It’s Internet Self-Care Day! #ISCD17

pic with blue bar at the top and white text: "It's Internet Self-Care Day! #ISCD17" - pic below is of a blanket, black glasses, two candles, and a book in a hammock - white text at bottom left "Chronic Sex"

Our friends over at Aloe/Femsplain have declared today to be Internet Self-Care Day!

What does that mean?

It means we take “the spirit of self-care online, centralizing self-care and helping communities thrive in support of one another.”

Make sure to take a look at their schedule of events – especially their live chat!

Our favorite self-care pieces

The absolute most important piece, though? Self-Care Tips for Radical Social Media Users

Why I Don’t Fawn Over My Husband

a photo of two people (one male one female) on their wedding day laughing with a cut out design on the front; "Why I Don't Fawn Over My Husband" in green and "chronic sex" in white underneath that (bottom-right)

On my personal site, Not Standing Still’s Disease, I call my husband ‘T.’ If you see it here, that’s why.

I haven’t talked about my marriage as much on here as I have elsewhere.

In September, we’ll have been together for a whole decade… which is a little daunting to think about. It feels like longer and shorter at the same time. Sometimes I forget if it was him or someone else I went to events with.

an off-center photo of two people kissing; the main person is wearing a white tee with red text on it and has shorter dark hair; the person on the right is wearing a green shirt with five o'clock shadow and glasses barely visible

When I met him, I was pretty sure we’d get married. After the last few relationships I had, I knew I wanted to disclose my chronic health issues early on. I’d been led on by a few guys who claimed they wanted a long-term relationship but only wanted sex.

I mean, I was 19 so sex was totally fine with me! Mostly I was tired of the deceiving part.

T and I got frozen custard and I mentioned that I had “this arthritis thing.” The way I phrased it really helped him to not catastrophize it. Then again, that’s when I didn’t have medical care and wasn’t diagnosed with most of my other health things.

I interviewed T in 2012 for NSSD. Check it out here. Ironically, that was also the first year I started talking about how arthritis crud affected our sex life.

It’s no secret that my health fun has been hard. It seems like it keeps getting worse, like now when I’m dealing with undiagnosed stuff. T’s still supportive and as helpful as ever. He still takes a lot in stride, holding back a lot of stuff he should probably tell me (like how my lack of vacuuming bugs him, etc.). Add to that how us both being on antidepressants has killed our mutual sex life and… well, you figure out quickly why I review sex toys.

Still, he’s my penguin.

two white people are seen hugging/leaning on each other from behind while sitting next to each other; the male on the left has a plaid shirt and brown hair; the female on the right has a white shirt and reddish hair; trees and foliage are in front of them

I see a lot of disabled or chronically ill people who overly praise their partners. That’s something I felt pushed to do in the beginning when I knew no other 20-year-old would put up with massaging my knees. Now that we’re on either side of thirty and both well-versed in social justice, I don’t feel that way.

Don’t get me wrong – he’s awesome. Our relationship is good. Things – including my illnesses – are stable and at least semi-predictable. We’ve gotten into a rhythm that works for us, have both gotten better at communication (after a number of stumbles on my part), and I know how to read him pretty well.

The thing is… praising him for sticking with me when I’m so fucking ill just perpetuates the myth that those of us with health crap are horrible choices for partners. I won’t fall into the ableism trap that is more-abled-partner worship.

Mountain photo with the following overlaid in white text: "Ableism: THE SYSTEMATIC OPPRESSION OF DISABLED AND CHRONICALLY ILL PEOPLE THROUGH LANGUAGE, ACTIONS, AND OTHER FACTORS" and "Chronic Sex" at the bottom-middle

People fall into this trap a lot. It’s easy to do, given messages we receive about our worth as people who are chronically ill or disabled. It’s assumed that our lives aren’t worth living or that we should be somehow pitied because of our existence. When we worship our partners for ‘putting up’ with us, it just reinforces those ideas.

The world is full of assholes who don’t see disabled people as people. They don’t think living our struggles with us is a worthy journey. That doesn’t mean we should sanctify the non-assholes, though, for being decent people. The reality is that we all have different needs in relationships, whether that’s related to a disability, past experiences, abuse, or a variety of other factors.

Like any person, disabled or not, we all have positive and negative attributes. When you’re a partner, though, you work together and can help to balance each other out.

