Antidepressants: My Longest Relationship

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I have depression. Apart from a brief period between 19 and 21 where I struggled along drug-free, I have been on antidepressants for my entire adult life.

A white woman's tattooed lower legs, wearing black high heels and black knickers around her ankles. By Hot Octopuss. For a post on antidepressants and sex.Today, I wanted to share a few true stories about how these drugs, which probably saved my life, have interacted with my sex life with occasionally hilarious, sometimes sad and frequently frustrating results.

That Time I Didn’t Have Sex for 9 Months

A pretty older woman with long flowing hair, wearing a patterned shirt. Sitting at a table with a mug in front of her, smiling into the camera. By Hot Octopuss, for a post on antidepressants and sex.My first go with antidepressants came when I was 18. I was in a horrible corporate job that was basically slowly ripping out my soul. My boyfriend was abusive (though I couldn’t name it as abuse at the time). I was trying to come to terms with my bisexuality. And most of my friends had gone off to university, leaving me isolated and lonely in my hometown. It was a bad time.

I went to see my GP, adamant I didn’t want medication. What did I want? Just someone to talk to, I think. To feel less alone. They told me I wasn’t sick enough for counselling, and sent me away with a prescription for Prozac.

Prozac and Amy, it turns out, are not friends. It took me from depressed to suicidal. It gave me horrible heartburn and killed my appetite such that I lost a stone in a few short weeks. And worst of all, it killed my sex drive. I couldn’t feel anything, I didn’t want anyone touching my body, and I was so sad and exhausted that evenings and weekends were for mindless TV, naps, and the kind of writing that only comes out of me when I’m trying to stay alive,  not for hot passionate sessions or dirty quickies in the kitchen.

During that time, my boyfriend raped me a handful of times, but I didn’t have consensual sex for about 9 months.

That Time I Discovered My Denial Kink

A male/female couple lying on a bed, face down, him on top of her nuzzling her face. By Hot Octopuss for a post about antidepressants and sex.I’ve already written about how I came to be on Citalopram at the age of 21 (be warned if you click the link, it’s not a pleasant story). A few weeks into that saga, my boyfriend (a different boyfriend to the one discussed above, this one even more abusive) and I were having sex. I was rubbing my clit while he finger-fucked me, a surefire way to get me off. And I just… couldn’t get there. It wasn’t happening. My vulva became sore, and then numb, as I kept chasing that elusive orgasm that just. would. not. come.

Loss of orgasm when on antidepressants is, it turns out, extremely common. So why didn’t my GP mention this to me when they gave me the prescription and we discussed possible side effects? Why didn’t the leaflet included with the pills, which I read religiously three times before popping the first one, say a single word about sexual side effects? Probably because our culture doesn’t regard women’s orgasms as important. And certainly not depressed women’s orgasms. So when I asked for help, my doctor essentially said, “trouble with orgasm is the price you pay for not being depressed”. Okay then.

I made it my mission to learn how to orgasm again while on the medication – which, in all other ways, really was helping me! I masturbated until I was too sore to carry on. My partner and I had sex in all kinds of different positions and configurations. Being poor and without access to good toys at the time, I tried with the vibrators I had. But they were too weak to get me anywhere. It took me a month before I finally reached orgasm again, after over an hour with a high-powered vibrator borrowed from my metamour.

During that month, I was pissed off – at myself, at my doctor, at the pills – and frustrated as all hell. But I was also… more turned on than I had ever been in my life. I soon realised that I kind of enjoyed the ache that came from having a really good sex or masturbation session but not reaching orgasm. I liked the submissive feelings I got when my partner came and I didn’t. When he laughed at my frustration during a particularly Dominant moment… woof. And when my orgasm finally reared its elusive head once more, it was the most explosive one I’d ever had.

I was relieved to have the option to orgasm again, of course. But I’d had a taste of something I liked. I started playing with edging and waiting before coming, both in my masturbation and during sex with my partner.

And that, friends, is how citalopram taught me I have an orgasm denial kink.

That Time I Started Coming Off My Medication

A woman's body from behind, wearing jeans and naked on the top half. She has long flowing hair. By Hot Octopuss, for a post about antidepressants and sex.Which brings me to a couple of months ago. Together with my doctor (a new one, who is amazing) I’m working on coming off citalopram. This is because, having been medicated since the age of 21, I don’t actually know what I’m like without it any more. And I want to find out.

The first two weeks on a half dose were hell. I was crying endlessly, arguing with my partner, barely sleeping, and pretty much oscillating between numbness and crushing, unbearable sadness. And, for that period and a little longer while my body adjusted, my sex drive went haywire.

