Depression, Drugs and Doing It (Or Not)
Trigger warning – contains talk of suicidal thoughts and mental health issues
Depression sucks. I mean, that’s kind of obvious really, nobody is ever going to say that it’s a happy, joyous affliction, but officially being one of the 264 million people worldwide¹ who have the misfortune of a fucked up brain, I can now confidently say, it sucks BIG TIME.
I never considered that I might be someone who could suffer with depression, but looking back, the tell-tale signs and symptoms have been present in my life from my childhood. Still, it was a huge shock when, what was probably glaringly obvious to the outside world, hit me square in the face. “Nervous breakdown” is not a term used by medical professionals anymore, it’s not PC, but it was still the phrase my doctor used to make me understand why I was feeling the way I was. Wanting to kill myself, constant crying and the inability to cope with the smallest of things were all signs that should have pointed me in the general direction of a mental health issue, but it took a stranger in a suit to make me realise that I was ill. It took me a lot longer to even begin to accept it.
That day will stay with me forever, for many reasons – severe depression, panic disorder, high anxiety and mild PTSD are just a few of them. It was the day I lost control, but also the day that marked the start of me beginning to finally find some. I knew I had to relinquish what little control I felt that I had left to other people, people who knew better than me and that could help me, and I hoped that one day, doing so would contribute to me putting things back together again and taking back my own life. For now, it was all totally out of my control, and I hated that, but I wasn’t capable of making decisions anymore. I wasn’t able to be responsible for myself, so I just did as I was told and hoped for the best. I’d hit the bottom, so things could only go up from here, right?
I’d love to be able to tell you that what followed was all sunshine and flowers, but I’d be lying. It was hard, like really fucking hard. I was suicidal before, but the medication they gave me made the thought of slitting my own throat seem like a walk in the park. My body was dying – not only was my brain ill, but I now had a hollow shell housing it that was sick too. How on earth were these tiny pills making me feel so bad? And how the fuck were they going to help me when they were dragging me further and further into darkness? I couldn’t get my head around it, and it hurt too much to even consider it for too long. I was too busy with sickness, dizziness, insomnia at night, sweats that could fill olympic swimming pools, horrific daymares when I did manage to get to sleep and a walk that I’d be proud of, if I was 150 years old. My extremities were constantly freezing cold, two pairs of thermal socks, hot water bottles and thick blankets weren’t enough to convince my feet that they didn’t live in Antarctica. Vertical was virtually impossible for a long time, as I consistently felt like a tuning fork that had been struck against a hard surface. I used to like vibrations, but I never wanted to actually become a human vibrator! Certain noises became physically painful, I had to wear earplugs for a long time, just to make normal, everyday noises more bearable. Screens were a no-no, words and letters turned into frantic ants that ran around confusing and hurting my eyes and brain. Car journeys were torture because of the movement and hum of the engine, I couldn’t stand it, so I sat, and I sat, and did not much else for months on end, and I waited.
Now, I know that the tablets I was put on probably didn’t suit me very well. The doctor had warned me that it would be pretty hardcore as he weaned me on them and progressively increased the dose to the level he needed to. Nothing could have prepared me for the actual process though, and although he did offer to try a different type of medication when how ill they made me became apparent, I refused to switch and instead decided to ride it out. I couldn’t face my body having to deal with coming off the hell pills, and then learning to cope with something else. It may have been great, but I knew I couldn’t take the risk of making it worse. Although I couldn’t really see how it could be worse. Go hard or go home – they were either going to kill me or be the answer I was looking for …they saved my life. Genuinely, I believe that without them, I’d be pushing up daisies by now.
It was no picnic, I hated them and everything they represented. I hated how much I needed them to function and I hated that one tiny pill a day had saved me when I couldn’t save myself. Slowly, I began to find a new normal. It took months and months, but the horrific side effects started to pass as my brain finished its re-wiring process fuelled by those magical white tabs. What emerged was no colourful butterfly, but I could function and I soon became aware that a day had passed with no tears, then two, then a whole week. Living was an option again, and not a curse.
The tears stopped, probably because my emotions were dulled down to almost non-existence. I mean, I knew how I was feeling, but those feelings didn’t really impact me anymore. They were diluted and it was almost like I was just a bystander, watching myself living from the sidelines. I was numb, mentally and physically. Oddly, that was a relief for a while, but over time I became to realise that although life was no longer hell on earth, not feeling things properly was also not that great.
So now we’re at the point when the sex blogger came to realise that sex just didn’t work anymore. Or rather her body and mind didn’t work for sex anymore. I wasn’t interested, and I didn’t see the point. My body lost the ability to have an orgasm, because it all felt so numb and disconnected. Sure, there was an element of pleasure on the rare occasion that we did try to have sex, but it wasn’t the sheet-gripping, spine-tingling pleasure that I used to know. It was just nice to be close I guess. I was fixed but I was broken, and I struggled to come to terms with the “new me”. Sex was a huge part of our relationship, it had always been a really powerful connection between the two of us right from the very first night we spent together, and the thought that that was now gone was a harder pill to swallow than my mind-bending antidepressants. It scared me. I knew I didn’t want to be dependant on my medication forever, but what if my body never regained its ability to really feel again?
