4 September 2022: After prostate cancer – and then an intense bout of Covid last month – my body is reawakening to the gift of returning libido. At the beginning of August I spent a week floating off the planet with the virus. Now life is infusing back into my body, even though erections remain elusive.

It has been like a speeded-up review of my slow recovery from 2020 prostate surgery. I know I am not alone, but each person’s story is different. However there is no doubt that huge numbers of men are struggling with the physical and emotional impacts of prostate cancer treatment.

Sometimes my returning libido crackles awkwardly like a scratchy shell – almost a foreign object to me – while energy builds within to crack it open. In the strangest of ways it is both sexual and not-sexual. Does anybody else out there feel this way?

What returning libido feels like in my body after Covid and cancer

On good days I feel the energy vibrating all over my body. Sometimes in the oddest places, like the outside of my thighs, or the inside of my curled palms. It is a kind of tingling, not really in the skin but about 5 millimetres outside the skin. Dancing in the space between me and not-me. Pure potential – what can happen between me and another. It’s how incoming touch feels, just before it lands on my skin.

Today I am celebrating how the joy of this potential is at least partly independent of both sexual function and sexual activity.

Full body aliveness and beyond

Yes, there is a bit of extra zing around my nipples and groin. Often the apparent swelling is a phantom erection. Yet sometimes I feel a tingle in my balls, a sense of drawing up a bit tighter. That doesn’t need any groping to check – it’s real.

Just as exciting as those hot spots, though, is the aliveness in my whole body. The sheer delight in being able to do a sit-up. The solid pleasure of planting a foot out in front, swinging my legs and walking. The sensual pleasure of twisting my torso and spine left and right during yoga.

As the underlying energy begins to flow again, so it can manifest in different ways. There’s more spring in my step. I’m more likely to drive my car a bit more zippily when a gap opens up in the road ahead. It goes way beyond sexuality.

Returning libido enlivens relationship

Since my cancer, I could hug my wife, or look at a someone attractive walking by on the street, and not get much of a buzz. It has been like that now for well over two years since my prostate surgery. It’s weird after those responses were involuntary for the previous 50 years!

With my wife I have continued to feel all the love regardless of libido. This is something we have built together and maintained over 40 years. But during my down time the lust didn’t easily come back. In fact I often tended to divert or suppress lustful feelings towards her. The voice inside me said “don’t start, it will end in disappointment.”

And when admiring a stranger in the street, it was pretty academic “that person looks nice.” With libido on board, erotic thoughts and possibilities emerge unasked. And it is not just at the human sexual level – I also feel the life force in the leaves on the trees as spring unfurls its creative power.

Fuel for all aspects of life

I’ve noticed the benefits of tuning into the essence of my libido without “pointing” it at any sexual reality or fantasy. I can pay careful attention and I can control how the energy flows. I can consciously choose where to give it support and expression. Apart from this being a necessary part of growing up, it is also crucial with a body that is no longer optimal for conventional sex.

Today I notice how this libido-like energy has been flowing into ideas and work relationships that have absolutely no sexual dimension. It shows in the levels of professional intensity and creativity that emerge with my coaching clients, for example. And it enables me to multi-task and engage on so many levels from detail to deepest essence all around the world.

The ongoing challenge is to accept what I’ve lost and embrace the new possibilities. It’s time to expand the definition of libido beyond pure sexual expression. It’s about love of life.