libIDo

You know when you look at the side effects of some drug and it says, “loss of libido”? Well, I’ve never paid any attention to that. I am too busy looking for what I really care about: the prevalence of headaches, angioedema and anaphylaxis in clinical trials. It’s like my antihistamine nasal spray: when I researched reviews, an incredible number of people complained and warned of the terrible taste that drips into the back of your throat. Seriously? If it doesn’t give me an embolism or make it difficult to breathe, who cares? I felt the same way about loss of libido. Oh, boohoo, you don’t feel like having sex as much as you used to? I’m taking this drug to help with extreme pain (that has put me in the ER before) and I’m looking for the likelihood of life-threatening allergic reactions (that have put me in the ER before)… Or, I’m taking this drug to try not to succumb to an illness that is ruining my life ~ I just want to be able to get out of bed, do you think I care if I have no libido? Libido ran away with my make-up and high heels long ago.

But, what they don’t tell you is, libido is much more than sex drive. And you don’t know you’ve lost it until it comes back. Or, at least, if you’re battling a chronic illness, libido leaving is masked by everything else leaving, too. I haven’t researched this and maybe I should, but what I’ve experienced the last few months is fascinating. I went off the birth control pill and it was as if someone flicked a switch in my brain. There was something new, which mostly showed up in my dreams, but left a little thread of energy throughout the day, too. It was definitely sexually charged, but, more importantly, it was… vibrantly charged. I’m struggling to put this into words. Something inside me changed so abruptly that there is no doubt in my mind it was from going off the pill. It was primal… but not necessarily lustful. It was vital. It was a desire to feel desire and feel desirable. Not necessarily sexual desire, but a sort of deep, inborn yearning to be needed and wanted, to be likeable. And vice versa: a hunger to need, to want, to like… It was the drive to socialise, to interact, to have intimacy. But, not necessarily sexual intimacy ~ human intimacy. I woke up the other day, still lying in the residue of a dream in which I had been talking, laughing and flirting in some bar with some group of people. I lay there with my eyes closed, relishing that feeling: the joy, confidence, energy… the urgency and excitement of conversations with smart, funny people that you don’t want to end. I felt totally enlivened ~ a memory of my younger, fearless, drinking days that were filled with long, late-night sessions, interesting people, eye contact… when I wasn’t watching the clock, wondering when I could go home. Or, worse, like now when, even if I could go somewhere social ~ even if my energy would surge for one night and allow me to leave my home and enjoy noise, lights and human interaction ~ I wouldn’t want to be seen. I wouldn’t want anyone to see my grey pallor and sunken eyes and lackluster hair that I cut lopsidedly a few months ago when it was getting in the way of my cpap mask.

If I were still healthy or young or a drinker or even still had a job that allowed me to socialise, this might not have blindsided me with its strength and shaken me with its importance. I woke up from those dreams thinking, THIS is what we live for. THIS is why I have to get better. I will have that feeling again, dammit! I am not meant to be housebound, silent, still and scared. It’s not in my DNA. I want to feel attractive and full of life. I am hardwired to be social. My idea of heaven is talking, singing, eating and laughing with those I love.. or interesting strangers. I need to get back there.

When you are sick, sex is the last thing on your mind… But a warning to those of you who are just going through the motions and are fighting each day to find some sort of quality of life: loss of libido may actually mean loss of drive… desire… loss of fire and electricity… You may just need that low vibration to remind you why you are fighting.

Addendum: Well, well, well, in addition to sexual desire, the dictionary says libido is: “The psychic and emotional energy associated with instinctual biological drives. All of the instinctual energies and desires that are derived from the id.” And id is defined as: “the part of the psyche, residing in the unconscious, that is the source of instinctive impulses that seek satisfaction in accordance with the pleasure principle.” Freud was one smart dude. I wonder if he took the birth control pill continuously for nine months, too.

Melatonin, Fleece Sheets and Aunt Flo

In the last fortnight, all but 4 nights I had 8+ hours sleep. I didn’t want to jinx it, so I haven’t written about it sooner. I still look exhausted ~ maybe even more so ~ and I’m still ridiculously stiff and sore… But, the slight increase in energy is still here. Last night, I didn’t feel like going to bed until 9pm! Usually, it is a struggle for hours before that. I call 5pm my “pain killer hour” ~ when everything starts to really hurt and I begin to debate whether I need a drug. It’s work to not just go to bed and lie down.

The best nights I’ve had were in the last week, after I started my supplements again and also added in magnesium and melatonin. Melatonin every night. I know opinions are mixed on whether melatonin should be used, but, if it’s working, I’m continuing with it! Although, I’ve been having an incredible number of vivid dreams and nightmares (last night there was a lot of blood and gore and my dog had two heads). Is that a side effect of melatonin?? I also have to credit my happier nights to the fleece sheet set that my angel friend, Z., got me. I would have never bought them, but they have reset the way I see my bed ~ turned it from a sickbed into a soft, cozy hug with which I can’t wait to cuddle.

fleece sheets

I’m still not getting very much deep sleep, unfortunately. And even more unfortunate is the fact that the cpap still wakes me up and it seems paper tape over my mouth is my new lifelong protocol… The new/old (because she told me she is leaving the practice) sleep doctor (whom I liked very much ~ I did not mean to say she was an inferior clinician or that she had frustrated me by talking about whether my sleep problems were caused by childhood trauma and/or anxiety ~ these were practical questions and I appreciated her thorough investigative work, honestly. In my other post, I was merely trying to point out that, in an effort to conserve energy, words and effort, the ME/CFS patient has to steer the conversation and not tell the whole truth sometimes so it doesn’t get off track. In fact, the exact words I said to the sleep doc during this conversation were, “Totally off topic, but do you think I should consider a dental device?”)… anyway, she said she didn’t think the dental device was the right move for now ~ that I should give the cpap another month for sure. So, I will. My pressure is set at a 5-6 when other people need 15 or higher, so I count myself lucky. And perhaps, one day, my brain will stop its nocturnal activity. She also thought Cymbalta was a good idea, but I refuse to start it while my sleep is better. It seems it can either disrupt sleep or make you sleep more, but I don’t want to rock the boat right now.

The other thing on my mind is my period. I know you are all incredibly excited to hear about that. I didn’t even bother posting about my first ovulating period a few weeks ago because it was so beyond the normal pain of what a period should be, that I didn’t want to suck you all down with me. It was more painful, heavier and longer than any period that I can remember. Aunt Flo (as my college bff used to call it) was visiting for a full EIGHT days. And she’s a messy, angry, soul-sucking bitch, let me tell you. It solidified the fact that she is no longer welcome in my house, even if we are blood relatives. I agonized over the decision to get an IUD for days, but it can take months for your body to stop cramping and there are chances that the pain won’t be better long term. So, in the end, I have decided to go back on the pill ~ even though I am over 35, get migraines with auras (increases the risk of headaches and stroke), have no good bacteria in my gut (which can increase circulating estrogen), and my life is like one long sedentary car ride (increases the risk of blood clots). But taking the pill continuously guarantees no period and no pain ~ no other option does that. If I didn’t have ME and I wasn’t worried about surgery, I would have a hysterectomy tomorrow. Aunt Flo has never liked me and our knock-down-drag-out fights have sent me to the emergency room five times. So, maybe, if my body gets stronger, I will consider an IUD or ablation or something more permanent.

aunt flo

Thursday moment of gratitude: Peasant food! Soups and stews and leftover mish-mashes are the best for my restricted diet and winter warmth. If only I could have soft, crusty bread slathered in butter to dunk in them…. mmmmmm……