I’m still alive

Is something wrong? she said
Of course there is
You’re still alive, she said
Oh, do I deserve to be?
Is that the question?
[“Alive”, Pearl Jam]

Oh dear, it’s hard to get back in the groove after so long away. I’ve had a busy couple of months, but it’s been so long that nothing seems significant enough to talk about. I have lots of ideas of things to write about – or at least I thought I did, until confronted with a blank page. It feels like when you run into someone you haven’t seen for years and yet somehow you’re able to catch up in about 10 minutes. I must be forgetting something…

So, what have I been up to? Well, I went to Eroticon, and it was my second time attending. I’m definitely glad I went and I hope to attend next year too. Although this last year has been very quiet on the blog, it was good to hear interesting talks, visit with people I’ve met before (friends? is that the word?), and just be in a room with a bunch of people who are weird like me.

When I arrived at Heathrow on the Friday morning, Jaime was there to pick me up and escort me back to our room. We spent the next three weeks travelling together, mostly in southern England but we also spent the better part of a week in a Paris AirBnB. By the end of my trip, I was starting to get homesick and tired of the pace. I am, in many ways, a delicate flower.

Being away from Wolf is always strange, since we always spend so much time together. Well, we’re both introverts, so this often amounts to him at his desk and me at mine, but we’re doing our solo stuff together, if you see what I mean. I had good wifi connectivity throughout the trip so staying in touch wasn’t too hard, but this whole me having adventures while he’s at home thing is new so we don’t have a long-distance routine worked out as such.

While I was on this trip, I was tapering off my anti-depressant medication – citalopram, which is an SSRI. I had a bit of a bumpy ride but there were too many variables to know whether that was due to the meds or all of the other novelty that was going on around me. Prior to going off the meds, I had been feeling consistently good and the side effects were starting to bother me, so I think the timing was right. An issue that’s been plaguing me is the not really caring about doing things, or finishing things I start. This was a symptom of the depression but in a slightly different version it became, I think, one of the side effects.

I’ve had a series of mild but still significant health complaints in addition to the mental health stuff. The most recent in the litany is arthritis in my neck, the treatment for which has caused low-grade tension and chronic pain from the shoulders up, plus mild nausea. Add this to the irritable bowel syndrome, whose primary symptom for me is wicked bloating, and my ongoing hypoglycemia, and my stomach is very confused and unhappy.

My libido is still very low and the above seems to have killed it again. I have given Tabitha Rayne‘s #30DayOrgasmFun project a go, but my disinterest, it is high, and persisting would defeat the purpose of having fun with it. So.

Even though I haven’t been posting photos, I seem to have established a habit of taking mile-high selfies (and the occasional comparable ground-level ones) whenever the opportunity arises. It has arisen rather a lot in the last while, and I expect it to do so a couple more times before midsummer.

So that’s my life in a nutshell.

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.

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 the former: it’s disappointing to miss out on arousal and sex, but if it’s a side-effect it should be 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.

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?

things I’ve learned about and from depression

I was diagnosed with depression some months ago, but this wasn’t the first time I had been depressed, nor was it the worst episode.

Wolf and I had been inseparable for ages until he started his doctorate at a university overseas almost five years ago. The first year was bad. The second year was worse. He hated being away from me, hated his dorm where there was never enough privacy or quiet to satisfy his hermit soul.

Meanwhile, I was having difficulties with someone at work in our family business. I walked on eggshells around her and on a few occasions when I tried to discuss things with her, it ended in explosive arguments. Wolf and I were in touch daily, but the most obvious consequence of his physical absence was that the psychological buffer he created between me and the ordinary hardships of life began to dissolve. It didn’t take long before my heat shield was completely stripped away and my soul was bare to the elements.

Tensions at work were escalating. I just couldn’t do Christmas and I mostly skipped the whole thing. After being home for a month, Wolf went back overseas, and within three weeks I. Just. Couldn’t. Handle it anymore. I had a breakdown.

I couldn’t face going to work, and the counsellor I’d been seeing told me to take a month of stress leave. (It didn’t quite play out that way. I dropped the work that I found soul-sucking but still had assignments — just the really important stuff </sarcasm>.) The month passed and I finally managed to extricate myself from all work for about a month.

