This post is for the reader who came to my blog using the search term “can a mental illness cause a man to cheat”. Don’t worry, I don’t know who you are. I don’t even know if you followed my blog once you got here. But I hope that this post will reach you.
I don’t know your story and I don’t know your partner’s but I do know this: mental illness or not, your partner does not have the right to hurt you. Mental illness is not a “free pass” to do as we please to those we love or to those who love us.
Perhaps you are searching for a way to explain away a recent betrayal. I can understand that only too well. Regardless of the situation please know that your partner is not more important than you. Your emotions and needs are just as important as his. And you need to take care of you.
Living with a mentally ill partner can be exhausting and emotionally demanding. It’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to need help. Its okay to need give-and-take. It’s okay to need. If you need to talk about you and how you can cope with your partner’s illness please seek out a counsellor or a support group. Please value yourself as equal to your partner. Never let another person devalue you or reduce you to a secondary character in your own life story.
Today I cried. Really cried. A full-on 30 seconds of wailing and hegs and sniffling. And it was amazing.
In the past I’ve written about how much I hate the numbness that goes with this disorder and, possibly to a larger extent, the medication it requires. I can’t actually remember the last time I cried and I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said it was more than a year ago. I well up on occassion but I can’t recall the last time tears managed to escape my eyes and flow down my cheeks.
This morning Mr. Moany and I had
an argument a charged discussion and suddenly my eyes started leaking. At first it was just a few sneaky tears, much to Mr. Moany’s horror. Especially when I sobbed “I don’t know why I’m crying”. It actually had nothing at all to do with our discussion. More likely, the final straw in a shitty week had come and I exploded. Not literally though…thankfully!
Within about one minute the moment had passed and it was if my meltdown had never happened….apart from the tomato face and the snotty tissue that is. And I felt amazing. As if my reset button had been pressed. I have always been a fan of a good ol’ cry. There’s nothing like it sometimes. A bad week, a crappy day or just life in general: it can all be released through our eyes in the same way indigestion is relieved with a burp or gas is released through your rear end. Crying is emotional farting via the eyes. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed the ability to cry until today, but more than that, how much I actually NEED it. Hopefully this morning was a turning point and I have finally found a medication that balances mental stability with emotional capacity. Hopefully!
I had a mini-epiphany at 6.10am this morning. For me to have anything at any hour before 11 is amazing so I’m really taking this one on board.
It was one of those moments in life where you see a situation clearer than ever before. Similar to that point in an eye exam where the optician suddenly drops the best lens into the viewing panel and you see things as never before: clearer, sharper, the layer of blur you just can’t shake removed. Like the eye exam it lasts only an instant but you know you’ll never go back to seeing things that way again.
I can’t really explain my epiphany without some context so hopefully you’ll bear with me. When I was first diagnosed I was in a relationship. It was pretty serious: living together with marriage vaguely on the long term plan. When my illness hit its peak the relationship crumbled and I dealt with that period in my life mainly by myself. We co-existed until I was strong enough to leave.
For the last number of years I have filed that relationship under “damn you depression”, the end attributed to my illness making it impossible for me to be somebody he could love. He couldn’t cope with the me he ended up with and I couldn’t be any different because of where I was emotionally. I have always looked back with a sense of regret – not that it ended but that it ended because of my health. Another thing to resent my illness for.
This morning I saw it very differently. I realised that we were in two very different relationships: I was in one where I thought I could be myself, even the very worst version of myself, and he would love me regardless. He was in a relationship with the girl he met, who had long since ceased to exist.
It might not seem like a very big epiphany but it has turned my brain upside down. It’s not that the reasons for the end have changed, on the surface they are the same: arguments, lack of trust, no communication. But my perception of the underlying cause, the “secret reason” we kept to ourselves, has been smashed. It wasn’t my illness, it was his inability to accept me for who I really am.
He once told me “it’s not that I don’t love you but you make it very difficult”. I now realise that until 6.10am today I thought that he was right.
