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A test in time

I’ve been giving some thought to healthy ways of moving on when a relationship ends. Last night – whilst engaging in the rock n’ roll hobbies of sewing and watching TV – I decided that my next post would be concerned with sexual health.

There are some incredibly responsible people in the world who take their sexual health extremely seriously. They would never enter into a sexual relationship without feeling ready…emotionally prepared, as well as physically. These are people who get to know a potential new partner, and make sure that the sparks of attraction fly outside the bedroom first. They know what they are comfortable with, but are not afraid to experiment if it feels right. Never would they engage in activity they are not OK with just to please their partner. They take responsibility for their sexual health (and as a result, that of their partner too) ensuring they protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) as well as unplanned pregnancy.

I take my hat off to such people. I will raise my hand and admit to not always having taken such a mature approach. During single times, I have always attempted to be proactive. I don’t carry condoms in my bag with the intent of finding sex, simply to ensure I am prepared if the occasion arises (so to speak!) Additionally, I have a contraceptive implant fitted. Sometimes as a relationship has developed, barrier methods have fallen by the wayside.

This is one occasion where I will use the phrase “Don’t do as I did, do I say!”

The NHS website gives the following information –

Contraception is free for most people in the UK. With 15 methods to choose from, you’ll be able to find one that suits you.

Contraceptive methods allow you to choose when and whether you want to have a baby. However, they don’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Condoms help to protect against STIs and pregnancy, so whatever other method of contraception you’re using to prevent pregnancy, you should use condoms as well to protect your and your partner’s health.

I now honestly believe that if your partner refuses to use condoms and discuss contraception, it’s time to get up and get gone. A healthy relationship should be one where you are able to discuss your options. Tell your partner that your sexual health is not up for negotiation. If you both decide condoms are not an option, in my opinion you should arrange to both have a full screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections. BEFORE you have sex!

In an ideal world, none of us would need that advice. It would be ingrained and we’d follow it always. Since it’s not and people often don’t, now and then some of us have times where we worry about our sexual health. It can happen during a relationship or sometimes following the end of one. We may be given information to make us doubt ourselves or our partner…Or it can take the form of a gut feeling something isn’t quite right. There may be physical signs something is amiss…But whatever the reason, I suggest taking note of that nagging inner voice. The longer we put off taking action, the more likely it is our concerns will take root. Today’s concerns can fester and grow into poisonous issues for the future.

Below is a link to a guide to Sexually Transmitted Infections…

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Sexually-transmitted-infections/Pages/Introduction.aspx?url=Pages/What-is-it.aspx

The most direct approach to checking out your sexual health is to get screened for STIs. Personally, I get tested every six months regardless of what is going on in my personal life and have for the last 5 years. I first decided to get checked when I made the decision to start giving blood. To find my local GUM (Genito Urinary Medicine) clinic, I used an online search engine and found it was at a local hospital. On ringing to make an appointment, I was told there was a wait of around a week (This will vary according to location) I was given the option of attending an evening walk-in service and decided to go for that. I found the person I spoke to on the phone direct but friendly. She asked whether I had any symptoms, when I said that I didn’t she recommended I come along for screening only.

The facility at my local hospital has separate clinics for male and female patients – men downstairs and women upstairs. When you go along, you’ll need to see the receptionist, who will check your details and make sure they have a contact number for you. The service is confidential and results are provided via telephone, so be brave and give the correct details!

My advice to anyone attending for the first time is be prepared for a wait. Take a friend along if you wish, for moral support and someone to have a natter with! If you decide to go alone, take something to read. Some clinics have the ubiquitous pile of fashion and gossip magazines…Personally these are a guilty pleasure for me, but I know some people can’t stand ’em.

The clinic I attended has the local radio station playing in the waiting room at all times…Not much you can do if this isn’t your thing as you’ll need to keep your ears open for when your name is called. Our clinic has a first name only policy, so if like me yours is on the popular side don’t be afraid to check.

The last time I attended clinic, I was highly amused when the song “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga started playing as I waited. Not everyone has my gallows sense of humour, but for those who do I present

Five Songs You Don’t Want Hear At The GUM Clinic

  1. Protection – Massive Attack
  2. Ladykiller – Lush
  3. Down At The Doctors – Dr Feelgood
  4. Tainted Love – Soft Cell
  5. Protection – Massive Attack

When I was called through, I was ushered into an office and had a brief chat with a doctor. She asked a few questions about my sexual history, whether I had any symptoms and whether I was on any medication. As I had no symptoms, we decided I did not need to be examined and just needed to be screened.

The screening process for women is two steps….Self swabbing to test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea and a blood test for syphilis and HIV.

Firstly you’ll be taken into a treatment room and given a swab in tube. The nurse will leave you alone to take the swab, after which you place it back into the tube. The nurse returns when you are done and places a label on the tube with your details on and it is sent away for testing.

I understand that the male equivalent of this is to provide an urine sample.

The second part of the process (for men and women) is a blood test. Depending on how busy the clinic is, there can be a wait  between taking the swab and having bloods taken. Though not anyone’s idea of a good time, the process is usually quick. Only one sample is needed to test for all.

You may also request a test for Hepatitis B and C from the same sample, if you feel you have been placed at risk. You can talk this over with the doctor you see before your tests, but please see link below for information –

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Hepatitis-B/Pages/Introduction.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hepatitis-C/Pages/Introduction.aspx

You may also ask for a pregnancy test if you require one…Though I understand this is only an option for the females amongst us!