I had lost myself. I was crying a lot and could barely do anything for myself. The immediate problem was my work situation, and I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do, without coming up with any answers. And how could I when I didn’t want to do anything at all? I wasn’t interested in anything, which was weird and distressing because I had always been interested in all kinds of things. I peered into myself looking for interests and found… nothing. An echoing void.

I had started doing some reading about psychology to try to gain some insight into what had gone so wrong with this family member. My counsellor suggested a couple of books and ideas as a starting point, and as I read, I developed new leads and followed where they took me.

I had been thinking about sex a bit as well. I had always been uncomfortable about sex and had predicted that while Wolf was away, my very effectively suppressed libido would come out of hiding, and so it did, though it took longer than I’d expected. I hadn’t yet found the sex blogging community, but did find a reference somewhere to Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, a book of women’s fantasies so I got it from the library.

In the middle of all this not giving a shit about anything, I was actually interested in sex, and specifically in learning and reading about it. It was unfamiliar and I wasn’t entirely at ease with it, but it was the only thing I was interested in and that was valuable. It helped lead me out of the woods like a trail of breadcrumbs.

(The reading on psychology and personal growth work I’d been doing came together with the research about sex and resulted in my epiphany that June.)

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: I have experienced a serious depressive episode. But I knew it was situational. I knew that I couldn’t allow the work situation to stay the same so when I started working again, I worked from home to avoid the conflict. I knew I’d feel better when Wolf was home, and I did.

I spoke to my doctor at some point in the middle of all of this and told him that I thought I was depressed and he agreed but no diagnosis was made because in the same breath I said I didn’t want medication. I hate taking pills: the body is a delicate ecosystem, and throwing things into the mix can have unintended results. I prefer to err on the side of caution by keeping the chemistry simple.

(I learned this lesson when I was about 20, on birth control pills, and getting recurrent yeast infections. When I confronted my then-doctor about it, he acted as though it was common knowledge that the pill can cause yeast infections. But neither of my (male) doctors had ever told me that when writing me a prescription. I’m still irritated about this.)

In retrospect, I’m not sure that avoiding taking anti-depressants was the best decision. It was situational, I toughed it out, and yes, eventually I got better. I remember having the sudden realisation at some point that I felt like myself again. Which  meant that I hadn’t felt like myself for quite a long time, actually.

I suffered for months, and to what end? Aside from the obvious drop in quality of life while I was stuck in the middle of it, I may have become more prone to depression in the future. I’m usually very rational and I take good care of myself, but guess what? Depression fucks with the way you think.

Since then I’ve been trying to have more of what I like and less of what I dislike in all areas of my life, which doesn’t come naturally for me. When it comes to people, what I look for now is feeling of real connection, and when the other person expresses clearly and warmly that they enjoy my company. I’m learning to trust my gut more and follow up on those connections.

When depression hit, I had no support and no one to talk to. Well, there was Wolf of course, but he was going through his own shit. Up until then, we had each been the other’s only real support.

The single most important new person is Gawan, of course; he’s simply wonderful. And there’s also my friend Pippa, who has since become a close friend. Building up relationships with people who I genuinely like and who genuinely like me is a reward in itself, but I’m also creating a little support network too. Emotional support is essential, and only more so when depression strikes.

thoughts on fatigue

There’s another post that I’ve been trying to write for, oh, a couple of months now, and it’s not an emotionally difficult topic or anything, so I was struggling to write, struggling to understand why I couldn’t, and frustrated with the (total lack of) result. Blogging was starting to feel like work, and I wondered what the hell my problem was. I think I might have figured it out…

I organize my life around the fatigue that has dogged me for over five years now. I’ve always had fairly low energy, but it now interferes with all aspects of my life. It feels, I think, like how you might feel if you had a had a shit sleep or had to get up hours before your usual wake time, except that I feel like this every day.

