I would like to welcome the newest member of our writing team, Corvus. In their first post with us, they write about their experiences recovering from bipolar “disorder” and drug addiction, and their continuing struggles with understanding their sexuality.
Trigger warnings for discussions of drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual assault (including use of the r-word), suicide, eating disorders, and other possibly sensitive issues.
My experiences with mental health and sexuality have been just that. Rollercoasters. Rollercoasters of self discovery, of emotion, of fear and shame, of love and experience. Always traveling up and down throughout my life. Here’s the shortest story that I could condense these parts of my life into.
I have dealt with what is commonly called bipolar “disorder” traits since I was a kid. My moods have always been drastically unstable. The first time I saw a therapist I was 9. It was a result of exorcist movie like panic attacks I was having after the divorce of my parents. I have always been very sensitive. This world doesn’t cater much to the sensitive. Especially not sensitive people on mood swing rollercoasters.
My sexuality was never stable either. I was disgusted by the idea of sex from the time I got a mini “talk” at 6 when I refused to stop stealing and blowing up my parents’ condoms without being given a proper reason why they were so much more expensive and important than regular balloons. I was disgusted by my period and the fact it meant I could get pregnant someday. Then something snapped in my early teens. I wanted to lose my “virginity” immediately (or what I understood to be the heteronormative definition of virginity meaning P and V intercourse, ignoring the fact that there are many ways to have sex without the need for that). I’m not sure if I was even sexual at the time I started having sex. I still don’t understand it. I think I was just going through some motions that the heteronormative patriarchal culture I lived in had taught me. I was a girl so I was supposed to have sex with men. And since I was so sensitive, I took it to the max. I also remember being more attracted to kink than I was to sex in the beginning. I remember truly wanting to be choked before I ever wanted to have sex. I still wonder if I am more attracted to kink than I am to sex. But, I digress…
Around the same time (early teens) I began doing drugs. All kinds of drugs. Started slow and then got into the big bad drugs. I would say I was addicted to drugs almost immediately after I started. At first they stabilized me, made me social, helped me stay calm around people, made depression more bearable and helped me to even out during those intense manic phases. I had found the answer to all of my problems by age 15- opiates. Or so I thought. That feeling of feeling nothing. Absolutely nothing. What could be better for a teenaged “girl” whose brain moved too fast and whose sexuality was far too bizarre for high school?
Somewhere in those teenaged years, I realized I liked girls and began identifying as “bisexual”. The whole high school was already calling my ass a devil dyke for the way I looked. Tall, tough, strange, and even with all of the make up and fishnet stockings, still a little butch. The first time I made out with girls, my boyfriend told me I was a disgusting sinner. The first time I slept with a woman as a teenager, it was a blackout drunk threesome with my best friend and an older married man who was having an affair with her. We were both 17. This did not start out good…
As my drug problems progressed, my sexuality became less about desire and more about what I could use it for. A place to stay. Some free drugs or alcohol. Some blacked out experience. Another way to get out of myself. Later on I realized that in many of the experiences I pretended were sex, I was actually suffering sexual assault or rape. This was a difficult realization that buried for a long time. I did everything I could to get out of myself. And as more bad things happened, I had to do more to get out of myself. My bisexuality was mainly expressed through a lot of MFF threesomes. Almost always, the woman was in it more for the man, while I was almost always in it for her. I fell hard for one girl, but she didn’t for me. She didn’t like girls that way. This fed into my perception of female-female relationships as being inaccessible to me. I had abandonment issues, and hated myself too much to be alone, so I continued to latch onto men- specifically older men.
Off and on, every time I tried to get clean, I tried a new drug. Sometimes it was drinking instead of heroin. Sometimes it was 5 psychiatric drug prescriptions instead of crystal meth. But I always ended up with a needle in my arm or a bottle in my hand. I always ended up dope sick or with DTs, suicidal, and hopeless. I always ended up selling my things or myself or something to get one more little bit of escape. Eventually, it wasn’t even escape anymore.
