Sine Qua Non, A Prompt Response

A few thoughts on poor mental health and its effect on intimacy.

Unperson Pending
Counter Arts
7 min readFeb 28, 2023

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Image Credits: Pexels.com/user:Ron Lach

I’ve been rolling it over in my head for weeks now as to how to respond to this latest challenge by

. And now that the month is practically out, I find that I can’t really respond in any celebratory way, mainly because all but one of the sexual encounters I’ve had with women since I lost my virginity at 17 are light-years away from what I would consider good experiences. And even the one that I do consider the best is still a source of discomfort for me. Stephanie wasn’t to blame though. She was as patient and as understanding as any woman can be whilst her lover fumbles his way around her anatomy. I just didn’t have the insight necessary at the time to understand how my mental health issues were affecting my ability to be comfortable in intimate situations. Had I understood better the value of effective partner communication, it could have been something memorable, but what’s past is past.

Writing about sex and sensuality isn’t hard for me. It’s not as if I can’t imagine a healthy way to be intimate. Clearly this bit of short fiction is proof of that.

However, I can also imagine a pretty grim and twisted sense of intimacy as well, as this bit of short fiction proves.

What’s really at issue is whether or not it’s worth the time even trying for a healthy state of affairs given the long odds against success.

Anyway, Stephanie would be the second to last woman in my list of lovers, the final encounter occurring almost twenty years ago, before I moved away for college. That last tryst was anything but a Swan Song, as the expression goes. Christy was too young for me (I was a non-traditional undergrad in my mid to late 20s, she was barely out of high school), and she was way more emotionally invested than I was in life beyond a roll in hay. What’s more, she didn’t want me using a condom because she liked how I felt inside of her. I wasn’t pleased by this, but try expressing that in the heat of moment when passions are inflamed. Of course, my biggest mistake was not being more honest about the situation after the fact. My anxiety and fear of vulnerability precluded any possibility of effective communication and it all just petered out. Of course, I didn’t stop getting off at that point, I just haven’t had any encounters with women since then. It wasn’t for lack of trying, it just eventually happened that I felt safer flying solo.

After years of reflection, I can see how the roots of my anxiety go back to childhood, though not to a precise cause. I was raised evangelical, abusively so, and was instilled with a profound fear of hell and all things evil or demonic, so much so that I would interpret the flash-burns in my eyes as demons crawling along the walls as I tried to fall asleep; read the story of the Bell Witch in elementary school and had deep fears about the witch coming for me; would have nightmares about Darth Vader severe enough to wake the whole house, the result of which became my egg-donor deciding the appropriate solution was to throw my Star Wars toys in the trash. There were even times where I would agonize about the safety of my siblings, like maybe they would fall off of the pontoon during a fishing trip down south and drown, or maybe they would accidentally slip through the minuscule gap between the coffin and the grave at a burial and get stuck.

What’s more, I was inculcated to rely on my elders for everything I supposedly needed, so there really wasn’t a lot of opportunity to develop a robust sense of self necessary to be able to advocate affirmatively for my needs when they were at issue. Effectively, when it came to women and intimacy, I took what I could get and went with the flow because I didn’t know any better. And by the time I did have that sense of self, I was beyond the point of exasperation where being overlooked was concerned and was extremely reluctant to even try when the odds of success were so minuscule. What’s more, I think my sense of desire and my notions of what proper behavior should be were severely distorted by the popular culture of the 80s and 90s. I think John Hughes and his ilk left me with the absurd notion that all you had to do was light the spark and romance would take care of itself; cue credits, exit stage right. Sadly, I’ve learned in recent years just how badly awash in absurdity were my younger predilections. Nothing worth pursuing is as easy as popular culture makes it out to be.

Unfortunately, I’ve been living with depression to one degree or another since about tenth grade, and by the time I was officially diagnosed, I had already lived more than most people my age, which is to say that I was surviving without a much of a sense of self beyond youthful angst and exuberance, and without any serious elder support to guide me. So it was a lot of trial and error, with more error added on top. I needed to belong and I constantly found myself wandering from one group of people to another, no one tribe ever really suited to my needs as a human being. Most just took what they wanted from me and left me hanging when I was of no further value. So, as with any string of negative feedback, I pulled back from people more and more as my struggles with mental illness progressed through the years, giving up on friendships, relationships, family, the works. I spend most of my time alone, still struggling with my disorders, no will or desire to risk re-entering social society.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate over the years, however, is the Buddhist precept that desire is the cause of all suffering. I’ve certainly found it to be true. And that’s part of the reason I find myself where I am today. I used to desire things to a great deal, emotionally invest in the things they say are suppose to matter, like friends and family, love and passion and so forth, and when the walls would come crashing down on me, I would feel devastated for extended periods of time, to the point that my life seemed to be at its end with every downturn, no matter how small the misstep. Clearly, such a life is pure hell, what with an underdeveloped sense of self and no practical sense of emotional maturity. Thank my childhood elders on that front for their ‘liberal’ use of shame and corporal punishment as corrective measures. So, in a sense, my desire was the cause of all my suffering because I didn’t have the mind to know how to properly overcome emotional adversity and deal with life in a diplomatic and constructive fashion. You’re suppose to rule desire, as I’ve come to realize; not eliminate it.

So, but for my mental health issues, which, apart from genetics, stem in great deal from my adverse childhood development, I might have had a healthy and happy sex life. As it stands, I understand better the value of communication and advocating for my own needs, exploring the beauty of coupling as two people and not just as one taking from another. Unfortunately, I am unwilling to even try and put myself back out there given the reality that the kinds of women I find attractive are unlikely to want to mate with someone as damaged in the head as I am; unlikely to want to understand that I have a lot of catching up to do; unlikely to want to waste time being patient as I learn to make love on their level. So unless society takes a more constructive view on either legalizing prostitution or accepting sex surrogacy as a valid form of mental health treatment, I’m stuck flying solo.

What’s more, name me one woman with whom I might be able to share comparable life experience, meaning similar in age, who genuinely wants to live with and attempt to love a man with mental health issues as severe as mine, with economic prospects so dim, he may never be able to live without struggle. And I’m not operating on assumption here. These are practical insights based on trends I’ve observed in popular culture, things I’ve read over the years, and observations of human nature in general. Someone once said that I didn’t have much of a chance when I came into the world, my family being as dysfunctional as it was, and still is. And what I’ve come to accept is that there’s no point trying for the brass ring what with the odds so heavily stacked against you. I wouldn’t mind trying if I knew there were fair odds of success, but fair odds seems few and far between the older I get and I’m not going to waste what time I have left on hopes and dreams, not when the odds say I’ll have to work ten times as hard to get the same return as everyone else.

No, better to accept that there are more important things in life at this point than desire and sharing a bed with the woman of your dreams, particularly when the woman of your dreams is unlikely to have any desire for an overweight neurotic mess of a walking debacle who will probably never amount to much. Sex is nice to think about, but the prospect of getting to a better place in order to have a decent sex life is slim at this point. Instead, I think I’ll read a few books, watch a few movies, paint a few pictures and generally bide my time in between ineffective medical treatments and governmental red tape until my time us done; and not get my hopes up that there may be a ray of hope somewhere in a world that doesn’t seem to have any room for me.

Adieu.

If you’ve actually made it this far, feel free to peruse my other writings with this link.

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