Trigger warning for mentions of self-harm and suicide.
I am not in a good place right now. I have very mixed feelings toward sex. Iíve never been in a relationship and my only sexual outlet is reading erotic stories on the internet. My problem is, that I feel immensely guilty afterwards. It makes me so depressed that I end up wanting to self-harm. Fortunately, I havenít given in the urge in ages, but itís incredibly difficult. Of course, the more I try to repress my sexual urges, the more insistently they resurface. In theory, I know that thereís nothing wrong with wanting sex -- just as there is nothing wront with not wanting it -- but then why do I feel so ambivalent towards it? I donít know how to better put it, but Iíve had an usual upbringing. I quit high school at fifteen after my brother took his own life. Iíve lived for years holed up at home and glued to the computer screen. Itís a miracle my friends are still speaking to me. Iíve moved on a bit since then: went back to school, got my diploma, started attending university, made new friends. But Iím still very withdrawn and fragile. The slightest imbalance seems enough to tip me over to suicidal depression. So now Iím worried I hope you guys can comfort me a little, if not help me. Please. How will I face tomorrow knowing that Iíve wasted another day on the thing I most despise? Thank you for listening.
Posts: 3 | From: Italy | Registered: Jun 2014
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A full complement of jedi hugs for you! Guilt is a shitty emotion, in that I find that a lot of time it sort of serves to distract me - when I get too close to thinking about something that really sucks or hurts, I feel guilty or embarrassed and so I stop thinking about it. So it kind of protects you in a way, but at the same time, it stops you from actually confronting the issue and fixing the underlying badness, you know? Have you been able to pin down exactly why you feel guilty, what about reading erotica you feel you shouldn't do? Do you feel like you spend too much time on it, like it's a bad way of expressing sexuality while other things would be okay, like you're getting turned on by stories or characters you feel weird about being interested in...?
Have you also tried other ways of doing sexual stuff - like masturbation, fantasy, porn etc.? If it's something about erotica which makes you feel crappy, maybe other activities could give you a good break while you reconcile yourself with erotica!
Do you have a counsellor or therapist who you can talk to about the depression? It'd be worth doing if not - dealing with depression on your own is just impossible, and especially if you're trying to study, and have friends, and practise being social... depression will do a number on those things, and then you feel worse 'cause you're sucking at important things and, potentially, spending all day sitting around on the internet because you can't face the things you should be doing, and so you get more depressed and... yeah. Getting some help to try to break that cycle is can really help, and if there's a risk that you could hurt yourself physically too, it's even more important that you have someone whose job it is to look after you and help keep you safe. *hugs*
Posts: 116 | From: UK | Registered: Apr 2014
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First off, have you been receiving any counseling or other help for your depression. If not, then your first step is to seek that out. If you're at university, they will most likely have mental health resources available to students. They may also be able to talk with you about how that depression might be interacting with your guilt around reading erotica.
Secondly, if reading these stories is causing you that level of guilt, have you tried taking a break from reading them? If not, do you have any sense of why you continue to seek them out?
You're right that sex and sexual feelings are nothing to be ashamed off. Neither is feeling ambivalent to sex. We each get to work out our own feelings on the matter, and it sounds like you have some sense of yours. So, don't feel like you are somehow obligated to pursue anything sexual at the moment.
