Knowledge is a good thing.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bipolardisorder.html

Both of these websites have an extreme amount of information about Bipolar Disorder, including symptoms.  Now both sites admit that the symptoms they list are some that might occur.  Since these are only some, I inferred that there are others that are not as common.

One of the most common symptoms during a manic or hypomanic episode is increased sex drive.  Coupling that with an increased lack of judgement and you get indiscriminate relationships, promiscuity, and a higher chance of cheating on a partner.  Depending on the severity of the episode, these behaviors can go beyond detrimental into destructive and even dangerous situations.

I talked about my sexual past earlier this week.  I mentioned my college years (and some years after that) when I was influenced periodically by my hypomania to have inappropriate or indiscriminate relationships.  I put myself and allowed myself to be put into dangerous situations.  These behaviors led to a second date-rape while I was in college.

When I was having a hypomanic episode, my social anxiety seemed to fade away.  Trying to be social in college often leads to drinking.  (Not always, I know, but it is very common.)  Adding alcohol, which disturbs the thinking process and lowers inhibition to a hypomanic episode leads to uncharacteristic sexual behaviors (for me).  It also seemed to completely remove my instinct for self-preservation.  I would go to bars or parties where I knew very few people and meet men I didn’t know and have sex with them.  I am thankful every day that I did not get an STD.  Fact of the matter is, though, that this behavior was not something I would engage in when I am balanced.

So how do we forgive ourselves for what occurs during a manic or hypomanic episode?  How do we take the stranger that inhabited our body and start to reason out why the behavior ruined a loving relationship, caused a severe sexual trauma, dealt us an STD, or got us pregnant?

First, we have to seek treatment.  We need to recognize that this behavior is so far outside what we believe is right and healthy for ourselves that we realize that medical treatment is necessary.  When we seek treatment, we have to be honest with our treatment team.

Second, we need to study and comprehend what about our illness (and I am including any disorder that disturbs one’s sex-drive or decision-making abilities here, although I personally only have experience with bipolar) that drove us too these behaviors.  Fully understanding that this disorder affects us this way allows us to start to look at where our regular sexual thought processes begin to change when we are having an episode.

Third, we need to ask for help from our therapists, family, friends, and significant others to help us see differences in the way we act at different times.  Identifying when an episode might be beginning can help us try to find alternative means of dealing with these extreme urges.  Because they are on the outside looking in, they might see us clearer than we are able to see ourselves.  (No, I don’t think we should take their word as gospel, just as added information to assimilate.)

Fourth, and this is a big one, we need to forgive ourselves for the actions that occurred.  Now, this is not a blanket excuse for all the harm you have caused.  When possible, you need to tell those you have hurt that you are sorry for what you did to them.  You need to pay for your actions if you broke the law during your episode.  But you have to let go of the self-hatred caused by your behavior.  You need to take responsibility for your actions.  Own the fact that bipolar is a part of you and can cause these issues, even as you work with your team to make sure they don’t happen again.

Now, having said all of this, I am by no means claiming to be perfect.  I caused others harm at many points in my life because of this.  More than that, I caused myself an immense amount of pain and self-loathing through this behavior.  I am still working my way through those steps.  Sometimes, I feel like I am doing very well.  Other times, I head straight for my “go-to” emotions of self-blame, self-disgust, and worthlessness.  But each day is a step forward for me in understanding myself.

Here’s to working our way down the recovery road, whether walking tall, crawling, or pulling ourselves across the gravel hand over hand.  We are all getting forward, no matter how we are doing it.

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~ by theartistryofthebipolarbrain on January 27, 2012.

4 Responses to “Knowledge is a good thing.”

  1. Honey, I’m in tears and speechless right now. You amaze me.

  2. Here’s to working our way down the recovery road, whether walking tall, crawling, or pulling ourselves across the gravel hand over hand. We are all getting forward, no matter how we are doing it.

    This! *hugs*

  3. Thank you for your honesty in this post. I think forgiveness of yourself for your behavior during an ill phase is crucial–as crucial as it is not to forgive AND forget. Don’t hold on to the guilt and hurt; you are okay as you are, working to make it, and be the best, healthy self you can be. Candida

    • Thank you for your kindness! It has taken me a long time to get to this point in my life. I hope that the insights I have gained at such a cost can help others see themselves and their own situations a little more clearly.

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