cPTSD And Me: Looking For An Escape Route

An exit sign, lit up against a dark background

Content note: this post discusses cPTSD, what a bitch it is to live with, and acute suicidal ideation. If any of those are hard for you, leave this one out – but keep an eye on my Twitter for other, sometimes sexier posts!


So, I have PTSD.

Actually, technically, I have cPTSD, with the “c” standing for “complex”. All trauma is complex, obviously, but my little “c” denotes that the causes of my PTSD are many, chronic, rather than being one particular incident. I think the “c” fucks you up extra hard, because my understanding of the world is probably radically different to someone who hasn’t experienced years upon years of trauma.

I’ve been thinking about all of this (and a lot more) because of the recent heatwave in the UK. Something about it was making me frustrated, miserable and panicky, and it took me a little while to work out what it was: the feeling of inescapability brought down upon me with the 29 degrees of heat we experienced recently. The heat was uncomfortable, and I couldn’t get away. It put me close to fight-or-flight for days on end.

The inability to cope with situations that seem inescapable is a theme within my life. When I bleach my hair, the twenty minutes I have to cope with an itchy scalp feels like a lifetime. I panic when I’m lifted off my feet (which makes suspension scenes fun, at least). When I had a 24-hour stomach bug at my boyfriend’s place, he found me trouserless on his bathroom floor, crying about a level of pain that, if it had seemed transient, I would’ve coped with easily. But it didn’t seem transient, so I cried until I got stoned and calmed down.

Now, I’m planning on moving in with my Daddy, which is a definite upgrade from the tiny, grubby student flats I’m used to. I’m excited to live with them, obviously, but I’m also scared shitless. This may be in part due to that time I was living with a partner who asked me to leave with 4 days’ notice, for an unknown period of time while he had “space”, with very little money and no means of transporting more of my stuff than I could wrangle onto a train. I felt stuck then, trapped outside of the house I’d left all my belongings in, the inescapability of my newfound semi-homelessness crushing me; but honestly, I’d be scared shitless even if I hadn’t had that experience. My cPTSD means that the world feels fundamentally unsafe and totally beyond my control. Cohabiting with a partner (especially when they own the house and you’ll technically be their tenant) is scary for anyone, but it’s especially scary for someone whose biggest fear in the world is situations they can’t readily escape from.

There are a few ways to mitigate this. I have to strike a balance between finding control where I can, and accepting that some things are beyond my control. For example: I cannot control whether my Daddy and I break up, much as I wish I could, but I can control what the terms of our break-up are. They’ve promised to write me up a proper tenancy agreement that guarantees me 28 days’ notice before I have to leave, which means I’ll be in a position to transport all my things and adjust to the change. Essentially, they’ve promised to give me an exit strategy, and it has soothed my anxious mind a lot.

There are other elements of wanting an escape that bleed into my relationships. My BPD prompts me to attempt to break up with my partners with alarming frequency, even when I don’t really want to end the relationship at all, and I imagine that’s in part because I’m trying to gauge how readily I can escape any given romantic connection when my fight-or-flight response kicks in. This is troublesome, but Lucid Morgan forewarned my partners of it early on in our relationships, so they know how to assauge my fear of being stuck without making me feel like they don’t really want to be in a relationship with me anyway. They say things like, “I really want to be with you. If this is you talking, and not your BPD brain, then obviously you can leave whenever you want, but just know that I don’t want to break up at all.” It helps.

One other thing that helps might be dysfunctional, but in times of crisis, it really helps. I’m suicidal a lot, and sometimes the only thing that can dissuade me from killing myself right now is knowing I can always kill myself later. My distress feels pressing and, yes, inescapable, and that prompts thoughts of killing myself to get away from it – but the option of killing myself later washes away some of the wounded-animal, fight-or-flight desperation without involving, you know, doing it right now. Even when I’m less acutely distressed and more chronically miserable, I find it a comfort to know that I could bow out of life any time – and that frees up more space in my mind for actually enjoying life as I live it. Weird, possibly unhealthy, but a useful interim solution until I can work through my need to always have an exit strategy.

All of this is to say: trauma is a bitch, and this is one of the many effects it can have on your brain and how you navigate the world. It’s okay if you’re always looking for an exit, but it’s a feeling that can suck, and all I want you to take away from this post is that you aren’t alone in it.

