My mind leaves my body for the 10th time today. My mind is blank, my body is not my own, I am empty and hollow. I may appear otherwise, but I am mentally withdrawn from my physical self. I’m dissociating. You’re inside of me. I feel nothing.
Someone asks me what I’m writing about this week, and I tell them that I’m writing about invisible disabilities. They tell me, “Good one, a cop-out.” I ask them what they mean. They ask me if I can write about something I don’t know. I tell them that I have anxiety and depression. They ask me if those are even disabilities. I feel a painful shrinking inside of myself — I feel my invisibility pulsate.
My mind is oftentimes nowhere and everywhere. I have chronic shakes, palpitations and episodes of dissociation. I jump among 20 thoughts, all of which are convoluted with worst-case scenarios and passing panic. I randomly wake up in tears and struggle to lift myself out of bed. I struggle to stay focused on specific activities and will put things off because of lingering fear. My mind is outside of my body, in a distant place, and I can’t figure out how to put it back in its cage. I am constantly crumbling under the immense pressure to be perfect.
Perfect is my dream. Perfect is my nightmare. I am dying to be perfect. And sex is the perfect conduit for my obsession with perfection.
Sex while experiencing anxiety and depression is like being trapped in a pressure cooker. Intimacy requires a closeness that my mind refuses to permit. Maybe I’m physically close to you, but you can rest assured that my mind is in a different stratosphere. There are times when I’m having sex and my mind is racing, focused on some painful memory or some repressed notion of self-hatred, and I’m completely absent in the sexual moment. Sex was a temporary coping mechanism, a Band-Aid, a rush of dopamine and satisfaction to distract from my splintering sense of identity and personhood. Sex was also salt on the wound, where I had to face my naked body that I was so insecure about. The thoughts of someone looking at my face making uncontrolled expressions, looking at the corners and edges of myself I felt a sad disgust toward, all invaded my mind through every wave of sexual pleasure.
At the center of this anxiety, there is an omnipresent body dysmorphic effect that causes my painful yet addictive relationship with sex. I feel like a stranger in my own body, rarely at home with myself and struggling to find remote comfort within someone else. Sometimes I’ll be naked, lying next to someone, and I’ll begin thinking of all the ways my minor movements and breathing might be disruptive to them. My mind races — I question how best to augment my reflexive motions, silence my breathing or still my nervous shifting in bed, figuring how I could somehow make myself disappear.
The worst is the lack of control, the feeling of spiraling, the feeling that my body is not my own, the feeling that he, she, you have more say over what it does than I ever could. Anxiety and depression have the power to make my sex performative, and it becomes a fixation on the other person’s pleasure and their subsequent perception of me. I am self-conscious, thinking of ways to optimize my inflections of pleasure, to best perform my sexuality, to pleasingly portray myself. I am hyperaware of myself as a sexual being.
Though I continue to feel these painful realities, I also have experiences of happiness and health now. I have grown, reclaimed my sexuality. I have found my sexuality as a source of empowerment and healing and satisfaction. I found my body. Through masturbation and sex as practices of self-love, I now call my body home, and I proudly live here with every ounce of satisfaction. Sex is warm now — it feels like a home, it is comfortable. I’m done attempting to embody someone’s fetishized perception of me. I breathe deeply before sex and remind myself that I love me so much, that I deserve to cum often and happily. I am in perpetual conversation with my demons, tackling how my mental illness and my trauma affect my embodiment of self. I am now in a daily practice of shedding the painful pieces of me, rediscovering sex as something that has the power to heal rather than hurt.
Rizza writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected] .