My relationship with sex is an interesting one in terms of how much it’s changed over the years. At age 19, sex was very much a carefree, fun experience. It was – at times – a way of distracting me from the difficulties of life. I was learning about myself and what I enjoyed. Sometimes it was reckless and alcohol-fuelled, and sometimes it was just me and the boy I loved learning about each other, wide-eyed and curious. Fun is the word I would primarily use for sex at this stage of my life.
At age 22 I met somebody whom I fell very deeply in love with, and suddenly sex shifted a little bit. I was so psychologically happy, and I felt so emotionally safe. The sex was fun, just as it had always been, but it became far deeper and more meaningful. It became a way of showing this man how much I loved him. Sex became a little less about fleeting embraces in risky places, and a little more about a warm, deep connection underneath a cotton duvet on a Sunday morning.
Since the OCD flare up in 2016, I’ve found it difficult to see sex as something other than the biological risk of combining two ecosystems of pathogens together (OHHHH yeah, I know how to talk dirty alright). It’s been challenging at times to keep my fear of viruses at bay. At one particular point, thoughts about hepatitis, HIV and herpes all screamed profanities at me whenever I even considered thinking about sex. Luckily, once I’d overcome the initial shitstorm of intrusive thoughts, it never actually interrupted my ability to enjoy sex in the moment – I was a little preoccupied in the actual moment. But afterwards, I would obsess that I had somehow contracted an STI from my partner (I trusted him implicitly but OCD doesn’t care for the actual truth). I would obsess that I had an undiscovered virus that could be transmitted sexually that I might pass on to my partner (pretty narcissistic if you think about it lol I’M THE CHOSEN ONE GUYS, THIS VIRUS CHOSE ME…) I spent hours researching the statistics of viral contraction through sex etc etc etc.
In hindsight, this fear of sexual contamination was probably very damaging for my relationship. Neither of us was aware that I had OCD, and by the April of that year I was calling him up on the other side of the world to sob over the phone that I might be contagious and that he might die because of me…imagine having me as a girlfriend hahahaHAHA (I’m v.sorry to the man who had to deal with this shituation, yours sincerely, low-maintenance Mim).
The fear began to sink further into the sprawling veins of my life in so many different ways. I kept my toothbrush separate. I wanted to use a clean towel every morning after I showered. I began cleaning door handles. I washed my hands and clothes constantly. I was so terrified of germs getting anywhere near my princess parts (that’s what they’re called by the way – just incase you were wondering). I hated kissing and cuddling. Various exes have taken my lack of desire for touch quite personally, or failed to accept that it comes part and parcel with me as a human bean. Ironically, the only way I’m really able to show affection is through sex itself (as though it’s less likely to catch something through penetrative sex than a bit of hand-holding lol go figure). I am working on it – for myself and not for anyone else. I’m doing it in my own time, on my own terms. I’ve even considered the fact that my lack of affection might not be entirely down to OCD, maybe I’m just not a cuddly person, and that’s okay.
As a whole, 2016 was a real b***ard of a year, and after the breakdown of my relationship and the death of my sister, I confronted my mental health headfirst and underwent Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from 2016 to 2017. The exposure work helped a lot in terms of sexual contamination fears. It just so happened that exposure to all kinds of germs, from public toilets and public transport, actually helped to take down the sexual contamination fears too.
Unfortunately, after I had completed the CBT in 2017, I found out that my new companion had been unfaithful. This triggered an OCD break which was extremely painful and traumatic. Until this moment, I had finally managed to put all of my fears down to OCD and not logic, but now I was facing the fact that I had been intimate with someone who I couldn’t trust. Therefore OCD was telling me that my health was at risk, and that I was absolutely not being illogical for thinking so. The CBT had been temporarily undermined. Fortunately I tested negative for STIs after his confession, but OCD listens to neither logic nor science, my friend. The OCD was trying to convince me that science somehow didn’t apply to me (SCIENCE? I’M FAAAR TOO IMPORTANT FOR SCIENCE). I was back to square one again. Cue lots of unpredictable screaming fits and valium. Can you see why trusting a human in an intimate way can be especially tough for some OCDers?
Thankfully, with medication, counselling, support from family and friends, and by surrounding myself with love and trust, I healed completely from that particular blip. Further treatment means that I’ve stopped obsessing over STIs and I’m more able to trust humans and their walking ecosystems. I do however find the biological side of sex to be ever-present in my mind. Perhaps it always will be. I’m still not a huge fan of kissing or holding hands, and I still see sex as sharing a whole bunch of pathogens. Sex seems like a bigger commitment to me than it used to before OCD took over.
Right now I’m not dating – not because of the OCD – just because I want to be by myself for the time being. Being single is such a welcome breath of fresh air. I’m working on myself and my mental health, unapologetically, without having to compromise or think of what would be best for a partner. I’m being selfish because I know that right now, that’s what’s best for me. When I do decide to date again, it’ll be in my own time, on my own terms, because my mental health is my priority. It’ll be interesting to see how differently I react to dating and love after some much-needed healing and reflection. I think deep down that once I’m feeling a connection with a human, and I feel emotionally safe in their presence, the sex-related element of OCD will probably sink away underneath the bed.
Thank you for reading, and remember kids, always practise safe sex *finger guns*