According to Mind, the mental health charity, every year one in four of us will experience a mental health problem.
Mental health issues have been a constant in my life. The chemicals in your brain can turn dark on you, a fact that I learned pretty early on – and in a pretty hard core way at that – in my life.
My childhood and young adulthood were marked by a mother who was in and out the hospital because of her depression. Depression – such a big, harsh word that I desperately wanted to understand. What was it that had caused my mother to have to go through all this? What had happened?
I only really understood it when my own depression swept in and knocked me sideways. I was eighteen when it did, and I am still living with the proverbial gremlin in my head at the age of twenty-six. I probably will have that gremlin with me all my life.
The chemicals in your brain can turn dark on youClick To Tweet
And one of the ways I have learned to cope with that gremlin is by using my preferred weapon of choice – my writing.
The intersection between sex and mental health
Depression is a genuine illness, with symptoms ranging from deceptively small to unbearably large. It’s not weakness. It’s not laziness. It’s not something you can snap out of by pulling yourself together and getting on with it.
Nonetheless, “pull yourself together” is the attitude many people still take, not knowing that they might actually be making it worse for the person in question. This is why it pays to talk about it, to educate and give insight that, actually, no, I can’t just pull myself together.
Depression is a complex thing that, even in 2017, is something that needs to be talked about more because understanding what it is and what it isn’t is a huge step forward already.
Depression is a genuine illness, with symptoms ranging from deceptively small to unbearably largeClick To Tweet
Opening up about depression
That’s why I made the decision to be open about my own mental health issues on my blog. And not just because I wanted to add my voice to a growing conversation – because through writing about my mental health issues on my sex and relationships focused blog I wanted to add my voice to the growing number of my sex writing peers who were being admirably, unflinchingly honest about their own.
The idea that my sex life could be influenced by my mental health wasn’t one that immediately occurred to me. Mainly because, as that godawful phrase goes, I was a late bloomer.
When depression hit, I was only just getting to grips with myself as a sexual being and learning how to masturbate. I hadn’t even gotten to the stage where I could actually talk about my own sexual feelings when I started taking SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors).
The idea that my sex life could be influenced by my mental health wasn’t one that immediately occurred to meClick To Tweet
The dots only really connected when, after a long period of learning to masturbate to and successfully achieving orgasms, I suddenly wasn’t able to feel anything.
No matter how hard I tried – and I tried very, very hard, both manually and with my first vibrator – nothing happened. And still, I wasn’t in the right space to actually ask if this new medication had anything to do with it.
I wish I knew then what I know now. And knew who I know now, too. I wish I could go back in time and show my pre-blog self that she wasn’t alone and that there was nothing wrong with her.
Bloggers I have long admired from the side lines have come forward with writing detailing their own experiences. Sex toy reviewer and all-round awesome person Epiphora spoke candidly about losing two weeks of her sex life to Zoloft.
Brilliant writers like JoEllen Notte and Crista Anne have become powerful voices in the sex and depression discussion. The list of sex writers tackling the intersection of sex and depression through their writing becomes longer every day.
And even though I didn’t knew back then what I know now, I am grateful for knowing it now. I am also extremely grateful for being in a position to share my experiences and feel like I am being seen.
Like I am not alone. There is power in knowing you are not alone. There is power in knowing other people have gone through experiences similar to yours.
There is power in knowing other people have gone through experiences similar to yoursClick To Tweet
And there is a huge amount of courage in speaking up openly and honesty. It takes nerve to open up and talk about your story in a raw and uncensored way. Sex and depression, both as separate entities and as one topic, have so much stigma attached to all their facets.
Again, it bears repeating: even in 2017 this stigma still stands. Helping fight that kind of stigma by sharing my story? Yeah, you can most definitely count me in.
Because I remember those early days of my depression with a startling clarity. 18, only just coming into myself sexually. Too nervous to even bring up that I was masturbating and that my body had suddenly started reacting differently.
A lack of resources at hand, a lingering frustration with what little sex education I had received and certainly no deeper knowledge of how depression was affecting me and how it could affect my body.
I wouldn’t ever wish that feeling on someone else. So I will continue to share the raw and uncensored version of my story, in its ugly and gorgeous glory.
I will continue to use writing to not just cope with my gremlin, but to cope with how it influences my libido. I will continue to add my voice to this discussion because I see you. And I want you to know you are being seen and heard and you are not alone.
You aren’t ever alone.