Lucky for me, I was graced with enough pain and suffering to get clean for good one day at a time, starting when I was 22. That was in 2004. At first, as soon as the drugs were gone, my mental health plummeted. I was already suicidal and that got worse. My body image problems and self hatred revealed themselves even more and I began puking up my food until the glands in my face swelled up. I was already covered in scars, but I added a hundred or so more. I did not sleep for the first week and a half. I had nightmares that woke me up in sweats when I finally did learn to sleep a couple of hours a night. I was promiscuous (and not in the proud way that I am now)- I tried to have sex with anyone I could have sex with- mostly older men. Anything to get out of myself. I regularly had emotional melt downs or bouts of anger or severe depression. My manic phases were out of control and resulted in a lot of self damaging behaviors. I had no control over myself as drugs had been the way I medicated myself for my entire teen and adult life. I did not know how to live. I never let myself learn. I had to learn. I had to stop looking for the easy way out. I had to travel barefoot down the road of fire that would be dealing with life lucid. The road didn’t stay like that forever.
After years of working really really hard on myself, staying clean, working steps from a 12 step program and going to meetings, practicing everything I learned in rehab and DBT outpatient daily; and through getting involved with radical communities that taught me to question authority, that taught me about consent, love, and anti-oppression, I learned to love myself. Truly love and respect myself. It has been hard. I learned about sexual assault, rape culture, abuse and learned about triggers. I learned to deal with these abuses and triggers. I learned that these things were not my fault, even if I was a junkie. I lost the self hatred, the body issues, and so on (as much as I could). I learned to accept my mental differences as “dangerous gifts” and learned to observe my mood swings without judgment. I still work on all of this daily.
Through this process, a couple of years ago I realized my sexuality to be much more than bisexual. It was queer. And my gender, also queer. At this time I had discovered what I thought to be the healthy sober life- engaged to a great guy who was first my best friend, house, dog, graduated with honors and got a 9 to 5, and so on. But, I realized I was not the heteroflexible woman he signed up for. I was an androgynous queer person who grew to not be attracted to cis men much at all. Or at least not wanting to have sex with them. I was attracted to women, genderqueer/fluid folks, femininity, female masculinity, and so on. Straightness was the last thing I wanted. I needed queerness. It was only through being clean and in a safe environment that I was able to fully accept and realize this. Knowing that often makes me wonder how many addicts or mentally diverse people out there can’t understand their sexuality because of the intersections of heteropatriarchy and psychological suffering.
When I finally was convinced that even though my partner was a wonderful person who always treated me wonderfully, that that was not a good enough reason to bury my real self, I broke things off. In tears. He patted me on the back and told me it was ok. We are still very good friends today. I am grateful for him and am not sure I would have learned as much self respect without having him in my life, as he was one of the first, if not the only, healthy relationship I had up until that point.
I came out of the closet to friends, immediate family, coworkers, and so on. I began dating other poly queers. It was so much easier than I thought. I was already an ex-junkie anarchist with hairy armpits. I guess being queer wasn’t that weird on top of that. I had a huge privilege in having a non-religious upbringing, accepting parents who were activists in the past who, while not queer, always supported queers to the best of their ability, a brother who loves me no matter what, and a community of radical or accepting friends who had my back.
This isn’t to say that life is 100% rainbows and unicorns now that I quit doing drugs. In the past 7 years I have come close to suicide two or three times. Clean. I have suffered hallucinations, delusions, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, emotional breakdowns, bouts of immense creativity, periods of nonstop organizing for a better world, and many other things. Clean. Addiction was only part of the reason I ended up with a brain acting the way it did, but it always ends up being most of my story. I still deal with the rollercoaster today. Lucky for me, with enough experimentation, I have found several herbs that work to stabilize me somewhat and a decent support system of family, friends, and lovers. I am privileged in this. And I worked damned hard for it.
For the most part, I am happy today. I wouldn’t trade people screaming “faggot” at me out of car windows for the straight world any day. I wouldn’t trade people telling me I am “irrational” or “crazy” because I am emotional and have a different outlook for a “sane” world any day. I truly love who I am today. Well, most of the time. And it took 29 years to get here but I am finally starting to get the hang of this whole bipolar thing. This whole queer thing. This whole poly kinky freak thing. This whole introvert thing. I have accepted that I will be riding a rollercoaster for the rest of my life in some way, but at least now I have ridden it enough times to know when the next drop is coming, and when to decide if I should hold on tight or raise my arms and scream. Life is very difficult. It is also beautiful, and filled with beautiful things. In my experience thus far, it is worth living, even if sometimes it didn’t feel that way.
If you have made it to the end of this, thank you for allowing me to share my “story” with you. I tried to make it short but how do you fit 29 years into “short”? I left so much out! I hope you got something out of it. I know I have gotten so much out of reading the stories of other people who have posted on this site.