Eroticon 2018 Meet and Greet

Right now, I’m in a large bed in a large hotel room. I have a business trip grafted on immediately before my Europe/Eroticon trip, with no time in between to go home. I’ve packed two suitcases – carry-on for business, checked for Europe – and stored the Europe bag at the airport rather than lug it with me. When I’m done the business trip part, I’ll switch out and leave a different bag behind. I feel clever but there’s a part of me that’s worried I’ve missed something because I’m deviating significantly from my packing routine.

I wish I could just cut to the chase (or maybe “love scene” would be a more appropriate metaphor), but I have a few days of hard work first, followed by some not exactly easy travel.

Last year was my first Eroticon. I’m very glad to be attending again in 2018, but my blogging energy and output has been much reduced over the last year, and I regret having unintentionally drifted a little ways away from this fantastic community.

NAME (and Twitter if you have one)

Zoe K  @sexismynewhobby

What are you most looking forward to about Eroticon 2018?

For me, it’s the people. It’s the perfect excuse to get Jaime and me in the same country, and after Eroticon we’re going to go travelling together. I’m also looking forward to meeting up with folks I met last year, folks who were there but I didn’t meet because I hadn’t gotten to know them yet, and folks who couldn’t make it.

 

If the people I’ve met in person and online are at all representative, sex bloggers are a great bunch of people and that I tend to get along with really well. A certain worldview coupled with kindness and intelligence makes for a heady mix.

We are creating a play list of songs for the Friday Night Meet and Greet. Nominate one song that you would like us to add to the play list and tell us why you picked that song.

“Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin.

Zep was one of many bands that could be heard regularly in my house but I didn’t come to appreciate them until I was almost out of high school. They quickly became my favourite band and have remained so for my entire adult life. I once sang “Ramble On” (with a real band) at a talent show.

And since there’s apparently still room on the playlist, I’ll suggest a second song – “Dusty” by Soundgarden.

Soundgarden is my second love, after Led Zeppelin. “Dusty” is a great example of the weird time signatures that Soundgarden uses. Most of it is in 4/4, but there’s a chunk in (I think) 10/8, and other bits that I’ve never quite been able to pin down: some 7/8? maybe one or two bars of 11/8? Fucked if I know, but I enjoy trying to figure it out.

(Royal Blood is looking competitive for my number 3 spot. I don’t think I’ve noticed and odd time signatures, but they do some wonderfully complex and unpredictable melodies/chord progressions. Just FYI.)

What’s the first career you dreamed of having as a kid?

Veterinarian.

Weirdest place you’ve ever gotten up to mischief (define ‘mischief’ however you like…).

In a storage room in a church basement towards the end of an evening event. It wasn’t because I was overcome with lust – I was kind of ticking the location off a list. Still, it was amusing.

Tell us two truths and a lie about yourself.

This is so hard and is the main reason why I haven’t done my meet and greet sooner, but here goes:

I swam competitively in high school.

My first job was selling bets at a racetrack.

I saw a geisha once in Kyoto. I had no idea who she was and yet she knew my name.

Complete the sentence: I want…

…to rediscover my creativity, and to learn how to trust more deeply

Attending Eroticon 2018

I don’t feel like it

There are lots of things I could be doing, but I don’t feel like it.

I’ve been writing this and that. I have lots of drafts, both older and current, and I still have ideas of things to write about. But I usually run out of enthusiasm well before they’re ready to publish.

Cuddling is great, but I don’t feel like kissing or having sex. I could get myself off but – shrug.

I could take some photos of myself. It’s been a while, and I’ve hardly used the tripod I bought. But I’d have to clear a space or at least tidy, and even if I didn’t, I just don’t feel like it.

I have a stack of nonfiction to read. This is usually a daytime endeavour because I prefer fiction before bed, but I have a book that’s an easy enough read that it doesn’t wind my brain up and ruin my sleep. I have another one on the go for daytime. I just don’t usually feel like reading them. I end up catching up on Twitter instead.

Tidy the basement and declutter? Do some baking? Sometimes I’m too tired or busy for this stuff, but when I’m not, I don’t feel like it.