I usually sleep for about 9 to 10 hours a night, sometimes even more. If I’m feeling (relatively) alert when I wake up, I can get out of bed within 20 minutes. (I say “relatively” to mean alert according to my personal scale.) If not, I might feel groggy for up to an hour (this is “sleep inertia”) or very occasionally for the rest of the day. I like to catch up on social media for a while because it engages my brain and helps me to wake up.

I eat shortly after I get up: breakfast before 11:00 feels almost “early”. I start my day doing things that I like (reading, looking at coffee table books, drinking a mocha while looking out the window, etc.) and/or things I don’t mind (laundry, folding and putting away clothes). My energy level at this time of day tends to be (relatively) good.

Right around the time I feel like I can face doing some work, my energy and motivation drops. In order to do any work, I need my brain to be functioning well and if it isn’t, there’s not much point in pushing myself because I can’t accomplish much, and I lack the motivation to force myself to do it anyway.

The fact that I work with family members and that I can work from home gives me a tremendous amount of flexibility (including the ability to take a nap if needed), which is great. (If I had a regular job, I’d struggle miserably.) On the other hand, these same family members are also workaholics, and it’s really difficult for me not to compare myself to them and get frustrated with myself and my low output. Also, since my family tends not to talk about difficult things at all, just because I haven’t heard any complaints about my low productivity doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is fine.

Months ago, I used to have one- to two-hour naps almost daily. I always benefit from a nap: I wake up feeling better, and it doesn’t seem to keep me up at night. If I can’t shake the morning groggy feeling, I usually end up having a nap. I’ve been napping less lately though, maybe once or twice a month.

Most days I feel guilty because I didn’t work more. Getting started on work feels difficult at best and excruciating at worst, depending on the day. With the right work and highest energy, checking my email or writing a list can be all I need to get rolling. An average day (if there is such a thing for me) might involve me sitting at the computer doing nothing and allowing myself to get bored enough to start. If my motivation and energy are low and the work to be done requires problem solving, I might not be able to force myself to do anything. Sometimes the amount of work I get done in a day is embarrassingly little. Or none at all. I hate that.

In this culture, busyness is a virtue. If I run into an acquaintance, they almost always say something like, “Keeping busy?” and everyone knows that the correct answer is “yes”. Not being busy is an anomaly, and choosing to relax is a radical act. I used to grit my teeth to give the correct and yet wrong answer, but now I say I make an effort not to fill my schedule. Though I suppose I could in all honesty say that I’m busy, as long as I know that this means I’m doing as much as I can, and not that I’m doing as much as the next person, measured in hours and sweat.

I rarely feel really alert. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to distinguish between “My energy is too low for my willpower to function” and “I don’t really like this job and I suck at making myself do it”. It frequently feels like laziness.

After supper I usually feel pretty good, though I can’t face working in the evening, and besides, that’s when I do my important fun stuff, like my bi-weekly two-hour Skype appointment with Gawan.

Then there’s the exercise issue. During the school year I’ve been teaching two dance classes a week, and over the summer I’ve taught one and been a student in another. It’s important to me to stay active, but I don’t recover quickly and I may still feel wrecked the day after a particularly vigorous class. I also have a daily exercise routine of an hour or so (maybe 1h20 if I do every single exercise) to manage my various aches and pains. My health is top priority.

Although I aim to go to bed around 11:30, I sometimes don’t turn out the light until 12:20. I don’t tend to feel sleepy until fairly late unless it’s a dance class night, in which case blood flow, reflexive analysis of the class, and earworms conspire against me. I take a sleep aid to help me with falling and staying asleep, so those issues don’t currently vex me.

Up until my trip to Europe this past spring, my leisure time was spent mostly on the blog. After I got home (and recovered), my writing and photography slowed down, and then pretty much stopped. I thought the issue was that I just didn’t feel like blogging for a while — I had picked up a couple of old hobbies that I’d dropped some time ago, and it seemed that I was just choosing to spend my time differently — but now I’m not so sure.