Posts: 1292 | Registered: Aug 2013
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Hello and thank you both for your kind words. Every time I decide to stop reading erotica, I swear to myself itíll be forever, yet the moment I lower my mental guard because Iím either tired or bored the words and images start floating in my head and it fills me with excitement and revulsion in equal amounts. I have a hard time pushing them away, so I say to myself Iíll read just one more story, just to have some respite so then I can finally move on. But reading one story leads to reading others and soon I find myself almost ďbingeingĒ on it, to make a rather crude comparison. It just gets out of control every time. Sometimes it doesnít even turn me on that much, yet I keep doing it mindlessly. Itís become a habit. I feel guilty because it makes me spend too much time on the internet but also because it goes against my deeply-ingrained belief that sex is for other people, ďnormalĒ people, not for me. I repeat, intellectually I know that sex is a positive thing. I would never shame anyone because of their sexuality. But I absolutely hate being a sexual person myself. There was a time when my sex drive was so low it made me question whether I was in the asexual spectrum, but then again I wasnít really eating or sleeping very well back then. My deepest desire is to go back to being that way, even at the cost of my health. I donít want to develop a balanced relationship with my sexuality Ė even though that would probably be my sanest decision Ė I want to suppress it entirely. Piled up with my other issues, my sexuality and the mixed feelings that surround it can feel overwhelming. Itís been hard for me finding erotic material that isnít degrading to women in some way or another, whether as part of a consensual power play or not. I donít really like it and that probably doesnít help matters for me either. I try to stay as far away from visual porn as possible for this reason. Iíve been in therapy for many years. When I started attending university I had to move to another town, and that, mixed with the fact my studies kept me pretty busy, is why I essentially stopped seeing my therapist this winter. Honestly, I tried bringing up this topic with her before, but I just couldnít find the words because I was too scared. My therapist is a nice woman, but sheís far from perfect and she has hurt my feelings many times without realizing it. At the same time, I donít think I could afford finding another one. How can you control your thoughts? A few weeks ago, in a desperate attempt to sedate myself, I overdosed on tranquilizers and ended up at the hospital, where they thought I had attempted suicide and wanted to make me spend the night in the psychiatric ward, but I refused. Writing to you guys has calmed me down but I admit in the past days itís been very, very hard not trying to hurt myself again. Sorry for the rambling and thank you again.
Posts: 3 | From: Italy | Registered: Jun 2014
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I know it's difficult, but can you figure out what it is about yourself specifically that you feel like "disqualifies" you from sexuality?
I ask because you asked how to control your thoughts - this is totally anecdotal, but when I'm finding that I feel horrible things that I know intellectually are wrong, I sort of have to find the root and then reassure myself whenever those thoughts come up. So that might be something like (if you'd figured out that you feel "abnormal" because of depression) "Being depressed has no connection with the kinds of sex I can do, sshh". If I've found something that rings true to me, then that helps me calm down and avoid getting into a spiral of shitty emotions. Perhaps a similar thing could help you?
Was it thoughts about erotica that overwhelmed you to the point of overdosing? Or something else? Whatever it is, I really do think you should tell your therapist, because becoming that overwhelmed by thoughts you can't control is a serious problem, and something you shouldn't have to deal with. Maybe write a letter to the therapist if you're too nervous to tell her directly? And also, you should be able to tell her when she hurts your feelings, and ask her to do things differently in future - it's her job, after all; everyone needs to be able to take feedback and improve the way they do things in their job.
Posts: 116 | From: UK | Registered: Apr 2014
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I really feel for you and my heart goes out to you. A lot of what you're experiencing makes a lot of sense to me. I wish we could just switch off the feelings that hurt but sadly it's not possible, and in the end they often point to our other wants, like a quiet desire to resolve things that trouble us or to protect ourselves and so on.
Sexuality can sometimes be a bit of a magnet for the feelings you don't know what to do with. Got a bit of self-doubt floating around? Some guilty thoughts? All of a sudden you find them poking their heads out during your sexual life.
OP1's advice about speaking to your therapist about anything suicidal, is some extremely vital advice. In fact with most of the mental illness stuff, we can't directly offer much which is anywhere near the standard of the mental health professionals you have been in contact with.
With guilt/shame around masturbation and reading erotica, I totally get that. The lesson I learnt from having those sorts of feelings in the past was to just go with the decisions I was making. When you're not hurting anyone, going with those feelings, accepting those decisions to masturbate or not, to read one thing or another is a kindness to yourself. As scary as it might be, you do deserve that kindness.
Letting that kindness in is going to rely heavily on the work you do in therapy, but at the very least practising is something you can do.
The other thing is, feelings, like guilt, arousal and so on, aren't ever 'wrong'. Guilt isn't a fact about your worth, it is a reaction to many events which you perhaps haven't yet sorted through. It's not wrong to feel it, but it'd be untruthful to say it means anything about your sexuality or you as a person. We can sometimes find ourselves rushing to fix feelings by giving them meaning, "I feel like crap, it must be my fault...". From my experience there's a really helpful talent in just learning to stop after the first thought 'I feel crap' and not taking the logic any further, just sitting with that.
