This week, I’m participating in Sex Bloggers for Mental Health. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which is also this week’s topic.
One of the things you should do if you have PCOS and want to live a little healthier: Cut the booze. Now, I’ve never been a frequent or heavy drinker. Still, this rule in my new health regimen fills me with a twinge of melancholy.
It’s not that I feel a bone-deep yearning to drink. In my bar, hardly touched bottles of alcoholic beverages linger. Whiskey, homemade quince liqueur, Tequila that traveled all the way from Mexico. Sweet wine from the vineyards hugging the sunny hills of the Emperor’s Seat at the foot of which I live. It’s Germany’s best area for wine, after all.
All that booze is there, and I never touch it. But there’s a difference between choosing not to touch it and not being allowed to. As long as there’s an option to self-medicate with a drink, there’s a reassurance in it. I could take a drink when the voices grow too loud. Depression has a way with words, and it’s vicious.
Sometimes the voice inside me insists that I’m an utter failure. That the words coming from my fingertips suck. That I write too little and will never get anywhere with it. The temptation to drown those thoughts grows stronger then, roaring. Just a little drink, a thimble full of Whiskey or Tequila, to get a buzz going and lower those pesky inhibitions. Those frothing doubts. Those that snarl Don’t even try it’s not worth it – you’re not worth it at me. One drink can’t hurt, right?
Depression and alcohol don’t mix well.
Here’s the thing: if you struggle with depression, you shouldn’t drink. A person struggling with depression is twice as likely to develop an alcohol use disorder than someone without, and vice versa. So that self-medication with a glass of wine in the evening? Really not a good idea.
Alcohol works as a depressant, and too much of it makes you feel even worse. That’s another reason why depression and drinking don’t mix well. It’s more than a hangover gnawing at you the next day. Alcohol messes with your brain chemistry. And if you’re taking antidepressants, it messes with those as well.
And all that’s not even taking any other conditions into account. For women with PCOS, the risk to develop fatty liver is built-in. Drinking alcohol exacerbates that risk.
Too much drinking also affects your sex life.
Not right away, of course: a little buzz lowers inhibitions. It can even make your sensations more intense. I used to hope that I would be able to let go if I was a little tipsy and finally achieve that elusive orgasm. But striking the balance between a little tipsy and too much has always been difficult for me. My body doesn’t process alcohol very well. More than half a glass of wine, and I would start feeling dizzy and nauseous, numb and adrift. Insomnia, that cruel monster of sleep deprivation, would hit me. The point of perfect buzz flies past so fast that you’ll miss it when you blink.
Too much drinking can make that orgasm impossible to achieve, no matter how hard you’re trying. And if you have a penis, it can lead to erectile dysfunction. It messes with your testosterone levels, lowering them in males. But if you’re a woman, it elevates testosterone. That’s exactly what women with PCOS don’t need.
The crummy thing is: I know all this.
I know drinking is not a solution. I know it makes matters worse on all fronts. It’s detrimental to my health, physically and mentally. And yet, there’s a tiny, niggling sliver of longing lodged at the back of my mind. It keeps whispering that numbing the pain and shredding self-doubt would feel so good.
One little sip, a thimble of that liquor I made last year wouldn’t be so bad? It would be a crime to waste all that hard work. My hands hurt for months after cutting quinces to set up that liquor! And who cares that it tastes a little dusty and acerbic? It’s sweet, and one sip is all you need.
Even though I never drank much and never drank often, that voice is still there. One more voice in the chorus of vile thoughts at the back of my head. One more voice to stare down. Knowing all the arguments against drinking does help to abstain from it, though. I just need to remind myself what’s at stake. I know that not everyone will always comprehend the severity of those stakes for me. It already happened that I was told that I could allow myself one drink. It wouldn’t be so bad. But I resisted. In the end, I’m responsible for myself, and self-care means to be my own best advocate.
Eventually, it will get easier.
Further reading on PCOS: PCOS SOS by M.D. Felice Gersh