Okay, so as we enter 2022, with the pesky pandemic still lingering, we at Bump’n know that many of you disabled folks (myself included) are still dealing with something that hasn’t been talked about enough throughout all this: “touch starvation”. According to WebMD, touch starvation is a condition that happens when you don’t get as much physical touch as you’re used to – or, any at all. Not surprisingly, people can (and are!) experiencing touch starvation as a result of the pandemic, with disabled people bearing the brunt of this.
For myself as a complexly disabled person who needs all of my care needs to be met by the help of a personal support worker or carer, I understand touch starvation on a visceral level. Over the past 2 years I’ve missed out on seeing friends and family who provide a different kind of touch that is not medicalized or part of care, and have had to reduce working with a sex worker for more intimate touch.
This has left me feeling out of sorts, disconnected, irritable, undesirable and angry. In doing research for this piece, I found that symptoms of touch starvation included everything that I listed above, PLUS things like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and added anxiety. And it’s no surprise because touch doesn't just feel good, it also releases heaps of positive chemical reactions like oxytocin which is released when we hug someone else. It is known as the “bonding hormone” and it allows for other chemical reactions to take place including the release of dopamine and serotonin, while relieving stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine.
If you’re like me, and craving touch, dreaming of having your itches scratched and your needs met, below are some accessible options to ward off touch starvation.
So, let’s Bump’n to it!
Hug Your Favorite Pillow or get a Weighted Blanket
While you’re waiting for your Bump’n Joystick which naturally allows you to hug into it and enjoy it’s soft, cuddly vibes, one of the ways that you can address touch starvation is by cuddling up to your favorite body pillow or blanket. When you’re in bed at night try asking your Personal Support Worker to position you around your pillow. We know that it won’t be as snuggly as your babe or beau wrapped in your arms, but medical experts suggest that using a weighted blanket or body pillow to snuggle up to during this time is important. Some researchers believe that hugging a body pillow or weighted blanket relieve anxiety or insomnia. There is some science behind it too: applying pressure to your skin stimulates neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, chemicals which naturally calm you down. Also, in terms of accessibility, you won’t have to expend too much time or energy cozying up here.
Hop on a Video Chat
Okay, over the past two years, who hasn’t become intimately acquainted with every video chat provider on the market, right? From Zoom, to Teams to Google Meet there are so many options, and you may be thinking, C’mon, Bump’n, how does Zoom cure my touch hunger? Good question! According to an article from WebMD, mirror neurons are activated when we look at people’s facial expressions, which evokes a “mirrored emotion” which can make us smile and feel things. So, not entirely like a hug, but it would do in a pinch. And, who knows, if you’re chatting with a paramour perhaps the zoom could get steamy.
Just tell your attendant to wait a while before coming in! :)
Dance it Out!
Have you ever had an overwhelming urge to just dance it out? Well, during these touch-starved times, dancing may be an important solution! Go on, open up that Spotify playlist of yours and jam out to your favorites. As you’re playing air guitar to that 80s classic love ballad, or riffing to that one 90s bop (you know the one we mean), rest assured that your body is releasing oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, the same as it would if you were being touched! And, accessibility is no issue here: everyone can dance. Whether you’re getting down with your gimptastic self in your wheelchair, or perfecting your spastic dancing with your service animal, we highly recommend dancing it out. When I Think About You, I Touch Myself sounds good, no?
Remember When or Use Your Imagination
One of the best things about our bodies is our imaginations. Did you know that touch has a sense memory that lasts longer than others? That’s right, according to an article in Scientific American, touch leaves a memory trace that persists long after the physical sensation is gone. So, when you’re remembering that time they kissed you in your wheelchair, or the first time they helped you get undressed in a heat of passion, neither of you worrying about your chronic pain, you’re actually doing a lot to combat touch hunger. If these things haven’t happened for you yet, don’t fret, your imagination is one of your best tools. "In our minds we're not confined to our studio apartments or our current sexual partners. There are no rules or judgments. Not even the laws of physics apply," said Gina Gutierrez, co-founder of the popular audio erotica app Dipsea. "It’s incredibly liberating, recognizing our own power to design the scenes and situations that turn us on and to scrap the ones that don’t work for us."
We couldn’t agree more, and we at Bump’n know that your imagination is not reliant on your level of disability. If you have this regular fantasy where your lover and you get into all these positions, but you know that your body can’t do that in real-time, it’s okay! Let that fantasy play out… See what happens! Maybe in your fantasy, you don’t need your mobility aid at all. Cool! Come back to these fantasies whenever you need to satiate you and quench that touch starvation once and for all!
We know these three options are not the only options out there to relieve touch hunger, but we hope they at least were a “touch starvation starter pack” if you will. If you have any other ideas on how you bumped this barrier, e-mail us at GetInTouch@GetBumpn.com