Did Anti-Depressants Ease My Adulterous Guilt?

My ADHD treatment made cheating easier.

Photo by Christina Branco on Unsplash

After a steamy night out with my affair partner, sliding into bed at home is as easy as putting on a pair of socks. Sometimes I’ll shower at the hotel.

More often than not though, my boyfriend will still be dripping into my panties as I crawl under the covers, and drift off to sleep beside my husband.

I imagine this will only excite half my readers. While the other half will be revolted at how much of a heartless bitch I am.

They’ll wonder —

How could she climb into the bed where her children were conceived and sleep comfortably beside her husband, having just been in the arms of another man?

That’s a good question, but to answer it, we’ll have to backtrack a little.

My life before.

Before I started taking anti-depressants, my life with ADHD felt like I wore a thin, cold, wet, wool shirt next to my skin — all the time.

A shirt I couldn’t remove, that itched and rubbed me raw. Most of the time, I could barely manage to live with it, and it took an extraordinarily good mood to forget it was there.

I ruined many great moments in my life because that wool shirt would never give me a moment’s peace.

At 44, I was finally diagnosed with ADHD. I’d always known something was wrong with me, but I never asked my doctor about it. I guess I was busy thinking about everyone else, but I started thinking about myself as they grew older.

Not long afterward I was prescribed Ritalin. Over time as we played with different stimulants, I became more miserable and tired.

I cried when I shouldn’t, I was irritable, irrational, lost weight, and didn’t sleep. I was a mess.

After two years of that, I learned anti-depressants could treat ADHD off label. I asked my doctor if I could switch, and she set me up.

Stimulants helped me focus, but other than that, they pretty much grew my wool shirt into a hoodie and sweatpants.

As soon as I stopped taking them, my mood improved, and I could finally sleep. A month after that, the anti-depressants kicked in.

That’s when I noticed the wool shirt finally come off. I knew my triggers well — self-checkouts, stupid people, and ridiculous situations. The problem was that I was often the only one who thought they were that way. Everyone else accepted them as a normal part of life, where I couldn’t.

On the new pills, my frustrations melted away. Moments that enraged me passed without so much as a blip. Instead, I was able to take things in stride and continue thinking through the problems I faced.

That was new to me.

I can’t describe how good it felt. Finally not seeing criticism or rejection as a personal attack was astonishing.

Before the meds, I couldn’t get over anything. It would take years to forget, and I would hate the people who wronged me forever. Slights cut like daggers, and insults devastated me. Rejection knocked me over. I would replay those moments over and over again, thinking of perfect replies years later.

My anxiety was such that I would avoid the people who’d slighted me — for years.

I couldn’t forget anything or how I’d felt at the time. It was horrible.

I’d lost many acquaintances and potential friends because of it. But in that month, I shed my wool shirt and those thoughts and feelings along with it. They were gone.

The guilt and self-loathing that built up over a lifetime of ADHD also abated.

To give you an idea of what it’s like, imagine telling a person with a broken leg to run and then complaining to them when they couldn’t. Instead of understanding they can’t run, you instead say they aren’t trying hard enough.

Now, imagine having that broken leg, only not knowing it. Then picture every person from childhood onward saying these things to you. After a lifetime of being told you’re a failure, you believe it.

That’s what living with undiagnosed ADHD was like for me. And the anti-depressants finally let me run.

But something else happened.

The meds seemed to take my guilt away. I’ve lived a life of guilt and shame, so know them well. And cheating should make me feel both, but I don’t, so what gives?

I get no sexual thrill from crawling into bed wet with another man’s sperm. I don’t take pride in getting away with cheating. I don’t mock my husband or make fun of him. I don’t cheat to spite him.

I cheat because I need the physical and emotional love I don’t get at home. That’s all.

That I can sleep soundly afterward is also uncharacteristic. Before my meds, I would have been guilt-ridden for years, but now? Nothing.

All I can figure is that the anti-depressants have muted the emotions that might have stopped me from cheating.

I’m not blaming the meds but observing what they’ve done to and for me. Cheating was my choice, but the meds seem to have made it easier. If I were to stop them, would the guilt return? Maybe.

I’m not willing to find out.

If I had to choose between guilt and happiness, I’d choose happiness. Not the happiness my affair partner brings me, but the everyday happiness I get from finally being able to run.

A happiness that took me 46 years to find.

© Teresa J. Conway, 2020

By Teresa J Conway on .

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Exported from Medium on April 8, 2021.

Author of How to Cheat: Field Notes from an Adulteress, several short stories, I'm active on Medium @teresajconway where I sometimes share my blog posts.

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