As someone who is committed to ensuring that my idea of health and wellness includes both the mental and physical aspects of who I am, I find it difficult navigating different symptoms of my mental illness diagnoses that lead to me entering dissociative states. Further, as a recovering bulimic, my relationship to my body has gone through countless changes and I’m constantly making sense of what it means to exist in my flesh and with my mind. Years of therapy, mindfulness practice, and holistic healing have deeply impacted my recovery process and influenced the way I cope with body image issues. One issue, though, is particularly difficult to navigate: sex.
When it comes to sex and intimacy, the amalgam of past sexual trauma and lifelong mental illness has lead to a complex relationship to all things related to sensuality be it alone or otherwise. Now that I’m finally in a healthy, committed, and safe relationship (with myself and a partner) I find myself regularly getting angry about my recovery and healing progress because I’m dealing with a runaway libido. What do I mean by “runaway libido”? I mean my constant inability to hold onto any semblance of sexual desire. If I do, it’s fleeting or quickly extinguished my anxiety, sadness, or a dissociation-induced out-of-body-experience.
A Dissociative State of Mind
From the time I was first diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), nearly a decade ago, to now, my biggest challenges have been dissociation and developing a healthy relationship to sex. Dissociation, to me, feels as if the barriers between my mind and the world outside of my body melt into my core and force my being into nothingness, into darkness. Then, as if I’m hovering above myself watching the scene called my life play before my eyes, my actions carry on like I’m a lifeless marionette. I’m beyond numb and under the influence of a puppet master who knows me better than I know myself.
Sometimes I leave my body for seconds, sometimes hours. It’s been years since the time away was days, thankfully, but the fear of that happening can be so much to bear when I feel like I’m on the edge of a spiral. When I was in past romantic relationships, most of them emotionally and psychologically abusive, I found it hard to be healthy given the manipulation and coercion I’d experience on a regular basis. Toxicity and abuse were my normal. I’d found comfort and home in pain and despair and dissociation felt like a welcome escape. Sex became an exercise of duty in a way that kept me clinging to routine masquerading as stability.
Dreaming of Desire
For the first time in my life, I’m in a healthy place with respect to my self-esteem and coping mechanisms. I work actively to hold myself accountable and cultivate healthy relationships with my various selves and other people. I am in a healthy relationship with a partner who respects boundaries and works with me to develop a trusting, communication-driven, honest partnership. I am happy for the first time in my life and I’m thankful. It would be great, though, to be farther along on my path of recovery and wellness to the point of healthy sexual desire that lingers in my body as much as it does, at times, in my mind.
It’s frustrating to have such growing feelings of desire in the abstract while also having the inability to bring those feelings to life and actualize them with my partner. It’s upsetting to think back to times I was reckless, hurting, and filling a void with sex. Now I’m learning what it means to feel intimacy in a beautiful and fulfilling way and I long to introduce sex into the picture. Not that I need it, I just finally truly want to experience it for the sake of bonding and expression of love. My body, though, has other plans.
Part of recovery, to me, means approaching health and wellness from a holistic perspective. Body, mind, and all aspects of who I am and how I’ve grown in an effort to treat the root causes of issues and not just symptoms. This looks like therapy, Ayurvedic wellness, mindfulness, different types of physical activity, writing, creative expression, and other forms of getting to know myself post-trauma in a healing-centric way.
When I do catch up with my runaway libido I’ll feel confident in my intentions and healthy about my actions. I’m not sure when that will be but I’m thankful the path of recovery and healing will lead me there.