Sex and sertraline part 2: fucking on SSRIs

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

This blog post – part 2 in a series of… hmm… I’m not sure how many yet – talks about some mental health stuff, including Dark Thoughts and general misery. If that’s likely to disturb you please don’t read on. 

When you’re mad, you’re allowed to say the word ‘mad’ – at least in your own head. You’re allowed to tell yourself: ‘don’t think like that, it’s mad. That’s what got you here in the first place.’ When you’re mad, you’re taught to examine your thoughts carefully – writing them down if necessary – so you can pick over the alien carcass of insanity that your brain has spat out. Pulling the meat (‘I’m worried I can’t have sex’) from the bones that you’re meant to identify and discard (‘If I can’t have sex I may as well die’).

I am being medicated into compliance. 

When you’re mad, you do this with all your thoughts. Everything is seen through the prism of your own madness. Your actions – emotional, calm, routine, impulsive – all of them may or may not be mad, depending on the day and the way you do them, and the conclusion you reach at that moment when you pluck them dripping from your subconscious and hold them up to the light for inspection.

I am being medicated into compliance. 

I am good at examining my thoughts. I have sorted them all into piles – meat versus bones. Dripping, rich, solid thoughts like:

I do not like this party. I want to go home.

Along with hollow, bleached-white, surreal-landscape thoughts like:

What if I’m not allowed to leave? Will I scream?

I am good at examining my

I am being medicated into compliance. 

thoughts. But not good like ‘now I can tell you which are mad and which aren’t’, just good like ‘I will do it for all of them. Religiously. Whether I find the answer or not.’ Sometimes when I sort them I feel confident I’m right: the house won’t burn down. My friends haven’t been in an accident. There is nothing stopping me from leaving this party save my own inability to stutter a goodbye.

Others I’m less sure about: sometimes they’ll get filed away with the truth, other times the lies, and each new occurrence means I have to pause for longer. Questioning whether this thought or that is the product of deduction or insanity.

I am being medicated into compliance. 

And alongside all these thoughts – the ones that may or may not be mad – I am hunting for one that is solid enough that I know it’s true. A foundation I can rest all the others on – like Descartes stripping everything away until he ended up with ‘cogito ergo sum’ – I think therefore I am – so I’m searching for a similar belief against which I can test the others:

It is not mad to be upset sometimes. 

It is not mad to want to fuck. 

It is not mad to be confused by this. 

Descartes ‘cogito ergo sum’ didn’t really count, by the way – the first thing I learned in philosophy was that you can’t deduce ‘I am’ from ‘I think.’ There’s a thought, and not necessarily a ‘you’. Just as I can know that there is madness to be picked over and sorted, but that doesn’t mean that somewhere buried in the pile there’s a ‘me’ – some pre-mad version of me – waiting to escape.

So I can’t deduce anything from any of my thoughts – they’re all potentially tainted:

This meal is nice. This film is boring. This pain in my stomach is probably nothing. This phonecall has come at the wrong time. I am being medicated into compliance. 

The worst thing about being mad is that I don’t really feel mad. Most of the time I feel angry and frustrated. I’ve spent so much time sorting thoughts, and coming up with systems, that I want people to believe me when I say ‘no, this one’s not mad. I’m sad now for a reason.’ But maybe I’m wrong, and the only people who can tell are those who look in from outside. They’ve got something external to measure, and they can tell me: you are mad, you know. You are.

And this picking-over-thoughts process is not – as I’m sure you’ve realised – sexy. It’s not something that enhances a fuck: it ruins it. There’s a deeply erotic game to play with compliance, when it’s fake. The ‘yes sir’ and ‘whatever you like, sir’ and ‘I’ll be a good girl’ game that makes my gut hurt with lust. When I’m biting the pillow and pretending to comply, all the while wiggling closer to try and milk more fuck out of him. If we fuck like that, I can just about do it. I can turn the very thoughts themselves

I am being medicated into compliance

into kinky tools and tricks. The drugs become accessories – like bondage rope or blindfolds or dental anaesthetic.