Apathy and flattening of affect can result from depression, but I don’t feel depressed any more. Down moods are very infrequent and mild, and I feel content more often than I feel down. My usual mood is OK, probably about 6-7 out of 10.

I felt like doing things was nearly impossible before. Sometimes if I felt like my brain was on enough to try to work, I’d sit in front of my computer, keen to start but unable to do so. Things don’t feel all that difficult now, but I feel like I care less. I just can’t be bothered.

I stumbled upon an older article of JoEllen Notte’s (The time Celexa ate my brain), which led me to brush up on the side effects of citalopram, an SSRI that I’ve been taking for over a year now:

  • Loss of libido – check. I was warned about this, but it was still frustrating when it happened because it feels so much like pre-epiphany disinterest that it felt like retrograde motion. What if it never comes back? What if this is the real me?
  • Change to sleep and alertness, brain fog – check. I now sleep an extra hour at night, and often feel blah during the day. I also have this mystery fatigue that’s been a problem for the last number of years, and attributed my current fog to the continuing fatigue. But maybe it’s not 100% responsible after all.
  • Problems with memory and concentration – check. This was a problem with the depression so I didn’t think about it much. It feels better than it was, but I’m still not functioning well. I used to find it easy to learn things because I would just remember them, but with memory affected, I feel a bit dumb, which is a hit to the self-image.
  • Change in weight – actually, yeah. My weight has always been really stable but I’ve gained about 10 pounds in the last year, which is 5 pounds over my previous maximum weight. (My breasts are looking great, actually, but I prefer them smaller.)
  • Gastrointestinal effects – check. I get the occasional feeling of mild nausea out of the blue. And then there’s the near-constant bloating, though I seem to have developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome about a year prior to starting on these meds, but surely they’re not helping.
  • Dizziness, vertigo – check, I think. I have issues with dizziness related to blood sugar levels, but this feels different. I spoke to my doctor about it, and he figured it was Benign Positional Vertigo, caused by crystals forming in one of the semi-circular canals in the ear. They dissolve on their own and there isn’t anything you can do except not move your head quickly. But I’ve now had spontaneous dizziness of this sort a handful of times since starting the meds, and prior to that the last (and, as far as I recall, only) bout was over 20 years ago.

So, lots of things going on that might have other causes, but taken all together, I think a lot of this is likely caused by the citalopram.

I found an article positing SSRI-induced indifference as a way of understanding behavioural apathy and emotional blunting. “I don’t feel like it” sure seems to fit here.

The citalopram has definitely helped me. I’m glad I’ve had it and would take it again. But it seems to me that it’s time to be done with it now. I’ll be seeing the doctor in a couple of weeks and am hoping he OKs me to start coming off the stuff.

NYE with Rosa: a coming-out story

New Year’s Eve, a day marking an arbitrary end point on the yearly cycle, doesn’t mean a great deal to me. I didn’t expect it to coincide with a real ending and new beginning.

I went out for coffee with my good friend, Rosa, as we do about once a month. We’re surprisingly alike in the sense that I think we were both surprised to have found someone so much like ourselves. We’ve shared a lot with each other, which is something that neither of us do readily – we’re both introverts, highly sensitive, cautious, self-sufficient, etc.

I’ve told her plenty about the family difficulties I had a few years ago that led to serious personal growth and ultimately (though indirectly) the creation of this blog. I told her about the blog itself (its existence, not the URL) at least a year ago and she treated it as a total non-issue. (She has never really asked me about it which I’d interpreted as disinterest, but now I wonder if she has refrained from asking about it because she’s leaving the decision whether to share entirely up to me. She’s like that.)

She takes privacy and confidentiality very seriously and is as much of a dead end for confidences as I am so I knew that I could trust her with the information.

I’d been thinking about telling her about Jaime since I’d told her about the blog, if not before, because, frankly, Jaime is much more exciting. But caution, as always with me, prevailed. I suppose I worried that she’d judge me as “cheating” on Wolf.

At some point my reason for wanting to tell her had gone beyond “hey, something fun is happening in my life” to “this relationship is really important to me and not sharing it feels inauthentic, like I’m cutting off a part of myself”. The last couple of times we met up, I’d been actively thinking about telling her. The same was true this time and it popped to mind from time to time while we chatted.

