Tuesday, 29 April 2014
Last night I saw a tweet by @PositiveA4PTSD asking if someone could respond to a post on their website someone’s experiences of EMDR. I replied and said I would today when I wasn’t so tired so here is the resultant reply that I promised. It’s rather long, so please forgive me.
I’ve been meaning to blog about my PTSD treatment for a while, I think I was waiting until it was over, but now seems to be as good a time as any. I know that in a few months, or next year, or 10 years, I’ll look back at this, and will think very differently. I know that I think very differently now than I did last month, or 6 months ago, or a year ago, or more. My response to the disease isn’t static, as the disease isn’t static – it morphs, focusing on different mental & physiological symptoms sometimes as changeable as the weather. But, this is my response, now.
[I am calling it a disease because that is what it feels like to me. The language I use may not be appropriate to your experience of PTSD, and may even be medically incorrect. But this is my personal account. To the same end, these comments can only apply to me & my experience of what I have; you may identify with some, or none. I am not intending to talk on behalf of all PTSD sufferers, just for myself].
My PTSD was caused by a rape which happened 6 years ago. I initially sought counselling from a women’s rape crisis network, which was one to one and then an ‘ending’ course which was a small group. This ended at around the year anniversary and I went travelling to a Thai detox which was incredibly emotional and cathartic. I thought I was ‘better’ and had learned how to ‘cope’. My panic attacks were less frequent and I stopped taking the anti-depressants. I took another job and was doing well at it. The 2nd anniversary passed without major incident, as did the 3rd.
By the 4th anniversary I was working 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week over an extended period and I fell to pieces; I had a total breakdown. Now, I think anyone working under those kind of conditions might be susceptible to breakdown, regardless of whether they had a barely-controlled underlying PTSD. But putting myself under that level of stress exacerbated what I had been keeping a lid on and ignoring. When I look back, the ‘without major incident’ passing of the previous two years hadn’t been that at all, I just hadn’t faced the truth that panic attacks at the thought of leaving the flat were part of something that meant I wasn’t better, that moving house 6 or 7 times in 3 years meant I just didn’t feel safe anywhere, that cutting off ties with my family because I couldn’t bear them knowing meant I wasn’t at ease with my own truth and didn’t want to confront it in those I loved. Looking back, now, I think that breakdown two years ago and the help I’ve got since then as a result was possibly actually a life saver. Although at the time, it almost meant the end of my life.
Initially I went back to the same counselling I had gratefully received the first time around. Different issues were raised, and I felt that I’d moved into a place where I was more able to address what needed addressing. It was followed with another ending group programme; again I started to feel that I was getting more out of it, assimilating more of the techniques proposed for keeping a lid on the panic, for dealing, for coping.
But when that ended I was very fearful of not having a counselling support. From some of the materials that had been covered in the ending sessions, I’d become aware of EMDR as a potential treatment. The reading I did on it seemed to suggest that it offered the promise of cure rather than just coping. Much of the reading seemed to suggest that this cure could happen within in as little as 8 weeks. Suddenly I wondered, where had the last 4 years gone? Why had no-one before said there was a cure for PTSD? I’d never had a diagnosis but I knew it was what I had… I found a local practitioner and was almost decided to just throw my own money at the problem when I had a lightbulb moment and remembered my health insurance as part of my work benefits package. I wondered if they covered mental illness as well as the physical. They did.
Jumping through the required hoops to get the ok from the private insurer was a really terrible process and experience – if you’ve ever had to sign on and figure out the hoops to jump through to get your JSA (& I have), it’s similarly painful, not great for someone who’s fragile in the head. Whilst I know I’m really privileged and lucky to have had the private option available, it is not a 5* experience that people would probably think. Finally, though, I was allowed to be assessed and then allowed to have treatment (although only a few sessions were approved each time, which has led to a regular fear that I will be cut-off. They have now cut me off saying long-term ailments are not covered and they won’t fund me after the end of June; I hope to be better by then…).
