Archive for the ‘BDSM & Psych’ Category

Repressed Emotion and Overwhelm

I wrote recently about a particularly cathartic experience—allowing myself to fully give up control, to let myself be hurt and to not try to make myself be okay, to let myself cry and just let go. On the other end of the spectrum, today I spent the entire morning crying uncontrollably, and the only thing that snapped me out of it was my partner simply touching my body in pleasant ways, keeping me warm, avoiding pain completely, focusing completely on my pleasure. In both cases—the pain in the first case and a pleasurable orgasm in the second—sex helped to release tension and stress that I tend to build up when I don’t really deal with problems in my life.

This is an ongoing problem for me that I’ve only begun to really recognize over the last few years: I avoid anger, hide myself away when I’m depressed, refuse to ask for help, and force myself not to cry when I’m hurt or scared. All of it blends together and builds and builds until it bursts, and I break down. I retreat into my room for a day or two or three, cry uncontrollably, shake, lose the ability to speak coherently or understand anything around me. I try to shut everything out. Simply, I feel a sense of overwhelm, of everything in this world just being too much for me to deal with.

A while back, I started to consider the idea that perhaps this cycle of overwhelm was related to my frequent inability to have orgasms that were fully satisfying, that didn’t just leave me feeling like my skin was crawling and I would never find true release. That is, perhaps my overwhelm/panic attacks would cease if I could only have truly satisfying orgasms on a regular basis. (Like today.)

Now, I’m realizing that orgasm is just one part of the bigger issue, which is that I don’t actually know how to release tension, stress, anger, grief, and other emotions. Not fully. Not in a way that keeps their residue from piling up until I choke on it.

When I first began dating my current partner, one of the most difficult issues we had to deal with was that we have each lived with completely different ways of dealing with emotion. He’s always been very forthcoming with his emotions—both good and bad ones—and finds it difficult, if not impossible, to not talk about it if he’s upset, hurt, or needs help. I, on the other hand, grew up in a family in which problems, illness, depression, and conflict were just not ever discussed. Whenever they did come up, they created such intense awkwardness and discomfort—because none of us actually knew how to communicate emotions or talk about our problems—that it reinforced the lesson that it’s better to keep things under wraps, to keep things “pleasant” and simple.

One of the ongoing challenges in our relationship has been to accept these differences; for me to understand that it’s healthy to get upset when things go badly, and for him to understand that it’s an ongoing struggle for me to ask for help or to talk about my problems and fears.

Anyway, getting back to the issue at hand—the point is that using sex to release emotions and stress, whether through pain and catharsis or through pleasure and orgasm, might work fine, but it would be better if I just didn’t let the stress build up in the first place. It means that I have to learn how to cry in front of people, how to let people help me when I need it, how to talk about my problems to my friends.

Just one of those amazing revelations that seem perfectly self-explanatory and simple when I write them down.

Cruelty and Catharsis

In my bed I had been warm, but on the floor, I was shivering even with a blanket over me. I curled up, wanting to play but not wanting to leave the confines of the blanket, not wanting to suffer the coldness of the room or the discomfort of the floor. I was tired and cranky. And as he pulled the blanket off of me and stood over me, I realized that the only way I was going to be able to play would be if my discomfort were a part of the scene, and if it were to be constant, unrelenting discomfort, unrelenting pain. I needed to be able to be cranky and to squirm and shake and cry, and for that to be okay, for it not to stop the scene.

“Can we not stop unless I safeword?” I asked him. “Of course,” he said.

(NOTE: This post contains explicit sexual imagery and descriptions of BDSM play.)

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Sexual Healing

I haven’t been writing on here very much, lately. That’s in part because of a lack of time, a little more because of a lack of inspiration, and over the past week or so, predominantly because I’ve been finding it difficult to do anything beyond sitting numbly on the floor or having fits of great heaving sobs. I have always had bad days, here and there, but this just won’t let go, and I have no idea why. It lets up for a day, then comes back unexpectedly just before I go to bed. I sleep well, then wake up the next morning unable to go to work because I just cannot stop crying. Last night was terrible, but now I feel on an upswing, hence: writing.

