One of the downsides of embracing radical honesty as I do in my work is that inconvenient questions happen.
And when they do, my brain won’t let go until I’ve worked through them. Out in the open and in print. Otherwise why preach that which you don’t practice? Taboos are the product of shame acting as a roadblock on the way to self-actualization. Eradicate the shame and the taboos will take care of themselves.
Granted, transcending five years worth of depression by writing about it on the internet is a dicey pursuit if there ever was one.
Now that the context is clear, let’s consider and contemplate the frissons experienced by my nether regions over the last five years, shall we?
Not only did the advent of major depressive disorder steal my writing voice and annihilate my livelihood but it also ate my libido.
Swallowed it whole in one bite might be a more appropriate way to describe the demise of my sexuality. In that sense, depression was a time warp that made me into a toddler with boobs and a library card, someone unable to live life unassisted.
And who suddenly no longer has either sexual urges or indeed a sex life. Fun fact: I can remember the last time my husband and I had sexy time as it coincides with one particular event. I’d have to dig and find the relevant piece of paperwork to give you an exact date but let’s say it’s been a long time.
So much time my hymen may well have grown back by now. There are many questions I do not have answers to but my marriage sank into this immutable state of sexlessness that we’ve both come to accept as what is. A measure of how much I’ve internalized it is that I’m now writing about it.
Admitting publicly that attraction is no longer part of your life is problematic, unusual, and rare.
On the one hand, my libido left me, and on the other, it’s highly likely that the person I’ve been married to for the last five years no longer fancies me either. Did they ever? There are some answers I may never get.
This is quite a blow to the ego but depression makes you adaptable to a fault. When the parameters changed, I learned to accommodate them and embrace the kind of comfort I’d never allowed myself before.
As a feminist woman, this reads like a full house on the cliché bingo card. I stopped shaving my legs, grew a full bush, jettisoned make-up, and went 1.5 years without stepping foot into a hair salon. And financial hardship made it very easy, as easy as the total absence of dates. Because marriage made those redundant, somehow.
Not that I let myself go, exactly. Instead, I taught myself yoga at home and became a keen — at times obsessive — practitioner, albeit a fuzzy one. Yogi bear?
But I stopped dolling myself up because I seldom left my house and no one ever came to visit. Plus body hair adds an extra layer of insulation in the punishing Pacific Northwest winter.
And my feminism got tested, hard.
Ihave had a lot of good sex in my life with some generous, adventurous, and creative partners.
Despite a history of abuse, rape, and PTSD, I managed to enjoy a fulfilling and balanced sex life for many years. As is the case with any single woman, there were fallow times, but there were exhilarating times, too, with some very skilled partners. Although I’m not particularly comfortable with my body, it knows how to enjoy itself and interact with another skin on skin.
Once the initial shyness disappears, I’m fine, and a keen, curious, and willing participant in many things sexual so long as they focus on mutual pleasure. I abhor pain and violence on every and any level and this is a line I’ve never crossed willingly. But sexual abuse means I have crossed it, and some unfortunate reflexes remain. I don’t relax easily and I can flinch when someone touches me, at least when we’re still fully clothed and trying to be affectionate.
This means I’ve recoiled — and still recoil — at my husband’s touch although, to be fair, there’s seldom an occasion to anymore.
As a feminist who rejects traditional gender roles, I’ve had no qualms about making the first move before and initializing intercourse. Alas, major depressive disorder made this impossible.
Without libido, I didn’t see the point of going through the motions and adding yet another layer of trauma to an already dented and battered psyche. And no, if I couldn’t do this for myself I certainly wasn’t about to do it for anyone else instead.
Feminism means personhood and agency. I am a married woman but my body is still mine to do with as I wish, it isn’t and will never be a commodity any more than my mind is.
In the absence of intercourse, orgasms haven’t exactly been plentiful in the last five years.
Which isn’t to say they haven’t happened, either. Masturbation is something I used to have down to a fine art and I’ve occasionally resorted to in times of extreme distress. Whenever my brain was at risk of destroying me and required an emergency shutdown, I got going.
Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t but the effort always brought with it a change of perspective. I hung on to the thought this was likely to be a phase and as such would eventually subside. Every now and then, I sleep well and recharge as as result. For someone who tangles with insomnia, this is no mean feat.
But finding inspiration that’ll lead me to climax is always more problematic than the mechanics of orgasm themselves.
Imagine jonesing for endorphins and relief when all your brain can focus on is how to keep a roof over our head, food in the fridge, and prevent your brain from killing you.
Put it that way, I never had any intention of signing up for an asexual life even though I’ve lived it for the last five years. I can only speak for myself here, so I won’t assume I know what’s going on in my husband’s head as I do not. The rare attempts I’ve made at broaching the topic have all been met with evasion and deflection. I respect that and his reasons for doing so, on which I refuse to speculate.
In what I suspect is an attempt to help me save my own life, the muse has a way of forcing me to face that which I seek to avoid. And so yesterday morning I found myself trying to figure out when I had last had an orgasm and I started going down the rabbit hole.
This was a potentially dangerous turn of events at a time when I’m still wobbly on my feet. I keep having to put out metaphorical fires left, right, and center as I rebuild a life that works, but I’m also on the cusp of a major upheaval. I yet have to receive any therapy for major depressive disorder but I’m about to go back to Europe for an extended stay to help my father care for his sick wife.
And in the midst of this epic shit show, I felt inspired not just to unpack this but to turn to much-needed digital relief because the muse works me hard.
So my answer to the title question is yesterday morning.
What about you?
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.