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Sex and Pills: A Love Story
by Carrie Hill Wilner
(BUPROPION This medicine is an antidepressant)

It's not like I wanted to think about sex more often. My libido was the only thing about me that had always been healthy.

Well, more like intrusive than healthy.

More like, "Carrie, one I'm-thinking-about-fucking-you-on-the-desk voicemail a day is really enough."

"Is it?"


"Oh. Sorry."

When I first went on brain candy to fix the fact that I was a fucked-up kid, I sort of secretly hoped I'd benefit from the drugs' legendary side effect of lessened sexual desire. Maybe I'd be able to get some work done.


I went through just about every SSRI there was, trying to find one that didn't give me nightmares or make me throw up. But my sexual desire - never distinct from "desire" in general, in my mind - remained unthwarted.

Which was kind of perplexing.

Because it's not like sex was that great. I didn't know what I was doing, and neither did the bartenders and shy boyfriends who peopled my adolescence. Like Paulo-who-looked-like-John-Cusack in Milan. I was quite literally homeless, so I'd moved in with him for a bit. I was eating his food and wearing his shirts and I didn't know anyone and had nothing to do, and every day it would be:

"Sweetie, when are you coming home? Carlo's coming over? Shit. When's he coming? With you? Well, when's he leaving? Yes I'll pick up the wine and start the water boiling."

And with the wine bought and the pasta thrown in, fifteen minutes before they walked in the door I'd sit on the floor with a coffee mug of chianti and try to watch the news but all I could do was think about the smell of his soap and latex whenever the anchors paused to let one of their feeble jokes or the gravity of the state of affairs sink in, I'd feel his skin on parts of my arms that I knew touched his chest when I wrapped them around him and my toes would curl and my palms would turn red and warm and they'd come in and it would be us and Carlo, for chrissake, who, well, actually wasn't half bad but it wasn't his pant leg my foot slipped up under the dinner table, he wasn't the reason I was drumming my fingers impatiently and I want I want I want I want I want. When Carlo left, a glance was enough to send Paulo to the bathroom for the condoms and we'd fuck on the linoleum floor where I'd been sitting alone two hours before and it was… okay.

That's unfair. It was nice. I mean, it felt pretty good, and it was nice to be close to him, but, well, when everyone had rolled over and had their cigarettes, it was, you know... eh.

Conceptually, with the sweat and the bodies and whatever, it was all there, but if sweat and bodies were all I was after, I could have gone to the gym. The anticipation was out of proportion to the satisfaction.

Anyway, the pill-hopping went on for a while and got me nowhere - as in still throwing up and having nightmares, still being a fucked-up kid, as in mostly I cried a lot. Sometimes I threw things. I was, according to various sources, moping, insane, scared, manifesting allergies in strange ways, scary, tired, a victim of my times, of bourgeois malaise, of a total lack of self-control.

I had a therapist I wanted to name my kids after, but no matter how safe I felt in the hour I spent in her office, there were another 167 hours each week, and they passed very slowly and painfully.

So much for that.

I took Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox and Effexor.

None of which is advertised as a cure for bourgeois malaise.

No wonder they didn't work.

In a last-ditch-effort to the corps of psychiatrists who decided what pills I would be taking next, I ended up on Celexa, then the newest, pinkest SSRI.

It worked.

But it made me very, very tired.

I spent a couple of years half-awake, trying to find a doctor who understood that I couldn't soak in the limpid waves of seratonin flooding my brain if I was passed out all the time.

Finally I did. She said, "Let's add Wellbutrin to your regimen. It ups dopamine, it's a bit of a stimulant."

If it's called Wellbutrin, it can't be bad, right?


So I started taking these purple-grey pills. I'm less tired. Despite a Pac-man shaped wedge of my mental pie chart being devoted to sex, it had been something that was pleasant with boyfriends and anything from fun to disturbing with non-boyfriends. It had not been: bolts of electric liquor surging up my spine, pop rocks, synaptic shocks down every nerve like I'd kicked the radio into the tub like you warn curious children to never ever do, finishing flushed and dazed, hands shaking, where am I and what the fuck is that?


That good.

Every time.


It's not just transcendental orgasm that comes courtesy of my new favorite pill; I'm happier, and not placid-tired-zen-happy, but make-that-a-Makers-on-the-rocks-damn-I-look-good-in-these-jeans-do-you-dare-me-to? happy. Confident, even.

And confidence, when mixed with twenty-one years old and my usual dirty-mindedness, translates into lots of boys, and when you ask if they want a sip of your Makers and they say "No, I can't, I'm allergic to gluten," you say:

"So is your head going to explode from the bourbon on my lips when I kiss you?"

You always end up kissing him, you corny slut.

And then when you're making him a four a.m. cup of tea back at your place and he slips his arm around your waist and it startles you and you spill boiling water on your hand and it turns red instantly and he's so sorry and is getting you a paper towel with cold water on it but there's no anesthetic better than your scalded hand on the small of his back and your tongue in his mouth, there's no pain because your nerves have lost all discretion, turning every sensation into high voltage ichor and you almost do it right there against the fridge but your roommate comes in, and back in your bed it's ridiculous how many times you come, like at least four and it's not like you're fucking for more than a few minutes and afterwards, smoking, of course, he says, "Damn, not that I questioned my abilities..." because he's a little bit cocky "... but I've never been with anyone who made me feel like I was that good."

And you say "It's not you, it's me."


Everyone's got their chemical vices. That's been fine by me since the day in 7th grade when Annie, Tanisha, Kevin and I shared our first cigarette in Union Square and got caught by our American History teacher who made us put it out and, in a particularly uninspired lecture, explained to us that our bodies were temples. I knew right away that that was wrong because, well, it's you and it's the only way you have of understanding things and there's a lot to be understood and I know that even the most self-destructive behavior is motivated as much by curiosity and passion for oneself as it is by the oft-diagnosed desperation, self-hatred, desire for oblivion, pretension.

Then one morning I wake up in an apartment in Tribeca next to someone good-looking who I'm glad I didn't fuck and I'm nauseated and just get dressed, leave him sleeping, and in the painfully slow cab ride up the West Side Highway - on my way to see the shrinkwrapper no less - I'm, like, just because I can do this every weekend doesn't mean I have to.

Not that I can think of a good reason to stop.

And I tell the shrinkwrapper that ever since I've been on these pills I've been like a brash sexual superhero, which is a lot of responsibility for one little girl and she says, well, yes, it's entirely possible that the drug could be making you a bit manic and we both sort of nod and then I tell her something about my thesis because I'd rather talk about that.


Carrie Hill Wilner lives in New York City and is a regular contributer, former editor, columnist [etc] for Nerve. She is currently working on her first novel.

Copyright © Carrie Hill Wilner, 2004

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