The Side Effect of Mental Illness Medications We're Uncomfortable Talking About


It takes a while for the Merriam-Webster online dictionary get to a gender-specific definition of “asexual,” but they do get there: “3: devoid of sexuality.” The kids today over at GenderWiki lump it in with “genderqueer,” which covers everything from transsexual to bisexual. And Wikipedia, which made the most sense to my muddled brain in blue jeans and motorcycle boots, defines asexuality as “the lack of sexual attraction to anyone, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity. It may be considered the lack of a sexual orientation, or one of the variations thereof, alongside heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. It may also be an umbrella term used to categorize a broader spectrum of various asexual sub-identities.”

As I said, that makes the most sense to me. It is somewhere in between the pure physicality of the dictionary and the pure gender politic of the mentioned Wiki. I have always been gleefully balanced along the fence between the properties of boyhood and girlhood, and was only really interested in “sex stuff” during the raging hormone and pressure years of my teens. Even then, I just wasn’t that into it, and I let myself be a victim a lot.

Then there came the medications. First for the bipolar diagnosis, then for the correct, schizophrenia diagnosis. The meds killed my sex drive.

And with my motivation for doing the nasty being low already, it was the first thing to leave town. My boyfriends and girlfriends didn’t like that. There were feelings of betrayal, accusations of my infidelity. I was told I was no longer attracted to them, and in a way, they were right. I was no longer interested in being sweaty and sloppy with them, but I still found them pleasing. That was never properly understood. I feel, in our culture, that sex is just way too important to relationships. It becomes the centerpiece. And without it, everything seems to crumble.

So I stopped having boyfriends and girlfriends, and just had dates. And then my dates didn’t like it. So I stopped having dates. Do you see where this is going? Sex, is apparently very important to people, to the point if even the possibility of it is removed, it makes people tense. When all possibility of all relationships ever evolving into a sexual relationship was ended at the start, people seemed to have no interest in going further. I never got calls back. Friends drifted away, stopped taking calls.

I don’t know if I would be so completely, staunchly asexual if I weren’t on such heavy medication, and hadn’t been for so long. I’m kind of used to it now. I think I would be. I have always been “non-binary,” identifying neither as precisely male nor female. I grew up with short hair, jeans and a gender neutral name, and when I changed my name to my pen name, it also happened to be a gender neutral name.

I’m interested to know how many people have been affected by their medications in this way — whether they are accepting of it, or not. It is something that most people fight? Or is it just another taboo subject that is ignored and just not named?

Because, it has a name. I am giving it a name — “chemical asexuality.” It is important. All but two people I have ever met have proven to me that it is a very big deal. I’m defining it as the inability, when you are taking your medications, and everything else is going swimmingly, to “get it up” in your head. For me, not so much a problem. For the rest of society? I wonder. And Google searches on it have given me nothing on this.

This matters so much to mewith the revolution in sexuality and gender, women’s reproductive freedoms and men’s erectile problems, this issue, which affects so many people who just want to feel better, actually makes us feel worse.

And they are told to live with it, that is is just a part of feeling better.

And that is unacceptable. And it seems like everyone is staying silent. No more. Speak up to your doctor. I’ve never met someone like me, so I’m assuming there are others quite unhappy with their chemical situation, no matter how much we try to smile at inane things now.

What are your experiences with this, and what you do about it? How you have worked through it, or who you have tried to counsel? I’d really like to get a discussion going with patients of all mental health issues with medications that do this. This is a pretty universal problem in the area; it affects a lot of us. And I know not all of y’all are as content with it as I am.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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