Sure, there will be more time spent at doctor appointments or sitting in waiting rooms while I get MRI after MRI than there would be while dating an abled partner. There will be more frustrations with health, the medical system, and other forms of systematic oppression. Politics will start mattering to you even more, especially attacks on health care rights… which means you’ll be groggily going to work after staying up until 2 in the morning watching C-SPAN.

That said, I can provide a lot more empathy than the average partner. I’m pretty good at working around things I can’t do, whether that’s sexy or not. You’ll get to help go through pictures of me that are sexy for the sake of being sexy. You’ll always have someone who goes with you to doctor appointments and can advocate for you, there or calling to order pizza.

Just because some parts of our lives are harder because I’m disabled doesn’t mean I’m not a badass partner – or that I should feel crummy for being sick. Without that power difference, there’s really no need to put T on a pedestal. I can still appreciate the neck rubs and late night conversations without deifying T for ‘putting up’ with my illnesses.

Off to Woodhull

[photo of a person with short dark hair; overlays of the Woodhull graphic and a white text "#SFS17" | pink overlay with white text reads "disability, illness, & pain don't remove sexuality from our lives. Sexuality doesn't depend on ABILITY -Kirsten Schultz"]

I’m heading to Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit for the next few days.

Hedonish and I will be presenting Saturday morning on how pain disorders can affect our sex lives – as well as how to counter that.

I’m incredibly grateful to the SFS17 sponsors as well as The Woodhull Foundation for having us.

Make sure to follow along on our Instagram, Twitter, and the #SFS17 hashtag across social media. If you’re attending, too, make sure to say hi!

Tips & Tricks to Telling Your Partner(s) You Have an STI

B&W pic of two people holding hands; white text "Tips & Tricks to Telling Your Partner(s) You Have an STI" at top-middle and "Chronic Sex" at bottom-middle

Telling your partner or potential love interest that you have an STI is never the most pleasant conversation to have, but it’s one of the most necessary things to discuss. Before you have the big conversation, it’s natural to fear rejection. Your partner may be scared off by your status, their potential risk, or stigma associated with STIs.

Here are some steps to take to make the process go a little smoother.

Tell Them Before You Have To

If you aren’t already in an established relationship of some sort, it may not be wise to enter one without disclosing your STI status. While it’s not necessary to tell everyone you meet about your STI status, you shouldn’t wait too long to disclose it to an individual you’re considering being intimate with. As soon as you know that things may be headed in that direction, it’s best not to wait. The person receiving the news may get frustrated if they feel as though you’ve kept such a vital secret for so long – or you may become frustrated if they end your relationship because of this knowledge. Just like with a chronic illness or disability, disclosing early can save you from becoming invested in someone who will wind up hurting you down the line.

You deserve more than that.

Pick the Right Place and Time

Waiting until you’re in the heat of the moment to disclose your STI status is a bad idea. It can result in anger, frustration, and other negative emotions that can kill a relationship. Like any difficult conversation, you should do it away from the bedroom, fully sober, alone together, and with words prepared.

If You’re Non-Monogamous

This is a great time to discuss how to protect yourselves and each other going forward as well as how often you will get tested in the future. Knowing your status is important for both of you as well as any partners you have.

If You’re Monogamous

If you’re monogamous and contracted the STI from someone who is not your partner, this is going to be difficult news to deliver. It’s important to be both honest and forthcoming.

If you’re positive beyond the shadow of a doubt that you got the STI from your partner, the worst thing you can do is overreact and create an escalating situation. Since many STIs don’t cause symptoms, it’s likely your partner didn’t know their status from before you were together. If you suspect cheating is a factor, bring it up in a straightforward way.

Take Them to Get Tested

If there’s any risk at all you might have exposed your partner to your STI, ask your partner to get tested. If you’re currently in the process of treating away an STI, it might be a comfort to your partner to see your exit paperwork that shows you test negative for your STI when that time comes (if applicable). Click here to find testing locations near you.

Make sure you and your partners get tested regularly if you’re non-monogamous.

Learn Your STI Facts

Some STIs never go away, but can be controlled with treatment. For instance, if you have HIV, having an undetectable viral load means you cannot pass on the condition to others – regardless of whether or not a condom is used. If you have a curable STI, let your partner(s) know how long you’ll need to receive treatment before you’ll be given a free and clear status – and practice risk aware sex in the meantime.

This piece was written in part by David Beeshaw, a blogger and an advocate of sexual health, supporting raTrust – a non-profit organization dedicated to STI and HIV prevention.