My diagnosis was severe PTSD (they have a points system to determine severe, moderate, mild) with very high levels of disassociation and chronic (long-term) depression. My psychiatrist is one of the leading trauma specialists and says that I had symptoms similar to what she would expect from someone who had been living in a warzone for several years. She put some of this down to experiences prior to the rape, but apportioned much of the impact to the lessons my brain had learnt to ‘cope.’ She is disparaging of talking therapies – they may help you ‘feel’ better temporarily but the brain has to relearn reality after trauma and it can’t do that by talking. Think is only part of it – feel, sense, taste, smell, how your body responds, everything must be rewired.
When you have PTSD your ‘window of tolerance’ is much narrower than the normal person’s. If a normal (forgive the use of the word please) person is under stress they will usually be at the peak of their window of tolerance. Sometimes, if someone jumps out behind them they might jump and feel unsettled. When a normal person is at their bottom of their window of tolerance, they’ll feel exhausted, wiped out, they’ll probably plomp themselves down on the sofa, maybe have a duvet day. The thing is, with PTSD the window of tolerance is much smaller – so what seems like a ‘normal’ amount of stress can be debilitating. The constant feeling of panic, the actual panic – these states are part of hyper-arousal and outside the ‘normal’ window. What I hadn’t understood before I saw my psych was hypo-arousal – but when she explained it to me, it made so much sense. I’d thought my chronic tiredness was just a feature of my depression, but it’s actually also a part of PTSD. It’s the embodiment of the freeze response, hiding from the world, not partaking, not being. And generally, following a period of hyper-arousal you will drop suddenly into hypo. Reclaiming your space in the narrow window of tolerance isn’t easy.
I wanted to start EMDR right away. This was now March last year (2013). I was going to be well and free of PTSD forever by the summer, ideally by my 40th birthday which was in May. I was frustrated because my psych wanted to go slow and she was insisting that I went on anti-depressants before we started and eventually I agreed. (I was resistant because I just didn’t like the side-effects and my memory of them was such that I didn’t think they did much good. They probably weren’t the right ones). Again, lucky me being private, she recommended duloxetine which is a newer anti-d and an SRNI, supposedly fewer side effects. It gave me horrible head sweats but I definitely felt less depressed. Then I switched to mirtazapine but whilst I could sleep on it, it made me into a waking zombie for the time I wasn’t actually sleeping. Third time lucky I am on escitalopram which is the posh, new version of citalopram – a purer version which is said to not have the side effects that the older drug has. She has been choosing anti-depressants which are specifically good for PTSD rather than the more common ones that GPs prescribe. And thankfully I have found a lovely GP at my practice who is happy to prescribe them for me under her advice. Like I said, I know I’m lucky.
So, we didn’t start EMDR straight away. We did a lot of physical grounding techniques. It surprised me but we didn’t need to talk about the rape at all; instead we talked about how things felt in the body, how I could regulate my body, how I could stay in the present and start to recognise in my body that the past was in the past.
I pushed to start EMDR and we did start it with a test trauma, something that wasn’t connected to the trauma we were going to try to resolve, but which had upset me. I couldn’t go through with it. It was too frightening to do even that. And I realised why she had refused initially to do the EMDR straight away, and also now I realise that she made us do the test run as she knew I wasn’t ready but I needed to know it too.
Throughout last summer we continued with grounding techniques, safe places and then lifeline integration. This was working through moments that I remembered from birth through to arriving at the session, one moment for every year of life. Initially I thought I would never remember something from every year, but the process was really effective in helping to bring me back to myself, to realise everything that had happened to bring me to this moment, and I wasn’t defined by that one night. It was also very exhausting (you try living 40 years 3 times in a 1 hour session, including being born!) but worthwhile.
And before we started on EMDR we did a lifeline integration of the actual night. The few days before, the detail (in as much as I remember it which is very fuzzy) and the few days and weeks after. Needless to say, that was also not a stroll in the park but again the impact was to enable me to fast forward through the detail, not get too stuck, get to a point of safety.
