WWMUD: How to want to have more sex, part 1
Desire types, arousal types, and some very spicy homework
“Dear MU, Having sex when my mental health is off-kilter is a challenge for me; at that point, sex is the last thing I’m craving. (Sometimes having sex when my mental health is totally fine can be a challenge). I’m curious, Melissa, if the drive comes naturally to you during these times, or if you have to tackle it like the gym, or give yourself a pep talk that this is ultimately a good thing to check off your wellness list?” —Heather, subscriber
First, Heather, SAME. Sex is the last thing on my list when my mental health is off. Sex is also the last thing on my list when my mental health is good, some days. When you’ve got kids, a job, household management, time constraints, lack of sleep, life stress, financial stress, health challenges, or a host of other factors to contend with, sex can feel like an afterthought a whole lot of the time. (You’re not alone.)
However, one of the hallmark symptoms of my form of depression is feeling disconnected. I’m not mad at my husband and he’s not annoying me, but it feels like a Herculean effort to be emotionally available for him. (We’re talking, “I don’t even want to be in the same room with him, never mind make out with him.”) However, sometimes sex is the one thing that can instantly bring me back. If I’m able to get past the huge barrier of my depression and get into the act—not begrudgingly, not resentfully, and not like it’s a chore I’m doing for HIM—it’s like the spell is broken and I feel connected again. The depression isn’t gone, but if life was a video game, sex respawns my character with a full heart meter, which gives me more capacity to tackle other things I know would help—like calling my therapist, cleaning, or going for a walk—and helps me stay better connected to him too.
It’s the “getting there” that’s a challenge—but I’ve cracked the code, at least most of the time. We’re going to take this in two parts, because you’re gonna have some homework. Some very. spicy. homework.
First, we need to define two terms that are often used interchangeably, but are actually two different things.
Sexual desire: Also known as libido; having an interest in engaging in sexual activity. A mental process; how often you think about or want sex.
Sexual arousal: How excited or turned on you get when you anticipate sex or engage in it. A physical process, as evidenced by the changes that occur in your body and genitals.