Working with HypersexualityPosted in Bipolar Disorder By Hanners Blackthorne On November 9, 2011
Living with bipolar disorder, when I get hypomanic, usually the first cue for me is wanting sex all. the. time. At times it gets so bad, it’s all I can think about, or I’ll spend the day masturbating rather than get any work done. Or I’ll spend my time searching for random sex partners to hook up with instead.
Being queer, kinky and polyamorous, and sex-positive, I’ve been struggling to reconcile my love of sex with the sometimes out-of-control highs I can get that turn my sexuality from something I can be proud of to something that can get to a point where it’s self-destructive. On the one hand, I’ve learned to own my sexuality and take charge of it, though at the same time, that can sometimes fuel the hypersexuality I can experience from being hypomanic. It can become a tightrope I must balance very carefully. Sometimes the urge for sex can become so strong it can feel like I have an addiction to sex.
Does that mean I must give up my sexuality for the same of stability? If I did, that would make for a very boring life indeed, and if that were the case, I doubt that I would be nearly as willing to take care of myself with regard to my illness. Even with bipolar disorder, I deserve to have just as satisfying a sex life as anyone else. I spent the past year on an antidepressant, which basically killed sensation for me (which was horrible considering I have little sensation to begin with, following my bottom surgery). I’m just starting to get it back now that I’m off my medication, which makes me really hesitant to start a mood stabilizer, despite the fact that I know I need it if I ever hope to see my moods become stable again.
Another related issue for me is that I really love my hypomania!!! When it hits, I don’t ever want it to go away, I will wish it to become my normal. Hypomania is what created my business, and is responsible for me creating this website. It’s also responsible for me having a really great sex life. So the idea of giving this up can be difficult to accept. It doesn’t help that my hypomanias don’t generally develop into full mania, so other than the mood crash that follows it, there really isn’t much of a downside to hypomania for me.
I’m reminded of the phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I’ve made the choice to manage, but not suppress, my hypomania, when it comes. For me, that means enjoying the gains from hypomania – within limits. These limits are designed to prevent myself from causing myself harm, and to prevent hypomania from escalating into full mania. In terms of hypersexuality, that means that I have allowed myself to enjoy my heightened sex drive, with a few safeties in place.
For me, being polyamorous gives me the advantage to be able to see other people, without having to worry that it will impact my relationship with my partners. If I go searching for new partners, my current partners know that this is just a part of who I am and does not mean I am not attracted to them anymore. My partners are people who enjoy having sex with me, who understand my situation, and who I am comfortable telling what my current mental state is before starting any sex. These people know that I use safer sex methods (using condoms, dams and gloves for any play that involves fluid exchange, and not reusing sex toys before they have been properly cleaned, or alternatively, using condoms on sex toys), and can remind me to use them when my hypomanic mind forgets.
I also ensure that these encounters are fully consensual and do not permit them to interfere with my professional life. This means scheduling our bedroom encounters for times when I am not supposed to be at work (which has the added benefit of keeping me excited with anticipation all day). Because I’m sharing my bed with these partners after sex as well, I can trust them to help ensure I get enough rest between our bedroom encounters.
For BSDM play, I limit myself as well. For example, as a dominant, I choose not to involve some play techniques that may be of higher risk, such as breath play, during hypomanic episodes. As a submissive, I can also opt out of techniques such as impact play, if I feel I may not be able to accurately assess my own limits. Because I use good communication methods during BDSM scenes, my partners can communicate to me when they feel I am going beyond what might be comfortable for them.
Having all these safeguards in place means that I can continue to enjoy my sexuality without having to worry too much about letting it get the best of me. Of course, if I’m just thinking entirely in the practical terms that I’ve used in this article, it would make sex so sterile, almost like I was just using my partners for my own sexual satisfaction and nothing more, which couldn’t be any further from reality. These are partners that I not only hook up with when I’m hypomanic, but when I’m stable or depressed as well, and while some of us prefer to keep a casual sexual relationship, others have varying degrees of emotional intimacy as well. The only difference between sex with them when I’m hypomanic versus any other time is that when I am hypomanic, we just need to work together to enforce the safeties that we’ve agreed upon together when I am stable.
True, it’s not a system that is completely free from risk, but then sex never is anyway. But it allows me to enjoy my hypomania, including the hypersexuality that comes with it, without permitting myself excessive risk that can get me into trouble, and perhaps most importantly, it allows me to enjoy my sex life fully with a minimum of interference from having bipolar disorder. Being a self-described “ethical slut,” this is something that is very important to me!
I am a web developer, and the creator of QueerMentalHealth.org. I run my own IT business. For this reason I have chosen to remain anonymous, so I have chosen the pseudonym "Hanners Ellicott-Chatham", which is a character from one of my favourite web comics, Questionable Content, by Jeph Jacques. am a trans woman who lives with Bipolar Disorder.
I relate so much to everything you have written here and experience the same stuff in similar ways as a poly queer kinky bipolar person. I guess the question aching in my mind reading your essay is this: Is there anything wrong with hypomanic increased sex drives? Is there anything wrong when they go down during depression?
The only thing I have really found that is “wrong” with it is that it is harder for other people to handle than it is me. Partners have trouble accepting the high or low ends of the sex drive, general society makes me feel bad when my sex drive goes high, etc. But, in my heart, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. Is it my responsibility to meet other peoples’ sexual needs or to fit into a stable never changing sex drive box? I don’t think so.
Thanks for sharing this writing.
You’ve asked a really good question. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with having an increased or very high sex drive in general, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with sex drive shifting as mood or energy levels go up or down. I also agree that we shouldn’t have to be in a “stable never changing sex drive box,” as you put it (nice expression, btw!).
Where I disagree with you, is that, at least for me, my sexual highs can be disruptive to the rest of my life. Especially when I was self-employed, I had times where my high sex drive destroyed my ability to get work done, and instead demanded I put all my attention into being satisfied sexually. I also found it quite an unpleasant experience when I. could. not. get. satisfied! or I’d satisfy myself, and then need more sex, sometimes only minutes later!
Another big issue for me has been the sometimes cavalier attitude I have had in the past toward searching for and having sex with partners. During one hypomanic period, I almost ended up hooking up with one woman who was in a monogamous relationship and engaged to her partner (we actually did engage in phone sex once, which bruised my polyamorous conscience).
Thanks for coming by, you are a very insightful commenter! I hope to read more of your comments on here
I totally see how that could be the case. I have surely done some of the same things. I do remember periods where I have looked back and asked myself if I would have done that while not manic. Thanks!