My Symptoms Are Gross and That’s Fine

White, curvy Morgan human shows off their gross broken skin

Bodies are incredible. They withstand all sorts of bullshit (some more than others), run in complicated and ingenious ways, and carry our consciousness from one place to another. In a lot of ways, even when I dislike how my body looks, I can sincerely appreciate all the things it does for me.

Or at least, most of the things. I naturally experience a lot of frustration with my brain, which seems to sit in my skull for the sole purpose of tormenting me. I therefore medicate my brain, and those meds have side-effects. Sometimes these side-effects are physically uncomfortable, like when I tried an antipsychotic which gave me severely restless legs. Sometimes, though, (like when I tried a different antipsychotic), these side-effects can be upsetting because they’re gross (like when I lactated all over my clothes).

There’s nothing inherently gross about lactation, obviously. It’s how most mammals have survived this long, and it can be a beautiful, meaningful way for a parent to interact with their child. However, if you are for example an insane twenty-something-year-old with a lot of baggage about kids and pregnancy, lactating is of little use, and instead is just a secretion that you have to work out how to manage, particularly because it’s a secretion which can begin to smell unappealing quite quickly (and of course, with my luck, this happened at the height of summer). Grossness is a very relative concept, but I have yet to find a human who thinks spoiled breast milk isn’t gross.

A “gross” symptom or side-effect might be gross to you, or the problem may be that other people will perceive it as gross. If it’s gross to you, like my lactating onto my clothes was to me, you live in discomfort, anxious that the gross thing will reoccur or worsen. It somewhat helps, in these situations, to hear from other people who have also dealt with this. I think the concept of grossness – or, maybe more accurately, the stigma and shame piled high around typical bodily functions – thrives on going mostly undiscussed, which is why I’m here to tell you about my leaky boobs.

I’m not stopping there, though. That’s an extremely straightforward physiological event – eat meds, lactation activates. Another, more complicated thing I suffer with is: my meds cause me hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. I’m embarrassed when I noticeably sweat onto any surface, and generally tend to feel like a dick for being a walking, dripping biohazard, even though realistically my sweat shouldn’t harbour any weird pathogens. More than that, though, I then have to deal with a symptom other people would consider gross, but which I mostly consider fucking painful: sweat rashes.

White, curvy Morgan human shows off their gross broken skin

This is going to maybe sound gross to y’all, but especially if I sleep or nap, I will wake up with a stinging either where my thigh meets my pubic area or underneath a boob (or both). If I just gently touch these areas, it seems as though my sweat has disintegrated the skin entirely, and said skin forms a sweaty sludge which I have to very gently wash away from the intact skin. These sweat rashes are made worse by my collagen-deficient skin being very prone to breaking (or seemingly just… melting away), which is not my fault, and by the fact that I only manage two showers a week at a maximum, which kinda is my fault. Showers are an incredible challenge for my autism, so I usually slather the cracked skin in Sudocrem and hope for the best.

The location of these sweat rashes is all the more cringe-inducing because I’m a sex blogger and a slut, and the presence of cracked, raw and melting skin makes me fear that interacting with my vulva or tits will be unpleasant. The irony is that I tend to shower more often when I’m more sexually active, so if I could get over myself and my melty skin enough to engage in some sex or kink with my long-term partners, at least, I could end up ameliorating the issue purely by accident. My Logic Brain seems to know that my partners will not be repulsed by my few patches of broken skin, but societal shame about sweating and not washing enough holds me back from feeling sexy, which in turn holds me back from engaging in play.

Another thing isn’t so much my body as it is my brain, but it manifests on my body – picking. Ripping skin from the soles of my feet, plucking and plucking at my mons pubis and chewing the inside of my mouth are only three ways that I seem to be constantly trying to whittle down my body, and they all leave red marks, broken skin, swelling and a general feeling of unsexiness. But, again, discussion of these things helps to take the stigma out of them, especially reasoned discussion with risk awareness in mind. People’s skin sheds naturally as they traverse the world, so to me skin-picking seems like less of biohazard than sneezing in a public space. (Correct me in the comments if I’m wrong – I am not a scientist of any kind.) Biting my mouth literally only affects me, so I think the main “gross”/unappealing factor of that one is that it induces a kind of sympathy pain reaction. (People might also be grossed out by me swallowing my own skin, but we eat the skins of mammals all the time.) Either way, here’s how it looks:

Regardless of why these things are seen as gross, the irony here is that feeling embarrassed, ashamed, guilty and anxious about your skin-picking is only going to prompt more picking, quickly turning into a vicious cycle.