We started EMDR in the sessions before Christmas, and have been continuing this year. That’s about 5 months, and she thinks I’ve another 2 to go. It’s not 8 sessions. Apparently NICE basically recommend EMDR for PTSD but say it should be 8-10 sessions. My psych says this is based on simple PTSD from a traumatic event like a car crash. Not to say that car crash PTSD might be complex and require several months of EMDR either, but the NICE guidelines err on the side of less. My psych has steadfastly refused to indicate how long it would take from the beginning, it’s really a how long is a piece of string type question (and only now, 13 months later has given me the not-guaranteed promise of June).
EMDR involves making the left brain and the right brain start to connect with each other again. The problem with PTSD is that the fear that takes hold cannot be processed logically and so it takes over. EMDR tries to rebuild those connections so that when the reason for fear happens (the ‘trigger’), the brain knows that is just a trigger and you don’t need to go back to that place. I think of it as brain re-wiring with a bit of de-sensitisation therapy thrown in on the side (just to be sure, like…, endless repetition of re-living in detail never before realised…). To get the left brain / right brain reconnecting you either have to follow the therapist’s hand as it’s waved left to right and back again in front of your face. Or you hold electrical buzzer things in your hands and they buzz left right, left right, left right. I prefer the latter, with the following the eyes thing I am so focused on not losing her hand that I stop focusing on what I’m supposed to be focusing on (the trauma) and get upset with myself for ‘doing it wrong.’
There’s a protocol to follow at the start of every session. You have to visualise a scene that most comes to mind. How does it make you feel, where do you feel it in your body, what’s the emotion that comes to mind. On a scale, how horrible is it? What’s the opposite of the emotion, on a scale, how true do you think that is? And then you begin, the buzzers start buzzing or the hand starts moving. You have to listen to the body, let the feelings move around, see the pictures that come to mind. And when you’re done, you do it again. And again. And again, and again and again. We’ve now moved to 1.5 hour sessions so there is time to do 7-8 sessions of EMDR followed by safe place meditation so that I’m not a total absolute wreck and can at least get home.
On an EMDR night you are not allowed any alcohol or sleeping tablets or anything that might stop your brain from ‘doing the work’ and processing. For the same reason you’re not allowed to talk about it, or write about it in a diary (or blog) for at least 24 hours after. If you try to verbalise what happened, you start to create a conscious script of what happened, whereas what you are trying to do is get to the subconscious as it’s the subconscious which is what needs re-wiring.
It’s hell. I mean, it’s so counter-intuitive – you are willingly walking into a place week after week after week and consensually allowing yourself to be re-traumatised time and again by what has caused you the trauma and panic attacks and made you into a different person that you were B-T (before trauma – I actually use the term before rape and after rape in my head to describe the different me’s). (My brother (bless him) actually told me at my last family visit that I was doing it to myself because I was choosing to go to get treatment…) And just like the trauma didn’t just happen in those moments, but lived with you, so does the re-traumatising not just take place for the time you are in the psych’s office. You get home, you’re shattered, in shock, you curl up, you don’t want to sleep because you know what’s waiting for you is intense night terrors (because your brain is ‘doing the work’; I hate that phrase now), but you’re exhausted and so you sleep, and then you wake and then you doze and the nightmares are sometimes so vivid, sometimes so blurred, sometimes just frightening. It lasts several nights, you get a bit better the couple of nights before the next visit, and then it starts all over again. The day after you’re still in shock, you didn’t sleep much, your body wants to stay in hypo. I’m lucky, I get to do my psych visits on a Friday night. It’s meant I don’t do much socially on a weekend (and definitely not on a Friday) and I don’t get much done at the weekend – but it means I’ve managed to vaguely hold down a job whilst I undergo the treatment (and the job which meant I had access to the treatment). Full-time work plus EMDR is generally not recommended but who has that luxury unless they can get signed off for a very lengthy period of time?
