Kidney School™—a program of Medical Education Institute, Inc.

Module 11—Sexuality and Fertility

Feeling Good About Yourself

In our culture, there are many stereotypes about sexuality. In American society, people in their late teens, 20s, and 30s are seen as "sexy" while people over 50 or 70 may not be. Even healthy people may try to "turn back the clock" as they age; taking pills or using creams and hair dyes, or even having plastic surgery to look more youthful.

We may feel as if we're not measuring up—and that's even when we're healthy! You have probably heard that sex begins in the mind. It's true! Feeling good about yourself and your body is key to a healthy sexual relationship.

I'm comfortable enough in myself not to care what other people think of me. This is me—I can't change it. What's perfect? To be good looking? Well off? That means nothing to me; I don't like perfection. And if anyone is looking for it, they're wasting their time because it doesn't exist. When I meet someone, I tell them up front about my kidney disease. I never considered it a dark secret. I'm not ashamed. This is me, take it or leave it. Some people may be turned off, but that's okay. I understand how they may feel about it. I admit it took me a while to feel this way about it. But I feel damn lucky to be alive! And I'll say it until the day I die.

You may believe that having a chronic disease means being less than a whole person, especially if you're feeling tired, or doing less than you used to. But if you think of yourself as less than you used to be, unattractive, or unlovable, you may stop visiting friends and family who could give you support. You may avoid social events where you could meet new people. And if you have a partner, you may start to push her or him away.

My wife and I went through some rough times. I had no desire to have a physical relationship for several years. Luckily she stuck with me, through that and everything else, and now we have a good relationship again. For us, keeping the discussion open and honest helped. Also knowing that things can change over time was important.

Healthy Aging

Older people—even those in their 70s, 80s, and 90s—are often more accepting of their bodies than younger people. They say their quality of life is good. If they enjoyed sex when they were younger, they may continue to do so. They can have good relationships with their partners, whether or not they have sex.

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