There are other symptoms which I don’t experience, or only experience rarely, that are considered to be gross. I do struggle on the odd occasion with hyperfixating to the point that it affects my continence (specifically, my ability to notice I need to pee and get to the bathroom in time), but I don’t have a lot of experience with digestive symptoms – some people do, though, and are sharing their experiences in a neutral and shame-free way, which is exactly what’s needed to start shedding the shame and stigma attached to one’s body acting outside of one’s control. From there, we can focus more on making life with these symptoms comfortable and dignified.

Eroticon 2019: How Accessible Was It?

Image is of Morgan, a blue-haired nonbinary human with facial piercings, smirking and holding their Eroticon delegate badge up to the camera. The badge reads "Eroticon, Morgan Peschek, @KinkyAutistic, Pronouns: They/them, Delegate".

(To those of you who follow me on Twitter and are bloody sick of hearing me talking about Eroticon, worry not! This is the last blog post I’ll put up that directly relates to it. Next week will be a continuation of last month’s stalkery Smut Saturdays story, and after that I have posts about why there are so many autistic people doing kink, how I feel about receiving cunnilingus and plenty more in the pipeline!)

It’s been just shy of a week since Eroticon 2019 came to an end, and I have to say: I loved it.

For those not in the know, Eroticon is an annual conference held in London all about sex, sex writing, sex blogging and sexy, sexy search engine optimisation. This was my first year attending (and was, in fact, my first experience attending any kind of conference) and I was anxious about every element of it, but I particularly wanted to discuss its accessibility since my whole Thing™ is about being simultaneously slutty and disabled.

I’ll start with the good things, and then mention areas for improvement, but I want to stress that Eroticon was an unbelievably positive and welcoming environment and that I could sense the whole time how much thought and care was poured into its planning and into making it as accessible as humanly possible. I already have plans to attend again next year and I’m even toying with the idea of pitching a session, so you can rest assured that even the things that were less than ideal weren’t nearly enough to ruin the fantastic experience I had. I’m also only going to talk about the accessibility of the conference itself, not the Friday night Meet And Greet or the Saturday night social, because those were hosted in a Holiday Inn entirely beyond the control of the organisers and because this post is running at too many words already.

The Good:

  1. Whilst trying to assuage my ever-growing anxiety about the fact that I was going to fucking London for a fucking conference, I spent hours studying the Eroticon website and was pleasantly surprised to find both a floor plan and a virtual tour of the building in which it was taking place. This is, as far as I’m concerned, an accessibility feature – being able to visualise a space before I have to navigate it in the flesh realm is anxiety-reducing and makes it marginally less likely that I’ll get lost. (I did get lost, but that wasn’t for a lack of signage in the building – I just get overwhelmed easily and forget how to read sometimes.)
  2. The aforementioned building, Arlington House, features a step-free entrance and both lifts and stair lifts to make all the rooms stairlessly accessible. I was thankfully having a good weekend in terms of my joint pain and stability, but knowing that I could have foregone the stairs if I’d needed to was a huge comfort.
  3. This only tenuously fits under the heading of “accessibility”, but the toilets were all gender-neutral, including the larger, wheelchair-accessible one. I suppose this is only an accessibility feature if you, like me, have debilitating anxiety that is worsened by dysphoria, but then again, all accessibility features are designed to accommodate specific needs that not every disabled person will have.
  4. The lunch options available were, as far as I could gather, brilliant for anybody with particular dietary needs – food that had to be allergen-free was stored separately from food that didn’t, and there was the opportunity to request vegetarian and vegan options and other such specialist things. Unfortunately, there was no “I am a fussy bitch baby” option, so the only things I could face eating were the fruit and the cake, but I can’t fault anybody for that – I have such particular, limited tastes in food that I wasn’t expecting to find much I’d like. I can heartily recommend the red velvet cupcakes, though.
  5. There was a room labelled the “Silent Sanctuary” where people who were overwhelmed, needed to rest, etc. could go to lie or sit down, and it even featured the thoughtful touch of colouring books. As I’ll go into below, it wasn’t perfect, but it was an enormous relief to slip into when I was finding myself somewhat burnt out and in need of some quiet crocheting time.