The journey I’ve been on with all this is too long and dull to ever fully share, but I wanted to put some words down to try and explain where I’ve been and why. You all deserve that and for me, it’s part of the process of coming out the other side. I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping that I’ll continue to move forward with what I’ve learnt, which is a lot. I’ve learnt about mental health, about coping mechanisms that work for me and about my own self care. If I’m honest, part of my prolonged absence has been about self care for me. Carnal Queen has always added a pressure into my life, one which I welcomed whole-heartedly when I was able to deal with it, but one which began to drag me down as my mental health began to go on a downward spiral. When I lost the ability to enjoy sex, CQ died. I couldn’t even begin to think about that side of me, and I let her go, because I had to. She highlighted to me where I thought I’d failed, and that just added to the negativity that I was already surrounding myself with. A sex blogger without the capacity to feel pleasure was missing the vital attributes to be in that world, I felt fraudulent, and I knew that I had to walk away for my own sanity.
If I’m honest, I expected Carnal Queen to slowly die a death. I’d enjoyed my time, but I came to accept that me not being present would lead to its demise. I got that wrong, many of you have still been here, even when I haven’t. Thank you. You’ve given me something to come back to, and between you and my rock that is CK, you’ve given me choices.
Life is very different for me now. Is it rosy? Absolutely not, but it’s a million times brighter than it’s been in a very long time. We’re currently hoping to move into a new home in the coming months, and we’re absolutely still the solid team we’ve been right from the very start of our journey together all those years ago. I may have credited the medication with saving my life, but the truth is, without CK I’d have fallen off this planet years ago. He sweeps me up and puts me back on my feet no matter how many times I falter, and if he hadn’t steered me to get the help I needed, I’d never have accepted how ill I was or that I needed an intervention to keep me from slipping into oblivion. I’ve put him through hell, a million thank you’s will never be enough.
Mentally, I think I’ve come to accept that I’ll never be who I was before all of this happened. I lived in silence before, too ashamed to admit my own thoughts and feelings. Suicidal thoughts are still very much a part of who I am, I just don’t let them control me as much as I used to. I talk about them now, because by doing so, I remove their power over me. You can be suicidal and living and functioning just fine, just like you can be laughing and enjoying life around you, but be as depressed as hell. It’s just the way it is. Being suicidal doesn’t mean that I’m going to go and throw myself off the nearest skyscraper anymore, it just means my brain is a total dick. I’ve learnt to wait, because waiting is the biggest life-saver there is. The bad thoughts always move on, I just have to wait for them to fuck off. Waiting and talking – it’s the new way of life for me.
Thankfully, I’m now also medication free. That’s not to say that I’ll stay that way forever, but I feel better equipped now to deal with my mental health. I know what to look for, and when to accept that I need help with things. Coming off them wasn’t particularly nice, but it wasn’t the total horror show that getting them into my system was in the first place. It was 100% my choice, and although it was probably a little too soon, it was something I just had to do. Some of the side effects came back in a milder form as my brain began to learn to cope without medical assistance, but they didn’t last all that long. I guess the re-wiring had to be done in reverse, but thankfully it’s left me in a much stronger place than life pre-antidepressants. It took probably a year for my body and mind to fully readjust, and I can confirm that the final thing to fall back into place was my pleasure sensors! I can’t begin to explain the relief, it was like coming home. If anything, sexual pleasure feels even more intense than it did before. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had some sort of re-set. I’m not mad about it anyway, whatever the reason!
No sex toys have been near my body in a very long time. They’re all in storage, I have nothing with me, and d’ya know what? I kinda miss them! It’s only been in the last few weeks that the spark for things like sex toys has reignited, and I’m enjoying that feeling. I had hundreds at my disposal before, and it’s just a handful of things like my Womanizer, Doxy, We-Vibe Nova and my Liberator Wedge that I’m really mourning – guess I was too spoilt before!
It’s been one hell of a ride, one that I’ve not really enjoyed, but have learnt a lot from. For now, I’m seeing if I can go it alone, and trying not to put myself under too much pressure. CQ is still here somewhere, I’m sure of it. Things will no doubt be a little different than they were before, that’s life, but I’m just happy to be here and able to participate if I’m honest, because that didn’t look like a possibility on the darkest of days. And I can still put fingers to keyboard it seems, which I’m taking as a small win for now! You may see me popping up a little more often, fingers crossed! CK will carry on being the front of Carnal Queen for now, and I’ll be staying away from “anti-social” media for a while longer. Softly and slowly for the foreseeable, because that’s the way I need it to be. And that’s okay.
If you’re going through something similar, please know that there is light on the other side. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I promise you, there is. Getting the help you need is not a sign of weakness or failure, I learnt that the hard way, but it’s actually a huge sign of your strength. Sometimes we need a little help along the way, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Recognising it is the first step towards getting better. Talk. Wait. Do whatever you need to do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’ve got this, as have I … This is me, and I’m living for it!
¹Statistics from World Health Organisation. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression