How Bipolar Disorder F*cked Me in All the Wrong Ways

Photo Credit: Javier Sancho. Flickr via Compfight cc

I’m a woman who enjoys sex – a lot. I’ve always had the pleasure of savoring what many would consider a very high sex drive, and for the better part of a decade (excluding a brief separation) my husband has delighted in the benefits of my voracious appetite, that is up until about two years ago when I was prescribed a new cocktail of medications to stabilize my moods. Not only have I been considered insatiable, but I’ve also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In hypomanic states, some people experience hypersexuality, which can lead to some pretty poor choices when the overwhelming urge to get some strikes. I’ve been lucky in that regard. My husband has been more than obliging and definitely beyond satisfying when I need to scratch that itch. We have shared an intense and unreserved affair, and our relationship has blossomed because of it.

I’m not saying that sex has everything to do with a relationship, but in my opinion, it sure as hell is a very important element to a strong one. And, when you go from sassy vixen to don’t fucking look at me in the span of a few days, you’re left with two people wondering what the hell happened.

The quick departure of my sex drive had nothing to do with how I felt about myself or how I felt about my husband—at first—and everything to do with the new medications prescribed to stabilize me. The symptoms of my illness had become alarming and my health was in jeopardy again so the doctors did what they could. Unfortunately doing what they could was to prescribe the one drug that makes it impossible for a woman to achieve orgasm, or so they say, whoever they are. When the mood struck, which was close to never, I made it my mission to prove them wrong; and I did. But what once used to cum very quickly now took an extreme amount of effort.

My husband and I pulled out all the stops. We gleefully opened up our tickle trunk and took stock of our collection of toys. Thinking we needed something fresh and new to help break through the dry spell we hit up the closest adult store, something we had previously enjoyed doing together. Coming face to face with a wall of dildos, vibrators and ridiculously large anal beads had me both amazed and in hysterics until the panic set in. This little outing no longer felt like a playful time between two loving and committed people. Instead, it felt as though something was inherently wrong with me. I was so overcome with self-loathing that I rushed out of the store in tears. It would be months before my husband and I made love again.

If I told you that our relationship didn’t suffer because of our nonexistent sex life, I’d be lying. My husband questioned whether or not I was still attracted to him and while, on one hand, he understood that the meds were to blame for this tumultuous time, he still didn’t fully grasp it. It was hard enough for me to deal with.

I can’t imagine how a man who’s used to getting some every single day can get cut off without warning. We sat down and tried to talk things through but by this time the thought of sex seemed like work to me; work that I no longer had the energy nor the desire to pursue. In all honesty, I no longer had the urge to even pleasure myself.

Losing my sex drive wasn’t just a hit to my libido; it was a hit to my relationship and my self-imposed idea of how a woman should feel. Not satisfied with how things were unfolding, I found myself back at the doctor asking for Viagra. I’d heard it did wonders for women as well as men, and at this point, I was ready to try anything. The doctor questioned me extensively, asking about my relationship as well as my moods. When I explained that the side effects of the medications were spiraling me into depression, he made the call to ax the meds, but it wasn’t that easy.

Considering the only thing that had been screwing me were the meds, my husband and I had our work cut out for us in reestablishing our sex life. We started the process of courting each other again, which added a spark that we hadn’t realized had fizzled out long before. We sent flirty text messages to each other while we were at work, he surprised me with flowers and amped it up by sending me to the spa. We found intimacy in the tiniest things, holding each other’s hands as we walked down the street, sharing a private joke in a room full of people. And those stolen moments spent snuggling in bed opened up conversations that we had long since abandoned.

Even during the worst of times my husband has been my best friend. But when the sex fizzles and you go to bed every night with your best friend, it can become too comfortable, at least for me anyway. A relationship is built on a multitude of things, and each one is unique to those involved. Mine happens to be built on a mutual trust, respect, humor, and a wicked sex life.

I am a woman who enjoys sex – a lot. And thank God I’ve found my way back to it.

Nicole Lyons

Nicole Lyons is the creator of The Lithium Chronicles, the popular Facebook page that brings awareness to mental illness and support to those who need it. She was a columnist for the national online magazine, PsychCentral, and has been a guest contributor to the website The Mighty and The International Bipolar Foundation. Nicole has been a featured writer for the OCH Literary Society, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Sidereal Catalyst, among others. Nicole's The Lithium Chronicles website features her own poetry and prose, as well as the work of upcoming and established artists and was added to the Mental Health Writer’s Guild in 2015. She has been nominated for two consecutive years in six different categories for The Wego Health Activist awards, recognized for her work as a fierce mental health advocate and an advocate for others, as well as having built an exceptional supportive online community with The Lithium Chronicles. She is a published author in both Feminine Collective’s Raw & Unfiltered VOL I and The Stigma Fighters Anthology Volume One. Nicole is a hippie at heart with a bohemian soul who believes that the world can be changed by one random act of kindness at a time. She lives a good life in Beautiful British Columbia with her brilliant daughters and gorgeous husband. In her free time Nicole volunteers with a Canadian nonprofit that focuses on suicide awareness and prevention, and hangs out with her best friend, a 170lb bullmastiff named Capone.

15 thoughts on “How Bipolar Disorder F*cked Me in All the Wrong Ways

  1. Kitt O'MalleyKitt O'Malley

    Medication side effects suck. My entire relationship with my husband happened post-medication. Even anti-depressants alone suppressed my libido and responsiveness. Before my diagnosis of bipolar, when I lived with a diagnosis of dysthymia, I tried Wellbutrin, which increased my libido, but also made me rageful. I’ve simply lived with it. My husband will never know the vixen I once was. I mourn the loss, but choose to live a more stable life. Some of us are particularly sensitive to the side effects of medications.

  2. Nicole LyonsNicole Lyons Post author

    Thanks so much, Miranda.

    It is so frustrating, it’s an entire ripple effect. You take something to help you and then disaster, there has to be a better way.

  3. Dori OwenDori Owen

    It’s the “thing we never talk about….” I have bipolar disorder and my meds have pretty much tanked my sex life. The very thing that has saved one part of my life is a trade off for another. Please, Big Pharma, can’t you make a libido med that won’t launch me into mania?

    Great, honest piece.

  4. Miranda Kate

    Love this article in so many ways. It fights the stigma that women aren’t meant to enjoy sex – or it be a big part of their relationships. To me if people say sex isn’t important, they aren’t getting any. That physical attraction and playfulness is key to the whole point of a relationship. I found the contraceptive pill did this to me, and my husband thought it was him too. It was very frustrating.

  5. Dyane Harwood

    Awesome, awesome article!

    As a mom with postpartum bipolar disorder, I could relate to this essay so much- and I LOVE your vivid, raw, real writing!!!!! Thank you so much for being honest in your writing – it really is a gift, Nicole, and you got it!

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