Why I Don’t Review Sex Toys (Yet)

Image is of a white hand (Morgan's) holding a box with a picture of the blue Fun Factory Stronic self-thrusting dildo on it.

Content note: this post refers briefly to my experience of being sexually groomed and the subsequent dissociation and trauma I experience. If that’s a bit heavy for you, join me next week for some thoughts on eye contact during sex, and take care of yourself in the meantime ♥


You might have noticed that I tackle a fairly broad range of sex- and kink-related topics on this li’l blog of mine, including detailed discussions of the things I’m into and the reasons I’m into them. You might also have noticed that I am a big user of sex toys, since they feature in a lot of my Smut Saturdays pieces and in some of my other essays too. Surely, then, the next logical step would be to write in-depth pieces on my enjoyment (or dislike) of specific sex toys, right?

Well, much like any other question that starts with, “Why do you…” or, “Why don’t you…”, the answer to this one is twofold: it’s the trauma, and the good ol’ autism.

Let’s get the trauma bit out of the way first. I don’t wank much. My first experiences of enjoyable masturbation were in a grooming context, wherein I was being instructed by someone a lot older than me on technique and fantasies. Six years on, I still find my own arousal unsettling when it isn’t “justified” by a partner’s presence and arousal of matching intensity, and trying to get off without anybody’s permission feels dangerous and unfamiliar. Even with awesome porn, if I’m touching myself while I’m alone, I feel unbearably self-conscious and will often dissociate. As you can imagine, this does not make for very good dildo data.

I could, of course, circumvent this by only testing toys in the presence of a partner – which would also yield more data in terms of how a toy can be used by two or more people. However, I’m depressed and anxious, and both of my partners are busy people, so I don’t want to put pressure on the sexual encounters we do manage to have by making them into research projects; nor do I want to put pressure on my partners themselves by bestowing upon them a responsibility to get sexy with me for the sake of my blog when we’d rather be watching Masterchef or snuggling in silence after a busy, hard day.

The only viable solution to this problem, in my eyes, is continued therapy, gentle experimentation, and lots and lots of time to keep recovering. If I ever do manage to produce a review of a toy, y’all should know it’ll be the product of a huge amount of psychological labour, support on my partners’ parts and way more time testing than the average reviewer probably spends.

With that out of the way, here’s my next point: the autism. Being autistic doesn’t automatically preclude a person from reviewing sex toys by any means, and it might even be an advantage to some, since autism can involve, among other things, heightened sensory experiences and a meticulousness that your neurotypical friends will envy during Deadline Week at uni. Unfortunately, my autism also involves a lack of cognitive empathy.

“But Morgan!” you cry, probably gripping your laptop or tablet screen in dismay. “You’re super empathetic! What are you talking about?!”

You’d be right, my dear fictional and overreacting reader. I have buckets of affective empathy, which is the one that makes you cry at videos of raccoons dissolving their own candy floss or bitterly despise your friends’ trash exes – in slightly more technical terms, affective empathy is the type of empathy that causes you to experience the same emotions that people around you are experiencing, and it’s the type I have way too much of.

Cognitive empathy, though, is the kind of empathy that helps you to understand how other people are feeling in the first instance – and I fucking suck at it. Once someone has very clearly signalled their emotions to me, I’m balls-deep in those emotions with them, but they have to be very, very clear signals. As a default, I assume that everybody is fundamentally like me, so I’m surprised to learn that people are straight, or that they like pasta, because I’m a pasta-hating double queer. In terms of sex toy stuff, I’m surprised to learn that some people like very direct clitoral stimulation or that they might dislike intense A-spot stim – and I tend to forget that information even once I’ve learned it. I worry that my lack of cognitive empathy would make my reviews effectively useless to anyone whose preferences didn’t align exactly with my own.

I also worry that my heightened sensory experiences would skew my reviews in a distinctly unhelpful way. Not only do I enjoy things more intensely than some neurotypical folk might, I also find some things unbearable that barely register for allistic folk. I am intensely bothered by certain textures, so I might slate a toy or a lube for a texture that 99% of the population would enjoy (or be neutral on). I’m also sensitive to noise, so my perception of the noise levels produced by a particular vibe might be wildly inaccurate and totally useless to somebody living in a block of flats with very thin walls.