After a couple of hours Rosa looked at the time and announced that we should probably think about leaving soon; it was in fact the time when we would ordinarily leave, but we’d gotten there 30 minutes later than usual so I wasn’t ready to go yet. Also, for the previous 10 minutes, I’d been thinking seriously enough about confiding that I had begun to feel nervous. Fuck it. I took a deep breath, smiled and stared off into space somewhere beside her head while I tried to figure out what to say.

I’d thought so much about the fact of telling her but I never considered the words themselves. I don’t really remember what I said ­— something about having something I wanted to tell her but wasn’t sure how to say it — and when I paused to take a breath she said, “I’m all ears!”

So I took another deep breath and, by way of preamble, told her that this was something that no one* knew about, except for Wolf. But … I was also in a relationship with someone other than Wolf.

From there the conversation is even more of a blur. I remember that she started a sentence with “He” and then caught herself — “Is it a he?” — and I said yes, and she continued on with her sentence. How sweet, I thought, that she should be so conscious of not making assumptions about me, and that she has also pre-emptively accepted that I might be bi. But then I don’t expect anything less from her.

Though she hadn’t guessed or predicted it, she said that in a way she wasn’t surprised because she figures I already live a bit outside the box. She didn’t know whether I would take that comment well or poorly, but I found it reassuring. I suppose it’s comforting when someone knows you well enough to expect you to be weird and to be open enough to difference to be OK with that.

She did a lot of the talking and I really don’t remember what she said, though I recognised at times that she was filling the silence with a stream of comforting words to say, “I see you, I (still) like you, and I approve of you.” She recognised that the relationship with Jaime was something I hadn’t undertaken lightly, and respected the fact that I was circumspect about the effects on Wolf and Jaime (and others).

I didn’t tell her a great deal about Jaime — I didn’t even mention his name. I did explain that he’s the person I was visiting on certain of my recent trips. She and I don’t really talk about sex, so it didn’t make sense to lead with that aspect of the relationship but I told her about some other things that make Jaime special to me: that I feel deeply loved by him and that his emotional support is unwavering.

She basically was cool with it all and happy that I was happy. On top of that, she was very happy that I trusted her that much to tell her about it. And she told me she loved me.

Throughout it all, I found myself on the verge of tears despite not being sad or upset. I think it was just the intensity of the vulnerability, like holding my ribcage open for an hour, hoping she wouldn’t reach in and crush my heart.

She shared a couple of personal things with me too, though not so intense. An hour and a half after I launched into this confession, we decided it really was time to leave.

And that’s why I began 2018 feeling happy, accomplished, and even more full of love than before.

 

* I also mentioned it briefly to Lucas, after he first confessed his own BDSM-based poly situation; and to a mutual acquaintance of Rosa’s and mine who I unexpectedly ran into at a play party, after she first confessed her own queer poly situation.

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.

who is Gawan?

I’ve mentioned Gawan’s identity in passing before, but this time I think I’m dropping that name for good.

When we first met online and started corresponding, it was too early to even mention him because it might not have amounted to anything worth talking about. When it started to become significant and my thoughts were in a whirl, I wanted to talk about it but not where he or Wolf could read about it, so I wrote privately. Eventually things settled down and writing didn’t feel so pressing anymore.

When I did start writing about him, a little obfuscation seemed appropriate, so I asked him to select a pseudonym for use here.

After some time we realised that it wasn’t a problem if people made the connection so we stopped concealing things quite so thoroughly. We figured someone would work it out and so maintained pseudonymity but started deliberately dropping hints, sometimes really obvious ones, as part of the game. A few people worked it out eventually, but since we hadn’t said anything they stayed discreet too, even after we turned up together at Eroticon 2017. The game got stale.

Is there any need to continue to conceal his regular pseudonym with the one I’ve been using here? None that we can see, beyond my natural tendency to play things close to the vest and the fact that it has become habit. And since we’ve established a strong relationship and he’s about to collar me, it now feels inauthentic to me to keep hiding it.

My lover and dominant is Jaime Mortimer, who blogs here (where he had been calling me Gretel).

