If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life. But as an adult, I’ve resisted the help of pharmaceuticals in fighting those battles for reasons too complicated to fully explain.
I would have encouraged any friend of mine to ask for that help if they needed it, cheering them on every step of the way. But for myself, it just wasn’t a step I was willing to take.
Until 2020, that is — the year that finally broke me.
At some point in April, I felt the darkness approaching. My anxiety, of course, was at an all-time high. But I also recognized the signs of an impending depression. Only this time, I didn’t have any of the tools I would usually reach for.
I was cut off from friends. From in-person visits with my therapist. From the opportunity to volunteer or get involved in some big cause close to my heart.
I was stuck at home, locked away with only my 7-year-old daughter for company, handling all the work and educating and parenting and housekeeping on my own.
I at least knew enough to recognize that was a recipe for disaster.
So I called my doctor in tears one day and asked for the one prescription she’d been offering for years: an anti-depressant to pull me back from the brink before I fell too hard.
It was a humbling experience, but an important one. Within just few weeks of starting my new medication, I was feeling more like myself. Capable of reasonable thought, less prone to extended bouts of crying. I wasn’t having to force myself out of bed in the morning, and I was extending the kind of patience and understanding to my daughter that she deserved.
Perhaps most importantly, the intrusive thoughts I’d dealt with every day of my entire life were gone. For the first time I realized, it wasn’t normal to constantly have thoughts of suicide and tragedy and death on my mind. And with this little pill, I could live without those images forever plaguing my psyche.
There was just one problem: my orgasm seemed to disappear right along with those intrusive thoughts.
I’ve always been a pretty sexual person, and I have no shame in admitting I masturbate. I’m a single mom living in the middle of a pandemic where dating isn’t exactly an option. So yes, I have a drawer of toys that are all fully charged.
But what used to be part of my nightly bedtime routine quickly felt out of reach with the addition of my new med. Masturbation still felt good, I just couldn’t get over that edge. Instead I’d try and try until my body felt numb and I was left frustrated and scared rather than satisfied and ready for bed.
I know it might sound melodramatic to describe losing my orgasm as something that actually frightened me, but… it did. I’m not yet 40, and I still haven’t found that person I want to spend the rest of my life with. The thought of not being able to climax with them (or ever by myself again) was frightening.
So there I was, feeling truly mentally healthy for the first time in my adult life, wondering if my sexual health was something I might have to sacrifice for that gift.
And I was willing to do so — being a stable human being throughout one of the most unstable times in American history taught me how important that stability truly was. I wouldn’t give that up again, not even for my orgasm.
But I wanted to be able to have both!
Thankfully, I was able to find a large group of women willing to talk me through this experience and share their own stories (this is a fairly common side effect of antidepressants). Women who helped me find my orgasm again, just when I thought I’d lost it for good.
The first thing I did was boycott masturbation for a month. The women who had been through this before told me that I needed to remove the pressure of trying as frequently as I had been. I needed to give my body a chance to reset, while also adjusting to the new meds flowing through my system.
When that month was up, I set the scene for a night of self-pleasure — starting with a viewing of Normal People, which was the show getting me all hot and bothered at the time (there was just something about the focus on consent throughout the series that really did it for me!)
Then, I took a warm bath and brought one of my water-friendly toys with me, starting slow and soft, gradually working my way up to a speed that would have previously helped me achieve the big “O” in seconds.
I made a vow not to put any pressure on myself, and to instead relax into the moment. And wouldn’t you know it, that did the trick — I found my orgasm by the end of the night.
For the next few months, the end result was hit or miss. Sometimes I was able to get there and other times I wasn’t. But after that first post-medication orgasm, I was no longer afraid I’d never climax again. So I just went with it. And with the pressure removed, I was eventually able to get back to myself… down there.
Today I am proud to report on both my mental stability and my ability to achieve orgasm pretty much whenever I want. It took some time and patience to get there, but it was worth all the practice involved.
When my doctor asked recently if I thought I might want to taper down on the meds at some point, or if I simply felt better on them, I was very clear: I’ll never go off antidepressants again.
I didn’t know what I was living without before, but I do now. And I’m so thankful I worked through the kinks (see what I did there?) to get a healthier place today.