a year on anti-depressants

I was diagnosed with depression just before 2017 began, at which point it had been brewing for about three months but I’d found it difficult to identify.

Aside from a consistently down mood (which felt “normal”), the biggest problems I had were poor cognition, indecisiveness, complete lack of confidence, and a feeling that everything was too difficult to manage. Indecisiveness and lack of confidence were difficult to spot because I always have them to a degree and I didn’t notice how much worse they had gotten. In addition to the depression itself eroding confidence, my awareness of my difficulties with cognition and concentration also damaged my confidence.

I’ve heard it said that depression lies. That’s very true. It affected my ability to think, which in effect made me partly blind to the very symptoms it created — like walking into a fog that makes you hallucinate the absence of fog.

(Having been through a depressive episode a couple of years earlier, I found it disconcerting that this could happen again without me really seeing it. As I started to come out of the fog, I noticed I was finding laundry easier to do again, and I then realised that I’d found it almost impossible for a while but remembered that before that it had been easy and kind of enjoyable. My new rule of thumb is that if laundry ever feels like total drudgery to me again, I’ll take it as a red flag and consider whether I need some help.)

When everything feels insurmountably difficult, seeking treatment can be incredibly challenging too. I found it difficult to ask for help, but I’d already accepted that (1) I’d probably been depressed before and (2) therapy wasn’t useful this time, so when I made the doctor’s appointment I’d also already accepted the idea of being diagnosed. Even so, in that moment when he proclaimed the diagnosis I felt vulnerable and damaged. But in the next moment I knew there was the possibility of some treatment that would help, and that felt like a little ray of light.

After a year on citalopram, my mood is very stable. About two or three times per month I’ll have an inexplicable down mood, which I find fairly easy to identify because they contrast with my regular mood and aren’t situational (i.e. they aren’t caused by negative thoughts or bad news). I find these fairly easy to accept and roll with, especially because they’re always gone by the next day.

Work continued to be a struggle this past year: it’s hard to find work satisfying or even know whether I’m in a suitable career when I’m not experiencing any enjoyment from any projects. Things have recently improved to the point where I sometimes feel a mild to moderate sense of competence and satisfaction, but it hasn’t been consistent enough to know whether it will continue. I hope it does.

And then there’s the fatigue thing. I’ve never been much of a planner and it’s been especially frustrating when I don’t know whether I’ll have the energy to do anything tomorrow, let alone next week or next month. As a result I’ve become miserly with my time. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten into the habit of not deciding what I’m going to do until I assess my capabilities and limits on the day in question; after innumerable abandoned plans, the disappointment had gotten to be too much.

Lately, however, I’ve been making plans a little further out. My cognition has improved somewhat and I’ve been chipping away at a couple of projects and getting some positive reinforcement from that. Like the work situation, it hasn’t been going on long enough that I can confidently predict how I’ll be doing in a month or two, but it has been enough of a contrast with before that I’m cautiously optimistic.

Sex is not happening. I have no libido to speak of and this is causing me some distress, in part because I don’t know what the cause is. There’s a good chance that I’ll come off the medication this spring or summer, at which point I’ll discover whether it’s a side-effect or something else. I’m hoping for side-effect: it’s a disappointing to miss out on arousal and sex, but it’s easily reversible.

Another possibility is that, even post-epiphany, I haven’t made much progress on rewriting my maladaptive sexuality script, and this echoing absence is the sound of the other shoe dropping. It’s hard to remind myself that there may be a simple chemical explanation because this utter lack of sexual interest feels gut-wrenchingly familiar, and the part of me that still feels sexually broken is saying, “See? Told you so.”

If that’s the devil on my shoulder, the angel is my tolerance for ambiguity. I don’t know when I’ll be off the meds but it won’t be too long now. (My doctor’s policy is not to take a person off anti-depressants during the winter in case seasonal affective disorder is playing a role.) I don’t know whether the meds are responsible for this but I’ll find out in the not-too-distant future.

review: Satisfyer Pro 2

I started writing this review not long after receiving the product, but then struggled for months to complete it, so I must extend my sincerest apologies to Satisfyer for taking so bloody long. In the interim I realised that in order to write a review I’d be satisfied with, I needed to think more analytically about my own pleasure — a worthy goal in itself.

The Satisfyer Pro 2 is a rechargeable vibrator with “pressure wave and touch-free clitoral stimulation”. (Note: Since I received this product, a newer version has been released — the Satisfyer Pro 2: Next Generation.)

The exterior of the Satisfyer Pro 2 is rose-gold ABS plastic and white silicone, so it’s non-porous and body safe, and the silicone head can be removed and cleaned, sterilised, or replaced. The USB charging cable attaches to the toy by means of a seriously strong magnet, so no worries about it coming disconnected. The indicator light on the toy shows whether it’s charging, fully charged, or on. The Satisfyer Pro 2 does not come with a storage bag (nor does the Next Gen version).

The Satisfyer Pro 2 has no patterns but has 11 levels of intensity, controlled with a single, large button that scrolls from low to high and back to low again. (This interface did not prove popular and has been replaced by + and – buttons on the Satisfyer Pro 2: Next Generation model.)

The Satisfyer Pro 2 is described as “touch-free”, which I’d found a little confusing until I saw how it works: the silicone head touches the vulva around the clitoris but does not contact the clitoris itself. There is a moving part (visible, but set well back from the business end) that creates pulses of air (or water if you’re in the bath) and it’s these pulses that create the sensation. Stimulation of the clitoris is thus indirect, in a manner of speaking.

I was optimistic that the Satisfyer Pro 2 would work well for me since it is a focused toy  and my preferred method of masturbation uses the tip of a bullet vibe.

I was wrong.

The mechanics of the Satisfyer Pro 2 create something like suction or pressure though it didn’t actually feel like either. At level 1, I could feel something but it seemed not quite enough; level 2 had potential in terms of intensity but wasn’t the right sensation; level 3 was too much. I found that I got worn out and felt uncomfortable easily.

Using it in water gives a more intense sensation because the water is denser than air. Counterintuitively, I used this fact to reduce sensation because the pulses were now strong enough to be felt without placing the head in contact with my body. But I only found the resulting sensations mildly pleasant at best.

Sadly, I was unable to get anywhere near orgasm with the Satisfyer Pro 2. Why didn’t it work for me when it seemed so promising? There were a few reasons.

First, it turns out I don’t enjoy direct stimulation as much as I thought I did. Although I like to pinpoint my clit with my bullet vibe, I’ve subsequently observed that I don’t do this all the time or even all that much. The resulting sensation is often too intense and will simply desensitise me. The Satisfyer Pro 2 stimulates the (glans of the) clitoris and nothing else, which is a definite drawback for me.

Related to this is the fact that I always use my vibe on the “wave” setting: sensation is variable throughout the cycle, and at times is super mild. I found that I also adjust manually by reducing the pressure of the vibe against my vulva frequently, often to the lightest possible touch. Although the Satisfyer Pro 2 has a variety of intensities, pulling it away ends sensation instead of subtly lessen it.

Finally, my sweet spot seems to migrate unpredictably. Things can be feeling fantastic and I’ll feel that I’m getting close, when suddenly it doesn’t feel like anything at all and I have to go looking for the goodness again. Since the Satisfyer Pro 2 can only be used in one location, I can’t use it to chase down my wandering sweet spot.

I so wanted to like the Satisfyer Pro 2 but it’s not the toy for me.

The Satisfyer Pro 2 was provided to me by Satisfyer in exchange for an honest review.