I know that a lot of these problems could be mitigated by understanding and making clear to my readership that my reactions to stimuli aren’t representative and that I’m just describing my own experiences, but I’d hate to lead someone astray with my autistic fussiness and turn them away from a toy that they otherwise might have loved. I suppose, in a sense, this isn’t so much a problem with my autism as it is a problem with my own confidence in my writing; hopefully, over time, I’ll develop enough nuance to accurately and honestly review toys in a way that’s helpful for autistic and allistic folks alike.

Oh, and one final point: I’m broke as shit. Sex toys can be expensive, especially if you limit yourself to only reviewing body-safe ones, and I’m living off my student loan and the Amazon gift cards my uni sometimes gives me for participating in surveys. If any manufacturers or brands want to help mitigate that factor, since it’s the easiest one to contend with, you can reach me at kinkyautistic@gmail.com – which is also one of the many places you can reach me if you’re a reader and you want to share your thoughts on the art of reviewing toys.

My Cervical Erosion Adventure, Part 2: Vag Mechanic Boogaloo

Stock image of a labcoat, worn by a person whose head is not in frame, with the pocket lined with pens and a stethoscope slung around the person's neck. The background is out of focus and beige.

Content note: this post mentions blood, describes a minor medical procedure and discusses non-consent in a medical setting. If any of those are difficult for you, feel free to give this one a miss, and join me next week for a new Smut Saturdays post instead!

Also, please forgive me for the title; I couldn’t help myself. As you can see, this post is a continuation of one from last week, available right here, but hopefully it’ll make sense as a standalone piece too. (Except for, y’know, the title.)


After I explained to my doctor that I had recently learned that my post coital bleeding wasn’t “normal”, and my doctor explained to me that bits that were meant to be inside the neck of my cervix were, in fact, on the outside, I was referred to a treatment centre to have it looked at.

I am not a shy person, as evidenced by my Twitter full of nudes and the existence of this very blog. I am not averse to jumping onto a clinic bed and having a stranger examine my bits (though, like most vagina-owners, I am a tiny bit averse to the ol’ speculum. That thing is a bastard). Being autistic and anxious, I hate appointments in general (travelling to new locations? Introducing myself to new people? Wearing outdoors clothes?!), but I wasn’t any more upset about seeing the Vag Mechanic than I would be about going to the optician. I showed up to the treatment centre early and was beckoned into my appointment after about ten minutes of apprehensive knitting.

The nice Vag Mechanic lady sat me down and asked me a number of very predictable questions about my recent sexual partners, my periods and my oral contraception. Then she asked, “And do you experience any tearing upon penetration?”

I explained, somewhat sheepishly, that I did a bit, sometimes, but only when things were rushed. She had some stern words to say about foreplay and lubrication, but we agreed that since the bleeding I’d been experiencing didn’t always correlate with the hurried sex and tearing sensation, it was likely cervical ectopy, as my doctor had suggested. I was taken into the next room, shown a curtained-off corner where I could have some privacy, and instructed to strip from the waist down in my own time, whilst the Vag Mechanic went and got a nurse to observe.

Once I was on my back with my legs in stirrups and a nurse standing on the right-hand side of the bed, the Vag Mechanic started unpackaging a speculum whilst the nurse chatted with me, presumably with the intention of keeping me calm and somewhat distracted from the impending plastic jaws that were about to wrench me open. (If you have a vag and you haven’t experienced a speculum before, please be aware that I’m largely being dramatic, and am hypersensitive to a number of sensations because I’m autistic; speculums (or speculae?) are, at worst, distinctly uncomfortable for a few moments as they’re being inserted and a few moments as they’re being removed. Do not be deterred from attending important gynaecology appointments because I’m a gigantic baby.)

The bastard thing went in, and the Vag Mechanic pulled a light on an arm down between my knees so that she could have a proper look, which wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise, however, was the screen to my right, directly next to the nurse at my bedside, which displayed footage of what looked like…

“Is that my cervix?” I asked excitedly, pointing at it like you might point at a very cool zoo animal. The nurse informed me that it was. “And that’s live?” Yep, it was a closed circuit live feed of my very own cervix. Being the sex nerd that I am, I was ecstatic.