Why writing here? I suppose because spilling this out anonymously online is easier for me to do than taking a friend aside and wanting to talk to them. (I worry too much that they won’t want to hear it, that they’ll be uncomfortable and focus too much on “what do you want me to do?”)

But there also is a component that does relate to this blog, and I’ll focus on that for now. Some times, I wonder if Marvin Gaye was right, and sex really is the best therapy for depression. Sure, “Sexual Healing” is totally cheesy, it’s a song that’s always treated as a joke, but some of the lyrics are actually a pretty accurate description of the kind of overwhelm I experience. For example, try to read these lines straight, without hearing the song in your head:

I got sick this morning
A sea was storming inside of me
I think I’m capsizing
The waves are rising and rising

…yes, that pretty much sums it up. We laugh at that song because he’s singing about wanting to get laid so he’ll feel better, but is that really so funny? He sings “The love you give to me will free me,” and taken without all the pop culture context that surrounds that song (and the silly lines that follow it like “I can’t wait for you to operate”), that line actually makes a lot of sense to me. It’s a song about his lady taking care of him when he’s depressed and feeling unstable.

Last night, out of the blue, I started freaking out. My skin began to feel tight and itchy, and I went to bed feeling constrained by the bedsheets. When my partner came in and joined me, I couldn’t bear to feel him close to me, especially when he moved his face close to mine. I jerked back, and it rushed over me, this feeling of anxiety and tension, my body rigid, every touch nearly unbearable. My thoughts started racing, and my words came out thick and awkward as I tried to explain what I was feeling. My head was pounding. I decided to take a shower. Hot water usually does a lot to calm me down. He sat in the bathroom with me while I bathed, and helped me back to bed. I lay naked on top of the sheets, and for the first time that night realized that I was aching with desire and arousal. I recognized this not as some sort of eroticization of what was happening to me but as a purely physical need to have an orgasm after several days of completely ignoring my sexual drive.

But of course, I couldn’t say this. I could barely speak at all. He touched my body softly, and it made me ache even more. I wanted him to gently play with me, to pinch, to attach clothespins all over my body. I wanted to lay back and just feel. I wanted to feel pain and pleasure, but not to feel enclosed, or forced, or controlled; to feel his hand pinching, but not slapping; to look in his eyes, but from a few feet away. I wanted—no, needed—to come, but I didn’t want to fuck, didn’t want to play, didn’t even want to feel his body over mine. I didn’t want to masturbate, even if he were to order me to do so, as it would feel too much like I was just getting it out of the way, trying to release the tension, and I knew from past experience that such orgasms would leave me feeling even worse than before. I felt frozen, and knew I couldn’t possibly do anything beyond just laying on my back. Not now. Maybe not at all tonight. I felt ashamed, wanting him to focus completely on me without satisfying his own desire, without me returning the attention. And so I couldn’t ask for it. I managed to ask him to pinch me. Later, I asked for his hand on my throat, which was comforting and calming, but he began to take it to mean I wanted him to dominate me, and the second he climbed on top of me I began to lose it again.

I can’t even understand how well he deals with times like these. How hard it is to see the person you love suffering, and to have everything you try to do to help her make things worse! How hard it is to be pushed away again and again, and to not be hurt and angry about it, to instead just remain calm and come back and simply be there, to keep trying, to push aside hurt feelings, to not get frustrated and upset when there seems to be nothing you can do.

So he kept trying, and eventually I was able to communicate enough that he was able to touch me and play with me in the way I wanted, and he made me feel all kinds of wonderful, and then I had a series of joyless, intense orgasms that left me feeling knotted up and half-crazed, like having an itch I was unable to scratch. (This is not an uncommon experience for me. This has actually been the norm for me for large portions of my adult life—orgasms that are little more than body spasms, that leave me feeling even more sexually frustrated than before I started.) I eventually fell asleep, after a lot of time lying awake wondering how much my neuroses are connected to my frequent inability to have satisfying orgasms, how much of my anxiety attacks is simply an expression of unacknowledged sexual desire and pent-up energy. Is it possible that at least a portion of the reason behind my anxiety and depression-ridden days is just not having enough or satisfying orgasms? Or is it the other way around—is my inability to have good orgasms the result of long-held stress and anxiety? Or do the two feed off each other in a vicious circle?

I suppose this means I should go read some Reich.