Last Thursday I spent 2 hours in a group therapy session with 9 other woman, all of us have some level of crazy - bipolar, severe depression, anxiety - of course we don't call it crazy, we say "living with Bipolar Disorder/depression/social anxiety etc". Anyway every week tends to have its own flavour. Some weeks everyone just talks about what is going on in their own lives, other days we help someone who needs to be more social and then all of a sudden we are all admitting that we are hermits. Last week we talked about sex, dating and relationships. Now before I go any further, I should let you know that many of these women I see every week and have been going to for months, some of them for years, so we tend to know each other well.
So how did the topic of "Sex, Dating and Relationships" come up? It was all really very innocent. One of the woman asked if anyone would be offended if we talked about sex and the flood gates opened. She in particular wanted to talk about the fact that she had no sex drive. The drugs, her mood and the weather had sucked all thoughts of sex out of her. So many people agreed and sympathized. The discussion lead to the fact that drugs have taken so much from so many of us and feeling attractive (the weight gain of some of the drugs being only one part of feeling so unattractive even to ourselves) and having a sex drive is just one more thing. The next woman to speak, spoke about being manic and not getting enough sex. We all laughed at the fact that mental illness certainly led so many of us on different paths and polar opposites of the spectrum.
When it came my time to speak, I was amazed at how open I was with this group of woman about the pain of being lonely, and the challenges that mental illness brings to bear on being social, dating and relationships. I have avoided socializing for months (ok, maybe it is now over a year, close to two), let alone dating. I have a couple of male friends who I see occasionally, but we do not date. I am just too closed emotionally to date. The idea is slightly terrifying. I fear the rejection might throw me over an edge that I don`t wish to go over. Closed emotionally might not be the best description, but emotionally fragile might be better. This of course does nothing for the feelings of being lonely. I also believe that the longer that I am anti-social, the lonelier I get, the scarier it becomes to be social, the more anti-social I become, the lonelier I get......and the circle goes on and on and grows bigger and bigger.
I was not surprised to hear that I was not the only one. So many of the women in the group were in the same boat. I was at this point crying. I had opened a part of my emotional self to these women that was very sensitive and very raw. It is not easy to admit that you are very lonely and that you are in this evil cycle.
I also admitted that part of the challenge was that I had not found anyone attractive in ages. It has been a very long time that I have had butterflies in my stomach when a boy/man is around that I like. I wonder if my mind has done this on purpose so that I will not be distracted from getting better? I have in recent months found some people attractive (previous posts have expressed this - baby fluttering butterflies) and I think that this might be a good sign that I am ready to begin to be more social, still beyond terrified though, so who knows.
What was amazing is that, when I admitted this, so many of the women then started to prop me up. They helped to build my self esteem. I was told that I was worthy of love. I was a wonderful person. That I was supporting this group of women every Thursday afternoon, no matter how sick I was, rather than them supporting me. That at some point, someone fabulous would notice this. Who knew that I would find a number of cheerleaders in this group of crazy ladies???
By the end of the session we had covered the difficulties of loneliness, drugs and sex drive, bipolar mania and sex, dating and mental health, mental health and discloser while dating, casual relationships and their impact on our mental health, long term relationships and mental health, "am I worthy of love, even with our mental illnesses??", letting go of toxic relationships.......
Who knew that this support group would end up being so focused on Sex, Dating and Relationships, but it was needed. I needed the support of the group to know that I was not alone. I also needed to know that it was OK to put myself out there and try. Everyone faces rejection and I would be OK on the other side, I just had to go for it. Easier said than done, I say. Maybe after this Thursday, I will have a little more courage and a little more cheerleading to push me to go and find someone who makes butterflies fly in my stomach...
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