One of the reasons I’ve chosen to remain 99.9% anonymous is so that I can tell my whole story without fear of incriminating myself or embarrassing anybody. This means I can talk about one of the most destructive components of mania: Hypersexuality. If you don’t have it, you’ve at least read about it in the DSM-IV, and you can consider yourself lucky for not having it. This is the stuff that can irrevocably destroy a marriage, or multiple marriages.
Like most components of mental illness it comes on a spectrum and to me it feels progressive. Maybe you just get really flirty. Maybe you kiss some random person at a party from time to time. Or maybe you hop from bed to bed to bed ( or into the back of a BMW SUV in broad daylight in the parking lot of a city park). Spectrum.
My most pronounced and dangerous manic symptom is hypersexuality. This is the behavior (among others) that eventually brought me to a Bipolar I diagnosis. And if it weren’t for the diagnosis, my marriage would be over. My marriage is 100% contingent on my willingness to be treated.
Hypersexuality feels amazing. I’m not gonna lie. It never quits. Everything becomes sexual. You drip sexuality. It’s a euphoria to beat all euphoria. It appeals to the baser impulses of your potential mates. We all have those impulses, but when you’re hypersexual, impulses can become actions very quickly.
In my first full blown manic episode I had unprotected sex with a gal I met on twitter, a gal I was in a play with, a gal I met at a bar, and a gal I met at a conference; all over the course of a few weeks. Two of the women were married. I’m lucky I didn’t get my head blown off by an angry husband.
When my wife uncovered my infidelity, I told her I couldn’t be married anymore. I told her I didn’t love her. I moved into a dismal room in a dismal rent house. I developed pneumonia, but kept drinking and smoking. I would have died, if my episode didn’t pass when it did.
I felt like I could never be a good partner to anyone. I believed I was doomed to the life of a lone, depraved bachelor. I was dangerous, damaged goods.
As soon as it was over, I looked around at my life and was horrified. I couldn’t understand how this had all happened. I immediately remembered that I loved my wife dearly and just wanted to be home with her. But it’s not that simple. Sick or not, I did those things. I have to take responsibility for my actions. Most women would have dropped me forever. But my wife is the exception to the rule. She had compassion for me and didn’t want to see me die, no matter what I had done. The pneumonia was progressing rapidly. She took me back and took care of me. “In sickness, and in health”. She knew that an illness had brought this on, and is working to forgive me.
To be helpful, I told her that all the women were old and ugly. She needed that little lie from me.
We’re happier than we’ve ever been now that I’m in treatment, but I know that she will never fully recover from the pain I caused her, and neither will I. The best I can do is stay as healthy as I can and be the best husband I can be and hope that it’s enough to keep us together. We have two children together, and all four of us need this family to stay together.
If you are struggling with this, my heart goes out to you. There’s no undoing this kind of damage.