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Reconnecting With My Sexuality as Someone With Depression

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

One of the things I find when reading about recovering from depression, is that there’s not always much focus on sexuality. There’s a lot about learning to love ourselves, being kind to our body, setting boundaries and how to live day-to-day, but not how to be comfortable in our sexual-self. I can imagine it’s often overlooked because for many, it is not the easiest topic to talk about. Antidepressants frequently lower a person’s libido as a common side effect, which means sex is often the last thing on our mind. For me, however, sexuality is an important part of my identity and something that I want to explore again.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression over 15 years ago. During that time, I have had periods of improvement, time with severe physical health issues affecting my mobility and a time within an emotionally abusive and manipulative relationship. I have had times where I have used sex as a coping mechanism, a distraction and a punishment. I am polyamorous; currently living with my partner and his fiancée, bisexual and into BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism).

Two years ago, I was at my worst ever mentally. A combination of my severe depression and “people pleasing” behavior had led me into an online relationship with an old “friend” that — under the guise of BDSM and my submissive nature — became emotionally abusive. I had pushed my closest friends and family away feeling like I deserved to be treated badly. I convinced myself that the extreme pornography I was looking at was something I was interested in, not because it turned me on but because I thought I was less than human and should be treated that badly myself. I told myself that I didn’t matter, not really. I became suicidal. I did things that I regret and will for the rest of my life, but I am trying to move forward…trying to heal. Part of that is trying to reconnect with my sexuality.

After everything that has happened I’m finding it hard to let myself be sexual. It makes me vulnerable. I am in an incredibly loving and caring relationship with someone who is patient and amazing. He has been there through everything, has forgiven my poor judgement and lying, based on the fact it came from a dark place. We have a brilliant relationship with each other, until it comes to intimacy. I find that I can’t let go of my fear, my memories, my demons. I know that time will help, as it always does, but this goes right into the core of my being. My sexuality is important to me, but I am scared of falling into the same patterns of behavior. I’m scared that I have conditioned myself to be a “people pleaser” so much that I don’t know where my boundaries are anymore. It’s particularly hard when being submissive is part of who I was. Now, I have no idea if that’s really who I am.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my body, frequently having issues with low self-confidence. I was bullied in school for a combination of my weight, my studious nature and how easily I showed my emotions. However, I had a long term boyfriend from the age of 16 and he made me feel good about myself. We explored sex together. Through our open relationship, I explored my sexuality and came out of my shell. I learned to love myself, even with my flaws. I developed as a person and found a new confidence in myself and for awhile, I was happy, more outgoing and wasn’t scared to make the changes I needed to in my life to stay happy. Unfortunately. I went too far. I became addicted to sex and to the attention I could get from putting myself out there. I ran a NSFW (not safe for work) Tumblr that had thousands of followers and I would chat with guys who messaged me. It felt innocent enough, because they were on the other side of the internet. The problem was that I would push myself further and further because it got more likes, more interactions. Around the same time, my physical health failed me and I spiraled into that dark depression. What started as sexual confidence turned into a way to punish myself for being an awful human being. It got too real when I let in that old “friend,” regressing into that naive 18-year-old that he knew before, with added self-deprecation.

Now that I have come out of the other side of that relationship, I am desperate to find a happy medium. One where I am comfortable with myself and can let myself go and enjoy sex, but I don’t push it too far into a dependency on the attention I can get from sharing my sexuality with the world. I’ve closed most of my social media accounts and am trying to be careful with what pornography I look at online. My partner is being incredibly patient with me, though it is hard for both of us because we have a history and we are having to start from scratch again. But this time, I lack the confidence and the knowledge of what I want. It’s easy to slip back into old habits for a moment, but then I start to overthink and question my motivations. Either that, or I have flashbacks or dissociations due to the trauma of the emotional abuse.

I’m lucky to have come out of this with the chance to overhaul my life. I’m slowly starting to explore the various incidents that led me to making some really poor life choices. My physical health has greatly improved and my mental health is getting better gradually. I have amazing support and the time to work on myself. Somedays, I think back to how sexually free I used to be and I’m filled with loss, wondering if I can ever get to a place where I am that comfortable with myself again. I want to be sure that I am doing everything for the right reasons, without obsessing about what I am doing. I am balancing analyzing my motives with actually letting myself feel and enjoy sensations. It’s hard work. Sex is meant to be fun, not something that leads to massive anxiety. With a combination of therapy, time and patience, I will get there and form a healthy relationship with myself and my sexuality again.

Photo credit: Baltskars /Getty Images

Originally published: June 28, 2019
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