Over the last couple of months, I had gotten seriously bummed about the fatigue; it’s deeply frustrating when my body can’t keep up with my mind, but my mind has slowed down too, and I mostly don’t feel like doing anything. Also, because I can’t predict when I’ll have a good day versus a bad day, I avoid making plans in order to avoid the sense of failure and frustration when I don’t have the energy or motivation to do what I intended to do. If I have a good day — that is, a day during which I feel almost normal and I do an ordinary number of ordinary things — there’s a fair chance that I’ll be exhausted the next day. I had started to resign myself to the fact that I may be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a diagnosis that my doctor has been hesitant to make since there’s no test and no treatment and thus potentially no benefit to me to be labelled in this way.

However, since I started looking at the details more analytically in the process of working on this post (which has, unsurprisingly, taken much too long to write), I realised that the nature of the fatigue has changed. It was bad last year but then I did actually see some improvement. I discovered that the timing of when the fatigue started being especially problematic again roughly corresponds to adjustments to the dosage of my anti-depressants.

Part of the difficulty I had in pinpointing the problem up to now is that I experience a lack of motivation as one of my more significant symptoms of depression. Now I suspect the lack of motivation is being caused (at least in part) by the lack of energy. In other words, lack of motivation may be cause by the anti-depressant dosage being too low or too high. This is… not helpful.

So now I’m cautiously optimistic that my recent lack of interest in blogging is due, not to an authentic desire to stop, but rather to a sense that I just didn’t have the energy or brainpower to put into it. And if lack of energy and brainpower can undermine my interest in a hobby that I know I have enjoyed, then it’s possible that my disinterest in work is also primarily an issue of energy and not that I hate my job. I have a doctor’s appointment this coming week and will see about adjusting my meds.

With any luck, I’ll be blogging more regularly again in the not too distant future.

sleeping together 3

On the fourth day, Gawan took me to the outlook he’d shown me the day before and went beyond for a proper hike, though there were paved paths and steps throughout.

falls

He even brought a picnic: nice thick sandwiches and homemade pie for dessert, which we ate while looking out over a dizzying height. But we had mostly walked down to get to this particular height, and the return trip was up the equivalent of something like 40 flights of stairs. I would have eaten more pie if there had been any.

vista

That evening, Gawan and his roommate’s boyfriend wrestled the soft office mattress upstairs and plonked it on top of the hard mattress in Gawan’s bedroom. It turned out to be just right: baby bear’s bed.

On the morning of the fifth day, we explored each other more, and this time it was not entirely vanilla. He visited the leather paddle upon me again (the first time for that had been at the hotel). We fucked again. He gave me oral, explored with his fingers, and wielded my trusty little vibe on me. Whenever I got close, he sweetly crooned “good girl” until I eventually came. He was unconditionally invested in my pleasure and happiness, and he swaddled me in a blanket of warmth and love.

In the afternoon, he drove me to a notable landmark, one of the sights you really should see if you’re in this part of the country, partly just to have a little outing and partly so I could say “Yes, I saw the famous sights”. I had travelled a long way to get here; if I didn’t see any sights, there would be some awkward questions when I got back home.

So by the fifth day we knew we had a bed that was comfortable enough for me and big enough for us both, but we slept on it only once more before leaving town for the first time, then a couple more days here and there. Otherwise, it was a parade of five different hotel beds over the next two weeks.

***

Throughout the trip, I continued to check in with myself, but less and less frequently as the guilt and anxiety failed to materialize. I did, however, experience some guilt for a while after I got home, in response to Wolf’s moods. He had been consistently supportive of me taking this trip and having fun but had nonetheless found it difficult with me away, and more difficult that I was with another man. This almost certainly hit him harder than it would have otherwise because of his depression and anxiety (which was finally diagnosed only a couple of weeks ago).

But he was still unhappy even after I returned. It pains me when he’s unhappy, so I have a tendency to take more responsibility for his mood than I should, but it seemed clear that the trip was the cause of his unhappiness. And this probably hit me harder than it would have otherwise because of my own depression.

Looking back, I suppose I was projecting my own fears: that non-monogamy would hurt him, and when I saw that he was hurting I unconsciously assumed that was the reason and duly felt guilty about it. While it was unresolved, I couldn’t face writing about this trip. We’ve talked about it many times since: he didn’t expect or want me to do anything differently than I had done, and I’ve let go of feeling like his pain was my fault. I think we’re in the clear now.