My need for truth and accuracy has turned this blog into a tool of self-discovery, which has been a real benefit to me. If I’m worried that a detail is too revealing, I either won’t mention it at all or I’ll make it obviously vague. That’s not how Jaime’s blog works though, so just FYI, you can’t assume that any specific detail he mentions about me is necessarily accurate.

In less than a week, I’ll be going to visit him again. Our first three visits were all big on travel, but this time our adventures will all be close to (or at) home. I’m very much looking forward to it.

the name game 2

In the English-speaking world, women traditionally change their last names to their husbands’ when they marry, though women keeping their maiden (or birth) names now make up a significant minority.

These are hardly the only options and there are different traditions around the world. A patronymic (or matronymic) name doesn’t get changed: in Iceland, if a man named Jon has sons, they get the last name Jonsson, and daughters get Jonsdottir. Muslim women traditionally keep their last names, but in light of European (and especially English) influence, it may actually be seen as more “modern” for a woman to change her name.

A last name expresses connection to a family group, but in this culture a woman doesn’t stop being a member of her birth family if she marries and/or changes her name. Does this mean that names are meaningless? No, but they express a different kind of affiliation.

When you have a choice of names, whatever you choose you will communicate something, and a name is part of one’s public identity so it makes a public statement. Name keepers are generally seen to be making a statement about modernity, feminism, and/or career, while name changers are seen to be making a statement about tradition, religion, and/or family and motherhood.

But these aren’t necessarily the reasons underlying any specific individual’s choice, which may be more idiosyncratic. Although feminism is important to me, the uniqueness of my name and my strong attachment to it felt like the single biggest factor for choosing to keep it. In contrast, an acquaintance (who I believe is also a feminist) was very keen to get rid of a name she found embarrassing.

People who agree with a woman’s choice are prone to assume that she shares their values, while those who disagree are likely to assume she rejects their values. Some people go even further, understanding a rejection of their values (any values, not just re names) to be an attack on those values. Because these values go to identity, people tend to get defensive and thus automatically look for reasons why the other person is wrong, which undermines rational consideration.

A branch of feminism critiques the tradition of changing names because it’s patriarchal and reflects a view of women as possessions of men with no independent identity, rather than the autonomous individuals we know ourselves to be. While history is very important, the meaning of a tradition that you choose to observe is what it means to you now. If a woman changes her name because it is her authentic choice, we can safely assume that she either rejects the property connotation or she feels comfortable with it for one reason or another (maybe she’s marrying her dom and it feels deliciously submissive). Autonomy means making decisions for yourself, and if women must keep their names in order to qualify as “feminist”, this simply exchanges male authority for female authority, and a woman’s individual autonomy is denied just as much under either system. To me, the true feminist approach is one that gives women a meaningful choice and honours their decisions.

I think boundaries have a role to play here. It’s important to understand that your choice is “your stuff” and other people’s choices are “not your stuff”. My choice is about me, not you, and vice versa. I’m a name keeper, so if you’re a changer, I may expect to find that we don’t have much in common — just like if I found out you were into jazz — but I’m willing to be proved wrong.

the name game 1

“If I marry, should I change my last name?”

It’s a question that has become a part of women’s* culture in the English-speaking world, and one that some would say has no right answer but only wrong ones. (Because I’m talking about established traditions, I’m talking only about cis-het marriages.) (* Men can opt in but usually don’t.)

In this culture, the most common choices are: she keeps her last name; she changes her last name to his; she hyphenates the names. Other options include: he changes his last name to hers; he hyphenates the names (probably only if she does too); together they pick a new name that they’ll share.

I kept my name. When I was a child, I never expected to get married. My names — first, middle last — range from very unusual to unique, and I’ve always felt very attached to all of them (except when I was little and found my first name to be burdensomely weird, but I’ve grown into it). I’m an atheist and a feminist. Wolf and I were together for years in a common law relationship before we got married.

My mom changed her name at first. At the time, the law required women to change their names, and it was a legal hassle to keep your own name. She went back to her maiden name while she and my dad were still together, though they subsequently divorced. (Pretty sure the name thing wasn’t a factor!) She always felt that her own last name was part of her identity and resented being forced to change. (Also, her first name + my dad’s last name had an awkward rhythm.) She’s an atheist and a feminist. She’s married again now and kept her own name.