But it’s working. The 6th anniversary just passed. Last year, just as the year before, the anniversary caused a mini-breakdown and I was off work. Usually I would work myself into a state by mid February, at least 6 or more weeks in advance. This year I didn’t even book the day as holiday. I didn’t make it to the conference I’d been hoping to go to next day, the adrenalin not quite seeing me through, but I bounced back. In fact, when I saw my psychiatrist the day after she did another test on me, and this time I’d halved my point-score and was now at moderate. And this was the day after the anniversary. I like to think that makes me in reality a mild. The end feels in sight. Yes, in the sessions since then, I have still become a frightened ball of tears (one day I will learn and remember not to wear eye makeup) , and I am remembering new things, tastes, sensations. I now know the point at which I thought I would die. With EMDR I am starting to piece together the jigsaw puzzle of what happened through my inebriated (drugged?) state, slipping in and out of consciousness. The body doesn’t lie and I’m starting to see that some parts of what I’d thought had happened just hadn’t. The process is creating a real truth which I think is also helping me to come to terms with it; not knowing had meant I filled the gaps with what might’ve happened, now I’m starting to get more clarity.
EMDR won’t be a cure. The only cure would be it not having happened (and there isn’t a time machine invented yet) or not remembering it at all (and I don’t think a lobotomy is really what I want for my life), but I do think through this process I am finding a way to eventually not be traumatised by what happened, to widening my window of tolerance so that it’s more akin to what is considered ‘normal’ and not need to feel like I’m just ‘coping’ but instead can think about living.
EMDR is hell. The counter-intuitive process requires you to be getting better before you can start because you can’t be re-traumatised if you can’t keep yourself safe afterwards. I can’t stress how much I hate it. But it’s my lifeline to the future.
Like Winston Churchill said, if you’re going through hell, keep going. Got to get out the other side. Eventually.
I hope you’ve found this a little bit helpful, sorry for the length.
Thursday, 6 February 2014
I’ve been feeling so very conflicted about Time to Talk day today (Thursday 6th February), the campaign being run by Time to Change in association with Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to encourage a million conversations about mental health to end the stigma associated with mental health problems.
The thing about having a conversation about mental health – you need to feel safe to do so. At work, which is one of the companies mentioned on the Time to Talk website, we are supporting the campaign by asking our staff to post a photo of ourselves on our internal social media platform having a cup of tea with someone, having our ‘time to talk’ conversation. It’s not so much actually talking, but posting pictures to claim we’re talking. I suppose I could do that, but what would the point actually be?
If I were to actually talk, I don’t think people would know how to react. Because my experience so far has been that people don’t know how to react. The people aren’t bad, or unfeeling, but when I share, they feel uncomfortable. And so they avoid. I’m a fairly open person, more likely to over-share than be comfortable keeping things to myself. So, not feeling able to share what feels like the biggest thing about myself in my work-life for fear of what people will think, how they will judge, does not feel congruent with the real, authentic, me.
The authentic me is on my mind today. Because today I went to a Stonewall workshop on how to be an Authentic Role Model. And I want to be that person, the one who lives true to her ideals and values, who acts & behaves in a way in which she believes.
I made a resolution at the start of this year to be more open about my mental health. Recently I shared with a new colleague the general details of why I leave early on a Friday afternoon (to see my psychiatrist), and why I take the opportunity to work from home when I can, because being around people too much is exhausting and I need to take care. He didn’t even acknowledge it. When asked to participate in the Time to Talk campaign by the organisers (because I am active through my work with the LGBTQ network on our Diversity & Inclusion Council, and in that forum I expressed an interest in progressing how mental health is handled within our company), I wrote back saying I was uncomfortable, and I gave my reasons, as well as sharing my diagnosis. Again, no acknowledgement.
I recognise that when people share mental health problems, this makes the other person unsure how to respond, and possibly makes them feel uncomfortable. But how difficult is it to say the words, “I’m sorry to hear that”, or, “thank you for sharing that with me, I know you’re showing me trust in sharing”, or, “oh, that’s horrible.”
