Sex and the Twisted Heart

After responding to an old post on nicoleandgwendolyn.com (this one in particular http://nicoleandgwendolyn.com/2011/10/23/after-sex-for-the-ex-bulimic/ ), I began pondering the way I think about sex. 

Now I am pretty sure that I said previously that I am single and I am okay with being single.  As a matter of fact, I was celibate for just over 5 years until recently.  Being in my mid-thirties, I am not unfamiar with the concept of sex, nor of enjoying it.  But, for me, it is incredibly rare that I enjoy sex.  I have never “fallen in love” and may not ever do so.  I have learned that having sex without love, though, just makes me feel used and ashamed.  The two men that I have had sexual contact with that I can honestly say that I enjoyed are both men that I have loved.  They are friends in the truest sense of the word.

But after reading Nicole’s post, I thought about why I, and so many other people, feel the way we do after sex.  Now, there is some truth to the idea that some of those people feel bad because they do actually believe the act itself is sinful, dirty, or wrong.  I do not happen to be in that group.  I don’t think there truly are many people in that group.  But shame is inexplicably intertwined with sex for many of us.  When we give our body to someone–be we male female, trangender, pansexual, or a purple polka-dotted people eater–and they turn around and make it clear that they do not have any respect of feeling for us or for our enjoyment, we begin to wonder what we must have done wrong that they do not care for us or our feelings.  They tell us, either obviously or by inferrence, that it was all about them.  And we go automatically to, “What is wrong with me?”  And we all spiral into our own personal shame spectrum and begin to feel worthless.  For some of us, we turn around and ask for reassurance from another person who does the exact same thing.  And so the cycle continues.

What exactly is about sex that sends me into a spiral of shame and self-hatred?  I know some of it has to do with my past.  My sexual activity began when I was 11 or12 years old, although I remained physically a virgin until I was date-raped when I was 18-19.  I was date-raped again while I was in college.  That history is not the only reason why I feel such shame associated with sex, though.  It has a lot more to do with the way these experiences warped my self-esteem and distorted my thinking processes.

Now, part of the reason I became sexually active when I was so young is that I was being physically abused by an adopted sibling.  Having thought so much of this person, to know that he felt me so worthless as to physically attack me dealt a serious blow to self-esteem that was already poor and battered by neglect.  Add in the ideas that I loved him and thought he was the next thing to sliced bread and hitting puberty at the same time.  You can instantly see that this cocktail of insecurities, love-seeking, and misguided distortions of sexuality could cause a lot of problems for a young girl.  And they did.  I spent my junior high and high school years expecting that I would be asked (read made) to do specific things in exchange for respect, attention, protection, among many others.  So, just like society teaches, I thought sex was all about an exchange of goods or services.  It may not have been spelled out, but it was clear that I would get certain things only if I did as the other person wanted.  Whether I wanted to do so was never a question in my head.  Regardless of the damage done by others at this point, I did not even think I had the right to an opinion as to what was done to my body.

The last shred of dignity I held on to for dear life was my virginity.  And that was stolen by my then-boyfriend.  And for those who are curious, yes, we were fooling around; yes, we were playing in the area.  But I had told him that I did not want to have intercourse with penetration.  His excuse that he “slipped” was a bald-faced lie.  As I lay there shattered, he finished and rolled off of me.  I remember a tear dripping down my face as he got up and left.  I am not sure if he said anything…I simply cannot recall anything after that.  I do know that it wasn’t long after that that he moved to a different city without a word.  So my sense of self-worth, which had been a weak ghost before this, disappeared completely.  Being told at a later time that this was not a date-rape, but consensual sex was as much a type of rape as the act itself.

The next several years of college are a nightmare of increased libido and poor judgement due to my bipolar disorder.  I don’t really like to think about the time period except for one boyfriend.  He is one of the only two men that I have enjoyed sex with and felt good about myself afterward.  He was a wonderful, strong, loving man when I needed it the most.  Even after we parted ways as lovers, he was a good memory for the most part.  Between losing his strength and caring and the increasing loss of myself to my bipolar, I went through a very bad and weird period over the next several years.  I dated indiscriminately, created relationships in my mind, and participated in on-line relationships that were emotionally and mentally abusive and disturbing.

I got to a point that I admitted myself to the hospital for the first time.  Two years later, I was back.  After the second trip, I came out being “friends” with one of the men I had been with on the ward.  He was married and neither he nor I were healthy enough to refrain from sex with someone we felt “thinks just like me.”  It didn’t last more than 6 months.  When that relationship died, I put a moratorium on the concept of dating.  I didn’t intend for it to last 5 years, but I didn’t miss it while it was gone. 

What I missed was having someone hold me without expecting that I would “put out” for them.  I missed talking about things with someone that cared what I thought and said.  I missed the intimacy of sharing myself with someone who cared about me.  I may only have had it once, but I understood the concept.  So for the first time in years, I made love in November.  It was a loving and healthy experience, even if I allowed my previous feelings of shame and self-hatred to overshadow it somewhat afterward.  Since then, although I have not had sex, I have kissed and played with a close friend.  Both of these men make me feel as though I am more than a convenient receptacle or toy.  Both of these men listen to me and try to understand a shred of what I might be going through with my past and my disorder.  Both of these men respect who I am and the decisions I make.

So that is what I was looking for all these years apparently:  I do not have to be “in love” to make love to someone, but I do have to love them.  And sex is empty, unfulfilling, and painful for me.

It’s not easy to work through our pasts to determine when and were those distorted thoughts come from.  And I will tell you that much of the damage to my sesne of self-worth happened before I was 13 and was not directly attributable to the physical and emotional abuse the one sibling perpetrated.  I have been through both CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectal behavioural therapy) to help me see myself, my history, and the distortions in my thinking.  I think we all need to make the choice to look hard at ourselves to figure out when certain feelings began and why they might be there.  Even if that means looking into the darkest reaches of our souls.

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~ by theartistryofthebipolarbrain on January 24, 2012.

6 Responses to “Sex and the Twisted Heart”

  1. Hey hon. Wow. I’m amazed that you felt safe enough to be this honest with yourself and the world. It’s great and I’m very proud of you. I wish that I could take away all your hurts and pains. You’re a wonderfully strong and beautiful person and you’ve been through so much. And again, I’m very proud of you. If I was there right now I’d brush your hair out for you and kiss your forehead. Love you.

  2. I don’t think I would have been able to be this honest if it weren’t for the incredibly loving and supportive people in my life like you. Thank you for reading my rambling and letting me know that you understand what went into such a post. Feeling respected and at least partially understood by those that love me makes it worth waking up every day.

  3. As above, I truly admire your honesty. I’ve tried writing about sex, and it’s been difficult. It’s not an easy subject, and when it comes to mental illness…. things can get very screwed up.

    • I agree completely. I don’t advocate that everyone do something like this in such a public forum, but it is probably something a lot of us need to do, either on our own with our therapist. And I am not saying that these ingrained thought processes do not still affect me. It is more that, being more aware of them, I can try and see when these attitudes are affecting my behavior. I might have every right in the world to feel that way in the current situation. But I also might be in a safe situation where I need to try and get past my reflexive reaction and figure out how I really feel.

  4. “I dated indiscriminately, created relationships in my mind, and participated in on-line relationships that were emotionally and mentally abusive and disturbing.”

    – like you, i was a serial dater. i take everything to the extreme, and i think that’s just a result of my personality, not of my eating disorder. it was comforting to read this post, as i know that i’m not alone with simply not wanting to do “it.” if the feelings should ever strike me, i don’t think i’d be opposed, but at this point, they just haven’t. xxx

    • *hug* I think that it helped me a lot to come to the decision that having sex was not something I needed to feel good about myself. Now, if I feel the desire and have someone to make love with, it might happen. Whether it does or doesn’t happen doesn’t affect my thought process or self-esteem. For the most part. 😉

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