Shrunk by Dr. Google
I’ve had a lot of sex with enough partners to cause me a little bit of an existential crisis.
Starting at the ripe age of 16, when I finally convinced my timid boyfriend that we needed to get with it and get down, I got it on like the Earth needed repopulation. Once “game on” had been called, there was a singular aim: attempting to raise my standings. Don’t get me wrong, there was no mythical Stanley Cup being competed for—I wouldn’t pass from the regular season into the semi-finals and finally a death-match of sexual fortitude—but I was definitely vying for some sort of record number of goals. Exhibit A: During the second year with my high school boyfriend, I stopped tallying the number of screw sessions when they surpassed 500. Exhibit B: I counted, at all. The next half-decade brought more relationships and hook-ups, often quantified by insatiable urges to do the deed as often as the deed could be done.
There I was four years ago, letting Dr. Google teach me a little bit too much about abnormal psychology, knocked up, unmedicated and depressed. I’d been off and on a variety of medications for depression and anxiety for about six years, a rainbow of antidepressants, mood stabilizers, tranquilizers and even anti-psychotics. I’d never been officially diagnosed, just had pills pushed in my direction, and I’d gone off of the latest cocktail since finding out that a parasite was growing in my womb. My brain was messed up, so I figured since everything you read on the Internet is true, I could figure out what it was that was wrong with me.
Dr. Google didn’t let me down, eventually pointing me toward bipolar’s criteria according the bible of psychology, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—a.k.a. the DSM-IV. If you ever get a sec to page through that bad boy, I suggest you run far away, because you probably qualify for at least 132 disorders, and some things just can’t be unlearned. Trust me, you don’t want to know why you want your wife to do that thing, or that there’s a specific kind of therapy for it. I didn’t want to know that at least seven conditions completely defined my day-to-day life, my past, and my perceptions. But suddenly, the puzzle pieces fit together.
I went back in time in my head, figuring out the whens, whos and whys. When “that guy with the eyes” was part of my life, how I’d dated that crazy girl for all of two weeks. Why boyfriends and I had alternated a seemingly unending cycle of fights and makeup sex. There were periods of time when my sex drive was unmatchable by every partner I’ve ever encountered, and then, there was the Christmas at a boyfriend’s when we didn’t leave the bedroom for more than food and cigarettes for three days. I also saw the in-betweens—the times when I wasn’t getting much and really didn’t care, when having a partner who wanted to get laid was a hassle because, quite frankly, I’d just used up all of my energy taking a shower (that was at least a week after the last one).
My sex life was completely, 100 percent, definitely no question about it attributed to my high and low moods. So, I stepped away from the computer and told a doctor in real life. I was easily diagnosed as bipolar, in part because of the record setting, in addition to the fact that I was unbalanced and moody. Since, bipolar has been written on my metaphorical psychiatric permanent record.
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by unusually severe ups and downs. This ain’t no PMS, or your girlfriend broke up with you syndrome—it’s a chemical imbalance that no one’s quite figured out yet that screws with your life. These ups and downs get broken into nice, tidy little definitions: depressive and manic (or hypomanic) episodes, and each type of episode comes with its own symptoms, energy levels, abilities and frankly, neuroses.
When depressive, most find that daily tasks can seem impossible, and even the very feat of brushing teeth before trudging back to bed seems like too much energy to expend. A manic state might mean that the teeth never get brushed at all, because our hypothetical person realizes they were out of toothpaste and got the jones for a midnight drug-store run, which led to them walking out of the door with keys in hand, an itch in the back of their brain and aimlessness. $200 of cocaine, three sexual partners, two verbal arguments, no sleep, a tattoo, 40-foot boa constrictor in their living room and three days later, they bottom out, often sinking into a depressive cycle.
That would be a “healthier” manic episode. A more stereotypical image of a manic person is one who thinks that everything seems real when often it isn’t at all—this is a phase when people hear and see things, and live within a world made up from fantastical delusions involving gods, sometimes extreme paranoia, and mistrust of close friends and family, anyone potentially affiliated with government bodies and medical staff. True mania is a bitch that you don’t want to mess with, because she will cut you after baking you cookies.
Fun, right? Well, actually, it can be. Being depressed isn’t, obviously—this is the phase when bipolar personalities are most likely to attempt suicide, unable to see past the darkness. Hypomanic phases, though, are the easiest, most organic kind of high you can experience. Life is full of unlimited possibilities, and you feel free to engage in whatever behaviour will encourage your up mood, despite the repercussions. Normal people pay money to feel like that. It’s like a certain amount of superhero gets injected into your brain and you’re capable and allowed to do anything.
Want to dance all night in four-inch heels, drink too much tequila and go home with a 21-year-old with sparkly eyes who may or may not be named Lance (who affectionately calls you Coug), even though you have an eight o’clock meeting in the morning? You can totally do that when hypomanic. You’ll have tons of fun, and you’ll probably have the best sex you’ve had to date, since you’re so damned high and you just can’t stop coming.
My variety, Cyclothymia, is a tamer version of its bully cousins, Bipolar Types I and II. It’s made up of hypomanic states—the platinum card of the “up”—and some depressive states, but neither moods near the severity of a major depressive or manic phase. It’s the best, with the not-quite-worst: a feeling of euphoria at some points, sleepiness and sadness during others; risk-seeking behaviours on day one, and apathy about the entire world the next week. It’s seesawing between extremes of eating, spending, screwing, planning, anxiety and none of the above. This is why my sex life got me sent to the psychiatrist’s office.
Better Living through Batteries
I’m one of those people who want a label to associate with. I need to know the confines of the little box that my brain fits within, because it forecasts potentials, giving me rules to live within and an awareness of my capabilities. Being diagnosed Cyclothymic explained so much about my particular quirks and habits and brought patterns into focus. Knowing that during a depressive phase, I won’t feel attractive, never mind particularly intimate, made it easier to explain to lovers why our sexcapades ceased. Being hypomanic gave reasoning behind the 3 A.M. text messages to ex-boyfriends, looking for a game of naughty nurse.
Enter masturbation—something I’d never much participated in since usually sex had been sought out, had, and then had some more until the mood swing abated. The recent introduction of sex toys for solo missions appeal to the low-effort, quick-reward mental process that a hypomanic mood is comprised of. For me, taking two minutes in the middle of the night is by far safer, quicker and cleaner than the former solution to an intense itch needing to be scratched. Additionally, it helps that I’m on a mood stabilizer, which has lessened the extremes between the lows and highs.
Being diagnosed may have saved my life when you consider how shady a hypomanic lifestyle I was living. It gave me a way to predict my wants and desires, and to find less risky ways to quench them than meeting a stranger in a bar or on Myspace (God, 2004 wasn’t a great year for decision making). Since I now know that when I’m high, I’m gonna to wanna ziga-zig-ahh, I still have a few numbers on speed-dial—trusted people without the safety risks—but I don’t go out looking for action anymore—and now, I always have batteries.