Jenifer Lewis Battled Sex Addiction, Bipolar Disorder
Jenifer Lewis is speaking candidly about suffering from an undiagosed biopolar disorder and having a sex addiction through her 20s. The 60-year-old black-ish star says that her sex addiction really kicked in when she moved to New York City after college. At the time, she found success in the Broadway productions Eubie! and Comin’ Uptown. She says,
Performing on Broadway was a rush. The applause coming over the footlights was like a tsunami in slow motion. The crash after the show, I assure you, is just as intense. Let’s just say that post show I had a sort of habit of sex serving as a night cap. I was Cleopatra, Pam Grier, Marilyn Monroe, and Jezebel rolled into one. For me, nothing could extend the thrill of a standing ovation like great sex with a gorgeous guy. Just as alcoholism isn’t really about the liquor, my addiction wasn’t really about the sex. It was about the unresolved psychological problems that caused me pain. Sex was simply my painkiller.
She also opens up about her undiagnosed bipolar symptoms, admitting that by 1989 she was heavily self-medicating with alcohol in addition to sex. Eventually her therapist diagnosed her as having bipolar disorder.
Had she said, ‘you’re crazy,’ I would have agreed. I had been crazy all my life. When she said, ‘mental illness,’ I thought, ‘b—-, you crazy.’ I associated mental illness with people who couldn’t function, with straitjackets. I certainly knew what a depressive mood was, but this other ‘manic’ part was new. When Rachel explained the details, I gasped. You mean, there is a name for describing why I talk fast and walk fast and rage, create drama, and speed when I drive a car? Compulsive, you say? The doodling, the braiding and unbraiding my hair? The arguing with people and storming off ? Kicking s—, throwing s—? Yeah, okay, I guess all of that describes me.
Her mental well being now is in a much better place.
I have peace of mind now; I’m in my skin. It took years to get to that place, but I did it—and I have a smile on my face.