Erotica & Depression

It comes to no surprise to anyone that follows me on twitter, but for the last little while,

I’ve

been

depressed.

I live with schizoaffective disorder (which is like a hellish mixture of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) and I experience both manic and depressive episodes. Lately, I haven’t had any energy to get out of bed, let alone write. As a creative writing major and a blogger, a lot of what I do – both for university and for leisure– involves writing. I’ve had difficulty finding any inspiration or motivation for anything creative. I’ve also had a very decreased interest in sex. I’ve started keeping a sex spreadsheet (inspired by Kate Sloan’s own sex spreadsheet!) and I have had almost record breaks between sex and masturbating. I’ve gone from more-than-weekly sex in February and March (standard for me, considering I still live with my parents) to having absolutely no sex in April. Both times I’ve had sex in May have been followed pretty devastating fall-outs, where I’m shaking, upset, and nearly non-verbal. I’m batting average when it comes to masturbation this month, but only because I have spent literal hours lying in bed with nothing better to do. It’s not out of any real desire to jerk off, I don’t watch much porn during (very unusual), and it’s not uncommon for me to cry afterwards. Overall, sex has been a veritable bogeyman for me lately.

 

Nevertheless, I’ve been consuming more erotica (read: sexy fanfiction) than ever. It’s all I ever want to write and present in almost everything I read. The things I’m most proud of writing over the past two months have been two incredibly self-indulgent PWPs (porn without plots). Even then, I’m not particularly happy with them, but I like them much, much more than anything else I’ve written lately. When I was writing the first piece of erotica, it was confusing to me: I feel uncomfortable even thinking about having sex, but I could write about fictional characters getting it on at the drop of a hat. I reached the conclusion that it mostly comes down to two things: that I love, and have always loved sex, and that I can detach myself from the situation by writing it about fictional characters.

 

Sex is fun. It’s primarily about pleasure and mutual enjoyment. When I’m depressed, I drastically self-isolate, but I feel lonelier than ever. Sex is about connection and emotion, and it’s comforting to be able to fabricate that emotional exchange in written form. It’s the same kind of escapism that a lot of people look for in books – you could read fantasy novels because you want to feel brave, you could read detective novels because you want to feel smart, you could read erotica because you want to feel connected. Often when I’m depressed, the emotions that I share with my partner during sex are overwhelming for me, and leave me feeling upset and self-conscious. With erotica, I can control everything about the situation, right down to what emotions are cropping up. Absolute control is useful to stop any unwanted sadness from seeping in, but it can also mean that I can play out my fantasies in a very fulfilling way. For me, fiction writing is often about playing out personal fantasies, and my erotica is no different. I still crave some kink practices when I’m depressed, but I’m not in the headspace to engage in them, so I write.

 

Part of writing out a fantasy is detaching that fantasy from real life, which I definitely do with erotica. I’m not writing about myself and I’m not writing about people I know. However, it’s not always easy to distance myself from what I’m writing. Writing about my kinks and my fantasies can make me feel a bit raw afterwards – not as intense as if I had actually had sex, but it definitely makes an impact. I had a lot of difficulty writing a scene with a trans character in it, because it felt too much like imagining myself having sex.

 

Erotica also has a strained relationship with my dysphoria. Lately, I’ve been feeling really at wars with my body versus my gender presentation, and reading and writing about characters who are generally thinner, taller, and prettier than me is frustrating. It can leave me feeling inadequate and upset. My dysphoria gets particularly bad with stories about cis men, because descriptions of all the wonderful things a penis can do can whip up some unwelcome feelings about my genitals. I rarely have bottom dysphoria, but when I do have it, I have it bad. While erotica can be a bit of wish fulfillment, it can also be very painful, a reminder of what I’m lacking.

 

Fanfiction, rather than just general erotica, has the added benefit of almost immediate attention. I get likes and comments and appreciation, that makes me feel like I wrote what I did for a purpose. I know it’s unhealthy to rely on external approval for my mental health, but sometimes it’s the only way to brighten up a bad day. Fanfiction is also low pressure, because I don’t have deadlines or obligations with it, so it’s written mostly for me. The cost-benefit of the stress versus the approval is very favourable.

 

Writing erotica can be an escape, it can be cathartic, and it can be just plain fun. When I’m depressed, I think I deserve all the fun I can get. As far as coping mechanisms or self-care goes, it’s hardly the most conventional, but I’m not ashamed to while away a few hours writing about blowjobs where I would otherwise be spiraling in self-loathing. I’m not suggesting that erotica is a useful tool for many, or even for some, but it works for me and for that, I’m glad.

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