Specifically: I was horny as hell every moment I wasn’t sobbing, but I at the same time I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone touching my genitals, including myself. It was disconcerting and strange to say the least. My body was all “yeah, lets go!” while my brain wasn’t having any of it.

And Now… What Next?

Mercifully, things have calmed down. I’m still on the journey towards coming off the antidepressants, currently on a half dose with a view to cutting down further in the next few weeks. But the effects on my sex life so far have been fascinating.

Firstly, I’m finding I can come more quickly and easily than I used to when I was on the full dose, especially while masturbating. Gentler toys or my fingers can get me off more often and more reliably. I still love my power tool vibrators, of course, but it’s not all about them now. I can have multiple orgasms more quickly, and more often. And I’m enjoying more than ever experimenting with different sensations, and trying out all kinds of new, different and interesting toys.

The Hot Octopuss company logo.

Heads up: this post was sponsored by the wonderful people at Hot Octopuss, who make fantastic and innovative sex toys for both penises and vulvas. Check out their stuff, particularly my personal favourite, the Queen Bee. Images are property of Hot Octopuss and not to be used without their express permission. A banner ad for sex toy company Hot Octopuss, who sponsored a post on sex and mental health

Ten Things I’m Taking TO Eroticon

Many of you may remember last year’s Ten Things I Took Home From Eroticon blogging meme started by the lovely Jenny. Well, I decided to turn it on its head and, with just a week and a half to go until this year’s ‘Con, tell you a little about ten things I’m planning on taking with me this year.

1. My name

Last year’s Eroticon, I wasn’t Amy Norton yet. I was using a haphazard mix of my kink scene name, a diminutive of my legal name, and just ‘Coffee&Kink’/’CK’. I’d toyed with different names but none of them felt quite right.

This year, though, I’m comfortably sitting in this identity (so much so that select people in my offline life now call me Amy, and I love it).

Hi. I’m Amy. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

2. A schedule

Last year, I pretty much went in blind to Eroticon. I’d glanced over the schedule, but being a newbie I decided to mostly go with the flow and go to whatever felt right in the moment.

This time, though, I’ve got a much more curated workshops plan in order to get what I want the most out of the ‘Con. In case you were wondering, it is as follows:

Saturday:
Taboo (Remittance Girl)
Making Money from Your Blog (Kayla Lords)
Legal Tips for Sex Writers (Neil Brown)
Podcasting Panel (Kayla Lords & John Brownstone)
Different Approaches to Sex Toy Activism (Emmeline Peaches)
KinkLab

Sunday:
Is There a Book in Your Blog? (Cressida Dowling)
Getting It Up (Fetish.com)
Shocking the System (Kendra Holliday)
How to Give Responsible Sex Advice (panel)
Financial Wizardry for Sex Bloggers (Sarah Bryn Holliday & Sarah Jane)

Naturally, I’ll also be attending the Friday evening pre-drinks and the Saturday evening social. Other plans include a pre-‘Con run with Emmeline, dinner with Sarah, and food and recording a podcast with Kayla and John of Loving BDSM. Of course, my planned schedule is flexible if I find I’m really not in the mood for something at the time, but this is a good cross-section of stuff I want to learn plus all the workshops I consider ‘unmissable’ this year!

3.The signature kitty ears

I wasn’t expecting these to be such a hit last year! To be honest, I wasn’t even expecting to be the only person in feline-themed headwear! I just wore them because they make me feel more confident and they help me to tap into my kinky, sexy, sparkly self. But I got so many compliments on them and people remembered me for them (I literally pitched an article to Girl on the Net with an email that included a sentence along the lines of ‘if you don’t remember me, I was the one with the ears’.)

Yeah, they’re definitely coming with me again this year. I might even pack a couple of different pairs. Yes, I have daywear ears and formal ears. Doesn’t everyone!?

4. The Catsuit of Joy

Remember this one? It was a review item/gift from my friends at Latex Leather & Lace and the cause of The Boobs That Made Straight Girls Question Their Heterosexuality.

Yes, I’m planning on wearing it on Saturday night. Yes, I will also be pairing it with the aforementioned signature ears. And yes, you have my full consent to stare at my chest as much as you like.

5. (Small) sex toys

I’m not interested in hooking up at Eroticon, but I did realise last year that hearing so much glorious smut during the day would inevitably lead me to needing to have a quick wank back in my hotel room before bed. Couple this with the fact that citalopram withdrawal has made my sex drive go a bit haywire this last week or so, and… yeah.

I’m gonna be short on packing space but I think the Tango and MiMi will fit nicely in my case.

6. Fabulous femme things

I can’t wait to get my femme on at Eroticon. I’m already planning makeup experiments of the kind I don’t normally attempt. There will be glitter, for sure, because I need to make the most of this opportunity as I am no longer allowed to wear glitter at home (you get it in the sofa ONE time…!) There will also be jewellery, made for me by my sweetie The Artist, getting its first outing that weekend.

