Sexual Side Effects

Okay, so if the title wasn’t clue enough, let me spell it out here. I’m going to be talking about sex, and how it fits into my life with the new medication. Which of course will require discussing how it fit in my life before. Not in a titillating way, but I’m not one to play coy language games and beat around the bush for the sake of sensitive sensibilities either. So if either the topics, or the combination of topics bothers or upsets you in any way, I’d suggest bailing right now. Like don’t even finish this paragraph, just leave. Cause while I’m more than happy to expand upon anything I’ve written here… If even after I’ve spent like… 100+ words warding you off, you read this and get cranky… I’m just going to mock you for it. Heads up. ;P Mostly, I’m writing this in part to vent some of my frustrations through a “Creative” outlet, and in part to try and provide insight into what “Sexual Side Effects” may actually look like when brought up as a side effect. A lot of times I’ve seen folks assume (For Men obviously, as that is the only perspective I can offer) that it means it’s harder to become aroused, and as a result, erect. But while that may be the case in some instances, that is not what I’ve experienced.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get to the subject in hand… well err… maybe at hand… *ahem*… it’s far too early in this for easy sex jokes. More seriously, to begin the contextualization, I’ll start out by stating that I’ve always had a rather healthy sexual appetite. That said, I’ve not had too much opportunity to discuss the subject of sex with most folks in my life (Puritan societal influence baked into our culture and all), nor have I gone out of my way to hide from it or avoid talking about it when the subject does come up either. Despite that, I hold the view that a more comfortable relationship with sex (And the conversations therein), would do our society wonders. Cause our current fetishization of the human body leads to all kinds of bizarre social behaviors (Folks freaking out about breast feeding in public, awkwardness when personal care tasks become necessary in a social situation, concerns about multi-gendered restrooms, etc.) due to folks not having a clear idea where the line between the body, and “The Sex” lies. You get questions like, Is it sexual if I see a woman’s breast? Is it sexual if I pass a stall where someone is using the restroom? and other ridiculousness. Not to mention that it breeds a weird kind of pseudo eroticism as advertisers and etc. try and play with this fetishism, because there are an incredible number of people out there for whom all their sexual experience is shaped by a few hours at school (Maybe… depending on where / when they grew up) and the media. And goodness forbid they ask anyone questions about any of it. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, women tend to bear the brunt of this fetishization but… I digress… all that’s a post for another day. Suffice it to say I’m very comfortable with both my desire for sex, and the conversations surrounding that desire.

Now, I’ve written before about my general world view. And having just very lightly established my thoughts about and relationship with sex, I will add that due to the limited range of stimuli I tend to… acknowledge? Sexual stimulation has always been a notably poignant experience compared to the general thrumm of life. It should come as no surprise then, that I am intimately familiar with all the sensations surrounding both my general state of arousal, and the entire series of elevations leading up to a potential climax. Whether alone or with a partner, I’ve come to (With extensive practice) know at precisely what level of sensation my arousal process shifts through the stages of pleasure. I contextualize this specifically because with this medication (And the medication I was on some time in the past before the stuff that caused last month’s shenanigans), the last few tiers of elevation are simply cut off. It’s as if the arousal process is muted, and the climax (If there is one), not only occurs at a perceived lower level, but is also Far less elevated itself. So even at climax, the entire experience results in less pleasure than simply moving up the stages of arousal provided before.

So what does this mean in practice? It means that while my actual desire to engage in sexual activity has not been muted even a little, the result of acting upon that desire is not only less satisfying, but also more difficult, and in whole, more frustrating that simply not acting upon it was before. Meaning an aspect of my life that had always provided both enjoyment, and measurable pleasure, has now been brought down to the same general buzz that the rest of my life hides beneath. Sure, it’s not the end of the world. And theoretically the medicine might at some point raise the level of that buzz overall… But for now, it is just one more streetlight burned out on the sidewalk of my life, and it was already hard enough to see the road ahead.

Dark Days, Brighter Future?

Oooookay. This is a difficult post to write for a lot of reasons. First and foremost among them being the fact that not only don’t I tend to share too heavily when it comes to deeply personal issues… but I hold myself to a high standard, and acknowledging that I’ve failed to reach that standard is difficult. Sure, inside my head my self loathing knows no bounds, but I’ve typically been good at keeping that stuff… you know… inside my head. In any case, this is not going to be a pretty post, so abandon ship if you’ve concerns reading a lot of unpleasant self reflection and revelations of incompetence.

Let’s start this off by getting into “Dark Days”. I have talked in past about starting to seek help for my depression. There was a period of time a few years ago where I started on some medication, but the sexual side effects were enough to ward me away, so I went back to just “Dealing with It”. Towards the end of last year “Dealing with It” was becoming increasingly more difficult, and I realized that something had to change before I caused irreparable harm to my life. So I found myself a doctor, and after discussing my concerns from the last time I went on medication, we decided to try a stronger medication that was much less likely to have sexual side effects than what I was on before… though it was known to potentially increase suicidal tendencies in those who had them. As that was not one of the things I was dealing with specifically, we agreed that it was worth a shot and I started the medication.

Initially it seemed to be working out okay. I had a taste of anxiety (Something I’ve never had in any real sense before, so that was an interesting experience), and a light case of dry mouth, with a lessened appetite and a small hit to my sleep schedule. Nothing too worrisome, and all of it manageable. That all said, it wasn’t really doing anything to help with the reasons I started taking it. So after being at that dosage a bit, we decided that it would be a good idea to increase the dosage and see if that made a difference. Now, in hindsight, and being off the medication, it’s obvious that this is where things started to go downhill.

