The Impact of Mental Illness on my Sex Life
Lots of people have taken the time to start and contribute to the conversation about depression and sex. Crista and JoEllen are two big names in the realm of sex and depression. Crista founded #OrgasmQuest and received national attention for it, and JoEllen is writing a book called, “The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression & The Conversations We Aren’t Having”. Just last week they ran a panel at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit called “The Monster Under The Bed: Starting the Conversation About Sex and Depression”. With that in mind, they’ve pretty extensively covered depression and sex a lot more adequately than I ever will.
Back in 2012 Epiphora wrote about losing two weeks of her sex life to Zoloft, a common prescription for anxiety and depression.
Lorax of Sex wrote about why they sometimes don’t write because of living with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and compulsive disorders.
Sarah wrote about stopping SSRIs how it has affected her life.
I have bipolar 2, generalized anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia, and I can pinpoint the ways that each of them has affected my relationship with my sex life.
I have been party to both major depressive episodes and bipolar depression. When I was majorly depressed, I usually had no interest in sex, because I had no interest in anything that didn’t involve sleeping or crying. With bipolar depression (which I’m medicated for), my desire for sex is almost nonexistent, and what I do sexually tends to reflect that. If I masturbate, I do it as quickly and as uncomplicatedly as possible, and it’s usually out of habit. This go around I haven’t masturbated in over a month and a half. I have so little interest in masturbation right now that I can’t even bring myself to do it. Mentally I am so unprepared for sex that when my husband tries to initiate it, I’ll have a go at participating to see if I fall into the mood, but usually the attempt comes to an abrupt halt because I start crying. When I’m having depressed sex my mind isn’t in it, and it makes me feel vulnerable and defective.
I find myself almost exclusively depressed as a bipolar person. My hypomanic phases are terribly infrequent, which is a shame because I’m convinced that my hypomania is how non-mentally-ill people feel all the time, other than the decreased need to sleep and mildly impaired judgment. I feel sexually motivated and powerful when I’m hypomanic. I masturbate with a wide range of tools when I’m hypomanic. I want to have sex with more edge play when I’m hypomanic. I thought polyamory was a good idea when I was hypomanic, only to find that I was too exhausted and had no interest in maintaining multiple relationships once I came down.
My anxiety disorder comes into play in sex, too. If I’m having a particularly anxious day, I’ll have a hard time focusing on sex. I’ll become unexpectedly and irrationally insecure, and worry about weird things, like how my orgasm face looks, or what if I say the wrong name. The latter worry is the strangest, because it’s not like I fantasize about other people during sex – it’s just a fear I’ve always had about having sex. I’ll be hyper-aware of my body size and too afraid of hurting my partner to really enjoy intercourse. On the whole, anxiety makes me entirely too tense to have sex. Some people fuck to unwind, but the very idea of fucking will just wind me up more.
My agoraphobia seems like a strange thing to include here, but it really does affect my sex life. Lately I’ve noticed that, even in a depressive state, I’m able to get aroused when I’m not staying in my own home. An unwillingness to leave the house and inability to go anywhere alone has made my world quite small. All of my stress, worries, and emotions live at home. It’s my escape from the horrors of the outside world, but since it’s where I am 24/7 it’s where I face all of my internal horrors. I don’t get much in the way of housework, hobbies, self-care, or even work-work done at home, and the tasks I’ve procrastinated on loom over me no matter what room I’m in. My home is the nexus of my stress. I am starting to think that I can’t fuck in the nexus of my stress… and frankly, I don’t know what to do about it.
I don’t know how much of my ruined sex drive is the result of my mental illnesses and how much can be attributed to the medications treating them, but I need the medication, so I can’t quit my pills just to salvage my sex life. I miss desiring sex. I miss the intimacy and joy of having sex with my partner. I miss the fun of using my toy collection and testing new products. I don’t have the money to see a therapist, so I’m left to sort it out on my own, and it’s not working. How can I get my sex life back on track?