The Bad:

  1. Like most of the things I’m about to list, this was beyond the control of the Eroticon organisers, but it’s still worth mentioning for future attendees: the Silent Sanctuary was not silent. All of its occupants, when I visited, were exceptionally quiet and respectful, but its doors opened right onto the vendor area, so even when they were shut, a continual murmur of noise leaked through – and whenever anybody opened them, it was like being right back in that busy corridor. I appreciate that it was probably a priority to keep the Silent Sanctuary close to the busy vendor area precisely so that overwhelmed people like me could access it easily, and I’m not sure how anybody could have soundproofed it, but it’s worth bearing in mind so if you’re the noise-sensitive type you can consider bringing earplugs or ear defenders.
  2. The vendor area itself was the only place I ever visited where seating wasn’t readily available. I don’t know how they might have crammed seating in there for attendees, as it was situated in a corridor that saw heavy footfall most of the time, but my knees, hips and ankles were not best pleased about the fact that I had to stand for the entire duration of my (genuinely fascinating) discussions with various vendors. I can only suggest knowing your limits and maybe popping an ibuprofen before visiting the vendor area; the breakout space and all the talks had chairs available, so you could always duck out and plant yourself on one of those, but if you wanted to hang out with vendors and learn about exciting new products, it was standing room only.
  3. Again, I can’t blame the Eroticon organisers for this, but there were a lot of scents making appearances over the weekend. I’m not sure whether it was the rooms themselves that were scented with some kind of air freshener or whether attendees were wearing scents, but as a hypersensitive autistic baby, I found myself suffering bouts of nausea as well as more frequent overwhelm as a result of scents seemingly coming from all directions. I’m hesitant to suggest a no-scent or low-scent policy for next year because I don’t want to be entitled and demanding, but some people have migraines and other physiological conditions that are triggered by scents and others, like me, find them overwhelming even in small doses.
  4. I fully understand that hosting Eroticon in Camden makes it accessible to a lot of people who are arriving by public transit, and I also understand that finding an accessible venue that will host sex-related events is an unimaginable ballache. However, Camden is on the cusp of being financially inaccessible: even if you receive one of the tickets funded by sponsors, finding affordable accommodation and food in Camden is a whole task in and of itself, and if you choose to stay in an area of London outside of Camden you have to account for the price of public transport to get over to Arlington House. Again, I have no suggestions for where to host Eroticon instead, especially since Arlington House are an excellent organisation doing excellent work, but I have to mention financial accessibility, especially since us disableds are some of the people most likely to experience financial difficulties.

The Overview:

I had a brilliant time at Eroticon. I really, really did, and I cannot imagine a better first-conference experience than the one I had. The minor criticisms I have are all things that don’t fall directly at the feet of the Eroticon team and are near-impossible to remedy, but they’re things I wish I’d been aware of before I attended so I could make sure I had ibuprofen and earplugs – which is why I’ve mentioned them here! I’d love to meet even more members of this loving, supportive, truly incredible community, so I figured I could do my bit by equipping potential 2020 attendees with some knowledge that’ll make their Eroticon experience even better.

Help Wanted: How Does Service Space Feel For Me?

Image is a green Philips brand iron lying on top of a white item of clothing.

This post is part of a miniseries exploring the nuances of different headspaces I access through kink! You can find all the other posts in this series by clicking here, and I hope this one serves you well. (Get it? …I’m sorry.)

I grew up assigned female, disabled and queer in a misogynistic, ableist and queerphobic society. I also attended a fee-paying high school solely because of some inherited money that was tucked away in a trust fund, which did not automatically equate to living in a wealthy (or even, uh, financially comfortable) household. Society and my peers made it clear to me from day zero that there were aspects of my life and my identity – of the very foundation of my being – that were undesirable, unworthy or wholly unacceptable.

