Grant J Everett
CERIS LANE has a lived experience of bipolar disorder, and she attended TheMHS 2017 to discuss an aspect of her condition that some would find taboo: hypersexuality. This basically means that Ceris underwent huge, out-of-character increases to her sex drive. Hypersexuality has a close connection with mania, a state of elation and heightened energy, and just like mania it can lead you to do things that you’ll regret later on.
Before Ceris was officially diagnosed with bipolar in her late 30s, there had been major shifts in several areas of her life. For instance, she was easily functioning on four hours of sleep a night, her productivity at work was exceptional (though she would flit back and forth between tasks a lot), her confidence levels were through the roof and she was generally feeling high as a kite.
On the subject of changes, Ceris joked that her husband certainly wasn’t complaining about her skyrocketing sex drive! However, the problem with mania is that it can lead you to make impulsive decisions that lead to drama. After all, you’re King of the World! Everything you do is amazing, and life is wonderful!
On the flipside to hypersexuality: It is a lot more common for mental health issues (and the medications used to treat them) to lower your libido, or even eliminate it altogether. Some people are faced with an awful trade off between being mentally well and maintaining the capacity for sexual activity. On the other hand, naturally having no interest in sex is called asexuality. People who are asexual often identify as “aces”.
In all seriousness, though, while there were a lot of benefits to the new Ceris, there were also some downsides. For starters, Ceris was making a lot of people uncomfortable with her over-the-top behaviour, and she’d scared away some of her long-term friends with her inappropriate flirting. Although she was already married, Ceris found herself experiencing strong attractions to a lot of different people, including the band members of One Direction and strangers in cafés. Thankfully, despite her skyrocketing libido, Ceris never cheated on her husband, and her marriage survived this trial.
Ceris told us that when she visited her GP it was immediately obvious that Ceris was in the middle of a full-on manic phase. The GP strongly suggested that Ceris should seek treatment. Thankfully, Ceris responded well to the mood stabiliser meds, and was back at work in no time.
While Ceris does miss the powerful elation that comes with mania, the problem with bipolar is that it’s a two-sided coin. When she crashed into the pit of depression, at one point Ceris was so sad that she’d effectively stopped talking to people.
We should note that the treatment for bipolar can have downsides, too. The meds have given her kidneys such a pummelling that Ceris has been hospitalised for lithium toxicity on two separate occasions.
But there’s a happy ending: Ceris brought her husband along to the conference as moral support, and their relationship is going really well. Their marriage has successfully weathered this storm, and things are back to normal again.
An audience member made a good (if cheeky) point about the diagnosis of hypersexuality: “If a male went around sleeping with a different woman every day of the week, he’d be a player, a stud, or a ladies man. If a woman did the same thing, she’d be diagnosed with hypersexuality.“
Food for thought!