Healed, Not Quite

I think I’ve had two major “coming out” points in my life. One, obviously, has been accepting my sexual desires and fetishes for what they are, not being ashamed of them, and (more recently) not shying away from talking about them with other people.

The other has to do with something most people in this society would call mental illness, and my struggle to accept that as part of my life, to not feel ashamed or scared of it, and to work my way through it as I see fit, not as my family or lover or doctor sees fit. The breaking point with all that nonsense came when, in a state of desperation after a particularly bad spell of whatever-you-want-to-call-it, I sought out a therapist for the first time in my life. It was not the first therapist I had been to, but the first that I would go to of my own free will.

It’s only now occured to me that one of the selling points for me, upon reading the therapist’s website, was her assertion that she was kink-friendly. I wasn’t making any connection between my mental state and my sexuality, at the time, but something in me saw that as a good sign, and I went. And she was just like any other therapist, who was more interested in my family history of mental illness than in discussing her approach to therapy or asking me what I wanted and didn’t want. By the end of a half hour she had already said I would probably need to get on medication, and dismissed my polite refusal (voice trembling with frustration and anger, how DARE she) by saying that we’d talk about it more in our next session.

I walked out, infuriated. But I felt more alive than I had in months, in this refusal of medication and therapy, and in the determination that now filled me to solve my problems by my damn self. Since then I have never looked back, and while I’ve had some pretty awful spells, some near-suicidal times, I still have felt that I’m better off exploring this part of my psyche on my own.

…why am I writing all of this on a sex blog? Well, in part because I don’t have any other outlet for it, and I’ve come to prefer typing to writing in a journal. But it’s also because something really interesting happened a few nights ago.

When I become overwhelmed, as I frequently do, it sometimes happens that I can’t shut off the flow of extreme emotions and racing thoughts that accompany it. In those cases, I usually tend to shut down completely: frozen, unable to move, unable to speak, sometimes even unable to construct a coherent thought. In those times, there is nothing more that I want than to not exist, or rather, to be encased in stone, protected; to sink into myself and sleep forever. It’s a difficult thing to describe. And it’s a difficult thing for a lover to witness when you’re in bed together. My last partner would get angry when I got this way, because he saw it as me ignoring him, shutting myself out of his life, not letting him in. He blamed me for not trying hard enough to communicate with him. He might have been right—until relatively recently, I hadn’t really wanted to try to communicate or break out of these states, but just wanted to be left alone.

My current partner has been extraordinarily understanding about all this, but it’s still been pretty fucking hard, especially when he’s trying to do whatever he can to help me snap out of it, to come back down to earth. The other night, this happened, and as he asked me again and again what he could do, he began to simply rub his hands over my body, arms and legs and chest and face. And then he used his nails. And then harder. I could barely speak, but managed to tell him to keep going, harder, more. He squeezed me hard, until the pain cut through and I felt again, and then let me lay still, now euphoric from the combination of not-quite-being-in-my-body and the pain. I kept laughing, unable to stop. He attached a dozen clothespins to me, and let me breathe it in and out, relaxing even as the pain increased, even as he took them off and the blood rushed back in to sting my skin.

And it all released, and I cried, and cried. Not because I was suddenly released from a terrible mental state, but because this was okay, this was all okay. I had once frequently used pain (cutting and burning) to do the same thing, to feel something when I was numb, to bring me down to earth when I was feeling anxious, manic and high. But I had left it all behind me, or brought it out only for shameful moments of weakness, because that’s not the way you’re supposed to deal with things.

The message I internalized when I was younger was the same for my mental abberations as it was for my sexual deviancy: pain is bad. Inflicting pain is bad, and willingly taking it for yourself is bad. And so, having him be the one to wield the pain, and to tell me I was beautiful as I took it in, completely shattered both of those falsehoods in one stroke.

1 comment so far

  1. maymay on

    I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 12, and a lot of what you describe sounds very familiar to me. I can relate very well to the feelings of racing thoughts, and of wanting to be insulated from them (and everything else) when things are seemingly overwhelming for whatever reason.

    Somehow, I was never really convinced that pain was a bad way to deal with things, despite the obvious cultural implications that it is. That said, I’ve only been at most what one would call a “mild” self-injurer, if one could call me that at all. Instead, I often experienced excruciating physical pain during emotionally traumatic periods, most notably in my chest and my left palm, and in a way, those sensations were always welcomed.


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