Your results can take up to a fortnight. I won’t lie, that fortnight can seem like one hell of a long time. There will be times when you feel panicked and there may well be the odd sleepless night. If you’ve read other posts on my blog, you’ll know my advice on getting through already. Seek out those trusted friends I’m constantly banging on about and spend time with them. Exercise – wear yourself out. I find time spent around animals extremely valuable…cats are my creature of choice, but I love dogs too.

DO NOT even entertain engaging in sexual congress with a new partner whilst waiting for your results!

To be truthful, I would like to think anyone reading and digesting this blog wouldn’t dream of being such a massive douchebag. If they would, then it’s not my advice they need. More like a hefty slap around the face with a wet Kipper! Try to stay away from getting wrecked too, be it on alcohol or drugs. I am non-judgemental about these things, but it’s never good to lose control when you are stressed. In the grand scheme of your life, two weeks is no time at all. Easy as it is to say, surely it is better to know than not know. How can you face your future and begin again in an honest way otherwise?

Our clinic takes a “No news is good news” approach…if you hear nothing by the end of the two weeks, it is safe to assume your results were clear. It is still acceptable to call and check your results if you hear nothing but want to put your mind at ease.

If any of the tests return a positive result, the clinic will contact you and ask that you come back for a consultation. The receptionist will have checked if it is OK to leave a voicemail when they checked your details initially…If not they will continue to try to contact you.

Only once have I ever received a call asking me to come in to the clinic…This was a few years ago when one of my swab results came back inconclusive. On returning to the clinic I was examined to make sure everything was O.K. The examination was much like a smear test…Not overly pleasant, though more uncomfortable than painful. It was over fairly quickly too. Though I had a further wait for the results, I was relieved to find they were negative and to be honest, glad the clinic had been so thorough.

This was personal experience of testing at a GUM clinic. For a more general guide see below.

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/STIs/Pages/VisitinganSTIclinic.aspx

Your GP may also offer testing for HIV and Hepatitis. You are likely to get the results more quickly than if you are tested through the GUM clinic. The tests will be permanently recorded on your medical records, no matter what the result.

Having covered the physical aspect of sexual health, it’s inevitable that the emotional side follows. The answer to keeping safe and healthy in this sense is BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. Your sexual preferences, morals, tastes and ideas are as individual as you are. If it pleases both yourself, partner(s) and nobody is getting hurt then it is your business entirely. Anybody who offers unwelcome advice or makes judgements based on this is not welcome to pass comment.

However, if you feel you are being bullied or pressured into taking part in activities which make you feel uncomfortable, then it is time to re-assess the situation. If you don’t feel able to say no, please ask yourself why. The answers may well open up further unwanted questions…You may not want to face up to them. Its human nature to shy away from what makes us feel uncomfortable. Though for the sake of being honest with yourself, each question needs careful thought and answering. If you are not able to talk concerns over with your partner – or try to and hit a brick wall – don’t give up and squash them down. Ignoring your feelings stores up sexual problems and relationship issues for the future.

Recognise that having the kind of sex that makes you feel uncomfortable – and not speaking up – means you are living a lie. Being forced into the same after saying you don’t want to is sexual abuse. Be it emotional blackmail, being bullied and coerced or if they use physical force… your partner has crossed the line if they continue to push you to do things you don’t want.

The other side of the coin is this: If you’ve expressed a certain desire to your partner and they are not willing or able to fulfil it, you either

  • Learn to live without it
  • Compromise
  • End the relationship. Though this suggests it was based solely on the physical and you are unable to accommodate your partner.

Communication is key and should be a natural part of being together.

Tuesday is my Day of Dance…Pole Fitness this afternoon and I run Burlesque workshops in a function room above a city centre pub in the evening. The main key to confidence is to get to know your body. Appreciate the power it has and the sensuality it exudes. Exercise and enjoy growing strong. The word “Journey” seems to be buzz-speak for any process of healing or self-improvement these days. I prefer “Adventure” being a fan of J R R Tolkien…Plus as any fellow adventurer will agree, they’re a lot more fun than a plain old journey!

Finally, I’m pleased to report that I’ve been smokefree for a whole 36 hours…I thank you!

*Takes Bow*

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About flowerofcarnage

I am...A Firebrand. A mouthy cow. Nobody's fool. A strong feisty bitch. An occasional gobshite. An intelligent and educated lady. An over-user of the word Douchebag. Schadenfreude Enthusiast. Grindhouse Movie Afficionado. A slayer of dragons and destroyer of demons...All before lunchtime! I love...Cats. Dance. Exercise and it's positive effect on mental health. The colour red. My home land Wales, Subculture folk (as long as they rock it and not the other way around!), Long walks in the early hours of the morning, Graphic Novels, Anti Heros, DC Comics. Creative and well-executed skin art. Werewolves, vampires, old Italian zombie movies, horror stories, slasher flicks, B-Movies, Anything Grindhouse and Quentin Tarrantino in general (Deathproof is my favourite movie of all time), Comedy of all descriptions. Wandering around city streets, preferably in good company but sometimes just with my MP3 player turned up to maximum whack. Finding positives in negative situations. I reserve the right to me. Your permission is not necessary or required. I demand the same of anyone who enters my life with the intention of staying.

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