I feel like I know you guys well enough now to pull up a cocktail, kick off my shoes & indulge in a good ol’ chat about “sexy time”. There’s a point in every good friendship where someone broaches the topic of sexuality and the reaction of the other person determines the relationship forevermore. A shared laugh makes a sex-friend for life, one who you can tell your funny “vibrator in my handbag on the tube” stories to. An embarrassed silence puts that friend firmly in the “hobbies & shopping chats only” file. And maybe you might wait a week or so to call them again. So lets jump right in and see where we end up!
You’ve made it past the first hurdle. Your partner lovingly caught your hand as you walked down the street, or caressed your neck from behind while you were cooking dinner. Whatever the trigger, you’ve made it all the way to the bedroom (or couch, or balcony, or…ahem, I digress!). You can feel the tingle in your “special place”. That football shirt your partner is wearing is suddenly as sexy as anything worn by Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice and you are the sexiest woman alive. Bow-chica-wow-wow! Forget the FHM 100 list cos they ain’t got nothin’ on you right now. You strip off your “round-the-house” leggings and hell, you might even leave a light on tonight (dimmed of course…let’s not get too carried away). For a moment in time you’re the star of your very own porno (a classy one, well scripted) and with a twirl of your nipple tassels you turn expectantly to the door as a stranger enters. The third participant in your sexy party has arrived. He saunters into the scene with a sly grin on his face and a swagger in his step. You take a moment to regroup, to register his presence, to assess the situation. And faster than you can say “lube me up” you’re launched slap bang into the middle of your very own farce. The score changes from “I wanna sex you up” to “Ice Ice Baby” and as the rose-tinted glasses are ripped from your eyes you see your surroundings for what they are. No porno movie. No fancy lighting. No FHM Top 100 model. Just you, hairy legs and stained t-shirt, straddling your partner in your untidy room with the cobweb on the ceiling. Mr D. Pression has arrived.
Yes, I want to talk about sex, but more specifically I want us to talk about that all-too-common and not-so-understood side effect of being a tiny bit crazy: sexual dysfunction.
Antidepressants are not known for their sexy qualities. SSRI, SNRI, MAOI….whatever you’re taking, none of them add up to S.E.X. They murder your libido and if abstinence could reverse virginity, well we’d be the purest damn people on the planet. For men getting or maintaining an erection can be impossible and for women, well lets just say the Sahara should remain a desert in Africa. And probably most insultingly of all, should you miraculously make your way over all of the hurdles, with your end goal in sight, so close you can almost touch it….almost….almost….almost….ooooooohhhhh bloody hell…..nothing! Anorgasmia is the final insult in our tale of woe. And the evil doesn’t stop there, it can continue even after you no longer take them. The wisdoms at Wikipedia tell us:
Post-SSRI sexual dysfunction (PSSD) is a name given to a reported iatrogenic sexual dysfunction caused by the previous use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. While apparently uncommon, it can last for months, years, or sometimes indefinitely after the discontinuation of SSRIs. It may represent a specific subtype of SSRI discontinuation syndrome. This condition has not been well-established or studied in the field of medicine.
Indefinitely?! Are you frickin’ kidding me?! Any why is it that the condition has not been well established or studied? I am often struck by how sparse any real, helpful medical information on sexual side effects is while at the same time being bowled over by the sheer volume of anecdotal evidence on the topic (i.e. patient forums, questions on google, etc.). Not to mention how unhelpful medical advice is. Don’t get me started on the article that advised me to “schedule your sexual activity to occur before you take your medication”. I question why this imbalance exists. Are we ashamed to admit that we are having sexual difficulties? Are we suffering through the very worst type of “keeping up with the Joneses” phenomenon? In this day and age it’s hard to believe that so many of us feel that we shouldn’t prioritise our sexual selves. That if we are mentally well and our medication is working we somehow don’t have the right to complain because we don’t feel sufficiently lustful. Would we be more likely to express ourselves about side effects such as heart palpitations, fainting or low blood pressure?
I am a (physically) healthy 30 year old woman in a relationship with a kick-ass bloke. I fancy him. I am confident that he finds me at least a bit attractive (he assures me that he does in fact want to have sex with me). I know that I want to have sex with him. I just can’t seem to get my mind to play along. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me complaining about that.