A Word about "Social Impotence Disorder"

In case you missed this news article carried by all the outlets:

A new disease has been identified by a researcher in Chicago.

“Social Impotence Disorder” (SID) is characterized by the inability to “get it up” for social interactions of any kind. It often occurs after the death of a loved one, and is accompanied by grief and general disinterest in in-person social activity. It should not be confused with intentional or willful apathy. It stems from the inability to connect to the part of oneself that normally drives the interest and need for social interaction. Short-term solutions are extensive blogging/journaling, and patience and understanding of those closest to the impacted individual.

I’ve experienced SID since losing Ken last year. Never an overly social person in the first place, I think it’s a normal part of the grieving process. A good way to describe it metaphorically is that the organ (a body part, not what they play in church) that is in charge of social interactions has been shot up with Novocain. You know have it, but you just can’t feel it or connect to it.

There have been instances when I’ve actively “treated” the illness with a couple doses of “why not?” and it seems to do the trick. But that remedy doesn’t work consistently. I’ve never minded being alone, but admittedly, I have a different perspective because “alone time” was the exception and the majority of my time was spent intentionally and by default with Ken. During our decade together, he very subtly and very quickly became my closest friend. He was easy to be with, and more than anything we preferred each other’s company to anyone else’s.

Recently I’ve done some thinking about my SID self-diagnosis to try to better understand it. It’s a mixed back of contributing factors and personality quirks, but I think one of the main factors is that during the last couple of years, my main focus was taking care of Ken, and my time wasn’t mine anymore. It was ruled by daily appointments and 24-hour medication schedules, and asking “What’s your pain number?” It was incumbent up on me as his spouse. I can’t say I did it “gladly” because I wasn’t glad he had cancer, or that I’d do it all again because I’d never want him to go through it again. It was my responsibility and I took his welfare very seriously.

After he died, my ceaseless, round-the-clock caregiving schedule evaporated–along with so many other things. Good or bad, like it or not, my time was my time once again. It became a big space to fill up; a void. It contained the double-edge sword of silence: that he was no longer in pain, but that he was no longer a physical presence in my daily life. Since then, I’ve kept no discernible personal schedule–except with myself. Impromptu off-the-couch-and-out-the-door treks surprise even me sometimes. Nothing predictable.

I think another less visible contributing factor is some kind of primal if-I-can’t-spend-time-with-him-than-I-don’t-want-to-spend-time-with-anyone sensibility. It’s where the many layers of loss become a little more evident. Not just losing a spouse, but a best friend, and someone who I delighted in spending time with him. I think that’s the most recently revealed “hurt” to me is dealing with the loss of my best friend, in addition to the loss of my spouse.

For the most part, I like being around people–just not interacting with them. I wrote the majority of this blog post at a coffee shop. It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Chicago. People are out and about. It’s entertaining to watch the passers by and the dog walkers. After I finished up there, I went to Montrose Harbor to take some photos from my favorite vantage point. It was cold and terribly windy. My fingers numbed up fast, so I didn’t get that many shots, and it was so cold I didn’t care. You can see from the spray and the waves about to break that Chicago lives up to its nickname.


On the bright side, my research indicates SID is curable, but abates in its own time. On the brighter side, when I’m hanging out with myself I’m often the funniest person in the room–and sometimes the most handsome.



0 Replies to “A Word about "Social Impotence Disorder"”

  1. Ron,
    I wish for you pockets of time that you fill with those other ones that consumed you.

    This, from you:
    “Not just losing a spouse, but a best friend, and someone who I delighted in spending time with him. I think that’s the most recently revealed “hurt” to me is dealing with the loss of my best friend, in addition to the loss of my spouse”.

    I can’t imagine your loss…

    I am married to that best friend, most recently, I received flowers that said :
    To my lover, my split apart…I love you.

    But, I feel certain that your “split apart” will guide you toward another soul that if not as sweet as what you had, is a different and as just as a sweet soul that will warrant the love you have to give.

    Lovely post and thanks for sharing…

  2. Brigitte, thank you for the thoughtful and beautiful comment. Ken left me a legacy of love that can sustain me forever, but blogging about my feelings has certainly helped me on my journey of grief.

    I love that you’re married to your best friend. He sounds like an extraordinary man who has a way with words–and has excellent taste!

  3. Ron, thanks for visiting my blog and giving me the opportunity to visit yours. It is beautiful to read about your love for Ken. I am so sorry for your loss, but it sounds like you received a true gift when he came into your life – and he received one, too.

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