Sometimes, acknowledging and giving space for feelings we don't want to be having can 'calm the hydra' a little. That's the mythical beast whose heads multiply every time you try to chop them off.
Being able to think "OK I might have some difficult feelings about this erotica when I'm done. Where can I go to relax or process the discomfort" can make that a lot easier. In the same way "I don't want to become aroused, it might upset me, but if it happens I may need to take some time for myself, and one way or another, it will pass."
This stuff may help, but from the sounds of it, they may also feel difficult or be stuff that it is more appropriate to aim for, rather than feel able to do right now, unless you do, which is great.
Knowing that this will all get better with the work you do in therapy, too, might mean you won't feel pressure to tell them all about it if you're not comfortable. It is very clear to me that it's all connected and you have been and will be working on it regardless.
Please do look after yourself, and if you do get close to suicidal let someone know.
Hey guys, Iím sorry I couldnít reply sooner. I went through my finals this week and I wanted to wait until I was done with them before giving you guys a thoughtful response. First of all, Iíd like to thank you with all my heart for being so kind and supportive. Thank you Jacob for your what you said. Trying to follow your advice about giving myself permission to acknowledge my feelings without overreacting was very helpful, even though I admit sometimes I felt like I was simply putting it off until I was through with my exams. Most of all, you comforted me so much and Iím very grateful. I said I would never shame someone for their sexuality, or lack thereof, but thatís not true. I taunt my parents about theirs on a daily basis, even though theyíre senior citizens and their sex life petered out decades ago. Their marriage has always been pretty dysfunctional and the idea that they could have once been in love or even just sexually attracted to each other upsets me for some reason. Maybe because itís such a contrast compared to their usual behavior. Before meeting my current therapist, I was in treatment with another one who once told me that the fact they had produced three children must have been proof enough that my parentsí problems were never as bad as they thought, as if having sex should automatically make everything okay. I may have overreacted, but back then I felt belittled and betrayed. I ended up severing all ties with this person, but Iíve never gotten over it. This was just two years after I had dropped out of high school and turned into a recluse. At the time I used to blame my parents for my brotherís suicide Ė which was horrible and Iím very sorry about it now Ė and I couldnít stand to see the two of them make an actual effort to get along now that he was dead. I thought it was too late and that they were doing it exclusively to appease their consciences, so I tried to drive them apart. I would goad them into new screaming matches by asking them explicit questions in front of each other even though I knew it mortified them to death. In time, it has brought some results: my mother hasnít slept in the same bed as my father in years. Iím not proud of my behavior, but, in some way, this is exactly what I wanted. My parents used to have no qualms about fighting in front of me, whereas with my brothers they were always very careful not to, as they knew it would have upset them. Therefore I was often privy to personal information (including details about their sex life, which was just as troubled as their marriage) they probably shouldnít have have shared with a child. My shaming them is my retaliation. To this day, as soon as I see them being nicer to each other than usual, I start taunting them. Interestingly, theyíve never been mad at me for this. They might have begged me to stop from time to time, but theyíd sooner blame each other than admit I was deliberately setting them at odds. Some of the content of the erotica I read upsets me, yes. BDSM elements seem to be littered everywhere in erotica, no matter how carefully I try to avoid them. All that ďhumiliation playĒ does nothing but add to the sense of shame I feel, even though I know itís supposed to be consensual. I am ashamed of having sexual desires in the first place as well as of not always being able to prevent myself from indulging them. I wish I could physically cut my sexuality off. Why does it have to be so overtaking? I feel like a child who has walked into her parents while they were having sex and cannot reconcile that primal image with what she knew about her life and family, if that makes any sense. Iím 25 and Iíve never had a boyfriend or a girlfriend. With my background, my body image issues and my other problems, I just donít think I would be able to handle a romantic relationship. Making myself long for one seems so pointless and wrongÖ Thank you again for listening.
Hey Corinna: discussion of suicide, self-harm or attempted suicide on the part of a user themselves is not something we can do with users here in our services. I'm sorry that limit was not one you were reminded of clearly right from the start once it came up, but I need to remind everyone here of it now.
For several reasons, that simply is something we lack the ability and tools to responsibly and safely work with users with here.
-------------------- Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen About Me ē Get our book! Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000
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