What would it be like to wake up one day and notice that the desire to have sex, the passionate lust you once felt, the presence of one of the most natural human instincts was suddenly gone? If you're a woman with HSDD — hypoactive sexual desire disorder — you might know this gut-wrenching and confusing feeling all too well.
Although a loss of libido can be the result of many things — depression, medication, stress, an unhappy relationship — HSDD is defined as a persistent, recurring lack of sexual desire that causes distress and frustration in the women it afflicts. It's not simply that you have a month or two where you're "too tired" to have sex: Having HSDD means you rarely or never feel the sexual desire you used to. Imagine years of not understanding why you have no sex drive, and think of how frustrating that would be. Unfortunately, HSDD is the most common form of sexual dysfunction, and for one in 10 women, that awful frustration is a daily reality.
In order to help women who don't have HSDD understand the hardships of living with little to no libido, 34-year-old Sheri Mike of Lafayette, Louisiana decided to share her own story. From the outside, one might never guess that she's been struggling with a lack of sex drive for most of her adult life: She's a personable, bubbly blonde, a mother of two, and her marriage is, in most respects, completely satisfying and happy. But her long-standing HSDD is keeping her relationship from being as perfect as it ought to be.
How It All Began
Her libido problems began at age 17, when Sheri started taking birth control, and not long after, noticed that her sex drive had all but disappeared. Her libido, which she described as perfectly normal and healthy beforehand, was extinguished, and she no longer experienced any kind of sexual thoughts and was left at a loss for what to do.
"I didn't really think it was an issue at that time," she says. "I knew [changes in libido] were a side effect of birth control, so I thought, 'OK, I'll deal with it until the point when I go off or switch birth control, and hopefully it will come back.'"
However, even after going off birth control for long periods of time — one stretch was even two full years — Sheri's libido never returned to normal. Since age 17, she's quietly dealt with this infuriating and enigmatic problem: How can you force your sex drive to come back when you don't really know what caused its sudden disappearance in the first place?
"It’s kind of like eating your favorite food and you don’t have any taste buds," she says. "Every day, you want to eat your favorite food and you eat it, but you can’t taste it, it’s not enjoyable, you’re not getting any satisfaction from it.
How It Affects Her Marriage
During her five-year long distance relationship with her now-husband, Sheri says her HSDD, though frustrating for her, wasn't as much of an issue. "The physiological desire wasn’t there, but the desire to be intimate was there," she explains. "So there wasn’t an issue there yet. When we got married, though, it became apparent that it was a big issue at that point."
When she was focused on enjoying the little time they had together while long-distance, Sheri says she ignored her HSDD in order to make the most of their time together. It wasn't until after having her first child that Sheri and her husband started seriously exploring different avenues of treatment, hoping that one day they'd luck out and find a magic solution that caused her sex drive to skyrocket back to normal.
"I don’t want to initiate, I never initiate. [My husband] wants it, so when he tries to initiate, I’m either not in the mood or it makes me feel like I’m obligated to [have sex], and so that makes him feel really frustrated, and then he doesn’t feel attractive, he feels rejected, and then I feel really guilty. It’s just this really bad cycle."
Since 2010, Sheri has visited several doctors, some of whom have been more helpful than others. Some of the most frustrating experiences, she says, were doctors who shrugged off the seriousness of her condition and suggested she "take a vacation," as if that could help her get rid of a problem she's dealt with for half her life.
"It was always frustrating when a doctor would pre-judge and think that I was stressed and needed to relax," she says.
Attempts At Treatment
Even though she and her husband are genuinely happy, they even decided to try couples' counseling — Sheri thought for a brief time that maybe it was just all in her head, despite her overwhelming instinct that this was not the case. However, therapy did not cause her sex drive to reappear.
Other doctors suggested testosterone therapy, which she admits she was hesitant to try because the long-term side effects are unclear. Though she initially rejected it as an option for treatment, Sheri says she is currently taking testosterone, but has yet to see any improvements to her libido.
"I've tried different supplements, like zinc, that are supposed to 'increase your libido naturally,' she says. "My husband and I even tried hypnotherapy — not professionally, just using videos online — but nothing has worked."
Fortunately, other doctors have been understanding and acknowledged that her lack of sex drive was a medical issue, not just a "lull" brought on by stress. However, they still weren't able to provide a real treatment, as it wasn't yet available.
Enter: Addyi, the recently FDA-approved, first-ever pill to treat HSDD and, hopefully, reinstate sexual desire in women who have long since forgotten what it was like to lust. Though Sheri will have to wait until October 17 — the day the "little pink pill" is expected to be on the market — she says she is beyond excited to give this groundbreaking treatment a whirl (after talking to her doctor to make sure it's a good choice for her).
Despite the fact that she's been dealing with a low sex drive her whole life, Sheri remains optimistic that Addyi could, finally, be the treatment that works for her, and that makes her want sex again. If it doesn't, she says, it will be a disappointment, but that she is glad that at least the option for real treatment is finally available to her and other women. Plus, Addyi is hopefully just the beginning of medical treatments for HSDD.
Above all, Sheri hopes that she can be a voice for other women who may stay silent about their HSDD out of embarrassment. When she was younger, she says she didn't talk to anyone about her problem, but as she grew older, she became more confident in being a woman and less embarrassed to talk about HSDD, and opened up to friends and family, who have been a great source of support.
"I remember seeing a woman on a broadcast segment, and she was talking about her issue [with low libido]. My husband and I were watching it, and I looked at him and was like, 'Oh my god! I’m like her, she’s like me; I’m not alone, I’m not abnormal, there’s someone else like me.'"
Sheri says that being an inspiration for other women who suffer silently from the distress caused by a persistent low sex drive will make her struggle, if not easy, at least worthwhile.
"If one woman can read this story or see me on the CBS Evening News or whatever else I might be on and think, 'I’m not alone, there’s another woman out there like me,' then the purpose of sharing my story has been fulfilled."
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