7. A portable coffee mug and good coffee

Um, hey. Have you met me? I’m obsessed with coffee and would probably replace my blood with it if I wouldn’t die. I just ordered myself an awesome new travel mug, which is coming with me and will be filled permanently with coffee in order to keep me going at top capacity through the whirlwind of the weekend. I’ll probably also bring a stash of coffee bags, because I find the coffee most venues serve leaves a lot to be desired. (Yes, I’m a snob.)

8. My Fuck.com notebook

This was in the goodie bags at Eroticon 2017 and it’s still my favourite notebook to scribble smutty notes in. I’ll be frantically taking notes and story ideas and sound-bites and hanging on every word my favourite presenters have to say!

9. Hugs to give out

There are so many people I want to cuddlepounce the fuck out of next weekend. I will be coming with my best hugging arms and ready to wrap them around anyone who consents.

10. Realness

Last night, I was panicking that I haven’t achieved all of the things I wanted to achieve ahead of this year’s Eroticon. I haven’t lost 50lb, or finished my novella. I haven’t quit my job to spend my days writing about dildos (okay, that one is a pipe dream rather than an actual plan) or completely weaned myself off my antidepressants. Hell, I haven’t even finished my PhD application!

But then I realised: it doesn’t matter. I can bring my realness to Eroticon. I can be a hot mess in all my hot, messy glory, and it will be okay. These are my people and this is my community and I can be both a fabulous, smut-loving sparklefemme AND an anxious wreck with a hefty dose of imposter syndrome. Both of these things can be true. It will be okay.

I think  the theme of this Eroticon for me will be: I am.

If you’re there too, come say hello!

I’m very friendly. Talk to me about BDSM, sex toys, smashing the patriarchy, what you’re reading lately, musical theatre, coffee, sex ed reform, feminist fiction, femme identity or non-monogamy. Or just tell me about your work and I’ll lap it up.

If you want to support my work and help me keep attending conferences like Eroticon, which are the highlight of my year but also expensive, you can buy me a virtual coffee, shop with my affiliates in the right-hand sidebar, or become a Sexy Patron to access some exciting bonus content. (I’m considering audio clips for Patreon supporters, so there’s that to look forward to!) Thank you to Oliver, my newest Patreon supporter.

Sex Not Stigma: Using My Sexuality to Manage My Mental Health

Content note: this post discusses mental health struggles in detail and includes slurs and a brief reference to suicide.

Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay. Thousands of brave people have spoken out about their struggles with various mental health conditions. I shared a little bit of my story on Twitter too, if you’re interested. Short version: I live with depression and anxiety.

I use a whole litany of tools to manage my mental health. I take medication, I’m working with The Best Therapist Ever, and I’ve learned to effectively regulate my physical and mental energy levels. I’ve also consistently found sex, masturbation and kink to be really useful and positive items in this toolbox.

A black and white picture of a heterosexual-read couple, sitting together with the woman's head resting on the man's shoulder in an affectionate fashion. They both have dark hair and the man has a beard and tattoos. Pixture by Hot Octopuss and given for a sponsored post about Mental Health Week.

#SexNotStigma

It is ridiculous to me that today, in twenty-freaking-seventeen, that there is STILL such stigma around both mental illness and sex. They are two of the great taboos that plague our society.

As a woman, admitting that you like to have sex can be a radical – and dangerous – act.  Speaking up about a mental health struggles is risky and brave for anybody to do. Words like “crazy” and “psycho” are thrown around with abandon. People with mental health issues are routinely portrayed as dangerous. Services that actually help us are thin on the ground and getting cut left, right and centre. Being a woman who talks about sex and is also open about her mental health. Ohhh, boy…

I’ve had my promiscuity chalked up to my mental health conditions more times than I can count. (“Poor girl, she’s acting out sexually because she’s depressed” at best, or “crazy whore!” at worst.) Interestingly, the same has also been true in reverse (“you wouldn’t be so depressed if you’d stop sleeping around!”) But that’s not how this works! I’m a proud slut[1] AND I have a mental health condition. One did not cause the other and ceasing one[2] will not “cure” the other.

The #SexNotStigma campaign aims to break taboos when it comes to talking about sex, including that surrounding sex and mental health. This post is my attempt to add my voice to that vital conversation.

I wrote recently about how I don’t think “don’t play when you’re depressed” is useful or realistic advice, and today I want to expand on that and talk about why, far from being off-limits when I’m low, sexuality has probably helped save my life more than once.

Sex: intimacy, connection, love.