An acquaintance changed her name. She had been teased about it as a child and positively jumped at the opportunity to be rid of it. She married again, changed her name again. She’s now single but still keeps that second married name. As I understand it, the decision was primarily aesthetic.

My (half-)sister changed her name. I was very surprised, frankly, given our non-traditional, extended, blended family. I asked her why but her answer didn’t make a lot of sense. Her maiden name was her father’s (he and my mom never married, and it was mom’s idea to give her his name), so she argued that it was one man’s name or another’s. Perhaps, but only one of those names had been hers since birth, and our mother’s last name had belonged to our grandfather. Her answer struck me as justification rather than the real reason, which I suspect was that she simply wanted to change it but hadn’t really figured out why. She then got divorced and bemoaned the hassle of changing all of her ID and everything back to her maiden name. Even though an “I told you so” was hovering about, I wisely said nothing. She has just gotten remarried and this time kept her name, which I think suits her personality and worldview better. She’s also an atheist and a feminist.

Among my extended family (including relationships in which the woman is related by marriage), there are four women who kept their names and two who changed. There are no hyphenated names among the women but some among their kids.

I grew up with the idea that a woman deciding to keep her name was the new default. No one questioned my choice not to change my name, which I attribute to the fact that people either didn’t feel challenged by it or knew better than to say anything.

I have more thoughts on this topic, but they will have to wait.

I have Oxford on my mind

1

Wolf finished his thesis last week, and I insisted on proofreading until past my bedtime even though a deadline was looming. I hadn’t been able to help much with the doctorate beyond being a sounding board, but this was the assistance I’d been planning to give him since he first was admitted to Oxford. It was for him but also for me.

He emailed it off to the printer down the street from his former residence, and try as I might I can’t visualise the shopfront. Once printed, the readers’ copies would be delivered to the Examination Schools, another place I’ve walked past countless times. He’ll be mildly fretful about it until it’s successfully delivered, and so it’s on my mind too.

2

An acquaintance from sexy Twitter just ran the Oxford Half Marathon the other day. I’ve spent some time in the city and though I haven’t been there for the Half Marathon, I’m certain I’ve seen some other race there. I have a mental snapshot of runners in bibs, which must then date from May or June 2015. Where were they? Longwall?

 

3

Another acquaintance from sexy Twitter has family in Oxford and also studied there. We’ve talked about that a wee bit, and discussed colleges. No doubt some of his most vivid memories of the city are situated near some of my own. Like that evening when I saw an undergrad in a room above street level, carrying on with the music loud and window open, and wearing a bedsheet toga.

4

My mood is tenuous. It’s bedtime and I’m looking for a book to read. Must be fiction but there’s precious little new fiction in the house. I haven’t yet cracked the new Yann Martel, in part because the quote from a review on the front cover calls it “entirely heartbreaking”. Why did I buy this? So I look for an old friend and choose Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches, a goodly chunk of which is set in Oxford.

 

I’d spent time in the city before I first read the book, but only a couple of weeks by that point. My visual memory is shit and I could barely remember the things that I had seen. I reread the book in preparation for my trip in 2015, and then soaked up vistas, views and sights. Radcliffe Camera. The Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian, All Souls (all from the outside). New College mostly from the outside but briefly from the inside once to take in evensong. The Covered Market, Blackwells, Holywell Street. The river down to the college boathouses and beyond. On the second-last day of my two-month visit, I took a tour of the Bod and got to see the famous Duke Humphrey’s Library and the Selden End (alas, no photos allowed), where the Harkness book begins.

 

As a student, Wolf was in and out of the Bod regularly, though not this building. He has a few business cards and one of those makes an utterly perfect bookmark for this book.

5

When I arrived in Oxford that time, Wolf and I both had things to tell each other that needed to be said in person. We’d been living apart for the better part of three years, though our last separation commenced only about two months before. He told me that he wasn’t feeling well and hadn’t been for a few months already. He had noticed a problem soon after he had last returned to Oxford, so it must have been March. There wasn’t much to be done until we got home, but at least I’d already set up a checkup for him. Seven weeks after he went for that checkup, he was having open-heart surgery. The ends of the scar are still pink, the drugs a daily reminder.

