real life

'I've been diagnosed with a sex disorder. It's the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.'

I have erectile dysfunction (ED). I’m 45-years-old. I’ve been given a clean bill of health at least five times over the past three years. I’m with my second therapist in two years. I’m a f**king mess.

This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. More than once I’ve wished for something like cancer rather than deal with this. At least that has an official diagnosis with a roadmap and outline as to how to treat it. I’m aware of how stupid this sounds as I type it. Deep down I don’t mean it but it gives you a glance into just how bizarre and maddening ED is to contend with.

Those jokes made at the expense of the couple holding hands while lounging in individual bath tubs are no longer funny. I get physically ill when I hear “if you have an erection lasting longer than four hours …” and long for the day when I can achieve a multi-hour erection.

While the simple diagnosis is the inability to get or maintain an erection sufficient for sex, it is the fallout/aftermath of this issue that makes ED so difficult to manage. My biggest misstep has been how I’ve handled the fallout of ED, not the inability to get an actual erection.

My purpose for writing this piece and sharing my story (read Part 1) is threefold:

Writing about it is therapeutic

There is virtually no one to talk to when you have ED. Other than my therapists, there is no one else who knows a thing about my issue. I’m not comfortable sharing it with friends and family partially due to shame and embarrassment, but also as a means to protect my relationship with my wife. I don’t need people analysing our interactions during Thanksgiving dinner. While I’m sure my male friends have had their own ED moment or five over the years, they haven’t suffered like we have. Admitting to having ED over a beer isn’t in the cards.

So I’m selfishly dumping it all on you, the anonymous reader. If you haven’t figured it out by now, that is a fake name attached to this story. But simply typing the sentence “I have ED” has an anxiety reducing effect. And I’ll take a reduction in anxiety anywhere I can get it. When you have trouble doing something that’s supposed to come naturally (pun intended and yes, dark humour is alive and well) and something you did with little mental effort your entire life, it’s easy to not grasp how it is playing out. It never feels real. Every morning I wake up and convince myself that this ED is a non-issue. It seems ludicrous and easily solvable.

But it isn’t, at least not right now. Writing about makes it all that more real and I need more of that if I’m going to win out in the end.

Others who suffer need not feel alone

I’ve found a few well written articles that address ED and each of them provided a sense of “I’m not alone.” But the supply is limited. I want to now throw my hat in the ring to help others because Lord knows I still fucking need it. Since I’m writing this while in the throes of ED’s painful grasp, you won’t get any “10 ways to cure ED” listicles from me; as if it were that simple. Instead I’ll tell you where I’ve gone wrong and where I’ve gone right over the past few years. If the reader can breathe just a little bit easier after reading my story, I’ve done my job.

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I selfishly hope that I can rediscover myself through the exercise of reliving it all

I’m about to take you through my ED journey chronologically. To a fault, I remember it all in great detail. Maybe, just maybe I will be able to consolidate the collective history and utilise it in a way that helps guide me towards a smarter future. While there were good times buried amongst the ED wreckage, it has been three years of hell and it never needed to be that way.

Various ways to spice up your sex life. Post continues after audio.

After that first fateful evening back in 2014 when I was unable to do the deed, I spent most of the remainder of that night promising my wife that she wasn’t the cause. I wasn’t turned off by her in any way and it wasn’t any indication of my waning physical attraction. It simply happened. It sucked but it was only a blip on the sexual radar. I knew deep down that she didn’t believe me and with her already low self-esteem in terms of her body, I knew that this had potential to linger even then.

Hello performance anxiety.

There was no post-sex bliss. There were post-sex tears and sadness and anger. I get nauseous on a daily basis thinking about it.

I don’t recall how soon after we “tried” again, but I clearly recall failing again.

And again soon after that.

This was now clearly a thing.