It’s all very well having a time to talk campaign. But what about those who are listening? How do we teach them how to listen in a human way, with empathy, even with sympathy?
But, as I said at the start, I’m conflicted. I know that change only happens when there is a groundswell of change, a tipping point. And that only happens if people start speaking up, and someone does need to start the conversation, sometime. In the early 1970s Harvey Milk asked the gay people of San Francisco to speak up, to demonstrate to the straights that they would all know someone gay, to help normalise what seemed at the time abnormal. The thing is, outing yourself, being open, that is a privilege for those who can afford to pay the price.
A while back, at a different company, when I told my boss about my anxiety attacks, and the reason for them, and that I was on diazepam, I was told I lacked resilience. My future performance was suspect and could not be trusted because I lacked resilience. She attempted to manage me out, but I fought with what little energy I had at the time, and instead resigned with a decent pay-off. Since then, I’ve been more circumspect. When I had a further, more prolonged, break-down 2 years ago, I did share again at my current company; the reaction was more understanding, and yet they still don’t understand. They recognise that my diagnosis of PTSD means that it is classified as a formal disability and thus they cannot discriminate against me for it. However, I will still be told at performance review that my work has suffered – impossible to say whether it is my innate performance or, a lack of focus caused by the disease.
But, still conflicted. Someone needs to stand up, many of us do. And I stood up in Trafalgar Square in front of hundreds of people, and said that. I said that silence hurts us. And yet I am being silent. Am I a hypocrite, unable to do as I say? Of course, following that day, I took too many sleeping tablets and anti-anxiety tablets and was lucky to wake up at all, causing yet another break-down and a week off work (only a week though… I have resilience…). So, do I speak up, and risk a reaction, and risk my reaction to that?
But. I was interviewed this week by a magazine on being a bi role model (I am chair of our LGBTQ network) and that has got me thinking on what it means to be a role model. Surely a role model is visible, and leads, and doesn’t stay silent on the important issues? And today I was at the course run by Stonewall on how to be an authentic role model, and I will share my learnings with my colleagues. Not speaking up, it doesn’t feel consistent with showing leadership, being worthy of being a role model.
I don’t think a role model has to be perfect, which is a very good thing, as I am far from perfect – some of the ways I choose to live my life would certainly be considered by many to be far from perfect, but I do try to live with authenticity. The course today made clear though, that speaking up needs to be done in the context of the situation. And so I won’t be speaking up at work. It is time to talk. But not there, yet.
But if I were to talk, this is what I’d say.
*raises hand* Hello, my name is Emily and I suffer from PTSD and depression. Some days I’m fine. Usually, I’m pretending to be fine. Pretending is exhausting. And it’s not very authentic. Some days, I can’t get out of bed. Some days, I’ll have an anxiety attack just thinking about leaving the flat. Some nights, I don’t sleep. Many nights, I’ll have nightmares and wake up screaming, or in tears, or shaking. Sometimes, I’m triggered and get taken back to the time when the trauma happened. I think about it every day.
I have so many coping mechanism: I mistreat food; I haven’t cut in a while, but it’s always on my mind; I think about how I’ll choose to die, although recently I think it’s an improvement to merely be thinking about disappearing; when I drink, I drink far too much; I mistreat prescription & over the counter drugs, and have been known to partake of the less legal kind.
I see a psychiatrist every week, and we’re going through trauma therapy; this means I am voluntarily taking myself somewhere to voluntarily re-live the trauma, again and again, and again, in order to build new brain waves, and to de-sensitise the reactions. I’ve spent over 5 years in various talking therapies & counselling; which only help you maybe cope with the trauma, it is only trauma therapy that can possibly find a way through to the other side – but of course, no-one tells you that, because that’s expensive. I’m lucky, I have private medical insurance, and finally realised it might be covered. I wouldn’t get it on the NHS. I’m also lucky that my psychiatrist is telling my GP what to prescribe me. Anti-depressants have become a vital & necessary part of my recovery, or being able to just be. But sorting through to find one which doesn’t have debilitating side effects has taken almost a year. One type made me sweat like a human shower. Another, made me into a daytime zombie.
