Adventures in Anti-Depression, Part 1
Antidepressants will be the death of me. They don’t work on me like they work on normal people, murdering my libido. No matter how drained I am of life drive, my sex drive remains intact—pesky, nagging. I try to sleep it off, not only the horniness—life in general. When I fail to be able to fade back out, I am forced to peel my sweaty body off my yellow-tinged sheets and roll over my own hand, first absentmindedly, then rhythmically. I feel like a dog, except instead of gleefully rolling around in some other animal’s poop, all I have is my own filth and lack of motivation to unglue myself from it. Eventually it is inexorable and I choose the path of least resistance, most detachment: mechanical devices to mimic the soulless robot I have become.
The toys did exactly what they were designed to do. They were fast, efficient, and reliable. But they weren’t tender or sensual, nor did they unearth a secret philharmonic deep within my sexual soul. However, I did begin to associate an electric humming sound with an impending orgasm. I twitched in a room of fans… Whatever the case, I began to fantasize about good ole’ basic sex.
—Ophira Eisenberg, The Nice Fetish, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy
Around my birthday, I realized I had a problem. I began crying, sobbing. Waking up a heap of frantic tears. Anxious and empty, grieving the three years of my life that I’ve lost to illness and pressured by the prospect of reincorporating myself into the world of thankless productivity within the next month—the immediacy with which I needed to clean up shop and open the storefront. I am not an emotional person, so I took this as a sign: get help. Three weeks later I went to a primary care physician in a failed attempt to have my insurance company pay for more than $3,000 worth of MRIs of what I didn’t yet recognize to be my deteriorating body. I knew what I had to ask for: anti-depressants. For just long enough until I could pick up the pieces of my broken life. To ease the transition. It is hard to get through a day when you cannot get out of bed. First things first. Baby steps for my 1 ½-year-old, reincarnated body.
Thinking it prudent to not ingest any new substances as I was working on my med school apps and beginning to take classes, I asked for Lexapro, an SSRI I had been on at the end of high school and the first year or two of college—until I realized I had an identity separate from my primary relationships and all those years it wasn’t me. Except I was skeptical of Lexapro. Not because I was worried about changing my personality (that I was not scared to lose) but because my memory of Lexapro was that it didn’t make me any less horny, but made it harder to get off. A terrible affliction! I distrusted my high-school self as an accurate historian, rationalizing that maybe people just weren’t meant to get off 6 times a day. Which is probably true. But orgasms were and are my only solace. At my most depressed and reduced, my unrelenting drive to coax a stubborn orgasm out is my only resemblance to a living, breathing, pulsating human being. My demeanor flat; my vagina feisty, still.
I thought of it as a “just in case” prescription, well aware that SSRIs take 3-6 weeks to build up in your system. A life preserver that would not inflate immediately. A glimmer of hope. When I became suspicious that the one boy I wanted was ignoring me, I thought: I need my vagina for nothing. Might as well spay myself with pharmaceuticals. Pick your poison! And I had been ingesting many poisons over the past few months. Initiated by my debilitating back pain. This seemed like a more proactive alternative. Was waiting for the stage direction to make a scripted exit. Goodbye vagina, goodbye life.
So, I swallowed pills. One for each day that the boy who raved about how great my pussy felt and how much he loved shoving his cock inside me failed to do so. One for each day my vagina lay there lonely, longing. Needing help, being helpless, is a bitter pill to swallow. The ability to recognize your shortcomings and advocate for yourself means you have a shred of self-efficacy left. You aren’t a basket case—yet. It may take 3-6 weeks for the Lexapro to function as an anti-depressant; however, the sexual side effects are immediate—crippling!
They were so pronounced that I thought it must be all in my head, the reverse placebo effect. It felt great up until that point, and when I was ready to come, nothing happened. My default is to scream, “Fuck me harderr,” so I ordered around my husband dildo, Tom, and still nothing. After ten more minutes of mindless, unproductive fucking my way to soreness, I figured I needed an exit strategy and remembered pounding away doesn’t do it for most girls. So I eased up for a minute, reincorporated Tom slowly, built myself up again. Once again, I got to that point and nothing happened. So I pounded away. It was literal self abuse, and I’m not that kind of masochist. No amount of bludgeoning my cervix could knock an orgasm out. I resorted to forcing my muscles to grip, contract, gyrate, mimic. And was acutely aware that I was probably fucking up my back in the process. Anything for an orgasm! Once you’ve invested all that time and effort, broken a sweat—in the shower, nevertheless! It was the best workout evarr. Someday I will co-author a self-book entitled: “How to Get A Depressed Person to Exercise.” I don’t know who the second author will be. I just figure all self-help books rely on dual expertise and I’m a one-trick pony.
Here is the worst part. An orgasm on Lexapro: a vag sniffle, not even a sneeze. Without the release, I was not the least bit relieved. I mean, one could argue that I wasn’t horny anymore and that was the prize: no vag sniffle necessary, I was already crying inside. Get on with your life-as-scheduled, no mussed hair. Yet even my muscles were wrecked from the effort it took to get there.
A week or so later, I discontinued the drugs. Not because I don’t know how to take care of myself, but because I do, so to speak. I resumed my compulsive masturbating, the way god meant it to be. Crawling your way through life, there’s nothing that affirms you’ve made it around the bend to the next lamppost like clocking in an orgasm. I did it in the most efficient, soulless way possible. Rolling over robots as I lay in bed, restless.
After a few weeks my life coalesced. Realizing the hardest part of reincorporating myself into polite society was revamping my habits, I became very self-disciplined about my sleep schedule and meal times. Getting a full night of sleep and eating well, I was ten thousand times happier. It’s the simple things. The biological ones. With sleep came regularly scheduled food and with regularly scheduled food came studying at consistent, dispersed intervals, intermittently interrupted by my vibrator. Essentially, I reprogrammed myself to robot. And I hate myself like that; I’d rather be reduced to animal by a man who sees me only as a body. Neither is quite human, but one is closer.
For a while I held on to the false hope that Andrew wanted to demote me to fuck buddy status and was ignoring me because he couldn’t figure out a polite way to ask. And I could live with that arrangement. One that would at least confirm I was a living, breathing, pulsating human being.
I have friends who check in with me and check up on me. And it’s nice to know they care. I value them, too. But it isn’t the same as embracing another human’s body, feeling his or her warmth pressed up against mine. As superficial as that may sound. Maybe it is nothing more than transient hormones and temperature gradients shared between strangers who could not recognize each other’s disembodied voices mere months later. For the moment, it is mending. And when you’ve been as sick as I have, moments are all you have.