So today on Facebook I saw a post linking to Natasha Tracy’s Bipolar Burble Blog on an article about hypersexuality with the question: “Do you experience hypersexuality? What is it like for you?” and I just broke down in tears. Because yes, I do and it’s miserable and it just seems to ruin everything.
Why do I say that? First and foremost, there is no medical cure for hypersexuality – or at least not the kind that comes with Bipolar episodes. When it hits, you’re stuck riding the course of it until it passes. This means for me, it’s the mid-range of hypomania to full blown manic episodes. The best I can do is prevent and mitigate mania. Even with medication, I still experience mid-range hypomania at times.
Sexuality is not inherently shameful, so what’s the big deal? I’ve mentioned or talked about this in a couple of places already, here, here, here, and here. However, today I feel the need to talk about it some more. Perhaps because I still struggle with it emotionally, psychologically, and relationally.
What’s it like for me specifically?
The first thing that comes to mind is how it jacks up my sense of smell right off the charts. I could be standing at the doorway of my kitchen from the living room and you could be just entering the house from the kitchen porch door and I will be able to tell you the brand of soap you’ve used while you’re still at that door if I have smelled it before. My nose is that sensitive during that time.
My sense of touch is also sensitive enough that I feel like I see with my skin and I don’t know how else to explain this one. At baseline I don’t even like the feeling of air moving across my arms, but this level of sensitivity ramps up to extremes while hypersexual.
My insides also feel like a bag of bugs. Just a bunch of restless noise. I suppose this is where touch is helpful sense it anchors my sense of being. It reminds me I’m not made of static. It reminds me I’m a real human being of flesh and bone and breath.
Doesn’t really sound sexual right now does it? No, I don’t suppose it does. It probably sounds more like the volume of a radio turned to the max 24/7 and the knob broken off. I know it feels that way to me.
For a long time, I wasn’t really sure how to explain the sexual component. How it felt or why it’s problematic. Until I came across this medical article on Persistent Genital Arousal (PGAD) and it felt like it described my experience during hypersexuality perfectly.
However, for me I also experience intrusive and obsessive thoughts around sex. Not always together with the physical sensations though. Often times it’s the physical stuff triggering the thoughts. So this article only describes the physical experience of my hypersexuality. Although, I do wonder if “without sexual desire” means without a sexual trigger (as in I didn’t want sex before it started) because that part I do experience. I mean, if that counts then it counts. I suppose it doesn’t matter. Maybe I have both.
The reason it’s so miserable is because no amount of orgasms makes it go away. Not awake. Not asleep. It’s unrelenting. When experiencing something like this, you can quite literally masterbate all day long, orgasm multiple times, and still find no relief. I have injured myself in the past trying to make it go away.
And as a rape survivor, this is a very triggering event because this is no longer a “spontaneous fun time” the way I used to see it but rather a biological misfiring against your will. I no longer know how to go with the flow of it without also being keenly aware that this makes me highly vulnerable to predatory people.
Nothing you do makes it stop. So you’re miserable. You’re now dying of thirst while drowning in a fucking lake. This makes you irritable. Which makes you unpleasant as fuck to be around. You feel broken as a human being as you watch one partner after another crumble under the enormous pressure to satisfy the insatiable. Through no fault of their own, they can’t resolve it. There is no cure but they see themselves as failing anyhow because it doesn’t go away. And even if they don’t, it’s fucking exhausting.
And no, this is not the same as sex addiction because at baseline, the symptoms of this disappear and during depression my libido declines if not completely vanishes. If this was truly sex addiction, it would remain constant just like my smoking tobacco does. My smoking habit never varies with my episodes.
And my smoking habit doesn’t come as a shock or surprise to anyone either. It’s there. Take it or leave it. Yes, I accept that it’s a deal breaker for many and I’m cool with that. But the sex thing? That’s a rough thing to explain and it’s always a shock to the system for both of us when this shit hits.
Every time I attempt to explain, the guy acts like he understands. He may even be excited about the prospect of sex every day UNTIL the time comes when he realizes that I meant it quite literally. Even when depressed, my idea of no libido means no less than once a month. Neither are ever received well in action. Neither are received well when episodes shift. Ever. Humans are creatures of habit by neurotypical genetic design whereas Bipolar is a neurodiverse genetic design of constant flux. It’s hard to bear when your partner’s homeostasis IS chaos.
My very nature of being tends to wreck things. It’s overwhelming to myself from day to day. How could I ever expect it not to be for a partner? Hypersexuality is a frequent root of an emotional cascade for me. And no, I don’t think it’s restricted to just those with Borderline Personality Disorder. I think it happens with anyone that experiences a failure in emotional self-regulation, for whatever reason, period.
For me, suicidal behavior is replaced with self-sabotaging or destructive behavior. As in, doing something that I know damn well will likely blow up in my face but for some reason I feel compelled to do anyway. In many ways it’s suicide of the soul or heart when I really think about it. The key for me with this is to not reach that point, which too often I don’t see the point of no return in time when the cascade is active. I’m working on getting better at that. The crisis I often find myself in is when it comes to hypersexuality and cascading from it, is that sex feels like both the poison and the antidote.
So when you have a disorder in particular that creates emotional dysregulation and impairs emotional self-regulation, relying on someone else for co-regulation is sometimes necessary. However, the problem is when you rely on one person for this too often, or all the time. And I think this is all too easy to happen with a life partner. And perhaps more so when that partner is a male considering the fact they’re the ones typically with the inborn hero instinct. It’s all too easy to give in and allow them to have that hero moment. And it’s great and it works, until it doesn’t.
Because I think there’s a healthy way and an unhealthy way to go about this. Self awareness and insight. Boundaries. Emotional intelligence. Emotional agility. Compassion. Empathy. All critical things. Some clinical knowledge probably doesn’t hurt. Without these things, I firmly believe the inevitable result is me becoming a seriously heavy burden on the other.
I’m still working on my self-regulation skills. I’m still working on naming, claiming, and sitting with my emotions. Do I crave support from someone else in this? Absolutely. Do I also fear being punished, shamed, or abused for it? Also, absolutely.
Do I have it all figured out? Clearly not. Right now I feel so severely borked as though I am completely unfit for relationships to the point where I’m questioning whether I am capable of a relationship of any kind, much less a monogamous arrangement. Yes, I was raised believing that this was the only way to be – for women specifically.
I mean, how does one find emotional nourishment when their brain screams for sex the way it does for air? Or when the brain screams away from all touch like a hot iron? How the fuck do I balance this? How the fuck does a partner of mine balance this? I don’t know if it’s possible.
What I do know is that I need someone who is willing to try with me. Someone strong enough to put that honest effort into figure it out with me. Both the highs and lows of the storms in my brain. Someone that knows how to set, hold, and respect boundaries. Someone that knows how to hold space for chaos and the emotions that comes with it.
Friend, family, lover – doesn’t matter. This is what I need.