Right, so my first sex and disability post was about how sex works with my physical disability. As I’m sure many of you are aware, I don’t just have physical disabilities, I have mental illness, too. I’m bipolar. Specifically, I have bipolar II. That means that I don’t have ‘true’ mania, I have hypomania. Hypomania tends to manifest as this kind of overwhelming exhuberance, intense goal orientation, less need for sleep, bit thin-skinned, and…pushy.
Now, bipolar and sex is kind of bewildering because the way bipolarism interacts with sex depends in part on where in the cycle you are.
When I’m on an even keel, which is where I spend most of my time, I like sex. I love my boyfriend. So we have a pretty normal sex-life, other than all the fun my physical disabilities bring into it.
When I’m hypomanic, I don’t just like sex, I need it. I crave it. I want sex badly enough to ignore physical pain to get it. I also tend to want more physically intense sex – kinkier, more forceful, so on. Between the frequency I want it and the intensity I want, I tend to end up very, very sore. Which, if I’m still manic, isn’t enough to stop me from wanting more – it just means that when we’re done, I’m going to wince. I’ve had it get bad enough that I want to curl up in a ball around my aching crotch and whimper. This, unfortunately, makes the boyfriend feel really bad even though it’s entirely my fault that I ended up that way. I theoretically know that it’ll cause pain, I just don’t care. Er, at least, I don’t care until we’re done and the pain hits.
If I’m depressed, my relationship with sex gets more complicated. On the one hand, it makes me feel good, and I’m in need of feeling good. It also makes me feel loved and closer to the boyfriend. On the other hand, I have this great inertia that makes me not want to do anything, much less something that takes as much effort as sex. In general, that means that I settle for being almost clingy with my need to be cuddled – cuddling takes a lot less work than sex, and it still makes me feel loved and it feels good, though not as good as sex. I suspect that depression is part of why I so often fall asleep curled up around my boyfriend. I can’t sleep that way – sleeping is something that must be done very carefully, on a thick memoryfoam topper, wrapped around a body pillow just so, with my pillow pushed and pulled into the right shape. If I sleep curled up around my boyfriend, I wake aaaaching.
The depression is even more complicated than that, though, because of the way it makes me feel about myself. It makes me feel ugly and fat (in a bad way, not the usual ‘yeah, I’m fat, so?’), and utterly undesirable. The fact that my boyfriend thinks I’m the most desirable woman on the planet doesn’t even make a dent when I’m feeling like this. The space between myself as a sex object and the way I see myself when I’m depressed is so incredibly vast that I don’t have words to describe it.
That’s not to say that our sex life is always at one of these two poles – I’m not always wanting more than my body can handle or none at all. Most of the time, I’m neither manic nor depressed, so if my body is behaving, things are…normal. We’re a twenty-something couple that love each other. (haha, not for long, the boyfriend turns 30 this month!)
The thing is, when you combine the physical issues with the mental ones, our sex life gets…complicated. It’s nothing we can’t deal with, but that’s the thing – you have to deal with it. It’s something a non-disabled couple doesn’t have to worry about. Like everything else in my life, sex means figuring out how to do things in a way that works with me, not against me. Life is definitely more complicated when you’ve got a disability, and I’ve got a whole mess of them!