I have this recurring dream. It started when I was probably 17 or 18. It’s neither scary or happy, it feels kind of empty. In this dream I am at an art gallery. It’s fancy and everyone is in black, there is music playing. Soft classical piano. The art changes. Sometimes modern paintings, sometimes sculpture, often photography black and white. In the dream I am there but I never see my face. I know it’s me because I’m present in my body but I’m also detached and watching from over head. It’s this really strange two perspective sensation. I always look the same. Hair is up, pearl earrings, black dress that is backless. I am always thin even during times of my life when I am not. My hair is always blonde. I’m looking at the art work and I have a glass of champagne in my hand, a delicate tall thin flute. My nails are perfectly manicured. I’m looking at the art work but I don’t actually see it because I’m not paying attention to it. I’m waiting. For someone. I assume it’s the artist but I can’t really say because I never actually meet the person I am waiting for. The dream ends in different ways. In some versions I finish the champagne and leave and I wake with such a heavy feeling of sadness. Sometimes I study the artwork and then the dream just dissipates. Sometimes I feel a hand on my shoulder. That’s my favourite version because I know it’s who I have been waiting for even though I never get more than that feeling of their presence.
I feel like this dream infiltrates my awake world. I often feel that sense of detachment. Like I am in my body but at the same time a spectator watching my life unfold from above. I usually have the feeling of sadness because I am alone. It always feels like I’m waiting for someone, anyone. Just to notice me.
I mentioned before that not all of these posts would be comfortable. For me to write or for others to read. This is going to be one of those.
**Warning** I am going to talk about sexual things that may challenge your values, attitudes and beliefs. If this makes you uncomfortable especially if you are a family member or friend then I suggest you stop reading. Browse another blog post like this one, or go back and analyze my dream.
I’m terrible at interpersonal relationships.
With friendships I can come on too strong. It’s like I miss the social cues. I may come for a coffee but stay over too long. I’ve been told by someone else that this is an issue that others are too polite to mention. I can get slightly obsessive and focus all my attention on a particular friend or group and basically ignore my other friendships. I struggle with balance and boundaries and take it personally if a friend tells me they are busy or don’t respond. A good friend of mine, who has been with me every step of this journey said to me, “silent just means busy.” But I read into and catastrophize the silence. I often have difficulty seeing others needs and take this a personal attack rather than understanding that other people are dealing with their own struggles.
During a manic state it’s all about what is fun, daring and risky and little attention to consequences is paid. I’m the “life of the party”. My libido is intense and my extroversion is sky high. After the inevitable crash I’m left with a sense of shame for acting outside of my core values. I’ve crossed boundaries and lines sometimes it’s just a toe over. Something like a hug that lingers, extra held eye contact, a brush with my hand on a leg or an arm. Sometimes I go a little further over that line. I might bite an earlobe during a simple goodbye, make overt sexual comments, grab and hold a hand, lap dances because really it’s just “fun”. In some instances I’ve not only crossed the line but crumpled it up and stomped on it. I’ve put myself in some potentially dangerous, compromising situations with individuals that are little more than strangers. And… I’ve had an affair.
Why? I don’t know, I don’t understand it.
I’ve always felt a little like something is wrong with me. That I lack values or maybe I’m a sexual deviant. But I struggle with that idea too because I do have values and this behaviour contradicts what I value.
Recently I came across a term for this – Hypersexuality.
“Hypersexuality tends to occur during mania or hypomania and it creates the need for sex such that it seems you could claw through a wall if it meant getting to the sex on the other side. Picture being turned ravenously on by a dish towel. Or a floor lamp. Or a piece of tuna fish. And then needing to sate that need with the nearest warm body. Hypersexuality sort of like that.
(Of course, the opposite phenomenon also occurs. When in a depressed phase a person with bipolar may want nothing to do with sex at all.)”
- People with bipolar are more sexually adventurous than the average
- People with bipolar are more likely to have had sex with both genders
- People with bipolar may or may not identify as bisexual, regardless
I do know that impulse control, especially during a manic state is a thing. Some people will struggle with drugs and alcohol, shopping, gambling, driving too fast, hypersexuality. Or some people all or many of the above.
