Hellooooooo my loves. I hope you’ve been well. I had a great time over my birthday, and I even had a birthday party that turned into an “adult swim” after the kids had gone to bed. I’ve had a few doctors appointments after that (remind me to write a post about the Mirena), which is why I’ve been so silent. All in all, 26 is shaping up to be a damn fine year.
Which brings us to the less lovely part of my post. Unfortunately, the past few months I’ve been hiding something from you all.
Part of this is the fact that despite posting and being open about my life, I don’t think any of you are entitled to knowing every detail about me. I love y’all but it’s true. Part of this is also because I wanted to get things stabilized before I shared it with you.
I was inspired to write this post (and it’s a long one!) after seeing some comments on various community forums (for polyamory and kink) that effectively said the same thing “don’t stick your dick in crazy”. This isn’t an uncommon thing. Many people on dating sites request that their partners are mental illness free. Allie Brosh, who is my favorite person ever, and Laci Green have both gone very public about their mental illness.
In May, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II. For those of you who don’t know, Bipolar II is often overlooked because many patients with Bipolar II exhibit depression and anxiety, and are then treated for those individually. Their “manic” episodes are basically just normal functioning behavior, and they more often have major depressive episodes. I’ve been on treatment since May, and it’s really, really working.
Allie Brosh has two posts about depression that really hit home in regards to my disorder. If you can read both, they’re here and here. Otherwise, let me sum up my Bipolar in a few images that I pulled from both of these posts:
One of the first things that ran through my head when I got my diagnosis was “shit, what are my partners going to say?”. I was truly worried that when I told them about a diagnosis for a disorder that could be manageable, but had a high rate of recurrence, they would be done with me. I was really concerned though because of a thing that I had heard often in the kink and poly communities. Hell, it was something I’ve even said before while I was managing (however poorly) my own anxiety and depression before my proper diagnosis.
“Don’t stick your dick in crazy.”
This sort of attitude within the alternative lifestyles, the poly and kink lifestyles made me terrified by my diagnosis. What if no one wanted to play with me anymore? What if my partners dumped me? I was already a cancer person, why would they want to also have me now that I’m crazy. I have, since I was younger, been working through traumas, anxieties, and mental blocks through BDSM. It was working for me up until now, but maybe my diagnosis was a sign I should stop.
I worried that I would no longer be acceptable in the poly community, no longer “healthy” in the kink community. Despite almost 10 years of non-monogamy, and nearly 6 years of kink experience, I worried that I would not longer be “desirable” because I was sick. Even if I was being treated. I feel like there is more of a stigma in alternative communities to be mentally stable simply because the things we deal with are so delicate. If you’re mentally fragile, how can you handle the complexities of multiple partners, or the intensity of scenes that can, if done incorrectly, harm your mental health?
My biggest concern was how my partners would react, and if they weren’t able to continue on with me, how they would break up with me. I believe in being at choice in your relationships. If you can’t handle being with someone because of their health, mental illness, whatever, then you shouldn’t be. It’s not healthy for anyone involved to be in a relationship out of duty or guilt. But a better question is, how many people don’t seek treatment, or don’t tell their partners about their diagnosis because they’re scared of how their partners will react?
When I’m not sure of what to do, I turn to my friends to help me process through some thoughts. I spoke with Dr. Liz Powell, and Tamara Pincus, both trusted friends of mine who have helped me sort through many a mental health quandary. I asked them some questions that I had been asking myself, here are some of their thoughts and opinions!
Do you feel there is a higher number of people with mental illness (diagnosed or otherwise) that flock to alternative lifestyles like poly or BDSM? If yes, why do you think that is.
Dr. Liz Powell: I think that there is a somewhat higher incidence of acknowledged mental illness in alternative lifestyles. I haven’t seen any good research as to why, but my guess is that people in alternative lifestyles are more likely to encounter situations that encourage them to work on their problems. I think that mainstream, monogamous, etc. lives allow people a lot of room to look away from problems and pretend they aren’t there for long periods of time. BDSM, Poly, and other alternative lifestyles require much more communication to work at even a basic level and so I think this may force more self-reflection and acknowledgment of problems that may otherwise fly under the radar.
Have you heard the quote “don’t stick your dick in crazy“? How do you feel about it?
Tamara Pincus: I feel like people who say that are probably really uncomfortable with emotions and are showing themselves to be not ideal partners. I would clarify with them if they really mean what they are saying or if they are trying to be funny or ironic before you get too annoyed at them.
Do you think there is more or less stigma against mental illness in alternative lifestyles?
Tamara Pincus: I think if you are ending a relationship you should explain why you feel that way and focus on why the relationship isn’t good for you. Instead of saying “You’re crazy, I’m leaving”. I would say something like “I don’t have a lot of experience with people with mental illness and I’m afraid it will be too much for me to handle so I am going to ask that we scale back or change this relationship” or “My mother had a mental illness and I’m afraid that your issues will be too triggering for me to handle”. Ideally people would end relationships based on the actual behavior of themselves and their partners as opposed to based on stigma about a particular group.
Dr. Liz Powell: I think that rejecting someone with mental illness is the same as rejecting any other person. When breaking up or turning someone down, I personally think that a kind and honest but not brutal approach is best. For instance, saying “I think you’re a great person and I’ve loved the time we spent together. There are lots of positive memories I’ll take from this (give examples). However, I’m in a space where I think it’s best if we transition to (being friends/whatever).” Joreth Inn Keeper and Sterling Bates give an amazing talk, Breaking Up Poly, that I think everyone can benefit from in learning how to end a relationship.
Overall, I found that I felt way better after talking to Tamara and Liz about the entire situation, and my partners were amazing. I came away from the experience with the knowledge that I am just as worthy of love as anyone else, and that I shouldn’t feel shame about having a mental illness. If you have this disorder, it’s hard, it sucks, and some days you might hate everything and want to be in bed for a year, but it does get better. If you have depression and anxiety that aren’t being treated by traditional antidepressants, ask your doctor about testing you for Bipolar II. It isn’t treated effectively with antidepressants, and the symptoms are easy to miss. Check out the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance for more info.
So here I am. I’m joining the ranks of many others who are living publicly with Bipolar Disorder. My name is Rebecca Hiles, and just like Mary Lambert, I’ve got bipolar disorder, my shit’s not in order, I’m overweight, I’m always late, and I’ve got too many things to say.
Until next time.
-The Frisky Fairy