Kinky de­sires and hy­po­ma­nia

The Georgia Straight - - Savage Love - By

bDan Sav­age

I’M A 30-YEAR-OLD Asian-amer­i­can, het­ero-flex­i­ble cis woman. I’m also newly di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar II. I’m on med­i­ca­tion—the doc­tor is try­ing to fig­ure that out—but no talk ther­apy for right now, as my last ther­a­pist wasn’t great and I haven’t man­aged to find a new one. My ques­tion for you is re­gard­ing the re­la­tion­ship between bipo­lar and kink. One of the com­mon symp­toms of the manic stage of bipo­lar is “risky sex”. I equate risk with “likely to blow up one’s per­sonal or pro­fes­sional life” and have al­ways an­swered “no” to that ques­tion when asked by doc­tors. I’ve had the oc­ca­sional hookup, but oth­er­wise I’ve con­sis­tently had sex in the con­text of closed, monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ships, i.e., the op­po­site of risky sex. How­ever, it re­cently oc­curred to me that I’m fairly kinky (BDSM, role-play). Noth­ing I’d con­sider a var­sity-level kink, but what do I know? I have out­there fan­tasies that are var­sity-level, but I’ve never done them. Am I just bipo­lar and kinky? Are the two re­lated some­how? Should I be con­cerned that I’ll go into a manic state and start en­act­ing (or try­ing to en­act) some of the var­sity-level fan­tasies in my head?

- Kinky And Bipo­lar P.S. I asked my doc­tor this via email, but I haven’t heard back yet and have no idea how sex-pos­i­tive he is. So I thought I’d get a sec­ond opin­ion. P.P.S. I’m cur­rently manic enough that it’s hard for me to edit, so there may be weird/con­fus­ing shit in my let­ter. Sorry for that!

“I’d like to con­grat­u­late KAB for seek­ing help and for the work she’s do­ing to get stable,” said Ellen For­ney, au­thor of Rock Steady: Bril­liant Ad­vice From My Bipo­lar Life, an award-win­ning self-help guide to main­tain­ing sta­bil­ity, and the best-sell­ing graphic mem­oir Mar­bles: Ma­nia, De­pres­sion, Michelan­gelo & Me. “I’d also like to wel­come KAB to BIPO­LAR! Toot! Toot! Con­fetti!”

The spe­cific manic-stage symp­tom you’re con­cerned about—en­gag­ing in su­per-risky sex—is called “hy­per­sex­u­al­ity”, and it’s what hap­pens when the ex­tremely-poor-judg­ment match meets the su­per­charged-li­bido gas.

“But it’s only ‘hy­per­sex­u­al­ity’ when it gets in the way of a rea­son­ably well-func­tion­ing life,” said For­ney. “Pic­ture mas­tur­bat­ing all day in­stead of go­ing to work, or hav­ing re­la­tion­ship-wreck­ing af­fairs or un­pro­tected sex with strangers.”

If your di­ag­no­sis is cor­rect and you have bipo­lar II and not bipo­lar I, KAB, you may be less sus­cep­ti­ble to out-of-con­trol hy­per­sex­u­al­ity.

“Strictly speak­ing, a bipo­lar II di­ag­no­sis means she cy­cles between ‘hy­po­ma­nia’ (mild ma­nia) and de­pres­sion,” said For­ney, “so her highs aren’t go­ing to be as acute as they would be for some­one di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar I, where hy­per­sex­u­al­ity can re­ally get dan­ger­ous.”

For­ney warns that mis­di­ag­noses are not un­com­mon where bipo­lar is con­cerned, so you might want to get your di­ag­no­sis con­firmed. But your long-stand­ing kinks all by them­selves—var­sity and oth­er­wise—aren’t nec­es­sar­ily re­lated to your con­di­tion, KAB, and so long as they’re safely ex­pressed and ex­plored, you aren’t do­ing any­thing un­rea­son­ably risky or wrong.

“Kinky sex in it­self doesn’t count as symp­tom-wor­thy risky sex—no mat­ter what her doc­tor emails back,” said For­ney. “Like for any­one else, there’s noth­ing nec­es­sar­ily wrong with feel­ing un­in­hib­ited enough to pur­sue var­sity-level kinks, so long as they’re not putting her or any­one else in dan­ger. Ul­ti­mately, KAB’S goal is to be stable enough to trust her judg­ment. For now, she might weigh the risks while she’s feel­ing stable, so she can make some lev­el­headed de­ci­sions about what might or might not be too risky.”

For­ney also rec­om­mends hav­ing a dis­cus­sion with your part­ners and friends about what your lim­its are—a dis­cus­sion you’ll want to have when you’re not horny or manic or both.

“That way, her part­ners and friends can help her rec­og­nize if she’s cross­ing her own lines,” said For­ney. “And re­al­iz­ing that she’s sud­denly tempted to cross her own lines could be a sig­nal to her that she’s get­ting hy­po­manic and needs to take steps to sta­bi­lize—steps like get­ting bet­ter sleep, ad­just­ing her meds, and oth­ers I ex­plore in Rock Steady!”

P.S. If your doc­tor won’t an­swer your sex ques­tions—or only gives you un­help­ful, sex-neg­a­tive, kinksham­ing an­swers—find your­self a new doc­tor.

P.P.S. There are let­ters I have to read three times be­fore I can fig­ure out what the fuck is go­ing on. Your let­ter was as lu­cid as it was charm­ing.

P.P.P.S. Ther­a­pists across the coun­try are rec­om­mend­ing Rock Steady to their pa­tients with mood dis­or­ders, and For­ney won a Me­dia Part­ner Award from the Na­tional Al­liance for Men­tal Ill­ness for her work on Rock Steady and Mar­bles. If you haven’t al­ready, KAB, please pick up For­ney’s books. You’ll ben­e­fit from her in­sights, her ad­vice, and her cop­ing strate­gies. And thanks to For­ney’s art and sense of hu­mour, both books are a de­light to read.


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