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Shhhhh! Don’t Talk About It!

shieldWhen a relationship has been dealing with depression for a long time, you have to do a lot of changing and a lot of salvaging. You remember the persons both of you were before depression set in. You remember what today is missing. And you try to forge a new normal.
And that is difficult.

Sleep is often disrupted by a loved one waking you in the middle of the night because some unseen force is causing blows or shivers or talking to take over the sound asleep body. For the caregiver that spells exhaustion when it happens night after night. And there is the endless talking or crying or sleeping during the day which has to be dealt with by the caregiver so as to arrive at some type of peace.

We as caregivers of our loved ones in the throes of depression often find ourselves dealing with stuff we never thought we would – mood swings, twitches, drug dullness or drug hyper-ness, and sheer fatigue. The intimacy of intercourse is gone and the couple has to work out other ways to deal with pleasuring one another. And that issue is often overwhelming for the couple already dealing with so much.

Sadly, the medical system often doesn’t address these issues. Few doctors or therapists say anything about the changes that might occur. And we know that if that sharing were to take place, that would mean seeing both people. Psychiatry keeps its cards close to the chest and often doesn’t include significant others or family members. Right at a time when people need the healing of touch, the couple find themselves pulling away and suffering from the lack of intimacy that previously had filled an important place in their lives and nobody tells them that such a scenario might take place.

It is strange that we see so many sexual images on television, on the web, in magazines and yet seldom do we address the issue when it affects people with cancer treatment or people with depression or people with other illnesses.

Caregivers dealing with depression lose sleep, lose sexual pleasure, and often a significant part of their relationship identity. And no one wants to talk about it. No wonder depression swallows up so many caregivers.

-Bernadette

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The Sex Talk

When reading about depression, the subject of sex is very often not addressed. If it is, the subject is usually surrounded by all the euphemisms that occurs when we talk about sex with children or with each other.  And for all the glitz and glamour on television and in the movies, sex is still a subject to be avoided.

I’m not avoiding it. We are going to have “the talk.” – Yes, the sex talk.

Sex is a casualty of depression.  It is a sad fact that right when we need the physical expression of love the most, when a spouse or significant other is suffering from depression, it is not there. Whether it be the gradual disappearance of sexual intercourse or the sudden interest in pornography or the need for a sexual outlet with a prostitute, the damage within a relationship can be devastating and often misunderstood, causing even more pain.

With the hallmark withdrawal that accompanies most people’s depression, noticing someone you love is often not a reality.  Kisses, hugs, touches become few and far between.  Intercourse dwindles until one day you realize that it has been months since the two of you expressed your love in this manner.  And through all this you are trying hard not to think that you are the one at fault.  You might be thinking if you lost some weight, took better care of yourself, showed more of an interest in what your partner talks about, this wouldn’t be happening. Unfortunately it would still be happening and a big thing to remember is that it is NOT you.

Depression messes with the brain.  It affects sexual desire and causes many body functions to misfire making intercourse impossible.  Loss of ability to achieve an erection or an orgasm, or a severe drop in libido is not uncommon. Even understanding all this, we still want to feel that we are desirable, that we are wanted, that we are loved in a very special way but depression often makes it impossible.

Other couples experience devastating effects when their partners turn to pornography for relief.  The partner cruises the internet for pictures or live cams and often masturbates during the cruise.  The other partner is left to struggle with the same feelings of no longer being able to fulfill even this basic need in the relationship.

And then there are those suffering depression who seek relief from call girls.  No relationship required.  The depressed person may think, “I can still stay within myself and get sexual relief.”  Perfect for someone with depression but not so perfect for the partner – and that’s not even mentioning the diseases that can be brought home.

Depression is a wicked disease. For all couples it can seriously hamper and often destroy the relationship that was once vibrant and growing.  It can tear at the confidence of the caregiver in ways that surprise us. Right when we need the therapeutic effects of a good relationship, it is taken from us.  Instead we are feeling in the way, unwanted, or unloved.

Sometimes we interpret the low moods and crazy behavior of our partner as evidence that the depressed person wants out of the relationship when in reality they have neither the energy nor outward focus needed for a good relationship.  And the truth for the non-depressed partner is it is difficult to stay calm and confident when you are up against this.

We can do things for ourselves that can help.

  • Try not to take it personally.  Remember depression is a disease and your partner needs to recover from this illness. Even when you give plenty of tender loving care, the recovery will not be rapid.
  • When it seems at its worst and you doubt yourself, try to remember that your partner is the same person underneath that depression.  On some days you just have to dig harder for it.  .
  • When you need the physical outlet of sex, pleasure yourself and don’t feel guilty about it. Masturbation is a normal part of our sexual lives.
  • If possible, talk to your partner about your needs and discuss how they can be met during this time of illness.  You might be surprised what might develop.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about sex with your partner.  Do, however, choose times carefully and judge their ability to enter into such a discussion.
  • Remember that sex is much more than intercourse.  Kisses, hugs, intimate talks – all these can be a physical expression of love.  Spend some time sitting next to or cuddling him or her.  Physical touch is extremely important for both of you.
  • And remember that you are not alone.  Very few people have the dazzling sex lives that Hollywood films portray.  Most people, however, have an excellent chance to build a good physical and emotional relationship no matter the obstacles.   -Bernadette