Saturday, October 23, 2010

On Dealing with Doubts

I know my horribly diminished sex drive is mostly due to medications and my newly-diagnosed GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). I know that it is not my fault. Through working with my therapist, I've started learning to not blame myself for things I cannot control. But still, in those dark hours while you wait to fall asleep, when doubts come creeping, I wonder.

I wonder, why am I broken? Why, no matter what I do, can't I keep my libido from flatlining? Every time I change my birth control method, I get a few months of having a half-decent sex drive, but eventually it always nose-dives again. For medical reasons, I have to hormonally regulate and shrink my periods (unchecked, they cause anemia), but I've reached what my gynecologist has said is the "last" option as far as shrinking side effects go. Sterilization would do nothing for my periods. IUD can cause heavier periods; anything more, and I'd be bleeding for half the darn cycle. Besides, the anemia my periods caused makes me illegible for an IUD. Currently, I'm on the Ring. It's the lowest concentration of hormones you can get floating around in your system while still being useful; if this doesn't eliminate the side effects, no hormonal method will. And most of my side effects did go away - just not the libido issues.

I wonder, are my libido issues even directly caused by my medication any more? Sure, the hormones were the original cause. (Yaz sucked, big time) But... I've changed pills. I've changed dosing methods. Most gals don't get these issues with every single drug they try. By Occam's Razor, it's still being caused by the hormones I can't safely quit. But, because of my ugly GAD, I doubt, I question, I wonder if it really is my fault.

I wonder, is my lack of desire for sex slowly killing my relationship with my boyfriend? We went from two years of jump-each-other-at-the-slightest-excuse to once every month or two in the space of a few months. I know he's been fighting the "does she not love me any more?" demons, because he knows that for me, sex is always about love. I don't do no-strings-attached sex. Even when I had a raging sex drive, the desire didn't get pumping unless I was really feelin' the love. I still love him. I still really, really enjoy the sex we have, but I usually don't want to have sex until my first orgasm hits (or he spends twenty minutes worshipping my labia with his mouth. That feels good even if I have no desire for sex). We both feel so much more connected after sex, but most of the time, until we're actually doing it, I have no desire, no "need" for sex. And he has needs, too. A little voice in the back of my head reminds me that if he were like many guys, he'd have left by now, or would be cheating on me. I know he isn't, and wouldn't... but I have no way of knowing if he's regretting his decision to commit to me.

I wonder, is there more I could be, should be doing to "fix" my languishing libido? I haven't tried supplements, or sprays. I have a balm that causes lovely sensations and helps me get going, but I never have the desire to put it on... because I don't desire sex. Why use something to stimulate desire if I'm apathetic toward the whole thing. I haven't tried couple's therapy; I know that some of my lack of sex drive has to do with problems in our relationship, but I keep rationalizing the way I shy from this option by thinking that we both need to get our mental health issues (my GAD, his ADD) under control first. Also, we're poor college students. We can't afford couple's therapy, and there's no way in hell my insurance will cover it.

I wonder, is there some deep, dark corner of my mind that doesn't want sex? A part of me, outside my conscious awareness, that isn't just apathetic towards sex, but is actively against it? Have I so deeply internalized my family, religion, and culture's demands that I not have sex until marriage, and then definitely not with kink? Or worse yet, the question that arises on the latest of insomniac nights - has some part of me given up on this relationship with the guy who is my rock, my partner, my comfort, my jester, my reality check, my exasperation, my beloved? I want to make us work, I want to spend the rest of my life with him, but... what if some demented corner of my mind has just said "fuck it"?

I wonder, I worry, I fear. But now, I've started learning to fight back. I'm a scientist, damn it! I'm an intellectual. The bodypart I prize most is my cerebral cortex, my dear brain. I'm going to reason my way out of this deep, dark funk, because I deserve better than this!

Am I broken?
Maybe. There's always a chance that some hormonal process got all bzonked to pieces, but you know what? Medication side effects are FAR more likely. I'm on hormonal birth control. I've been on and off methylprednisolone, which plays hell with the hormones. I've got low vitamin B12, which among other things can tank the libido. Over the years, we've found that my body is incredibly sensitive to most medications, so I'm very likely to be having side effects to something.

All of which means, I'm not broken. If I take a step back and pretend I'm looking at someone else's life, I've got it pretty damn good - at least I enjoy the sex I do have. Hell, I'm still wildly multi-orgasmic. Boo-freakin-hoo, I have trouble getting started. At least I enjoy it when I can make it that far.

Am I hypochondriaching my lack-of-libido side effects?
Seriously? I've never, ever had issues with hypochondria. Yeah, I get side effects to many prescription meds, but they usually show up before I go read the side effects list to begin with. If I was "faking" it, that would mean that I would have to be a psychic to pull that list out of the aether. Right. Sounds real plausible, doesn't it?

Am I ruining my relationship?
Yeah, we're going through a rough patch. Ok, call it a rough year. We're having communication issues, but the root of those issues is benign, not sinister - we both hide the things we think would just make our partner worry about us. (So we're a bit over-protective of each other, hahah) We're working on it. We've gotten the dialogue going, and after some long talks we've re-committed to doing everything we can to make this work.

On top of all that, is the lack of sack time hurting us? Probably, but it's not the main element of the problems. He understands that I have no sex drive. He has told me over and over that he intellectually knows that it's not his fault, and he never blames me for it. He knows I still love him, sex or no sex. Once he even told me that if something happened and I could never have sex again, he'd still love me and cherish me and want to marry me. Sex, while a wonderful way to express our love (and have a hell of a lot of fun doing so), is not the foundation of our relationship.

And I totally need to shut my inner voice up about the whole "does he regret it" shpeil. He's told me that he never, ever regretted committing to me. Yeah, he wishes that we didn't have to deal with my health issues, but he wishes that because he hates seeing me in pain, not because he wishes he was gettin' some. I need to learn to just accept his love and trust, without wondering if I deserve it.

Am I not doing enough to try?
Alright, stop it right there. No more of this toxic "coulda, shoulda" talk. I'm doing what I feel comfortable doing right now. There is no "should be" doing anything. There are options I am not pursuing, but you know what? That's ok. I'm not Wonder Woman, for crying out loud. These options are open to me, if and when I feel that I need them and am ready to pursue them. Until then? If I'm not ready, they're not going to do a damn bit of good, because I'll take them to mean I'm broken.

Am I anti-sex?
If I'm going to worry about this, it's time to stop just fretting and drag it out into the light, analytic style, the way my professors trained me. Yes, I have to some degree internalized the anti-premarital-sex ideas that float around me. It was bound to happen, the personality traits that made me susceptible to GAD make it all too easy for me to internalize what other people think. The first step to fighting it off, though, is self-knowledge. I know it's there. Now, I can argue with it, pick it apart until it falls into the insubstantial fluff it really is.

Am I giving up on my boyfriend?
Ok, let's look at this seriously. I have a feeling it's going to look really, really stupid once it's fully articulated. I believe that I love him. I care deeply for him, on a thousand different levels. And it torments me that something in me is sabotaging my relationship? Reality check... if I'd given up on us, this wouldn't bug me. I'd be relieved. It's like the old saying - if you're worried that you might be going insane, then you must be sane. If the thought of damaging our relationship hurts me so much, then obviously it still means a great deal to me.

I'm not broken. I'm not defective. I'm not trying to sabotage my relationship. It's hard to fight the doubts, when they come creeping in late at night, but I can beat them back. You can, too. That first step back from the fears is the hardest, but it gets easier. That little bit of perspective makes it all a hell of a lot easier to deal with.

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