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I am a 29 year old woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 and also suffer from general anxiety and panic attacks. I have only been recently diagnosed but have been ill since I was a teenager. I tend to have mixed-manic episodes, hence the name of my blog. I am a regular guest blogger for Black Dog Tribe. I am not a mental health professional. I am just writing from my own experiences with mental illness. If you wish to use any of my blog content please contact me at lababup@gmail.com. Visit me on twitter @lababup

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Mental health, sex drive and mood

I have always wanted to talk about my mental health and it’s relation to sex but I have had some misgivings. I am pretty much anonymous on my blog and on twitter but three people from real life know who I am. This makes it hard to talk about something so personal. In addition, you never know if you are going to stay anonymous forever. One day I may decide to shake off anonymity and I don’t want to feel like I would be embarrassing myself.

On the other hand, here I am about to talk about my sex life. After all, what’s the point in mental health blogging if I’m not open and honest about how my mental illness affects me?

When my partner and I were first together, like most couples, we had a great sex life. It was probably too good. I was high on life and felt all connected to nature. Obviously in hindsight, I was hypomanic. Yes, I was in a great new relationship but I felt overly optimistic and excitable. Everything felt so intense and beautiful. When you are in such a good mood, sex feels so much better.

What followed in our relationship were periods of lots of great sex interspersed with periods of no sex at all. My partner would find this difficult and thought it meant that I didn’t love him. Sometimes I worried about that too. I thought that if I didn’t want sex anymore, maybe I didn’t find him attractive. This made me question our whole relationship. The reality though was that my mental illness was getting in the way.

It was when I was depressed that I lost all my sex drive. I felt too tired, too weary of life. Everything was dark and miserable. I felt like my energy was being drained away from me. I couldn’t be bothered to dress, to wash, to face the world. Faced with these feelings, why would I have been interested in sex? I was desolate and you need to have some kind of life in you to have pleasurable sex. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t interested in having sex with my partner. I wasn’t interested in men at all. I didn’t even look at other men. My sex drive was non-existent.

I didn’t have sex when I was depressed and I had sex all the time when I felt high. However there was a tipping point I reached when I became so manic that my sex life was interrupted. When I got too manic, my behaviour became bizarre. If I tried to initiate sex with my partner he would not oblige. He told me later that he felt scared by my behaviour. I was laughing too wildly, eyes bulging, stare unflinching. Sometimes it was hard for him because he missed the intimacy gained through sex but he didn’t want to take advantage of me.

I am at a point now that I have started to gain an intense interest in sex again. This has come along with an improved mood. The increase in sexual activity has really brought my partner and I closer together. It is lovely to feel that deep connection again. However I am scared of what this means for my illness. I want to believe that this is just normal and that it means that I am not depressed anymore. However, I fear that it could be a manic episode coming on. I feel like my thoughts are going quite fast and I seem to be laughing too easily, perhaps inappropriately sometimes.

Sex is something many people in relationships have fairly regularly and consistently. It is hard for both my partner and I to have such an erratic sexual routine. Mental illness (and medications used to treat mental illness) can really take its toll on sex drive and therefore can take its toll on relationships. I think that it’s important to talk to your partner and try and explain that it’s not to do with them, it’s to do with the illness. If they love you they should hopefully be understanding.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing this - I thought that my sex drive would automagically return after my mental health recovered but a year later and it's still non-existent. Luckily my husband is very patient but it does mean there's a distinct lack of intimacy in our marriage.

    I completely relate to your fears about whether an improved mood is foreshadowing a manic episode - if I catch myself feeling jubilant and with a head full of creative ideas then I instantly wonder if I'm back on the rollercoaster. I'm looking forward to the day when I can just feel my feelings without a sense of fear about what those feelings might lead to. But for now it is better that I am watchful so that I stand a chance of adjusting my trajectory or seek help if I think I might need it. (Not help from the NHS, I hasten to add - to date I haven't managed to get any help from them beyond sympathy and ineffective meds via my GP)

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    1. Thanks for reading and your comment! It's lovely to know that there are people out there reading and who feel like they can relate.

      I sometimes think that my sex drive will return when I feel more normal but it doesn't always. My partner is very patient like yours seems to be. It helps just talking it through with him so he doesn't think it is anything he has done. When we do get intimate I do worry about where my mood is going.

      It would be nice to have moods actually have normal moods related to everyday goings on rather than just random swings! Like you I am longing for the day where I can feel excited again by life without feeling like a manic episode is going to happen. However, it does seem helpful to watch out for the signs of an episode before it blows up. I don't know if I can do anything to stop it except try and relax and take things slowly and keep taking medication.

      I am sorry to hear you haven't been able to get much help on the NHS. I didn't get help for ages until I heard voices. Then they took it seriously which is ridiculous as I was ill and needed help long before. I hope you get the help you need and maybe they can refer you to a specialist. Thanks again for your lovely comment :-)

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  2. You are very brave to share your experience's with people. I admire you very much ��

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