In some ways, I’m not sure that I’m qualified to talk about this. Other people have tackled the subject in a much more informed way, with greater experience, but after a conversation recently I wanted to share my thoughts. To me, it’s nearly impossible to separate my sexuality from my mental illness. I began exploring my body – or I “discovered I had genitals” as my friend puts it – only a few months before my anxiety and depression reached their worse points.
When I started taking anti-depressants, I didn’t think about the effects it would have on my sex life. In fact, I had reached the point when I needed something, anything, to help me feel better. Even if I had been talked through the full list of side-effects, I’d almost certainly have still asked to be given the prescription. I needed the medication.
To be honest, I’m not absolutely sure how much of a difference it makes. I was still very much at the stages of exploring – learning to masturbate, working out what my body likes, etc. – when I started taking SSRIs. It means that today I can’t objectively say that it’s the medication that means I struggle to get as wet as I used to. It also means that I’m not sure if it’s affected my sex life in other ways. It is frustrating that no matter how excited the filthy side of my mind is about an idea, my body doesn’t respond or want to join in. It’s even worse when I’m with someone, and as much fun as we’re having I’m all too aware that my cunt isn’t getting went.
I suppose I might use it for an excuse that I’m still figuring out my body. I am still learning and exploring. It is a common side though. Up to 1 in 10 people taking this medication may be affected by a decreased sex drive or sexual problems. I try to avoid saying that my mental illness is part of my identity, but it’s harder saying that my mental health isn’t tied in with my sexuality. I’m certainly guilty of hiding in fantasies – hand down my pyjama bottoms – to avoid the dark thoughts in my head and the relentless overwhelming sensation that makes it feel like I’m drowning.
So, what’s the solution?
Therapy, counselling, medication, doctor’s appointments, and a plethora of support helps me, but I’m very reliant on the anti-depressants currently. This means that I’m going to be dealing with these side effects for a while. I’m hoping I’ll come across other things which will help me, but right now there is one solution (the chemist in me makes a pun about how it actually is a solution) that is making a huge difference: lube.
Water-based lubricant, sometimes claiming interesting properties such as ‘tingling sensations’ or ‘soothing pleasure’, has made a huge difference to. I know I need to go on and explore different types of lubes – I’d love to do an experiment on the different sensations they give me, and see if these affect the pleasure I gain from the experience. At the moment I’m using pharmacy-brand lubes, but even those are helping. Lube removes the pressure on me to get wet, so I can focus on enjoying myself instead. It means I don’t have to miss out on fun just because the medication I need stops me from producing its natural lubricant.
There are other things which help too and not being ashamed is one of these. It’s hard, when an extremely attractive guy is preparing to finger you, not to be embarrassed. Being prepared helped in this scenario: I reached down to where I had positioned my lube under my bed and handed it to him. (Just in case…) I explained frankly that I needed it, and – to be fair to him – he rose to the occasion with good grace. What happened after he had pumped some out, expecting it to spray not gloop and thus getting a lot of lube on my bedsheets, is an entirely different story, but I’m glad I had it on hand.
I don’t only use it when I’m with a partner though: I originally bought lube to use on my own when jerking off. A schloosh of lube into my palm lets my body know that it can expect a good long wank, adding its own spark of excitement to the filthy fantasies I’ve called on. I use my fingers to spread on a generous dollop, chasing away any thoughts of dryness. I’m then free to lie back and imagine being tied to a chair and teased by a cohort of gorgeous dominant woman (who kiss my neck and tweak my nipples and pull my hair) until my arousal is pooling on the wooden chair beneath me.
My mental health does affect my sex life, but lube helps it stop from limiting it.