I still won’t come, because I can’t come on SSRIs, but I can enjoy the fuck when it’s mental instead of physical, because it gives me something to hold and examine that I actually want to spend time poring over.

But when the sex is simply physical, the thoughts make it worse. When it’s about the in and out, and the touching, and the kissing… all I can do is focus on each touch, and try to push out thoughts that tell me each touch is wrong somehow. In the wrong place or too gentle or ticklish.

I’m going to scream 

But I like this

How did I do this before? 

I want to leave this party

I’m watching myself at a distance, through a cotton-wool fug of something bordering on apathy, and sorting these thoughts in the same way I sort all the rest. Picking the meat (‘I know I like fucking because I remember I like fucking.’) from the bones (‘I’ve built my life on fucking, what’s left for me if it’s gone?‘), and wondering just how much I care. Asking whether it’s mad not to care that I could take this or leave it right now.

I am being medicated into compliance

I have no idea why I have that thought. I just know that it’s there, and it keeps getting spit into my mind no matter how often I try to discard it along with the others – ‘I’ll die at thirty five‘ or ‘that stalker is coming‘ or ‘everyone you love is in it for a bet.’

Taking Sertraline fucks my sex drive and makes me feel slow, but it doesn’t stop the mad thoughts. It isn’t magic, after all: it can’t make me want to stay at the party or help me find the film less boring. It can’t make me forget my worries, or make it easier to sort the meat from the bones. I’ve picked over thoughts for long enough to know that ‘I need to fuck’ used to be a frequent one. So I comply. Because I desperately want to know the answer: where does this thought belong? Meat or bones? Sane or mad?

I don’t know. And until I know I’ll keep fucking for reasons I can no longer discern: boredom, routine, ritual maybe? Because it’s bedtime and that feels like the right thing to do? I used to fuck because I liked it, now I fuck to placate a sex-loving not-mad me that may or may not have ever existed.

I comply.

And if I do that for long enough, maybe I’ll start to want it again.

 

 

Note: while this blog post is mostly focused on some Stuff That Occurred To Me About Fucking On SSRIs, it does not in any way constitute advice on SSRIs or any other medical advice – what works (or fails) for me may be very different for you. If you’re affected by any of this talk to your doctor. Also, please bear in mind that I often publish things I’ve written long ago, which I leave percolating until I’m feeling better again so that you don’t all think I’m about to do a runner or that I’m weeping in a pile even as you’re reading. This is one of those things, and I’m OK now so don’t sweat it. Love, Gotn xxx

14 Comments

  • Anon says:

    I’ve been on SSRI’s for a while, and I find that I’ve got no interest in sex with my partner. I go from blaming myself to (wrongly) blaming her, to just not bothering to even try. I hate it, I want to *want* to have sex again.

  • rare deeds says:

    Thank you for sharing this blog post, gotn – it is so hard to read (I wonder how much that difficulty of reading parallels the difficulty of coping with the thoughts you describe – though without the distress, of course).

    I am struck, in what you write, by how there are these thoughts you describe, your reactions to these thoughts (how you cope with them), & your feelings/emotions. Each of these aspects of how we are conscious play out in, & affect how we experience, our sex “lives”, to different degrees, & in different relations.

    I’m very glad to hear that you are no longer having to undergo these thoughts & feelings in the way you describe. I guess being able to articulate these experiences, & being able to share & discuss them having done so, with someone with whom you have trust, is very important.

    Thank you again for sharing x

  • Hevhev says:

    I’m so glad that you have taken the time to write about sex and SSRIs!!!
    I’ve tried 3 now Fluoxetine which didn’t effect me in the sex department but didn’t treat me, citalopram which was EVIL, and sertraline which I’m on now. I literally went to my GP when on citalopram and told her straight that it had killed my sex drive and I had lost the ability to orgasm (while putting emphasis on its importance for myself and my husband) she was so nice and changed it for me. I could have gone back and kissed her once my vagina started working again. My point is, not ALL SSRIs have the same side effects for the same people. I’d encourage anyone to ask to change if they value their orgasms and to keep trying until you find one that works and still let’s you!
    Thanks again for writing this, it’s good to know I’m not alone!

