IT HAPPENED TO ME: Antidepressants Took Away My Ability to Orgasm, So I Started a Public Quest to Get Them Back

I find it completely unacceptable that I must give up my life hack, my masturbatory orgasm, in order to fully enjoy being alive.
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Crista Anne
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I find it completely unacceptable that I must give up my life hack, my masturbatory orgasm, in order to fully enjoy being alive.
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I came out of the womb depressed, like many other members of my family. 

Depression has always been there, always impacting my life to some degree. At best, I had a numb acceptance of being alive. At worst, I was unable to get out of bed or leave my house for months — years at a few points. 

Intense feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and extreme anxiety at the most basic of life functions. My first suicide attempt was at seven; I ate handfuls of TUMS. They were in the cabinet that my mom had always warned me to stay away from; that the meds in there could kill me. My mother quickly put me into therapy, then began the decades of trying to find an antidepressant that worked for me. Some helped, some didn’t, but none really made enough of an impact that I was ever anything more than barely functional.

While I came out of the womb depressed, I also came out of the womb with my hand on my clit. Blissfully, I was raised by an incredible woman who never shamed me for exploring my body. As a preschooler, we called it “my feeling good stuff.” I was taught that my feeling good stuff was something I should do in my room, for it was a private and special thing only for me. 

From the start of my life, I used the positive, pleasurable sensations that came from masturbation as a way to combat my depression. Not cure, but combat. I used masturbation to feel something other than the darkness and loathing. 

As I went through puberty I began to have chronic migraines. Quickly I learned that I could stave off the worst of a migraine with caffeine and an orgasm. Masturbatory orgasms became my life hack more than something sexual. They were one of my most dependable tools for surviving life.

Thanks in part to my mother’s fantastic sex-positive parenting, growing up without shame tied to pleasure, I have always been highly orgasmic. Via manual stimulation, I could get myself off in two or three minutes. When I began having partnered sex, I always orgasmed easily. While most other aspects of my identity were ever-shifting, my orgasm was something I could always count on. I’ve masturbated virtually every day of my life. Heck, I had a masturbatory orgasm during labor with my youngest child to help ease the pain of a natural childbirth.

As an adult, I’ve made a career for myself within the fields of sexuality. Early on, at the dawn of queer porn on the internet, I was a model for sites like NoFauxxx. (Now Indie Porn Revolution.) Queer porn and sex work helped me learn to love and accept my body and my sexuality. From there I spent many years in sex toy retail, where I found my calling in sex-positive pleasure-based sex education and activism. 

Through that time I was a constant “professional over-sharer,” starting blogs as early as '98 or '99 on Angelfire sites. I never courted fame, but I loved connecting with people who shared my passions and experiences. 

Working in these fields has had a few negative consequences; one of the biggest was a lack of access through employers or financial means to health insurance or mental health coverage. I spent most of my 20s unmedicated, learning ways to cope with my mental illness on my own. Some worked, but there were more than a few crashes in those years. Again, masturbation helped me make it through.

Fast forward to now. Three months ago I found the means to seek treatment for my depression again. I’m a mom to a blended family of four young children. I needed to get my mental health under control so that I could be the best parent possible. My wonderful GP through Planned Parenthood put me on a new antidepressant, which after the adjustment period ended, I discovered actually works. I’m 32, and for the first time I can say that I enjoy being alive. I look forward to waking up in the morning. I look forward to the rest of my life with my amazing partner and our family.

The other discovery was that I now have anorgasmia, meaning I can no longer orgasm. While my partnered sex life has not suffered from this change, the loss of my masturbatory life hack has been devastating. 

I’m a regular contributor to The Carnalcopia podcast on Swingset.fm. While doing an episode on depression and mental health, I let loose about my newfound anorgasmia. The responses to that podcast from their listeners was amazing. Their positive feedback to my sharing my struggles, combined with the years that I’d spent listening to stories of others who lost libido and orgasm to medications spurred me to begin #OrgasmQuest.

#OrgasmQuest is the sharing of my personal journey to regain my orgasm on both my website and via the Twitter hashtag #OrgasmQuest. I find it completely unacceptable that I must give up my life hack, my masturbatory orgasm, in order to fully enjoy being alive. 

In every other respect this medication works perfectly for me; I am not interested in trying something else. I am determined to find a way to get my orgasm back. #OrgasmQuest is not promoting goal-oriented sex, the toxic notion that partnered sex without an orgasm is failure. Sex without orgasm can be every bit as wonderful as sex with orgasm. This is about my journey to get my masturbatory orgasm back, and from there, possibly my orgasm via partnered sex.

By sharing my quest publicly, I am attempting to achieve a number of goals. I want to raise awareness that medications can cause sexual side effects. It’s astonishing how many people are not warned that this may happen to them. I want to bust stigmas around masturbation, the intense stigmas against parents — especially mothers — as being sexual beings in their own right. I want to bust stigmas that keep people from sharing their mental health struggles. I want to start conversations.

It’s safe to say that is working. Shortly after I posted my first #OrgasmQuest blog post, my friend Rachel Kramer Bussel interviewed me for her column. From that column, #OrgasmQuest has gone viral. Good Vibrations, SheVibe, and Tantus have all signed on as sponsors of my quest. There have been articles on #OrgasmQuest across feminist spaces, sex-positive sites, and mommy blogs. I’ve been on the front page of Cosmopolitan.com. Dr. Drew’s show on HLN did two segments on #OrgasmQuest, where I defended myself on live TV against accusations that I was over-sharing, covering larger mental health issues with masturbation, and what impact this public quest would have on my children. By the end of the segments, I had him on my side. I was subsequently on his radio show, where he praised the strength of my voice and articulation of my story.

Let me tell you: As I spent a huge chunk of my life nearly mute from extreme social anxiety, I never fathomed I’d be speaking over Dr. Drew live on national TV so I could finish stating my point about the benefits of masturbation. The entire experience of going viral has been surreal, thrilling, and exhausting at the same time. The conversations that have been spawned from the coverage have been almost universally positive; I’ve been honored by the people who’ve reached out to me privately to share their experiences. Sure, I’ve gotten a great deal of trolling and threats, but I choose to focus on the positives.

While the viral coverage of #OrgasmQuest will come to a close, I’ll continue on my path as long as it takes. Right now I’m taking time to devote 15 minutes a day, whenever I can fit that in, to masturbation. I use sex toys for masturbation, the powerful vibration from a wand style vibe can — let me emphasize can there — help make the clitoral nerves that spread through the vulva more responsive. 

After three weeks of using my Original Magic Wand, I’ve gone from only feeling pleasure but no orgasm, to experiencing the vaginal contractions and wobbly legs that accompany my orgasm. These are not the explosive, universe-creating orgasms I am accustomed to, but that is a start. I am determined to continue until I have my life hack back.

This experience has shown me the value of going out on a limb and sharing openly an intensely personal experience. That you can be the change you want to see in the world. That strongly advocating for yourself and your needs can have amazing ripple effects through your life and the world. What ends up working for me through #OrgasmQuest may only work for me. I am not advocating that I’ve found the solution for everyone, but I’ve found the right path for myself.