I don’t have a way to properly articulate what it’s like to be incapable of trusting oneself. But over the course of last month, I learned what it feels like. Initially, after the higher dosage started taking hold, I noted an increased dry mouth, a slightly more erratic appetite, and an even worse sleep schedule. Sure that this was all well manageable, I thought nothing of else of the medicines impact on my life. Unaccounted for during that period, I was suddenly having a hard time getting myself to leave the house, and that’s about where any self reflection on the medication stopped.

As it was the holiday season, a lot of projects were piling up at work, but nothing unmanageable. The bulk of what I was working on was digital by nature, so I started working more from the house, and thought nothing of it. Over time, I stopped going in altogether, and still I was ignorant as to how odd that was for me. My partner did manage to drag me out of the house twice, to kind of prove to me and the world that I was still alive, and that I could get myself to leave the house, but unfortunately that only ended up doing more harm than good in the long run. Both times I avoided interacting with people as much as possible, and was evasive when asked about how I was doing. Rationalizing to myself (As best as I can recall) that I knew I was on medication to improve things, so things would only improve soon enough.

The month wore on and I slowly stopped eating, drinking, and sleeping. All things that though I’ve never been particularly good at before, are generally considered relatively important. The only reason I ever did occasionally eat, was because I was supposed to take my medication with food, and once I remembered to take my medication (Or more often, once my partner reminded me to do so), I realized that I’d not consumed anything, and would put something into my system to go down with the medication. Sleep happened when I passed out, and would last anywhere from 2 to 20 hours… and getting out of bed, regardless of what time I’d slept, became more and more of an ordeal. And still no warning bells were going off in my head. I can not even begin to account for why now. Even writing it out it’s patently ridiculous to think that I was so incapable of recognizing how poor a turn things had taken. But c’est la vie.

Over time, several folks from work, and a few from my personal life, tried reaching out to see what was wrong. I went from getting more and more evasive, to eventually non-responsive. Completely shutting myself off from all forms of external communication. It was bad enough that even when my medication ran out, and it was time to refill it, I could not even get myself to do that. It turns out that this was a small unremarkable blessing in disguise. Shortly after that, it “suddenly” occurred to me that perhaps there was something up with my medication? So I scheduled an emergency appointment with the clinic, and went in to see a new doctor.

In a plot twist fit to rival the best that Bollywood has to offer, the doc determined that hey… maybe the medicine was having an adverse affect on me. So we discussed options, and decided to transition to another drug, that while likely would have the sexual side effects I was trying to avoid in the first place, would just as likely restore my ability to interact with the world at large. Beyond that, these kinds of drugs have lead in and lead out times to prevent causing serious issues during adoption and such, so the process would need to be gradual, but at this point it was far beyond time to do something about what was going on, so we went for it.

Fast forward (Not too far, this wasn’t that long ago) a bit, and yeah, turns out the doctor was right. I wasn’t suddenly perfect, but there was a notable restoration of normality in my world. So I finally started trying to reconnect with work, and the folks that were worried about me in my life. Now, I may have told you that last plot twist was good, but just wait. As it turns out, not going in to work and falling off the face of the earth when folks are trying to make sure you’re okay doesn’t really endear you to your employer. So surprising nobody at all, by not being competent enough to realize I was taking a nice long grind with a nail file to the proverbial foot, sans toe nails, it took me one holiday season to completely destroy a working relationship stretching back many years. There were many factors at play, but the coffin’s nail was my absolute lack of response to the multiple attempts to reach out to me. And to make it even better, due to the cross pollination between work and the other activities of my life, not only had I destroyed that relationship, but I’d probably taken out what was probably the highlight of my year as a consolation prize. Working PAX.

Now, sans not only my job, but the very limited number of friends that I have (Even before this occurred I didn’t really have a lot of in person relationships. Almost the entirety of my social network was my work network), things were certainly looking up. But hey, it was no more than I deserved for my complete lack of functionality. They did let me go with a severance, and an extra month of insurance. After all, it really wasn’t anything personal. Just a logical business decision. At this point, I was definitely at my lowest. Not as incapable of interacting as the prior month (I don’t ever want to be that disrupted again), but I was beyond hurt by my stupidity. What to do? I guess this is where the “Brighter Future” kicks in? I mean they say when you reach the bottom, all that’s left is up right?

Sardony aside, having just pulled myself out of that mess, I wasn’t about to let even this series of blows take me back anywhere like it again. For one thing, I’m going to make a significant effort to return to a more social place. This will mean more getting out of the house for things other than work, and a greater level of activity in my online social networks. And contributing to that takes me to my next point…

My partner and I sat down and talked about the future. We’d been beating around an idea for a home based business for a while now. Strictly for fun, and as a hobby, something that would maybe bring in just enough money to let her slow down (And eventually maybe stop) working after we get married later this year, but there just wasn’t time to worry about it right now. Well… funny thing about getting fired is that you suddenly have a lot of time on your hands. While the timing is certainly ridiculous (We’ve got 6 Months to the day till the wedding. Invites are going out soon ya’ll!), I figured why not go full boar into this and spend a little bit of time building the business up before finding another job. As the co-owner of a shiny new business license, “Mel-T Rivers” (It’s unique, rolls off the tongue nicely, and there’s even a whole cute little significance to the name) is gearing up for an interesting year. My expectations are firmly rooted in reality, and I’ve got a good working relationship with a local temp agency to keep my bills covered for the interim. So let’s ride these rapids shall we.