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.

Kinks I Don’t Have

Stock photo of a fluffy black-and-white feather against a blue background, a reference to tickling, one of the kinks I don't have, and also a nice complement to my blue-and-purple blog colour scheme.

Sometimes, my vanilla friends like to tease me about how kinky I am. I don’t mind it; I love feeling seen by them, and there’s never an edge of malice or shaming to it. But sometimes, I’ll express that something is a kink of mine, and they’ll respond, “What isn’t?”

Today, I am going to answer that question.

Specifically, I want to think about the reasons for me not finding a kink appealing. I can usually identify what’s hot about kinks I do have – pet play is primal and unrestrained; CG/l fulfills my need for approval and nurturing, whilst also feeling super taboo – but I think it’ll be just as telling to investigate what turns me off about kinks I personally don’t have. (Naturally, I’m going to try and be as neutral as possible and to avoid shaming people who do have these kinks, because most, if not all, kinks are harmless when played with ethically.)

1. Coprophilia, AKA scat, AKA poop

This one is firmly on my list of hard limits, rather than just a kink I’m not actively interested in. Partly, this is because of the health risks it poses, which sit firmly outside of my risk profile – but also, it just squicks me on an instinctive level that I can’t override. Once, when a friend confided in me that they had an interest in scat play and felt conflicted about it, I searched Tumblr for scat-related porn (back in the days when you could find porn on Tumblr). I grew to understand it in theory – the intense sensory experiences of smell and texture, the potential for erotic humiliation, the taboo of it – but I just couldn’t get past my own knee-jerk response, which was, I’ll admit, disgust. That doesn’t mean that I think the kink is disgusting, of course; most people poop, and I eroticise piss, which seems to be only one step away from scat. It’s just that my Caveman Brain is producing a disgust response, presumably because it has identified scat play as unsafe in some way, and I’m incapable of shutting that off.

2. Food play

Some of y’all might know that I’m recovering from an eating disorder. You might also know that recovering from mental illnesses does not stop me from enjoying related kinks, as is evident in the relationship between my blood kink and my occasional self-harm, so it’s probably not my eating disorder that prevents me from finding play with food sexy. Instead, I think it’s the sensory component. I’m autistic, and some sensory experiences are fucking awesome for me – like touching fluffy things, or sniffing a lemon-scented body wash – and some are hellish. Anything that could be described as “sticky” falls into the latter category, as do many forms of “wet”. I hate showering because I hate the sensation of being wet. I hate going out in the rain for the same reason, but I also hate to use an umbrella, because the fact that my legs are wet but my top half is not is even more distressing. The idea of being covered in food makes my autistic skin crawl a little bit, and even covering somebody else in foodstuffs would make me cringe.

3. Leather and latex

I’ve lumped these things into one because my lack of interest in them both comes from the same place. Firstly, there’s the autism component: squeaky, creaky noises go straight through me, and I know there’s a lot of potential for those noises to arise in latex and leather. Secondly, leather and latex garments require a lot of care to maintain. I can barely keep myself and my dildos clean, and I just don’t think I have it in me to polish latex or leather as frequently as is needed. I also imagine that trying to keep such expensive garments clean and intact would make me so anxious that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy wearing them, particularly since latex has a reputation for tearing. I can admire other people’s latex and leather outfits from afar, of course, because people always look hot as hell in them, but I don’t think I could ever become a latex or leather wearer.

4. Tickling

So I have this really odd thing where if you get close enough to me and wiggle your fingers as if you’re going to tickle me, I start laughing before you even make contact. But it’s not an excited laugh – it’s just some anticipatory reflex thing, because frankly, tickling annoys me. I’ll tickle other people if they’re really enthusiastic about it, but the sensation of tickling just isn’t an enjoyable one for me. Light tickling, like the kind you can achieve with feathers, gives me Bad Autism and makes my skin itch relentlessly. Harder tickling with fingers is a little painful and a little irksome. This doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t want to be made to laugh in kinkier contexts; my Daddy can often make me shriek with enjoyable giggles by grabbing my shoulders, shouting, “Earthquake!” and shaking me roughly. I like laughing during scenes, especially when a top is using my laughter as another way to control my body, but tickling is just never going to be a way to get me there. It’s not fun laughter so much as involuntary laughter, and I like to save my involuntary responses in scenes for things like gagging and squirming.


What I’m gathering from this is that a lot of the things that stand between myself and some common kinks are rooted in autistic sensory aversions – and that’s okay! Nobody ever has to justify, to themselves or other people, why they don’t have any particular kinks, but I felt like it would be as interesting an introspective exercise as considering why I do have particular kinks. Are there any common kinks that you just don’t gel with, and do you ever think about why? I always love to hear y’all’s thoughts in the comments!

