Wien: This is Your Libido on Drugs

by Elise Wien | 10/19/16 1:36am

And this is Your Libido on Drugs

In thinking about my roommates and this column, previous weeks’ themes have tied into our shared experiences — we dream together, escape together and experience the world as women together. If and when the women of room 310 have sex, it’s an independent activity. There might be lascivious tales related to our sex lives, but I will not rehash them here for a variety of reasons, namely, my parents read this column. If you’re reading this in print and you’re on the hunt for stories about sex, try Baker-Berry Library (looks like Sixth floor stacks will be your best bet). If you’re reading this online, navigate to popular search engine and search the word “sexy” with literally any noun.

Once, none of the women in room 310 had had sex in so long that one of us asked,

“What if there’s a new sex? What if, you know, if I’ve been out of the game for so long that they changed the way the game is played altogether?”

“A new sex,” my other roommate said, “like what?”

“Exactly, I don’t know. I just think it would be embarrassing if finally I was with someone and I went to do a thing and they were like, woah, woah, what is that? That archaic thing that you’re doing?”

“What if sex happens from a distance?”

“In two different rooms?”

“What if it’s Bluetooth-enabled?”

Incidentally, in recent years, sex toy companies have developed Bluetooth-compatible vibrators for long-distance couples, such that one partner can control the action of the object hundreds of miles away. The niche industry is called “Teledildonics.” We are living in the future.

But I digress, I said I wouldn’t get sensual here, and I don’t want to make you blush in public over the titillating subject of Bluetooth compatibility.

This summer, I started taking SSRIs, a type of antidepressant that increases levels of serotonin in the brain. Summer in the city makes one sluggish enough, with plenty of time spent melting on subway platforms, and my depression made it feel like I was moving through molasses — inexplicably exhausted by the middle of the day. This was the fourth time a medical professional told me that maybe I should try antidepressants, and I thought they might have had a point.

About a week after starting the drug, my energy levels were up, I was more motivated to leave my bed, and I was finding pleasure in things I’d previously enjoyed. The most change came in the form of self-perception; a small mistake at work was not an expression of my worthlessness.

It takes time to think about your mental state. One can’t stay in bed all day if they have a family to support or an early morning job to get to. Therapists are expensive. Having the leisure time to think about your mental health is a luxury.

My roommates have differing positions on how to approach mental health; both aren’t sure they believe in treatment. One points out that it always seems that wealthier white women have diagnoses of anxiety, depression, neuroses. Is it that they have too much time on their hands and are able to diagnose minor mood periods as greater disorders? Are these true diagnoses or just a result of overanalyzing every aspect of their lives — in other words, is it the case that low-income folks are under-diagnosed or that high-income folks are over-diagnosed? Is there a positive feedback loop at work in both communities, wherein higher incidences of diagnoses in higher-income communities lead more people to believe they may suffer from a disorder, while lower incidences of diagnoses in lower-income communities limit the awareness of those same afflictions?

“If you’re distracted, you’re distracted, if you’re anxious, you’re anxious. Everybody gets this way, how necessary is it to medicate? My family, we would never consider something like treatment. If you have a place to be, best believe you’re getting out of bed,” said one roommate.

“Native communities and the medical establishment have a trash history. Native women who went in for services got sterilized as late as the ‘70s. Black women are diagnosed with szichophrenia and multiple personality disorder at rates way higher than white women,” said the other.

This feeds into one of the greatest conundrums of our healthcare system: The low-income populations are the most at risk and the least able to afford quality treatment.

When I texted my roommates to ask if it was okay to publish this conversation, our messages went as follows:

ME: Hello fronds


ME: i am paraphrasing the mental health discussion we had earlier in the term


ME: can i send u some quotes and u let me know if they’re okay to put in?

CORINNE: It’s 100% fake

KAYURI: when corinne and I discredited it lol

ME: //u put in any edits u want

ME: yes

CORINNE: I’m just like “why was I allowed to be in the room during all of my [family member redacted]’s sessions?”

CORINNE: Fucking county health services


CORINNE: Other q: what do u think beyonces resting heart rate is

...And we returned to more pressing matters.

I’m never going to have their epistemologies, and I’ll never know what it’s like to distrust the healthcare system or to be unable to afford treatment. This is such a privilege, one-upped only by the privilege of living with these two radiant moonstones who can take down mental health care in one rhetorical swoop.

But away from incisive critiques on modern Western healthcare and back to what really matters: my libido.

The efficacy of SSRIs is an open debate within the medical community (see “Should We Still Listen to Prozac? Peter D. Kramer Jumps Back Into the Antidepressant Debate,” a book review published in The New York Times the month I started medication). But I firmly felt like my energy levels were renewed, my interests piqued and I was back in a state of “feeling like myself again,” in all areas except for my interest in sex. SSRIs can limit the intensity of feeling, which means lows won’t feel so low; some who take the medication find it difficult to cry at all. Though this may seem like a numbing effect for some, it was exactly what I needed. When I was depressed, I’d say my #1 activity was lying in bed and staring at the wall, followed closely by random crying on the train next to uncomfortable commuters, prompted by absolutely nothing.

It might be the new interiority I’m feeling, much more comfort by myself, much more pleasure derived from things that were previously miserable, but the thought of sex is comparable to the satisfaction I get from scratching an itchy mosquito bite or eating a piece of chocolate. Once, over the summer, I found myself looking at the muted TV during sex. It was right after the Pulse nightclub shooting, and the Democrats were staging a sit-in in the Senate in an effort to push through gun legislation. I kept positioning myself strategically so that I could keep watching the hot, hot CNN action. At first I was disappointed that neither party thought to turn it off before intercourse, but then I found myself equally interested in both dramas.

A decreased libido isn’t at all the end of the world. I’m definitely doing more homework, for example. I suppose there’s pressure to take hold of your youth; 20 isn’t exactly the typical age for sexual malaise. A final option is that I’m pickier now, that I value myself more and I want the people I engage with to bring me satisfaction. If I don’t see a partner as emotionally and intellectually stimulating, the question of attraction is erased. Maybe Depressed Elise sought validation through sex, and this new decrease in libido is just an increase in self-worth. I’ll investigate and report back. For now, though, I’ll return to room 310, The Castle of Celibacy, and put on the least sexy pajamas I can find and postulate about the New Sex with a couple of old maids.