The Vag Mechanic slid a cotton swab into the opening of the speculum (and, by extension, the opening of the me) and used it to point out to me on the screen where some of the tissue was red and raw-looking. She prodded it gently and blood oozed out, confirming that it was indeed cervical ectopy.

I expected to have the speculum withdrawn, to be able to sit up, and to have a discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of cauterizing the tissue (the most likely treatment option, according to a quick Google search and literally zero medical professionals that I’d spoken to thus far).

I did not expect her to unsheath a glorified toothpick and begin explaining, as it drew nearer to my bits, that this was silver nitrate, and she was “just” going to “quickly” cauterize it. I hadn’t even had a chance to Tweet about the confirmation that it was what I’d suspected. I lay there, frozen, unable to object or ask questions. All my thoughts were replaced by terror.

And then, to make it worse, the nurse very deliberately moved in front of the screen.

Desperate to regain some control of the situation, I asked, “Have you moved in front of the screen because sometimes it smokes and that freaks people out?”

“Exactly that,” she said. When I tried to crane my neck past her, less spooked by my smoking cervix than by unknown things happening to my genitals in real time, she fucking leaned so that I still couldn’t see it. Before too long it was over, and the nurse and the Vag Mechanic were completely unaware that they’d put me into fight or flight mode.

The moments after that are hazy in my memory, presumably because I was having a minor trauma response. They gave me a piece of paper about looking after my newly-scarred cervix and I made some joke about the line that forbade me from horseback riding. I had to put a pad in my underwear (no internal menstrual hygiene products, so no beloved menstrual cup) to catch the blood that my disgruntled vagina was ejecting along with bits of silver nitrate-y crud. Nobody had told me about that beforehand, either, and some warning would have been nice: apart from the fact that I very rarely have pads in my bag nowadays, I find them intensely distressing on an autistic level on account of the rustling, the stickiness and the scent, so I would have benefited from mentally preparing myself for the bastard things.

And that’s the point, really: I would have benefited from mentally preparing myself for all of it. Mostly, you know, for the cautery.

I don’t want to be ungrateful for what was a minor but important medical intervention that I received completely for free, thanks to the amazing (if strained) NHS. And I totally understand the logic behind “getting it over and done with”, and I understand the nurse’s insistence on shielding me from watching the process happen. Most patients would want to think about their raw cervical tissue being chemically burned as little as humanly possible, I’m sure, and taking the speculum out just to give them an opportunity to worry about it would be cruel. But I’m not most patients: I’m autistic, for one, and benefit from a clear outline of “the plan” from the outset in order to feel safe and in control. Maybe more importantly than that, though, I’m a survivor of sexual trauma, and so I want to know and understand what people are doing to my genitals at all times.

Maybe it was a miscommunication – maybe the Vag Mechanic assumed that my doctor had laid it out more clearly to me, or maybe the nurse thought that the “Generalised anxiety” bit on my notes meant that I’d pass out at the sight of the cautery taking place… or maybe they just made some assumptions based on their previous patients or what they themselves might have wanted… but regardless of why they didn’t check what I wanted, they didn’t check what I wanted. They didn’t explain. They didn’t make my options clear to me. They probably had the very best of intentions, but they took away my agency at a vulnerable moment and that made me feel unsafe.

I don’t think any medical setting, but especially a sexual or reproductive health-oriented one, should ever make a person feel unsafe. Ever.

There is a happy ending to this story in that my recovery was fine, I no longer have the post coital bleeding and I only dread my next Vag Mechanic appointment a bit, but that doesn’t take away from the feelings of fear and helplessness and discomfort and the rest of it that I carried home with me as well as my leaflet. If you found this article because you think you might have cervical ectopy, I want to make it clear that you absolutely do not need to feel this way, and you have every right to tell the Vag Mechanic before you get into the stirrups whether you want the procedure explained to you before, during or after, as well as any other worries or needs you might have. If you found this piece because you’re a healthcare professional who deals with genitals, I urge you to check in with your patients about how much they’d like to be aware of and involved in procedures that you’re going to do – even minor ones like mine.

And if you found this article because you’re a regular reader of mine, I’m always grateful for your support and I’ll see y’all next week with some unapologetic smut.