If I had a penny for every time someone suggested that exercise might make me feel a bit better, to get some fresh air, to laugh, to just pretend I felt better and I magically would… well, then, I’d be rich. Depression isn’t just feeling a bit down, and needing to be kick-started out of it. Yes, I can give a really good impression of being fine when you need me to, but I pay the price for it afterwards. Depression is isolating because you can’t face being around people, the energy it takes to pretend. It’s isolating because actually, no matter how much your friends love you, no-one wants to be around a sad person all the time. PTSD is isolating because you’re anxious, on edge; I’ve found I’ve lost relationships with people who obviously weren’t friends in the first place, because they simply don’t believe that the trauma I experienced which resulted in the PTSD could be real. I’ve removed myself from close relationships with my family because the reasons why I have PTSD are too emotional for me to handle on their behalf. If you have PTSD, if you have depression, you believe the rest of the world is judging you, thinking you are weak, you should be stronger – you aren’t resilient. If people know, you feel exposed, vulnerable, unsafe. And if they know you have PTSD – do they also judge the reasons why?
I’m the most resilient person I know – because I’m still here. And at the same time as all this, I am trying to hold down a job. Mostly, I’m winning. My social life has faltered quite a bit, I don’t have energy for much else beyond recovery and work, and I sleep most of the weekend. If I had a physical injury, a broken bone, cancer, people’s reaction would be much more sympathetic, people wouldn’t expect me to put on my brave face and do a day’s work. But I don’t have a physical injury. Just as you can’t see that I like girls as well as boys, you can’t see the mess inside my head.
Do you still want to talk?
And, more importantly, will you listen?
Sunday, 19 January 2014
The subject of safe words came up on Twitter earlier today and has been the cause of some extensive debate, with alternative viewpoints. Many of those people I know in real life, but not all. This is my personal response to the question of safe words, and should not be read as a criticism of anyone personally. These are my thoughts, unique to me.
I have used safe words. I prefer not to use safe words. This is for many reasons which I will try to break down. The reasons are not in any order of importance.
The first reasons, are reasons why safe words don’t suit my personality:
- I am a submissive. This makes me see using a safe word as a failure – an inability to complete the task at hand, which in the case of using a safe word, is generally an inability to suffer as the Dom/top wants. It is a failure of me.
- Which leads to an internal dialogue of self-hatred, and often a spiralling into despair. When you add the physical after-effects of a heavy play session to a negative mind-state, then sub-drop is intense.
- I am also a masochist. This makes me stubborn, and not want to use the safe word, even when I absolutely should. I want the pain, even when I don’t.
- I am competitive, and must always achieve. This makes me determined beyond reason to endure, to never give in.
- I have PTSD. I suffer panic attacks. Communicating anything doesn’t happen in those circumstances.
The next set of reasons are reasons why safe words don’t suit the way I like to play:
- I am not a SSC (safe, sane, consensual) player but a RACK (risk aware consensual kink) player. I thrive on edge play. Knives, breath play, CNC (consensual non consent), etc. If it could end in death, I want to do it. I want the type of play where I can abdicate all decisions to the person controlling me – where I am left with no sense of self, no ‘id’ if you will, I am just a thing. Safe words are not exactly conducive to this type of scene. Of course, trust becomes essential in these circumstances, and I don’t go around playing with just anyone. And mistakes can happen.
- Even in circumstances where that nirvana of trust and losing oneself doesn’t happen (and it’s very rare indeed), how does one safe word when one is gagged, hooded, bound? How does one safe word when that hood is a pillow case covered in water and you can’t breathe?
- And let’s take the scene down yet another notch: you are strapped down on a bench in a club, full of people. The beatings have been coming and coming. You are a mix of endorphins and adrenaline, feelings & emotions swirling around. You have no concept of time, of how long this has been happening. The pain suddenly becomes too much, you are vaguely aware you're not enjoying it anymore. But you’ve forgotten how to speak. You’ve forgotten that you were supposed to raise your hand. You’ve forgotten everything except pain. There are times, I am simply unable to remember what a safe word is, let alone what the safe word is and that I should be using it.
