Daily Archives: April 2, 2017

The Art & Practice of Being Normal

Passport Day, September 2016

“Hide, hide, the cow’s outside!” “I ain’t afraid of no cow.” – final lines to a child’s joke, circa 1960s

I’m paid to be normal: compassionate, encouraging, yet normal. Because I work in mental health, and it doesn’t do for the worker to be even more distressed, and out of touch, than the client(s).

Assuming however that there really is such a thing as “normal” when it comes to human behaviour, and mental health, then I don’t really qualify. Not just because I have bipolar, and – all too frequently – crippling anxiety, but also because it’s hard to come across as normal when you’re the only Yank in the village. (1)

Thanks in part to policies about boundaries, none of the people who I meet at work get to see how I really live: messily, often lazily, and with more knick-knacks, pictures, and pencils than you could shake a stick at. If, of course, you just happened to have a stick ready for the shaking. (2)

In my opinion, there is no such thing as normality: what passes for it, is really down to how good you are at hiding.

Blurred round the edges: Sheffield station

Me, I’m not so good at it. This is partly because of an accent which, to your average Brit, sounds like I’m fresh off the peanut-butter-and-jelly boat. Despite 30 years’ effort at picking up the local slang, and practicing my “ooo” sounds, I cannot blend in unless I don’t open my mouth, at all, to speak. (3)

Then, there’s that slight tendency toward eccentricity.

Do you like my hat? 2015

What’s so great about normality, anyway? Isn’t that just a more grown up word for the “cool” that I briefly chased, before giving it up as the hopeless quest it was, back in junior high, and high school?

We recently made our leisurely way through the first three or four box sets of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. It was a funny, nostalgic trip down someone else’s high school memory lane, infinitely better, I suspect, than an actual trip back to not-so-dear old APHS would have been. Plus, all that Giles, Oz, and yes, damnit, Xander loveliness. Yes, I can see the appeal of Spike, and even Angel, but, to be frank, I have never been able to separate the supposed sexiness of vampires, from the fact that those guys are not just dead, they’re cold.

Body heat, folks! Where’s the love for body heat? Clearly, vamp fans have never tried sleeping in a house with no central heating, during a South Yorkshire winter.

Winter at our house, 2013 It’s not Michigan cold, but it’s still cold

Watching “Buffy” again reminded me that the initial hook, for me, was how accurate “BtVS” is at portraying just how miserable high school is, if you’re not part of the top 1% tier of the pretty, the talented, the athletic, and / or the “too cool for school” brigade. It’s especially horrific if you’re crawling along in the bottom 1%, sub-strata of the “too uncool, even for school”.

So un-cool, I was nearly cool. Except I wasn’t.

Awful though it is, high school can teach at least one valuable lesson: that life isn’t, and seldom ever will be, fair. Sadly, many of us sub-strata types were too thick to learn that lesson, at least, not for many years. Some of us never do learn it: due less to being thick, than continuously smacking our heads against a big brick wall, with the words “Tough luck, kid!” painted in big, angry letters.

A local author, Craig Hallam, likes to use the phrase “Embrace the weird!” I like it, and it suits someone who, like Craig, writes about Steampunk, and horror.

If you’ve ever been to a Steampunk convention, or just hung around a Steampunk net group, you’ll know that your average Steampunk does indeed embrace their weird. And why shouldn’t they? Or I? Or, indeed, you, oh gentle, and perhaps just a bit odd reader?

For starters, it’s a damn site easier than hiding.

Embracing my weird: with Gerald C Dalek, & Jake the Cat. 2004, just before it all kicked off.

(1) I’m not, of course: I recently discovered another American
(2) Why you have that stick, and what you plan to do with it, is not my concern: it’s yours.
(3) And a damn fine idea that would be, at times.


Tagged: accents, bipolar, Books, BtVS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Craig Hallam, eccentricity, fairness, Gerald C Dalek, high school, mental health, normality, peanut butter and jelly boat, school, Steampunk, vampires, work

When Bipolar Disorder Wrecks Your Sex Life (NSFW)

I had a hot sex dream last night. That’s fortunate, as it’s the only hot sex likely for me these days. I have bipolar disorder 2 and tend toward the depressed.

I have only once experienced the hypomanic rush that leads one to the desire for uninhibited, crazy, insistent, steamy motel sex. So I can’t really tell you much about that, except to make sure it’s safe sex, even if it is spontaneous, wild, and compelling. Coping with the aftermath is also something I can’t help with.

So. Bipolar depression and sex. (I am writing from the point of view of a cis-gender heterosexual female, so YMMV.)

It will likely come as no surprise to you to learn that bipolar disorder has an effect on your sex life. And, aside from mania, that effect is to lessen or completely kill it. And there are varying levels: low libido, lack of desire, difficulty ejaculating, etc. The question is what to do about it. Here are some examples of advice:

[S]ex is a part of life and it’s a part you don’t want, or need, to hang up just because you have a mental illness…There are therapeutic techniques that can deal with hypersexuality or low sex drive, and, of course, there are always medical options as well.

http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/01/normal-sex-bipolar/

And this:

Getting bipolar disorder under control is the first step to improving your sex life. It’s easier to address these issues when your moods are stable. Many people with bipolar disorder have healthy relationships and satisfying sex lives. The key is working with your doctor to find the right treatment and talking with your partner about any sexual issues.

http://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/sexual-health#outlook5

And that’s all well and wonderful, but how much does it actually help?

Not that I’m an expert, but here’s what I can say about the subject.

Realize that most of sex happens in the brain. The body goes along for the ride. If you’re bipolar, you’re already having trouble with your brain. It makes sense that you’d have trouble with sex too. Don’t beat yourself up. It can be a nuisance or a sorrow or a loss, but it doesn’t have to be a tragedy.

Decide how much sex you actually need in your life. Some people have naturally low sex drives and are quite satisfied with long gaps between sexual encounters or occasional masturbation. If this is the case for you, dandy. The real problem comes when you and your partner(s) have a mismatch in your sex drive. That’s where the talking comes in.

Ask for what you need and encourage your partner to do the same. And accept and/or give what you can. If you need a hug or a cuddle, ask for it. If your partner asks for one, give it. Don’t push for more right then. Even if you have no desire for “the act” yourself, you may be able to give your partner some of what she/he needs. Or vice versa. Of course, if you’re at the very depths, you may not even be able to ask for a hug. But if one is offered, don’t turn it down. Keeping that bond going may improve your connection when the depression has eased.

You can try different medications or see an endocrinologist, but don’t expect quick results. Or any, necessarily. The one drug that peps up your libido may also be the one that gives you side effects you can’t handle. And after years of trying different combinations of pills, you may decide, like I did, that having a reasonably functioning brain is more important to you than having regular sex. In other words, you may face a trade-off.

Listen to your body as well as your brain. I already know that my brain is not performing up to specs. Occasionally, when I’m reading a book or watching a movie or remembering a dream or thinking about an old friend, I feel something that reminds me of what it is to feel desire. If that happens, enjoy and encourage it. It’s a signal that you may not be totally numb from the neck down.

I could tell you that everything will be okay and you’ll soon be back to romping between the sheets with wild abandon. I haven’t seen statistics on it, but it seems unlikely. If you want to get your sex life started again, you’re going to have to work at it, just like you work at taming your bipolar disorder.

 


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, bipolar type 2, depression, drug side effects, husband, hypomania, libido, my experiences, psychotropic drugs, sex