The symptoms of my sexual assault cropped up in unexpected ways, years after the traumatic event. As I slowly came to terms with what happened to me, these symptoms began to interfere with my romantic relationships in a variety of ways, both subtle and overt. I tried to navigate these symptoms and the further I strived to avoid them, the further they popped up unexpectedly and uninvited. Over the years, I have discovered that there are several things that my partner and I can do to help ease my mind and work towards understanding the aftermath of my assault.
It's good for me to self-disclose about my mental illnesses earlier in relationships rather than later. You see, when I received my diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and began taking antidepressants in middle school, I felt my identity shift. Finally, I had a name and a treatment for the frustrating and complicated symptoms I had experienced since I could first walk and talk. For so long, my identity and mental health were inextricably intertwined, and they still are.
Sex serves many positive functions in a relationship, but you may choose abstinence during bipolar recovery anyway. Sex can bring people to a new level of intimacy, it can provide a physical stress release, or it can simply be about expressing a mutual sexual desire (What Is Healthy Sex?). In spite of these functions, sex can be damaging at times, particularly at various stages of bipolar disorder. Choosing abstinence during bipolar recovery can be a way to remove a trigger from your emotional life.
Some people are anxious when starting a new relationship during mental illness recovery. They may wonder when they will be healthy enough to consider a new romantic relationship or even a first date. But there can be behavioral clues that tell you when its healthy for you to start a new relationship during mental illness recovery. I have experienced some of these during my recovery from various depressive episodes.
In my last video post, Emotion Regulation and Dating with Bipolar Disorder, I talked about what I thought was a burgeoning relationship or something with Erik. Well, that something has become a nothing and I'm crushed. Not because I was in love with him or anything, but because in spite of my new-found emotional health I ended up where I've generally been: alone.
Many people aren't good at relationships, particularly at the beginning. What might be a time of excitement and optimism for the average person can turn to anxiety and depression for someone with bipolar. In this blog post, I compare the feelings I experience during the beginning of a relationship - in this case, with Erik, a new love interest - with the mood fluctuations of bipolar disorder.
Everyone has a story about a couple they know who've argued openly on Facebook. Or the person who was ostracized by their followers on Twitter. Online social networks can bring out the worst in public behavior for some people, spurred on by anonymity and groupthink. The average person might be plagued by the public nature of social networks. However, when you have a mental illness, particularly one with a component of anxiety, tools like Twitter and Facebook can become breeding grounds for obsessive behavior.
On Monday, I told my psychiatrist that I wanted to start dating again. Since I said it aloud, it must be true or at least close enough to my conscious mind for it to spill out of my mouth. Though I've had a few bad dates, I haven't had a relationship since before my bipolar diagnosis. So brimming with self-awareness off I go back onto the market...but what am I looking for?
My last boyfriend had no clue that I suffered from depression. Some people may find that difficult to believe, but it's actually very easy to mask your feelings and symptoms. In my case, it was very easy to choose a partner from whom I could hide the truth and, therefore, to prevent myself from having a healthy and successful relationship.