The 'Risky' Parts of Bipolar Disorder We Don't Talk About

For many, some of the symptoms behind bipolar disorder, as well as other mental illnesses, are more well-known. For example, restlessness, increased periods of happiness, a.k.a a “high,” or going through intense periods of sadness, a.k.a. a “low,” and overconfidence/feeling overly insecure. But many people do not know the depth of symptoms that can be experienced, such as engaging in risky behavior like impulsive sex, gambling away a paycheck or going on big spending sprees.

Those symptoms have wrecked havoc on my life ever since I was old enough to go where I wanted and make my own money. I would frequently spend my money on anything and everything — and I’m not just talking 10 dollars here and there. I’m talking about 50 to 100 dollars in an hour. I had close to 10 credit cards and all of them were maxed out. When I’d get into a disagreement with my family or my boyfriend, I would search for temporary happiness in the form of materialistic items. I ended up 10,000 dollars in debt, and at the age of 25, I began filing for bankruptcy.

My husband is the provider for our family, as my illnesses have impacted my life so much that I’m unable to hold a job. I can’t concentrate on one task for more than 30 seconds, and I easily take every bit of criticism to heart which caused my productivity to drop because I became too emotionally invested. Not having my own money has been a blessing and a curse — on the one hand, it has helped me learn that spending money is not going to bring me permanent joy, but on the other hand, it has been very hard to restrain myself from spending money during dark times — as well as affecting my ability to feel independent.

Additionally, I engaged in impulsive sexual behavior frequently before I met my husband. I was constantly seeking intimacy to make myself happy, but of course that was not a permanent feeling of joy. In most cases, I ended up loathing myself for being in those situations. I constantly questioned my actions and would label myself a “slut” for doing these things. I felt the only way for a guy to like me was if I pleased him sexually, but that is the farthest thing from correct.

To many who do not have a clear understanding of mental health, I would still be considered a “slut” or “irresponsible.” But these are symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Experiencing these symptoms does not make you a “slut,” “irresponsible” or any other label you could think of. Unfortunately, these symptoms are part of a very real illness that takes medication and therapy to manage.

Having these symptoms and illnesses has done a lot for me in the long run. I have become a more understanding and sympathetic person. I have started to learn that intimacy does not equate happiness and being financially responsible is hard for anyone to learn, not just people with an illness. So for anyone who has experienced similar symptoms, you are not alone. If you’re currently in debt, even if you don’t have an illness that contributes to it, you have options. Don’t let debt ruin your life and don’t let money control you — there are so many activities you can do that don’t require money. Also, don’t let anyone label you “promiscuous” because of how you choose to live your life. All that truly matters is that you’re healthy and happy — but don’t feel you have to engage in any kind of activity you are not comfortable with. If someone only wants you for one thing, they are not worth it no matter what.

Lastly, always stay true to yourself and remember that your illness does not define you. You are a warrior and you can make it through anything life throws your way.

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Unsplash photo via Alex Holyoake

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