- I have played with people who have said that if you safe word you will be punished. Kind of defeats the object, doesn’t it? A penalty for not being able to endure.
- I have played with people who have wanted to break me, to force me to use the safe word, to force me to fail. This also totally defeats the object (and despite my masochism & competiveness, I have sometimes felt so un-submissive to this approach that I’ll safe word pretty quickly).
- I have had the fact a scene went wrong and was too much blamed on me – because I failed to use the safe word.
- I have had safe words ignored.
Now, I understand that the use of safe words can give a comforting illusion of safety. But, it’s no more than a comforting illusion. And therefore, I think, very dangerous. Just as rape can’t be prevented by not wearing a short skirt, not getting drunk, or not taking an unlicensed mini cab, so putting into place a safe word won’t mean that the play scene won’t go wrong. Now, I know many of you are thinking, why is she conflating safe words with rape? Well, when I was raped, I couldn’t think to say no. I am almost convinced that I didn’t say no. I do remember being confused and asking why he wasn’t wearing a condom, and at some point trying to fight, but mostly I disassociated and froze. An unwelcome assault on the body during play can produce similar human survival responses (fight, flight, freeze). No means no, but even in cases of rape, actually being able to say the word no is actually not rare. Safe words mean stop, but being able to say those words when you need to is also not guaranteed. Saying to a sub after a scene has gone too far “but you didn’t safe word!” is victim blaming in the same way as saying “but she kissed him earlier in the night, she was asking for it” about a rape victim. I know that’s a harsh analogy, but it’s one I believe in. Whilst a scene going wrong isn’t rape, it’s not even assault, it’s merely a mistake, blaming it on the sub is just wrong.
Only 7% of human communication is verbal. So why put so much pressure on the safe word? You need to be looking for the non-verbal clues (body language, etc) to watch what is happening to your bottom. I have played with people when I have been bound, gagged, hooded, waterboarded, hung by the neck…. They have known when I needed release, no words needed from me. If you are relying on a word, then I don’t trust you. Because you are trusting me in a way that I cannot give.
Trust is critical. Time is critical - getting to know how you play together is important. You don’t go into a scene where you hang someone from the neck on a beam in a cottage far away from other people, if you haven’t built up trust and limits over a period of time.
Safe words can’t protect me from you if you choose to ignore them. Safe words can’t protect you from going too far with me if I am incapable of using them. I need to trust you. I need to trust that you have taken the time to know me and are able to read my body language. These are just my thoughts. And I am aware that many of you are making a mental note to never play with me ever. And that’s just fine. ;-)
Sunday, 13 October 2013
It started with a throwaway comment, a comment borne out of concern & care, not one meant to lead to bitter soul-searching, tears flowing down the cheeks, collapsed onto the floor.
“Those meds aren’t you.”
What is ‘me’? Taking meds is keeping whatever me is alive. That much I do know. Without any I felt like a tiny little fragile row-boat being repeatedly & continuously flung against the rocks in a rough storm. Sometimes, the sun would shine, the waves would calm, and I would feel fine. But I learnt never to trust that the storm wouldn’t come again, and whilst every time I survived the battering, meant that I knew I could survive a battering, the never-ending batterings were causing me to wonder more & more why I bothered trying. If life was only ever going to be about riding the storm, and not trusting the sunshine intervals, what really was the point? So, I started on the meds. And whilst I still had dark days, I felt more in control, like maybe I could row away from the rocks, somehow, someday.