Some people want to be left alone and can’t bear to be touched when they’re depressed. My experience is usually the opposite. I want to be around the people I love and trust, to connect with them in deep and profound ways. Sex is one of the ways in which I connect with some of the important people in my life. Therefore, honestly, fucking my brains out (or at least fucking my sadness out for a while) is one of the best ways a partner can help me when I’m struggling.

Sex reminds me, viscerally and in the moment, that I am loved. For me, mental health wise, a really good fuck with someone I love is basically a cuddle on speed. Throw in a few dozen orgasms (yes, your girl over here is SUPER multi orgasmic) and you will see a marked improvement in the happiness of your Amy.

Sex helps me to focus on all the joyful things – pleasure, love, connection, vulnerability, sensation – in a world that’s fucked.

Sex literally reminds me that there’s so much to live for.

Masturbation: the ultimate self-love.

Self-loathing is a feature of my depression and an unwelcome visitor that likes to pop in from time to time. I’ve learned that the best way to combat it is to be excessively kind to myself – the way you’d be kind to a partner, friend or child who was in pain. Sometimes I take myself out for coffee and cake. Sometimes I give myself permission to stay in bed, read and nap – take a “mental health day,” if you will. And sometimes, I masturbate!

Aside from the obvious benefits of all the happy chemicals that are released at the point of orgasm, masturbation is a means of reminding myself that I am worthy and deserving of pleasure. And on the occasions when romantic rejection or the ending of a relationship triggers my depression, masturbation reminds me that my sexual (and loving!) relationship with myself is the first, last and most important one of my life.

Who needs that git who dumped me when you have cutting edge sex toys, am I right?

Kink: freedom in bondage.

Submitting to a safe partner can be really positive for me when I’m feeling low.

Kink, especially pain play, pulls me out of my head and into my body. It’s hard to be sad when all I can think about is the hand spanking my ass! It’s grounding. It makes all the noise in my head go quiet.

Submission makes me feel useful. When I feel worthless, a well-timed “good girl” can do wonders. To know that I am pleasing somebody else, that I am serving them, gives me a purpose. It reminds me that I have value.

Kink gives me permission to be vulnerable. Play gives me chance to cry if I need to, to scream if I want to, to get pent-up emotions out. It releases me from the responsibility of decision making, of caring for myself or anyone else, even if only for a short time. It gives me permission to just be.

Discovering new paths to pleasure

Mental illness can impact sexuality in many ways. In particular, feeling very low can make it difficult to get in the right headspace to enjoy sex or orgasm. Certain types of common antidepressants including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can also cause erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia. When I first started taking citalopram – a common SSRI – I lost my ability to orgasm for a month.

Was it hell? Yes. Did it also teach me something valuable, namely that I kinda have an orgasm denial kink? Also yes. While this is something I prefer to be voluntary and not drug-induced, going through this experience taught me something really valuable about my fetishes. So there’s value in that.

Problems such as ED and anorgasmia suck (if you’ll pardon the pun) but they also force you to get creative. I finally broke through my month-long dry spell with a high powered vibrator. That’s how I learned that I love really intense vibration! If your cock isn’t getting hard in the way you want it to, you might discover other routes to sexual bliss that you’d never have previously considered or bothered to try.

Integrating the two

I’ve come to terms, over ten years of having a formally diagnosed mental health condition, that it’s not going away. It’s with me for life and I am better off learning how to manage it than hoping it will disappear. Just like a diabetic would take insulin every day, I take my antidepressants to keep me healthy. (Conceptualising my illness as being exactly comparable to a physical health issue – BECAUSE IT IS – has been surprisingly empowering.)

I’ve also grown into my sexuality in the last ten years. From a girl who was terrified to admit, even in a whisper, that she liked girls and might want to be spanked, I’ve grown into a woman who owns her desires and explores them unapologetically.

And, crucially, I’ve learned to integrate these two things. When my bisexual, kinky and non-monogamous identities ceased to be sources of shame, my mental health directly improved as a result. When my condition started to be properly managed, my sex life improved instantly. And when I learned to use my sexuality to enhance my mental health, I gained a tool that has saved my life.

[1] Yay, reclaiming slurs!
[2] Because you can totally choose to stop being mentally ill, right?

This post was kindly sponsored by the lovely folks at Hot Octopuss, a fantastic and innovative sex toy company who are committed to tackling taboos around sex. Check out their brilliant range of products, including the new Queen Bee, and their blog, where they talk sex, health and stigma. They’ve even offered a discount code for Coffee & Kink readers – use CK10 to get 10% off (and send a little bit of support my way.) All opinions are, and will always be, my own.

A banner ad for sex toy company Hot Octopuss, who sponsored a post on sex and mental health