Jenifer Lewis Details Battle with Sex Addiction and Bipolar Disorder In New Memoir

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jenifer lewis bipolar sex addiction
Jenifer Lewis got her start on Broadway. (Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

Black-ish” star Jenifer Lewis has had a storied career on the stage, TV and film but she’s also faced some battles. The veteran actress has dealt with sex addiction and bipolar disorder and in her new memoir, she explains how it’s affected her.

“Performing on Broadway was a rush,” she wrote in an excerpt from “The Mother of Black Hollywood” obtained by People magazine. “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 nightcap. 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.”

Lewis got her start on Broadway in the 1979 play, “Eubie!”. As her career continued, she battled undiagnosed bipolar disorder, which she would combat by having sex and drinking alcohol. Her bipolar disorder worsened in 1989 before her therapist diagnosed her, which she was initially unreceptive to.


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“Had she said, ‘You’re crazy,’ I would have agreed,” she wrote. “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. … 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.

jenifer lewis bipolar sex addiction
Jenifer Lewis was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1990. (Amistad)

“Just as alcoholism isn’t really about the liquor, my addiction wasn’t really about the sex,” she added of how her therapist helped her face her addiction. “It was about the unresolved psychological problems that caused me pain. Sex was simply my painkiller.”

A decade ago, she went public with her battles in her one-woman-show, “Bipolar, Bath and Beyond.” Now 60, the star says she now has peace of mind with medication and therapy.

“I saw the show as an opportunity to perhaps help someone with bipolar disorder find their way out of the darkness,” she wrote of why she shared her story on “Oprah” in 2007, where she admitted it took four years to take medication because she “need[ed] my edge.” “I felt it was my responsibility. Stigma, fear, and just plain ignorance about mental illness, particularly among African-Americans, has taken a terrible toll on our families and communities.”

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