  • jem says:

    thank you for this beautiful post, for being so brave, and so honest. Oddly it spoke to me because of the opposite effect, citalopram did not affect my sex drive, as far as I know, but prozac…prozac sent to me a dangerous place where sex was not just a want, but a need, regardless of any other considerations. What struck me is that doctors dont ask, or consider that sex might be a part of your life, that I went from someone with a high sex drive who picked up when horny to someone who did not know how to stay safe, who ended up in gangsters bedrooms, or parties with groups, and no idea how X had led to Z….I hope you are now, as you say in the post script in a better place, and if you are not, remember the greatest prayer of them all..this too shall pass

  • Gaia says:

    You have struck a chord, yet again. ‘You’ are very much still in there, under the blanket-fog, and it’s important that you realise that, you’ll get there, to that place where you don’t need the chemical crutch any more, I’m not saying you’ll suddenly wake up one morning and be ‘better’; more that you’ll gradually realise that you can handle the anxiety.

    We do what we do to get by, and it’s deeply unfortunate that your clit is the collateral here, your creativity is still there, and the pulling-teeth nature of that post screams out clearly. It is still there. This, right now, is a temporary state, you will come through, it will pass, it always has, and it always does.

  • nzjohn says:

    I have just found your blog a couple of (very pleasurable) days ago. Thank you!

    SSRI’s – I have suffered from anxiety – from eight years of age and depression from my early teens. I’ve been on most of the SSRI’s and found, without exception, that that they have this shitty habit of flatlining me. Having an orgasm wasn’t an issue. Sure I no longer felt depressed but then neither did I feel happy. It was bollocks – basically a chemical frontal lobotomy. “But Mr F****D at least you no longer feel depressed” – “oh that’s good – I feel nothing at-fucking-all you stupid-platitude-muttering-imbecilic cunt (there are times when only that word will do!).”

    The solution for me was taking my care out of the hands of my GP – they pretty much prescribe what the latest drug rep has managed to pedal them or what is cheapest on the NHS and put it into the hands of a psychiatrist. Result!!!

    I’m in my early 50’s – (yes I still have a pulse) – very fit and active and not yet ready to give up on life’s many pleasures! I am by coincidence a highly trained medical professional. This sadly leaves me in a position to think that most medics are well educated not very intelligent people (‘Oh Tarquin – I think you’d be a wonderful doctor and I think with a good school you’ll get the grades’ in reality Tarquin is so far on the spectrum that he really should be in special care and has all the empathy of bottle of washing-up liquid though, it must be said, slightly less personality!) Now breath John, breath.

    There is a brilliant alternative to SSRI’s very good for those people that the SSRI’s fuck up – a lot. Not giving advice but just saying.

    Hang in there

    John x

  • Laura says:

    I’ve always maintained I’m incapable of having anything other than kinky bdsm sex, and you’ve just hit the nail on the head as to why. I just don’t think I ever realised it until seeing it written down in front of me, so thank you for sharing x

  • Samantha says:

    I’m so jealous when someone can express my cacophony of thoughts so well, when I can’t get my shit together.

    Thank you for giving my inner whore a single voice.

  • D. says:

    Wow, that was quite the immersive read. Glad to hear things are improved now!

  • Elphaba says:

    Despite the horrendous side effects, did it eventually help? I’m considering taking medication for my depressive mood swings, but i’m vaguely worried that the cure might be worse than the disease.

    • Girl on the net says:

      It definitely did something – I felt less anxious, and I had far fewer panic attacks (I think iirc I only had one, and that was quite early on in taking it, so maybe before it had fully kicked in). I also felt quite a lot less of everything though – it was fairly ‘numbing’, especially for the first few weeks. I’d say it’s definitely worth talking to your doctor about – a good doctor will help you monitor things and adjust dosages/types of pills based on side effects etc.

      • Elphaba says:

        Thanks for the reply. I think half the challenge lies in finding a good doctor who has the time to discuss all the issues involved.

  • Andrew says:

    Mirtazapine (zispin) is a well tolerated newer antidepressant that does not give anorgasmia same a side effect. I’m a medical doctor but as always chat it over with your GP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *