In a life full of perpetual change and instability, my one constant is my dream of being a neuropsychologist. It’s hard to explain how single-minded and driven I am about this goal – it is my absolute passion. It’s a long path to get there. I’ve always worked to support myself whilst studying, and having mostly studied by distance education, I have laid out thousands of dollars travelling to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane to attend residential schools (compulsory face-to-face classes). By 2016, I had spent nine years studying at university. I even repeated a whole year of study to improve my grades so I could progress to an Honours degree.
In late 2016, I was 18 months into my Honours degree (in psychology) and working on my thesis. But I was also working five jobs – juggling my full-time job as a social worker on part-time hours, whilst working as a mental health support worker, a case manager, a retail assistant, and a tutor. I was also partying a lot, going to clubs and taking MDMA, and I was dating a lot.
I use the word “dating” euphemistically. I actually only went on one date. I had discovered online dating apps like Tinder and I was mostly chatting to people online and having one night stands. Sex completely consumed me. I was fanatical, obsessed! I would stay up until all hours of the night to chat online. I would spend hours at work chatting online. I couldn’t even refrain from it when I was in the company of others. I spent countless hours talking and thinking about sex and engaging in sexual behaviour. I became interested in kink and delved into an exciting and hidden world that intrigued me. My phone was flooded with pictures, videos and stories from people all over the state, telling me about their desires and escapades. I was enthralled.
And I had sex with different men. Generally, I invited them to my flat, we’d fuck, and I’d send them home. I even advertised myself on Craigslist once, intoxicated by the attention and offers I received, picking out a lover like a spoilt child in a candy store. Sometimes, I fucked two men in one night. I was careless too and didn’t concern myself with using condoms. Some of this is hard to share, but this is the truth of what happened. This was not my usual behaviour. In hindsight, I recognise that I was experiencing hypersexuality – a symptom of bipolar that some people have. (I’ll blog more about this in separate posts).
My year was a whirlwind of non-stop activity and risk taking. It was chaotic, dysfunctional, exhilarating, wild and fun. My sister made a few comments early on about my new-found obsession with men but I would laugh and tell her I was having fun and besides, I had been dateless and celibate for 18 months following a break-up so I deserved it!
The very first clue that made me consider the possibility of having bipolar was an “off” feeling I would get sometimes. A sense of peace, wellbeing and happiness would descend upon me and I would feel like everything in the world was right and nothing could ever go wrong. For anyone who has ever used cocaine – this feeling was like a cocaine high. I knew deep down that this was an abnormal sensation to have repeatedly. When I felt like this, I would also talk excitedly, moving quickly from topic to topic. A lot of the time, I was extremely energetic as if I was running on adrenaline. And I was so confident! I highlight this as possibly the most dangerous of my symptoms at the time, because I felt invincible. I believed I could manage all my jobs, my study, the sex and drugs. I believed that I was smart enough to stay safe and fulfill my obligations. My judgement and insight were completely skewed. People around me knew me as a high functioning, sensible, determined and hardworking person, so I don’t think anyone was seriously worried for the most part.
But gradually, my jobs, study and relationships started to suffer. I couldn’t humanly maintain my lifestyle, but with so much confidence and energy, I believed I could do it all. A couple of friends and my sister eventually started to comment on my risky behaviour. I think this must be a very challenging thing to do – to tell your friend that you’re worried about them when they seem so happy. They tread carefully and would say “as long as you’re safe” and “be careful okay” but this was said light-heartedly between giggles as I regaled them with a story of last night’s shenanigans. I heard their warnings but couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. I was also jeopardising my Honours degree and subsequently my lifelong dream of being a neuropsychologist. I could see this, but it was like someone else had taken over my mind and body, and that person had different priorities. I was heading for disaster.
To be continued:
In Part 2, I recount a dangerous liaison that was the catalyst for seeking help.
Image by Mike Dorner on Unsplash