Experience,  My EJC Responses

Mental Health’s Impact on Sex Drive (revisited)

When I was young, I was moody. Anxious…on my way to an ulcer before I graduated high school. I was internally driven and often ran myself into the ground during periods of great productivity and creativity (I still do this, much to my Husband’s chagrin). I also found myself doing rather rash and stupid things sexually…usually while using alcohol and drugs. After these bouts of both good and bad behavior, I would shut down, hibernating in my room for days.

My parents chalked it up to me being a teenage girl. But the behavior continued into college, becoming more pronounced and occurring more often.

For me, as an English major, it seemed apt and likely…expected behaviors from a writer…just part and parcel of the “creative personality.” In my mind, I was supposed to be a little “crazy.”

During my ups, I could go a few days without sleep…weeks with very little. I drank. I partied. I went to class and work. I wrote. I read. I churned out reams of pages with words and words and words. I was also horny as hell, as this is a byproduct of mania.

And then I’d stop. Become reclusive…and feel guilt and fear regarding my behavior. I’d find sex disgusting and even stop masturbating at these times.

After I was married and had a child (which led directly to an early partial hysterectomy), my husband urged me to seek professional help, as my libido had basically completely dried up and (though it wasn’t so obvious to me then) because my moods were out of control.

I didn’t want to, and I fought Him on it, mainly because I’d been taught early on that seeking help for emotional struggles was a sign of weakness. I figured I could handle my own emotions just fine on my own. Even after having read several memoirs of people with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues, I still had this faulty idea in my head that somehow I could deal with it on my own, and that, if I couldn’t, something was wrong with me.

What it amounted to was that I was embarrassed to seek help and I didn’t want anyone to know that I had a “problem.” Fuck… I didn’t want to know I had a problem.

I was so irritable and stressed out all the time…during both my ups and downs, which directly impacted EVERYTHING else in my life, including my sex life.

Now…I’ve written about this before…but, this is important because, my mental health lowered my interest in sex, which then impacted my connection to my Husband. It not only stressed Him out (which impacted His mental health, too) but it also meant that we weren’t having sex very often. And even when we did, it wasn’t as good as it should have been. This was just one more thing that led to less interest in sex.

My Husband feels His greatest connection to me through physical touch and sex. It’s a base, animal need He has from me…and while that may not sound terribly romantic, it’s also how He connects to me emotionally. So you can imagine, if we aren’t having sex, and I’m showing no interest…not instigating sex…He feels unwanted, undesirable, unneeded.

And…that exacerbates His own mental health issues (depression).

It can be an ugly cycle, so both of us have to be hyper-aware of the signals that things are heading off track, because it’s really hard to get back on once we’re off. This cycle has definitely dragged us on a roller-coaster of both good and bad times in our sex life. We’d go from having lots and feeling super connected to having none and feeling miles apart. The triggers that pushed one or both of us to jump the tracks? Illness, stress at work or home, parenting issues, depression…

So it’s important that both of us stay vigilant. We have to keep our eyes on each other, work to maintain our sex life, do things that bolster our physical health, and make sure to take the correct medications.

When I first started taking medication for bipolar disorder, it was just an antidepressant, which isn’t enough. In fact, antidepressants can worsen the symptoms. So, eventually, I began taking lithium (in addition) as a mood stabilizer. This medication made me shaky, though, so I discontinued everything and tried to go without all of it. For some months, this worked reasonably well. But a terrible emotional reaction (in which I was NOT myself) during a fight led me to seek medical help again.

It’s taken years to find a medication that makes me feel “balanced” and that I feel at least somewhat comfortable taking. They’ve led to weight gain (which does nothing to improve depression or self-esteem, let me tell you), continued and increased low libido (which does nothing to improve my marriage), suicidal thoughts, shakiness, fatigue, hunger…

The current medication I take doesn’t seem to have any of these negative effects, even though, like many, it can do a number on my liver – so I have to have periodic checks to be sure things are going okay in that department.

Ultimately, even though studies show that antidepressants and medications aimed at bipolar disorder can impact hormone levels negatively, I have found that when I am on medication I am a much less volatile person. I’m less irritable, slower to anger (because bipolar rage is definitely a thing), more level-headed, and calmer all around.

So, while the meds I take don’t increase libido, their indirect impact on my sex drive is that they provide me the mental space and emotional stability to give my sex life a more central place in my life. I’m not as anxious all the time, or irritable. And my brain is less full of crap. It’s hard to focus on sex when your brain is EVERYWHERE ALL. THE. TIME. And, honestly, it’s hard to care about sex when you can’t even focus on it. The nice benefit, also, is that once you begin having good sex on a regular basis, it has some pretty significant mental and physical health impacts of its own. 

Add to this the meds He takes (for depression) and the testosterone therapy He’s been going through to improve His sex drive, and things are definitely improving.

Of course, none of this would help if it weren’t for the communication we’ve been implimenting…which is part and parcel of the 24/7 D/s marriage we’ve gone back to.

I still have sexual highs. For the most part, it runs on a predictable cycle, rising as the moon waxes and decreasing as the moon wanes. I can become insatiable nearing the full moon and then completely uninterested at the new moon. My body feels these pulls, and while I don’t always think about it, my “lunacy” is very much tied to these lunar phases. I’ve tracked it numerous times before and have plenty of evidence to conclude that the new moon is my pivot point.

Even knowing that, it doesn’t put me in control all the time. It just gives me more knowledge to work with. What keeps my libido the highest is continued sex, regardless of mental health. Having sex on a regular basis decreases anxiety and stress, improves sleep, and increases the level of sex hormones in the body (for both men and women). Increased levels of sex hormones improve libido. Round and round we go, eh?

No one thing improves a person’s sex drive or relationship or mental health. It’s like a table…remove one leg and the whole thing becomes unstable. Remove another leg and it falls down. But add extra legs, and you can afford a hiccup once in awhile.

FYI: Currently I only take one medication…carbamazapene. It was originally mainly used to treat epilepsy but is now being used to treat ADHD, bipolar disorder, and a few other health issues like anxiety and PTSD. For me, it slows me down (those highs just don’t happen often and aren’t as prominent), and it keeps be from dropping too low. It also tempers the anxiety and keeps my mind fom jumping as much. Basically, it does exactly what it is intended to do…it stabalizes my moods.


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