I was in my mid-30s and at my absolute physical peak so far. To keep fit for my surf trips around the world, I went to yoga, bouldering or just did strength and endurance sports several times a week. I never felt stronger and more invulnerable when slowly but surely a pain manifested on the left side of my back. I rattled off all sorts of doctors, but no one could find the cause.
After about two years with the pain, a family member who practiced medicine in the U.S. had the idea to give me a medication that would calm my nerves. After the pills had then been prescribed to me and stood on the table in front of me, I had a bad feeling. The only thing on the RX bottle, besides the name of the drug, "Cymbalta," was the phrase "May cause dizziness."
"So I picked up the phone and asked what exactly the side effects were. After the conversation, I was reassured - no need to worry. I trusted blindly, which turned out to be the worst mistake of my life so far."
I started taking it daily. 1 tablet, 30 mg of Cymbalta. I could not see any improvement in my back pain. After a few days/weeks, I developed severe dry mouth and had extreme dizzy spells. Especially when I entered large rooms, I almost fell backwards back out. At least that's how it felt. Then everything was "normal" again.
Then overnight I noticed that something was wrong. I could no longer feel my penis. I couldn't feel it or move it up and down by tensing my pelvic floor muscles. A day later, I had a date with a girl. We kissed and I had extreme desire for sex. However, none of it reached “down there”. I neither had an erection nor did I feel anything. I had never experienced anything like that before. Up to this point I had been almost permanently aroused and had not had a "hang-up" once in my life.
So I went to the urologist immediately the next day and described to him that I felt as if my member had been disconnected from my body and from my head/brain. Because no matter what I imagined, nothing happened. The doctor said I had too much stress and should relax. He prescribed two sexual enhancers, which I should take every day for a month. I tried to calm myself down and took the pills. But when I noticed weeks later that it was not getting better, my medical odyssey began. All urologists sent me home again and certified that the problem was psychological.
In the meantime, I could no longer have sex without first taking a sexual enhancer. I had no more nightly or spontaneous erections at all and my libido was as if extinguished. Then after a few months my penis started to shrink and it became numb. First only at the bottom, in the meantime my complete genitals are numb. Only when I pinch it with my fingernail, I feel something.
"No one had an explanation for the numbness and I was passed from doctor to doctor. From multiple sclerosis to brain tumor, I was tested for everything. With no findings."
My life as I knew it no longer existed: sex and physical closeness had always played a very important role in my everyday life. There could be no question of that anymore. I neither thought about sex nor reacted to sexual stimuli of any kind. It was as if I had been castrated overnight. Even cuddling or other physical closeness I did not like at all. As if all this was not stressful enough, I suffered from severe concentration problems for several weeks, which made it almost impossible for me to think clearly and do my job. And in the evenings I couldn't watch a movie for weeks without falling asleep totally exhausted.
I went through the whole year again from back to front. What had happened to me that could have triggered this illness. And then the scales fell from my eyes: these back pain tablets - I had started taking them at about the same time as the symptoms. But I had stopped taking them after about 10 weeks, because they had no effect except for side effects.
So I typed "erection problems Cymbalta" into google and after a short search I found what I was looking for: PSSD. Post SSRI Sexual Dysfunction. I was apparently taking an antidepressant all along without knowing it. The reports of this coincided 1:1 with what I experienced. Erectile dysfunction, lack of libido, paralyzed genitals, brain fog (the lack of concentration), and emotional dullness... The worst part of it all is that this disease is apparently not curable, nor is it even officially properly recognized and researched. Only a few researchers take the problem and the people seriously and try to learn more about the disease.
I have been living with PSSD for 1.5 years now. Unfortunately, there is not much left of the well-trained, everywhere popular, athlete. If I had been told this horror story before. I would not have believed it. These symptoms are too blatant: My testosterone levels have dropped below the normal range in the meantime, my muscles have been replaced by fat. My penis and testicles have shrunk significantly - sperm volume as well. I feel powerless. Physically and mentally. The lack of libido and severe ED make it really really hard to be in a relationship, or to even want to be in a relationship. My goal of starting a family of my own has become very distant. I have become almost indifferent to social contacts.
I no longer feel part of this society, since I can't and don't want to have a say in anything to do with sex. I have often hoped that everything is just a bad dream and that I will wake up soon, but so far in vain. The only hope that remains is that research will find out what happened to us and what led to these extreme symptoms. Only then, perhaps, a cure can be found, which will make our lives worth living again.
Until then, I am trying to keep my job despite the symptoms, which is very difficult for me, and shimmy my way from day to day.