“Being bipolar means being insatiable. The high of the mania is never high enough. There is always a desire, a need, to push the high to the next level, in the same way a drug addict constantly requires more and stronger drugs. For a person with bipolar disorder, risky behavior can be the best drug of all.”
Hypersexuality is a struggle for me. When I’m manic it’s like I don’t have an off switch. Jess Melancholia in her post puts it to words better than I could. She says,
“When I’m hypersexual, I get intense cravings for sex. It’s similar to the sort of “butterflies in your stomach” feeling when you fall in love. It’s an intense high that gives me a massive boost in self-confidence. The temptation to act out is so strong I can practically feel it on my skin and taste it on my tongue. The worst part about hypersexuality is I’m never satisfied. I have to actively resist what my body is essentially trying to do on autopilot. If I’m not careful, then I’ll do something I’ll regret.”
And I’ve done things I regret.
But I’m also trying to forgive myself.
And learn to be better.
This is one piece of my bipolar disorder puzzle. It’s not simply hypersexuality. It also comes from my fear of being alone. So the attention seeking behaviour fills that need. It makes me feel that by being desired that I’m not alone. It kind of works the same way with friendships. If I constantly lend myself out, offer to help, and go out of my way it fills that same need of not feeling alone. I guess it goes back to that dream.
I also struggle with boundaries. Not just other peoples boundaries but my own. Someone will ask me to do something (personal or work related) and my head is saying no but my mouth instantly says yes. Then I feel guilt for saying yes when I don’t want to. I’ll take it on and pile my full plate a mile high or I’ll last minute make an excuse why I can’t actually fulfill the commitment. Recently I had an oil change for my car. I had to reschedule it and the day she gave me I knew it didn’t work but my mouth said yes. I then tried to cancel it but I couldn’t so I just didn’t go. Now they are calling me to rebook it but I feel humiliated that I just didn’t go.
Here’s what I am learning.
I’m learning to change the behaviours. That doesn’t mean I’m always going to get it right. I’m learning to value my time alone and find joy in that time. I’m training myself to love the space I’m in by creating a structured routine of my day, much like I would do when I have the children or am at work. I’m learning to respect my friend’s boundaries and show empathy toward what they are going through. I’m trying to ask them how they are doing instead of launching into a rant about how I am. I’m understanding that silent often does mean busy and not get out of my life. I’m learning to respect my own boundaries and establish for myself what those are. I’m learning that “love” and manipulation are NOT the same thing. I’m learning that I am who I am. I can be me in a way that is risky, fun and exciting but is also safe and doesn’t harm others too.
On Friday I went on a date. Like a normal, lets have a drink and a bite to eat kind of date. He seemed nice, conversation was great and I was thinking I’m not sure if he’s what I’m looking for but I thought if he’s interested I would go out again.
However, before I left I set up the following boundaries for myself.
- A kiss is fine but that is all. But ask me, even ask me if you want to hold my hand or hug me. It’s all about respect and consent!
- I don’t want to be called “beautiful, gorgeous, honey” etc. Those are presumptuous terms from someone who is basically a stranger. They make me feel icky.
- I don’t owe you an explanation so if you ask me something and I politely decline or say that’s a story for another time, it needs to be respected and not probed deeper.
He didn’t follow all my boundaries. And to be fair I didn’t share them but I am kind of looking for someone who just is naturally that way. Someone’s who values and boundaries align with mine.
When he texted me the next morning I instantly felt compelled to agree to meeting up again, because he was nice enough and I was feeling guilt for not wanting to disappoint him. I also felt maybe my bar is too high I mean let’s face it I’m a risky investment. Getting caught up with me – who would even want that? I also told myself I don’t want someone who is nice, I want daring, risky, dangerous. But really that wasn’t any of it. I went back to the boundaries I established for myself in the first place. He didn’t follow my rules. Period. I can change my mind, I have choices. So I thanked him, politely declined and wished him luck in his search (thanks to my awesome support network for helping me through it).
So I am learning, and I do want to change my behaviour.
I also think, that this week I’m going to go to the local art gallery, and I’m going to let my hair down lose and wild and i’m going to take my time and really appreciate and soak in every single art piece that is in there. And I’m going to go it alone!