It was all I could do to wait a week before sharing my own news. During that week, we fucked up a storm, jet lag and period notwithstanding. It was a delight to reconnect, and to connect sexually in a way that we hadn’t really ever before. I’d been busy having my epiphany and related revelations but I was at home alone most of that time. And when he had been home, he found it a bit overwhelming.

When I could no longer hold my tongue and finally confessed that Gawan wanted to come and meet me, it was very difficult and took quite a while for Wolf to process. I have a trip to visit Gawan in a few weeks, and my departure date is almost two years from the day we first met at my local airport. Gawan is now my dom, and though the distance and polyamory are a challenge, Wolf is comfortable with it now, which allows me to be too.

6

The book I brought with me to Oxford was Guy Gavriel Kay’s River of Stars. I’ve since given Gawan the previous GGK book, which he’s currently reading.

7

I’m not generally one for romance novels, but I found I enjoyed the romance element of A Discovery of Witches. The main character is a witch who has avoided learning anything about or using witchcraft and magic since childhood, and the love interest is a vampire. Leaving aside the issue of how vampires in literature (and other media) went from being terrifying to romantic, many of the little things he does are dominant; it reminds me a touch of D/s. One of the first things he says to her is that it can be pleasurable to let someone else take the lead, he’s protective of her, and following a bonding moment he declares that she belongs to him. And she agrees. He’s used to being obeyed. He also wears a lot of black, so there’s that.

a new approach to blogging

I haven’t been posting much lately. I had various things interfere, like fatigue, depression, and some of my old hobbies, including dance.

I’ve lost my momentum. I’ve started lots of pieces and my drafts document is overflowing, but I haven’t been able to sit down and work things up into actual posts.

Maybe my approach needs to change. Maybe I’m trying to write about things that I don’t yet know the answers to. I don’t like to post until I’ve reached a conclusion and maybe I don’t have any conclusions right now.

So I’m going to try something different and allow myself to be a little less polished, a little more stream of consciousness.

Another thing that’s been interfering with my writing is that this is a sex blog and my sex life is very quiet. My desire is low. I don’t imagine my depression was very helpful in this regard, and the medication I’m now on (citalopram) seems to have snuffed out what embers there were.

My depression seems to be under control: the seriously down moods are few and far between and I sometimes even get spontaneous good moods. I had been started at one dosage and then had it increased twice. Since the meds seemed to be increasing my fatigue and my mood was stable, my dosage has been reduced twice so I’m back at the low dose where I started. I’m happy to take the medication as long as I need it, but hopefully when I get off it, I’ll see some positive effects on my libido.

Another part of the problem is that I don’t really know what turns me on. I’ve always had a difficult time figuring out what I like and what I want, and only in the last few years did I even figure out that I should be asking myself those questions. I have questions but no good answers. Physically I can get turned on, but I don’t know what input I need to get there. So I don’t blame the medication for the whole problem, and I think it’s much more complicated and difficult to solve than just not taking that pill.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my next trip to see Gawan, which is less than four weeks away. I’ll be staying at his house again, no real travelling, and probably a lot of time in bed and/or in a state of undress.

depression and anti-depressants

The depression that I’m currently dealing with seems to have gotten its start almost a year ago.

When I returned from my visit with Gawan last August, I was (as expected) physically fatigued from the travels and adventures and flights, and given my ongoing difficulties with fatigue, it took a couple of weeks to recover. Wolf recalls that for the first while my mood was better than it had been, but then it slowly and steadily started to tank. Depression didn’t so much “strike” as it sidled up, slipped up onto my shoulders, and then gained mass with aching slowness.

I had been seeing a counsellor regularly a couple of years earlier during a previous depressive episode but as I found my even keel, the sessions were no longer useful.

By December last year I was struggling again, and one day was especially draining. First there was an appointment to get two fillings replaced. The dentist is very good but I have needle phobia, and had a dental dam making me a little claustrophobic and causing my jaw to ache. I was tired. Then later that day I got a call about a health test and the results were not great. Now I was brittle.

I don’t know what set me off the next day, but I had a meltdown and was simply unable to cope. I realised that I needed some help again and called to make an appointment to see my counsellor, but to my dismay she no longer worked for the service that provided my benefits. Dammit. I was going to have to decide who to talk to. It was challenging enough to make a phone call, but making a decision too? Ugh.

