Few things are as surprising as feeling randomly horny on the yoga mat.
Especially if your marriage has been a dead bedroom for years, you’re in the throes of major depressive disorder, and your life is as empty as can be.
Back when I was still practicing yoga daily, sexual urges would occasionally taunt me, an unwelcome reminder of the dearth of human warmth in my life. They’d happen out of the blue as a tingle in the nether regions that would soon dissipate but not before sowing confusion.
While it would be easy to blame mental illness for killing my sex drive, this isn’t the whole story.
Because my being ill had grown into a constant source of resentment at home, any attraction I initially felt toward my partner vanished. You can’t be drawn to someone who begrudges you an illness that is constantly threatening to kill you because they think you just want an easy life.
They didn’t seem to like me much anymore or have any interest in me as a fellow human, wife, or indeed sexual partner so sex eventually became an abstract. It turned into a conceptual notion I set aside in the hope I might revisit it some day, perhaps.
And if not then not. When sex departed from my life, I didn’t run after it, all the more as I had had an interesting, varied, and satisfying sex life before I got married.
It was just another of the many things that fell by the wayside and contributed to the slow and steady erosion of the self.
Although sex is a physiological need the same way air, water, and food are, many of us manage to live without.
Whether a sexless life makes for a fulfilled life is another matter and dependent on individual circumstances. During the five years I was a prisoner in my own head, what I missed the most wasn’t sex but emotional and intellectual intimacy.
For all intents and purposes, I was completely isolated despite sharing a home with my husband. Because the advent of depression had coincided with my immigrating to the US, I hadn’t had a chance to make friends yet and I married someone who had none. My own friends, meanwhile, were all half a world away.
On this scale, loneliness undoes and consumes you.
It was so dehumanizing that I no longer felt like a person, much less a wife or a sexual being.
I was a sad mammal in socks and underwear who sometimes twisted this way and that on a yoga mat in a bid to stay alive and experienced the odd sexual pulsion.
Alas, it was so aimless that I seldom did anything about it. At the time, my imagination had gone the same way as my writing voice, that is to say AWOL.
None of the fantasies that always used to get me going in the past worked anymore, and even the recollection of sexual trysts past failed to turn me on.
Even though I’d always enjoyed masturbation — either as a solo pursuit or during intercourse — it lost its appeal, too.
I was bereft and also found out I had become inured to porn, impervious to visuals, no matter how artful or daring they were.
Sexless marriages do exist, but they’re taboo.
Mine is one, and I’d be hard-pressed to explain exactly how it came to be. Depression had a hand in destroying our sex life, but it was always tentative to start off with. Attempts to initiate a dialogue on the matter all failed so I stopped trying several years ago.
I cannot rebuild a life that works without taking stock and asking all the inconvenient questions. These days however, I ask them of myself as I lay bare the gradual undoing of a human on the page. I’ve been in the midst of an intensive transition phase since I recovered my writing voice last July, using the pen as a scalpel.
Day after day, I dissect and slice through an illness that nearly killed me. The more I understand what it’s made of, the easier it gets to contain. This means acknowledging all unmet needs, from intimacy to sex via human companionship and accepting them.
Shedding the shackles of depression means embracing truth, no matter how painful and crushing it is. One by one, I must destroy all delusions, all illusions, all the dreams rendered redundant by abandonment and rejection.
Even though my illness is chronic, it tends to loosen its grip on my psyche whenever faced with incontrovertible facts. Despair makes way for sadness, sadness makes way for resignation, and resignation makes way for hope.
Coming back to life, emotionally, intellectually, and sexually is a process, a gradual awakening and one that has been ongoing since last summer in my case.
It means getting to know myself again, not just remembering who I was but coming to terms with whom I’ve become.
Little by little, a clearer picture is emerging, that of a lost woman making her way into the world again, step by step, heart and mind still functional.
Affection, compassion, and passion are slowly coming back into my life. As it expands anew to accommodate more humanity, my imagination finds itself meandering and conjuring up visions of closeness that aren’t always clothed.
In time, everything else will follow.
Contrary to the five years I spent under the yoke of the captor in my head, I’m not dead anymore, not even from the waist down.
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.