can break up a relationship.

It can also lead to difficulties where couples who previously had a relatively balanced sex drive, with each wanting the same thing, can suddenly find themselves on different paths. Maybe one wants to explore and experiment to stop things getting tired and jaded, while the other wants to stay conservative or be more conservative. Either way, it's an issue and one which couples need to talk about; too often, though, they don't.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of other stroke-survivors about this subject. Like sex in general, it doesn't get talked about often enough, although there is a very good Facebook group devoted to the sexual issues faced by stroke-survivors. Feel free to start a debate. Or have I already started one because as with everything I do in the field of stroke education, if this post makes one person think about an issue and act on those thoughts, I've achieved something. Which is, after all, what I do this for.