Sex and Depression: The Real Story

A strange shot of a couple watching the sun set with a deer staring at them

One of the most common side effects of a number of antidepressant medications is loss of sex drive. I could forgive our friends at fine companies such as Eli Lilly, Bristol Meyers Squibb, and Pfizer if dry mouth, irritability, disrupted sleep patterns, loss of appetite, sloth, and social phobia were the sole issues related to the medications I take on a daily basis. However, it is the sex thing I find most challenging.

I am a normal (ha!) 52-year-old father of four, in that sex is on my mind approximately 85% of the day and night, as opposed to 98% when I graduated from college just 30 years ago. I believe a 13% decline in libido is pretty good for a major depressive over a three-decade stretch of time. There are good reasons other than poor mental health for this dip in desire. Let’s face it: I don’t look the same as I did then. Those were the days of tanned olive skin, a full head of sun-streaked, neck-length hair, and a devil may care attitude. Though I weigh about the same as I did back then, I look about 150 years older. There are wrinkles everywhere on my face, about 1/3 the amount of hair, a hell of a lot of it gray, and eyelids that droop to my knees. So much for the advantages of aging.

Make no mistake, my wife is super hot. She is just a few years younger than me and looks at least 10 years younger than that. She has a pin-up body, very curvy, and gorgeous hair and eyes. My favorite hidden desires are watching her get prepped and dressed for work in the morning and following her around on those rare shopping sprees when she is on a mission to update her wardrobe. She favors clingy fabrics that generate a flamboyant look. She likes sexy shoes and when we go out she puts on a lot of make-up, which I love. She is a major babe.

Back in the pre-Prozac days, it was normal for me to become aroused just looking at her getting dressed. But now things are different. The “equipment” is on the fritz. Because of the drugs orgasms can take up to a week to achieve. My wife expects slightly better performance. I am left to sigh, look down and ask, “what is wrong with you?” The “equipment” gives no answer.

Like many women, my wife makes no effort to hide the fact she likes men. In times prior to my initial use of medication to treat depression, this was no bother at all. It was a good sign. I knew that when I came into the line of focus I would benefit from being an object of her attention. It happened all the time.

Not much any more, though. The reality of her attitude toward men stands in stark contrast to my lack of “the urge.” This hit home prior to a recent surgical procedure. A few minutes before she was taken into the operating room, her surgeon came by to see how she was feeling and to answer any questions either of us had. As he walked away after the brief conversation, she uttered the line that has become a trademark, “I could go for him.” I understood. He was young, tall and slender, soft-spoken, smart as hell, and gave her all the time she needed.

I knew that in a few minutes she would be under sedation, on a bed in a quiet room, vulnerable. I imagined a scenario: the Doc asking his anesthesiologist, the nurse, and another attendant to leave the room. “Please leave us alone for a few minutes,” he says quietly. “I am overcome by desire. Her beauty consumes me.”

The operation then resumes and when it concludes she is brought to recovery holding hands with Doc and there is smile on her face that I have never been seen before. They kiss deeply and he disappears behind a curtain. She sees me and says, “oh, it’s you.”

Being formerly secure in my masculinity, I have never had these kinds of thoughts before. But rather than beat myself up about it I have decided to pray that, as my sex drive reappears, I will have another chance with her. I know this. Well, maybe not so much know as hope like hell. In the face of doubt I also take solace in science. Based on a weighted average using data I have accumulated over the past 9-12 months, I am confident we will have sex again sometime in midsummer, 2004.

In the meantime I am thinking of applying to medical school.


Skip Corsini is a writer and consultant living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be reached at scorsini@sbcglobal.net.

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