Wednesday, 16 April 2014

BDSM and PTSD (from a femsub's POV)


After Phil's article about Depression and BDSM I talked to a female online friend I've been talking to for a while, she mentioned PTSD a few times and certain triggers and how she's able to live with it, but it wasn't easy. I asked her if she would feel comfortable writing about it, because a lot of people in BDSM seem to suffer from PTSD. 
ShiftyW (the author), is a female submissive and after talking for a while, her story can possibly help a bunch of people suffering from a similar condition.
Like depression, PTSD is something that can happen to just about anybody, there's nothing shameful about, as ShiftyW says, it has to be considered as seriously as a back problem or any other health problem.

I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2010. It was a result of a date rape that happened in 2006. 
In 2006 I was a college freshmen, who had moved to Philadelphia from a small rural New England town.

I was a virgin.

I was dating someone who I considered myself close with.

I knew I was into kink years before this, but wasn't really ready to explore that, or even ready to have sex. But my date didn't listen when I said no, and overpowered me.

I lived in the same dorm as him for a year, and he would constantly intimidate me into not telling anyone.

I went to the clinic alone to get tested for STD's and pregnancy, which both came back negative, thankfully.

He ended up flunking out of school and I haven't seen him since freshmen year. But the damage had been done.

The next three years became a spiral of worsening symptoms of PTSD. At one point I wouldn't sleep through the night because I was constantly checking locks and looking behind doors in our apartment for someone hiding, all night long. I became promiscuous. I would go through bouts of depression and shame that would basically cripple my emotional capacity for days. I would obsessively get tested for HIV- even if I hadn't had a new partner for months, I was at the clinic every three weeks.

I dated jerks. I had no self worth or self esteem. I constantly had intrusive obsessive thoughts about what I would do if I were kidnapped or raped, with a lot of "scenario running". I was fiercely secretive about all this.

The worst symptom was being afraid to say no. I had some pretty faulty logic going on that basically was "If I don't say no, no one can rape me or abuse my consent again".

At this point, I was more into kink, and it was a problem. I didn't really know how to set limits, and doing so made me wildly insecure. Being a bottom, I took a lot of pride in pleasing my partners- the feelings of inadequacy and the fear of not being able to say no to something I really did not want to do made my sex life, and my interest in kink, pretty treacherous. I ended up in some dangerous situations, that I am fortunate to come out of relatively safely.

I got help after a particularly shameful and scary one night stand.

In therapy I learned how important respecting my own mental illness and limits really was. It’s a hard lesson, honestly. I think bottom types have a hard time feeling that they are not all they want to be for their counterparts. I felt this pretty strongly.

Because my rapist had only valued me for sex, it had a strong effect on my own view of my self worth, and I felt that if I couldn't do more extreme kink things that I really wasn't any good in the sack and I should just get over it, because it was really the only reason someone would want me anyways. I had to change my thinking. I've since realized that the way to the best relationships is a mutual respect of each others limitations, and finding someone whose limits align with mine. If they don't, unfortunately, that person may not be for me. 
If "rape play" is really important to a top and it is a requirement for them, no matter how attracted to him I am, I really need to assess if I actually want to be involved with someone who values that type of play over my mental well being.

Secondly - limits are limiting.
 

I have to understand if a top chooses to reject me because I'm not what they are looking for.

Initially- I had a really hard time with rejection, because I felt inadequate and as if all I was good at, wasn't good enough. I had to learn that I'm just not compatible with some people, and that's OK.

It’s OK to not be into medical play or knife play. I also had to learn to reject people myself.

Saying no to someone's advances was really hard and scary. Sometimes, people get really mad when they are rejected, and I was pretty fearful of that anger. With my therapist we practiced ways of saying no, which I realize sounds kind of silly, but it was absolutely necessary for me. I had a really hard time, and still have a hard time with it. It makes me nervous that someone won't respect it, and violate my consent again, but I'm a much happier person when I'm doing things that won't trigger me, or send me into a depression.

I also had to give up a few kinks I was really interested in. Public play and even some educational events are really off the table for me. Even if I have a strong exhibitionist streak in me, those situations make me too anxious and hyper vigilant to really enjoy myself.


Perhaps someday I can return to those things, but for now, I feel that they would overwhelm me and frighten me. Other things I will only do with folks whom I love and trust, and it usually takes a while for me to get to that point with someone. TPE was something I was interested in, but after having a terrible experience with it before, it is not something I feel capable of, I clearly have some issues with control, and I feel it isn't something that sets myself or my partner up for success. However, I'm willing to discuss it if someone right came along.

I take precautions now, that I feel anyone with a mental illness should consider taking. I treat my mental illness as seriously as I do a physical one. I make sure who I am with is aware of my condition, and signs that it bothering me. I also make sure that if I disassociate, the person I'm playing with knows full and well the signs of this and to stop, even if I don't safeword. 


I use safewords, without shame, if I end up in a dangerous headspace. If a top doesn't believe in safewords, or gives me a lot of grief about not "really being in physical danger"- I don't play with them.

I make sure my partners know about the possibility of me getting triggered, and what that looks like. I negotiate my limits really thoroughly so that someone is made aware of what is more likely to set me off.

I have of course, been told by doing this I am trying to "top from the bottom"- but I don't view putting my own mental safety first as "topping from the bottom"- me explaining my limits and PTSD is an effort to make BOTH of us feel good at the end of it, and protect myself from further trauma, if someone views me saying "Medical play and needles are a hard limit, full stop" as topping from the bottom, they are probably not someone I should play with.

Advocating and making aware your partners is the most important thing I thinks someone who suffers with mental illness can do.

I have found an excellent partner. We have been together for nearly 4 years. Our interests align and he is wildly supportive. I realized that he was someone who valued me beyond my sexuality or kink. He has come to therapy appointments with me. He knows if I'm getting triggered even before I do. He knows to anchor me down in the present and bring me out of the panic or disassociation. He constantly has my PTSD in consideration when topping me. Learning to adapt my kink and advocate for myself, through therapy, played a huge role in finding the right person. Sometimes it’s still a pain. Sometimes I can take all the precautions and I'll still get triggered.

I just have to respect the power of my own illness, and consider it as seriously as I would a back problem.