Depression doesn't play fair, especially when it comes to your sex drive

Jul 5, 2016 at 7:35 p.m. ET
Image: Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto/Getty Images

I've suffered from depression my entire life, but it didn't really affect my libido (noticeably) until I got married. See, when you date a guy for three months, he doesn't often have time to notice your mental health. I certainly didn't have "the depression talk" with one-night stands. Then I got married, and sometimes things got bad.

I'm not talking about bad for my marriage. Well, not at first. At first, my depression was personal. It would wax and wane but only really affect me. I would have good weeks and bad weeks. Then I went through a dreaded, now infamous period where I was depressed — seriously depressed — for more than a month with no hope in sight.

I'm lucky I was a writer because I didn't have to leave the house. I couldn't bring myself to shower or eat. I could barely work. The last thing on my mind was sex. But let's face it: Sex is a part of marriage. Hell, sex is and should be a part of life, and I was not only missing out on sex, but I was also missing out on life.

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When you're severely depressed, you don't feel sexy. You don't want to wear lingerie. You don't even want to wear pants… and that's not because you're wandering around in thigh highs. The smallest, simplest tasks seem impossible, so the thought of digging out condoms and getting it on is akin to climbing Everest.

Plus, in the thralls of severe depressive episodes, you feel ugly. I even wrote mean notes to myself — a holdover from my suicidal teen years. My husband, bless him, did his best to be patient. He'd never had depression before, so he didn't understand all its evil nuances. Still, he knew a crying wife does not a sex kitten make.

At first, I went about things incorrectly. I thought I could just focus on bringing my libido back. I started taking damiana, an herbal supplement intended to increase libido and act as an aphrodisiac. I started seriously reading erotica. I'd always dabbled, but during my fugue state, I read erotica instead of eating because the last thing depression lets you do is eat. I even watched porn.

It helped. A bit. I mean, my husband and I had sex, but I wasn't fully engaged. I was too busy crying in the bathtub. Even an orgasm wasn't enough to make me smile. How messed up is that?

When I say I went about things incorrectly, here's what I mean: My low libido wasn't low just because. My libido was low because of the depression. I should have been treating the depression and, in doing so, heal what really ailed me.

More: We don't talk enough about how anxiety disorders change our sex lives

So what did I do next? With the support of my husband, I went clean and herbal. I stopped drinking alcohol, at least for a while. An herbalist friend of mine invented an antidepressant tea for me. I started taking chaste tree supplements, an herb intended to ease the symptoms of PMS. I left the house to go to the gym. I left the house to hang out with friends. I watched funny movies and avoided watching the national news.

Slowly, like the sun creeping out from behind a cloud, I started to come back. I felt the depression begin to shake off my shoulders. I also felt my sex drive. Although I didn't bound into the bedroom like Dita Von Teese, I felt sexy again — and my husband noticed.

Depression stole my sex drive. It also almost stole my job and my friends. It's a taker disease. It takes, takes and keeps taking… until you start taking things back. By finding the right treatment and lifestyle, I took custody of my mental health and my libido. I still have bad days (and probably always will), and my sex drive does the occasional nosedive. But at least I now know how to fight back because damn it, I deserve sex. So do you.