This did not make for a very sturdy foundation upon which to build self-esteem, as I’m sure you can imagine.

One of the most harmful concepts that our capitalist society presses upon us is that our value as human beings is directly and inextricably linked to our “productivity”. I’ve read a lot of leftist theory and done a whole lot more psychotherapy, but I don’t think it makes me a bad anti-capitalist punk to admit that it’s going to take me a very long time to truly unlearn this particular faulty concept. It’s everywhere.

I’ve already talked a fair bit about the relationship between my disability and my service, but I haven’t actually unpacked what service space feels like for me, or why I enjoy it. It starts with all of the above: in a society that values “productivity”, whatever that means, and with disability already holding me back from being productive in any sort of traditionally capitalist manner, I was desperate to be worthy.

This manifested in my vanilla life first. Some of the things I was doing were all well and good, like donating blood regularly and knitting for charity… but others, not so much. I continued emotionally draining, outright harmful friendships wherein I acted as an unqualified therapist and/or crisis worker because I was desperate to make a difference. I took on responsibilities I couldn’t or could barely carry out because of my disabilities, like staffing a bake sale (which my joints, anxiety and autism all prevented me from doing) and helping my mum redecorate her house from bottom to top. As a pattern of behaviour, it was unsustainable.

Enter service submission. I stumbled across the term during one of my many blog binges and realised I was already kinda-sorta enacting it in the relationship I was in at the time – when I visited my then-boyfriend, it made me feel a great deal less anxious and burdensome to tidy up a little, do some dishes or massage his back. I slowly came to notice that I was deriving a sense of satisfaction from these acts of service that was similar to that which I experienced when doing helpful things in vanilla life – but it felt more profound.

When I’m in service space, I often hyperfocus. In other settings, hyperfocus is a double-edged sword, because I can end up overexerting myself, or forgetting to attend to other things. Under the watchful eye of a dominant partner, though, I can hyperfocus for the length of time it takes to complete a specific task, and then be gently pulled back into reality. It borders on hypnotic. I can immerse myself in the minute details of a task with the safety net of being ordered to stop if it seems like I’m at risk of exhausting or hurting myself.

Within a 24/7 dynamic, my Daddy and I have been able to account for my tendency to hyperfocus even when he isn’t supervising. Sometimes, this involves him being very specific about the level of energy he wants me to put into a task – he might explain that he wants the kitchen “quickly cleaned”, which means that I load the dishwasher and wipe down the countertops – but only the countertops, not the microwave or the toaster or the cupboard doors, etc. Sometimes it also involves him reminding me to check in with myself about whether my joints are hurting and how many spoons I have left, and he specifically tells me that stopping when my mind and/or body want me to stop is included in the service task.

I feel useful when I serve, in the exact ways I was seeking to feel useful in vanilla life. Service space also feels a lot more psychologically safe because it’s so predictable and the parameters are so clear: I am given a task. My job is then to complete this task to the best of my ability, and/or to communicate with my Daddy about any difficulties I’m having with its completion. My Daddy commends me for my execution of the task and/or my insight and communication, and I glow with pride at having done a good job. My experience of service space is almost entirely psychological – the sensory components (like wiping things til they shine, or the smell of citrus dish soap) are a bonus, but entirely incidental to the headspace itself. With a partner giving me specific, achievable goals, I feel like the embodiment of that capitalist myth: a cog in a well-oiled machine. And because my service submission is entirely removed from capitalism, I feel like I’m at liberty to set boundaries and I can even run the risk of “failing” without worrying about the loss of my livelihood. I feel intensely, deliriously safe in service space.

I also feel genuinely pleased with myself for my tangible impact on my dominant’s life. Formalising acts like a back massage or loading the dishwasher by doing them within subspace can help to keep their significance in the forefront of both our minds, meaning that my partner rarely overlooks my labour and so I rarely feel taken for granted. My tangible impact on him and his praise in response to it starts to fill in the cracks in that foundation I mentioned earlier. It’s not a substitute or a replacement for self-worth, but it gives me somewhere safe and reliable to start rebuilding my self-worth all on my own.