The first lot of meds weren’t quite right, and I’ve recently changed them. Instead of sweating like I’m going through the menopause at the age of 40, I am suddenly feeling liberated and free, able to enjoy a walk in the sun without fearing the human shower that I was. I’m sleeping better – not great, but better. The dreams are psychedelic & often disturbing, but they’re not hanging over me like a black cloud the next day. About mid-afternoon I have about an hour of floating haze, distant, disassociated from the cold reality of the day; it’s like what I imagine an opium-hit would’ve been back in the day… And I’m not totally fatigued the whole time, wanting to just curl up in my bed, needing to force myself into the world; instead, I have energy, motivation, enthusiasm.
Yes, these meds seem to be, at different times of the day, providing me with LSD trips, e-like calm & floatiness and speed-driven hyper-mania. Three illegal highs in one legal prescription drug. Oh, lucky me.
Except, is this me? My friend was referring to the manic hyper me. That’s not the real me. But why shouldn’t it be? I’m happy when I’m in that place. I’m enthusiastic, I want to share my thoughts, my feelings, my dreams. Yes, it might be a bit exhausting to be around – if those around you are high and you’re not, it’s hard to keep up with the lightning speed cut & thrust of the conversation, the various directions, sidebars and general jabbernesses… But, why shouldn’t that be me?
What is me? Before the meds, I was so unhappy I wanted to die. Is that me? Before the rape, was that me? But even then, I know I was trying to figure out who me was – post divorce, post walking on egg-shells, post crying myself silently to sleep most nights so the person lying next to me didn’t hear. The time when I was happily married, was that me? Boden-wearing, ballet shoes, hair long and pulled into a ponytail, DIY & garden centres? Was it me to be middle-aged in my 20s? When was I me? At university, studying so studiously I didn’t sleep around, and didn’t even learn to drink beer? At school, friends with the other misfits, or always the third in a twosome who wanted power over me? Or, when I didn’t speak, when I couldn’t hear, when I was just the me inside my head? What is me, have I ever been me?
So, yes, I’m on medication that creates versions of me, but those versions are me. I know some of the things I am. I’m the little girl who cries when she feels unaccepted and unacceptable by the people she loves. I’m the child who curls up in her bed and hugs her toy dog for comfort. But I’m also a strong woman, who’s tired of being what others want her to be. I’m experimenting, I’m exploring, I’m fiercely determined, I’m not making apologies for who I am, whatever that is.
Another friend asked, is there a sweet-spot, between the hyper hyper and the lows… not right now, there isn’t. I hope there will be, one day; living with PTSD isn’t easy. The window of normalcy is very small, tiny things can tip us into a state of hyper arousal. Sometimes that is characterised by extreme anxiety, vigilance & jumpiness. That’s an exhausting place to be, and the see-saw can suddenly then dip into hypo arousal, unable to leave the house, be with people, engage, do anything but sleep & disassociate from the world. I prefer this version of hyper, where I’m not always so scared, where I’m not always panicking, where I feel positive, not defeated.
This is me. I’m on meds that are creating versions of me but they’re keeping me alive. I can self-medicate some of the hyper away – drink some red wine, curl up at the feet of a Dominant man, be stroked by my girlfriend, do some vigorous exercise (note to self, do that one more), but if I’m appearing manic in front of you, please don’t make me feel unaccepted. It’ll drive me back into the foetal state, the child reasserts, the adult doesn’t dare go out into the world. If I’m ever going to find out who me really is, I need to be less child, more adult; and to do that, I need to be allowed to be me.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Originally published in Aphrodisia Magazine, 18/9/13 in response to Tweet asking for "what’s the sexiest word in your dictionary and why? Get involved in our new column" under my Twitter handle @emilyrose_uk
Moist. Say it. Say it out loud. Say it slowly. Say it quickly. Feel it on your tongue. Let it linger there. Hear the whisper it makes, hear its echo. Just saying it, you can feel her wetness on your tongue; feel her quiver, the way the word makes your tongue quiver. It’s the word that encapsulates all the filthy, carnal, animalistic needing, wanting, desiring that you have for her. It’s the word that describes the warmth, the stickiness, the slickiness that you feel when you plunge into her, becoming one with her. It can lead to everything. And nothing.
Wednesday, 17 July 2013
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