So I made a decision, hung up, almost immediately changed my mind, eventually worked up the nerve to call back, and agreed to talk to the first counsellor who was available, that evening.

I wasn’t looking forward to having to start at the beginning again with someone new, and a one-hour appointment hardly seemed long enough for me to tell the story, never mind having a discussion and getting productive feedback. But I tried.

It played out as I’d feared. I was irritated to have to explain that I’d tried all of these suggestions already and I needed some new input. As I talked, he would from time to time flip through a file looking for a sheet that he thought might help. By the end of the session, I was holding four or five pages; I’d been polite and accepted them, mostly out of a desire to get on with it.

At the end of the session, he asked me if I wanted copies of any of the sheets he’d handed me (they were his originals). I declined. By way of conclusion, he asked me whether the session had been helpful, in a sort of “I have a customer satisfaction questionnaire to complete” way. I had gone into the session feeling depressed, anxious, and in need of help and now, on top of that, I was emotionally drained and out of fucks to give. I knew he’d wanted to be a help. But his approach was too simplistic, too conventional, too amateur. I’d read more insightful blog posts than the material he presented to me. I didn’t have the mental energy to be anything other than blunt. Helpful? “No, not really.” He wished me well (sincerely), and I made my escape.

I was disappointed, frustrated, and a bit angry about how little the counsellor seemed to know. My subconscious kept chewing over the session and I’d intermittently fume to Wolf, “And another thing about the session…”

But the utter uselessness of the session had, improbably, brought me clarity. All of the counsellor’s suggestions were based on an assumption that I was thinking incorrectly: that I was dwelling on negative things (gratitude journal!), that work stress was taking its toll (do activities you enjoy!), that I was unintentionally ignoring certain needs (work-life balance!), that I was bottling things up (find a creative outlet!). I know all this. I’m doing all this. It’s not working. Or it’s not working enough.

Maybe I had finally reached the point of needing medication.

The next day I made an appointment with my doctor. In the week that I had to wait (this was over Christmas, of course), I compiled the following list of symptoms (omitting the perennial fatigue issue that he already knew about):

  • having trouble coping
  • decision-making
  • motivation
  • self-doubt
  • feeling of moving backwards
  • difficulty retaining new info, memory
  • feeling like abilities are shrinking
  • every task feels difficult
  • indecisive, then second-guessing
  • anxiety? depression?
  • brain not working well
  • sleeping 9+ hours a night
  • frustration that it’s so hard
  • lack of resilience, brittle

When I met with him, I rattled off the items.

“Yep, you’re depressed,” he said with a compassionate smile.

It was interfering with work, my ability to enjoy life, and even do the simplest things around the house. Unlike the previous depression, Wolf was with me, and my work situation was pretty decent, all things considered. In other words, it wasn’t situational.

So just before New Year’s, I got a prescription for citalopram (aka Celexa), starting out at 10 mg for 10 days, and then increasing to 20 mg indefinitely. I noticed an improvement in mood quite quickly, but it plateaued well before “good”. The day after I got home from my Europe trip with Gawan in March, my dosage was increased to 30 mg. In the middle of May it was upped to 40 mg.

For me, the most frequent symptoms of depression are lack of motivation and indecision, although there are other reasons why I might feel unmotivated or indecisive, such as fatigue, so as symptoms go they’re more subtle than I’d like. Also, things that are at best a bit challenging for me, like calling someone on the phone or starting on a new work project, become excruciatingly difficult. I could focus for 20 minutes, willing myself to start, and still not be able to. I might as well be practicing my telekinesis.

After the Europe trip I had a week of downtime before a work trip, during which time I’d expected to be tired and planned to be taking it easy, but in my travels I’d picked up a seriously nasty cold and a week was nowhere near enough time to recover. (I ended up being sick for another almost two months.) After the work trip I was utterly wrecked. It was only when I looked back at the pattern of fatigue and changes to the dosage of anti-depressants that I put two and two together and concluded that at least some of the fatigue was likely attributable to the increase in dosage of the anti-depressants.

But how would they affect my sex life?