I regularly hopped on the internet to read up on ED and I always found it comforting post-failure. The gist of it was this: relax, change things up, communicate with each other and it should work itself out. The key was to relax and not force things. Enjoy each other sexually without viewing intercourse as a must or as the only outcome. I would say out loud “I got this” and would convince myself that all I needed to do was relax.

For the next few months we found ourselves in a two-part cycle. Part One is where I struggle to get erect when it’s time for intercourse and we spend minutes trying to get me hard. If I would get even slightly erect, I would try to force insertion and concentrate with reckless abandon. If I would lose my already weak erection, I would get more frustrated and become completely lost in my own world. It was awful. I was using my wife like a blow-up doll. Eventually, I would give up or even worse, I would “finish” in a moment of brutal selfishness.

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There was no post-sex bliss. There were post-sex tears and sadness and anger. I get nauseous on a daily basis thinking about it. What was happening to me? How did I allow this to spiral so badly? I had always prided myself on being an attentive lover and now I was anything but that. I felt shame for the first time in my life. Was I incapable of resolving this on my own?

Part Two of the cycle was to ignore sex and intimacy all together in the name of denial. My thought process was that we needed a temporary break in order to keep the household afloat. It isn’t easy addressing an issue like ED when the kids are always around and life still propels forward at a rapid pace.

Pushing it aside allowed us to breathe.

The breathing was OK until Part One came back around again. Denying ED’s existence only lasts for so long before the stress and anxiety emerge once again.

After way too many months of mishandling the situation, I finally decided to do something concrete about it. I scheduled an appointment with my urologist. The same urologist who snipped my vas deferens nine years earlier. The irony wasn’t lost on me.

I’ll never forget stepping into that office. The waiting room was filled with elderly men, most of who walked in with the assistance of a cane or walker. While they were all there for various ailments not necessarily related to ED, I assumed they were all laughing at this supposedly healthy 42-year-old. As I approached the receptionist to announce my arrival and she glanced at her appointment info, I felt shame like I’d never felt in my life. I’m pretty sure she quietly mumbled to herself “what’s up with this guy? Just get a boner already.”

Image: Getty Images.
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The blood rush to my nether region was palpable and I felt like I had some of my swagger back.
As I dropped my pants and the doctor cupped my testicles, I was consumed with the longing to find out that something was physically wrong with me. Please doc, just tell me that I have diabetes or that my testes are damaged. If so, I could then blame my mess on something outside of my control. It sounds dark and awful, but it’s the truth. I just craved an official diagnosis that went beyond mental weakness on my part.

I didn’t get that diagnosis. Everything appeared to be OK as there were no physical issues. The only diagnosis I received was that "It’ll all be fine. I’m sure it’s just stress from the kids or from work. Hang in there.” Wonderful, that helps.

Before I could head out of the office, the urologist offered up a prescription for Daily Cialis. He must have used the phrase “jump start things” five times when espousing the benefits of the little pill. My immediate reaction was “Hell, no” I don’t need that. I’m not that bad. But I still grabbed the prescription and a coupon he pulled from his drawer and fled the building. Could I really take this stuff? Would it hurt to just try it out? What will my wife think when I tell her? Should I tell her? Do I secretly take it and make no mention of it?

I opted for openness and honesty. As I told her about it, she seemed to be taken aback by the concept and thought it to be only a temporary solution. I then found myself repeatedly using the term “jump start” and she eventually relented. We were going to give it a try.

I started taking the Cialis that night and felt it working the next morning. When you struggle to maintain an erection and then you are blessed with one that is borderline painful, it’s kind of awesome. I wanted to walk around and proudly present it to the world. I felt alive again.

I took the Cialis each and every day within that first week and we soon found some alone time and decided to attempt to rekindle our intimacy.

Success with ease.

I had an enormous amount of confidence that evening and knew immediately that I would have no issues. The blood rush to my nether region was palpable and I felt like I had some of my swagger back. When we were finished that night, I remember my wife uttering something profound while she was out of breath.

Things were very different now.

This story has been republished from Good Men Project with full permission.