What To Do When You Are "Touched Out"
*Trigger warning: breastfeeding problems & sexual trauma

I was recently asked what to do when you are touched out. This sweet mama was sitting deep in shame, so over being touched by and breastfeeding her baby, not to mention how it was affecting intimacy with her husband. She said, "I feel like I want to jump out of my body any time my husband kisses me or tried to love on me. I HATE THIS!"

I've got to tell you, I could so relate to this mama! After having my first son, this is exactly how I felt. I used to cry when he would nurse because it was emotionally so incredibly painful for me. I couldn't figure out why. I was lucky to have a friend tell me that I was ok and I wasn't the only one who ever felt that, and taught me how to cope until I started to feel better. I'll share her tips too, and I also want to touch on another level of what may be going on that I didn't know about until much later.

In my experience this is most often a trauma response. And not necessarily the type of trauma you think (though that's also possible). Here's the thing though. Struggling to breastfeed, cracked and bleeding nipples, mastitis, etc, can ALL be considered traumatic, depending on your mental state and how severe each of these is. I was not in a good place mentally when I had my first. I had unprocessed childhood grief that resulted in severe anxiety and panic attacks, and having to formula feed him for 8 weeks because he struggled to latch just about destroyed me. Also, because his latch was not proper it caused my nipples to crack and bleed, which further caused us problems because when he nursed he'd get blood too and then throw up because of it. All of that is traumatic, especially when you have a history of trauma.

On top of that, and especially in the bedroom, unresolved sexual trauma, even when you don't recognize that what happened WAS trauma, can cause your skin to crawl when someone touches you. It can also affect your libido and make you want nothing to do with sex. There's a difference between sexual trauma and sexual assault. Sexual assault is a type of sexual trauma, but sexual trauma does not necessarily mean assault.

So what can you do about it if you don't even recognize it? For me, recognition came from a strange place. For a long time I knew I had issues around sex, but I couldn't really understand why. I've never been assaulted, but something in the back of my consciousness always asked, you sure? So when my therapist asked, I instinctively answered no, but then asked myself, what if I just repressed the memory? That happens, right? It does. But that's not my story.

For months I wondered about it, trying to push the unsettling idea out of my head. Then I started watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I was hooked immediately, despite the disturbing subject. As someone who used to have suicidal thoughts, I think it helped me to really see how it could impact those around me, even those I might not think cared.

Then they started dealing with Hannah's assault. If you're not familiar with the show, Hannah gets raped in a bathtub by a classmate. As the incident is recounted someone tells her it doesn't matter whether she actually said no or fought back. Any unwanted sexual advances are not ok! This is when everything clicked. Everything. And all of a sudden three separate incidents came to mind. The first was an experience as a 5 year old, with another child my age. We didn't know anything about anything and were just innocent kids, but experiencing something almost sexual in nature at that age stuck with me and obviously had more of an impact than I realized (I mean, who at the age of 40 remembers anything insignificant from when they were 5?).

The second was an incident with a new boyfriend. I thought we were just fooling around but he didn't get the memo. We'd been drinking and things went further than I wanted. But instead of stopping, I just froze. I felt stupid and naive and was really embarrassed and couldn't muster the courage to say anything. So I just went along with it. I didn't fault him for it and don't even know whether he realized what was happening. That's why I don't consider it assault. But it was definitely trauma.

The third was a repeated experience over many months. My boyfriend at the time and I had been having troubles and he told me he didn't love me. We stayed together for over a year trying to work things out. Those were some of my darkest days. Even though he didn't love me, he still expected me to put out for him like a good girlfriend. And I thought that if I ever hoped to "save" the relationship I needed to give him whatever he wanted. He was constantly pushing and pressuring. I didn't enjoy intimate experiences with him, and grew to hate any intimacy at all. I didn't realize at the time that coercion and pressuring could create trauma, but it did. I carried that with me for several more years.

But then a magical thing happened. As soon as I recognized these traumas and spoke my truth, the shame from the experiences vanished. I know that's not everyone's story, but it worked for me. And either way, recognizing painful experiences is always a step in the right direction.

If you are struggling with feeling touched out, the first thing I want you to know is that you are not alone. And you are not a terrible mother, wife, person, for feeling that way. You are human, and that is ok! I'd like to encourage you to start journaling to try and find the root cause of what is triggering these feelings. Close your eyes and think about how you feel inside when you feel "touched out". What emotion are you feeling? Where do you feel it in your body? When was the first time you can remember feeling that way? Write all of this down. Continue to explore those feelings and memories until you feel like you've come to the root. Then give voice to that experience, and your feelings around it. Talk to a trusted friend, mentor, or therapist to help you sort through all of that and give yourself the gift of peace in your heart again. You deserve that.
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1 Comment

  1. Wow. I can definitely relate to this. Thank you.

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