 

 

Love Letters From Lucid Morgan: Paranoia and Delusions

Stock image of two fluffy dogs lying in bed together, apparently sleeping, because they're calming to me and hopefully to others who struggle with paranoia and delusions, too

Note: This was originally a therapeutic exercise suggested to me by my counsellor after I mentioned that sometimes “Sober Morgan” leaves notes for “Inebriated Morgan”, reminding them of the things they need to do before bed and the like. She put forth that “Lucid Morgan” could write to “Paranoid Morgan” or “Depressed Morgan”, reminding myself of coping strategies and facts of reality as well as providing myself with a much-needed dose of compassion. I figured these letters could also be useful to people who suffer symptoms similar to mine, so I’m posting them here. Also, this letter will refer to the paranoia and delusions I sometimes suffer, as well as self-harm. If that’s hard for you, give this one a miss – this is supposed to be a helpful tool, not another trigger!


Dear Paranoid Morgan,

Hi, it’s me. Well, it’s you. It’s us. I’m writing to you now, while I feel relatively sturdy and in touch with reality, to talk to you during what I know to be a deeply scary moment for us. I want you to know that everything I’m about to say, I truly believe in this moment, and that I’ve felt exactly the way you’re feeling before – but I’m stable enough now to realise that it will pass. It always passes.

I imagine you’ll remember what we’re meant to do in these situations, when you’re struggling with paranoia and/or delusions, but a refresher can’t hurt. Take deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, for a count of at least four seconds apiece. Try to ground yourself in reality with the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 approach (that’s five things you can see, four you can hear, three you can touch, two you can smell and one you can taste), or recite your address, your address from childhood, your mum’s phone number and/or the names of all the Organization XIII members from Kingdom Hearts. You know the drill.

Now, I’m gonna make a gentle suggestion: take your damn sedatives. They are not poison. We know this because we have taken them numerous times and suffered no ill effects. The sleepiness you feel isn’t them poisoning you, it’s them working to soothe your sympathetic nervous system, so that the panic you’re currently feeling wears off. And no, the panic isn’t a good thing. It isn’t keeping you safe, because the thing you’re panicking about isn’t a real danger. And I know you know that, because you identified you were experiencing paranoia or delusions or what-have-you with at least enough clarity to pick up this letter, but I also know that knowing and believing are two separate things.

Here are some more reminders:

  • This feels like shit, and that’s very real. You don’t deserve to feel like shit. This feeling might take hours or even days to wear off, but it does end eventually.
  • I repeat, it does end eventually. We’ve been here hundreds of times and survived it, and it goes away. Even if you wholly believe that the paranoid thing you think right now is the permanent, immutable truth of the universe and you will never change your mind, remember that the panic goes away. Sometimes it does that without us doing anything. Sometimes, you need to take your sedatives and perform some sensory-seeking behaviours until you feel more grounded. But the panic goes away, as do the paranoia and delusions.
  • Bad things that have happened to you were not your fault, and they weren’t caused by that weird evil you think lives under your skin. We know that when bad things happen to other people, it’s not as a result of nameless evil residing in their bodies, and we can’t talk the talk about victim-blaming but then do it to ourselves. The bad things that happen to the people around you aren’t your fault either. I promise.
  • I know I can’t convince you that life isn’t some elaborate simulation or illusion if that’s where you’re at, but remember: other people worry about this too, and they talk about it. If it were a simulation, it’d be stupid of its designers to alert you to that possibility by having other people consider it out loud. And, like we said in AS Philosophy (much to the chagrin of our long-suffering teacher), why does it matter if it’s a simulation? If it’s so detailed and consistent and believable that it seems like real life, then, for all intents and purposes, it is real life. Plus, if it’s a simulation, there’s nothing we can do about that anyway – you might as well eat some simulated Ben & Jerry’s and relax about it.
  • You won’t die in your sleep. We have slept thousands of times in the past 21 years and lived. There is no medical reason to suspect you could die in your sleep and people don’t die in their sleep very often at all. That means that none of your partners will die in their sleep either, and nor will your mum, the dog, your friends or anybody else you’re connected to.
  • You’ve got this. You have. The panic will pass but you don’t need to hurry it along necessarily. You know what steps you can take to help it ease off in its own time, and you know that it’s your body’s outdated way of trying to keep you safe, and you know that we’ve felt like this before, recovered and felt great the next day. You will be calm again. You will be happy again.
  • You are one of the most resilient and tenacious people in the world. We can no longer count on our digits all of the things we’ve survived; nor can we count our triumphs. If today’s triumph is not cutting your face open to extract the supernatural evil that supposedly caused your partner’s recent car accident (or whatever else you think it caused), that’s huge. You should celebrate.
  • I love you. As Lucid Morgan, I can look back on Paranoid Morgan and see a scared, confused human who is trying their absolute best. I can see how hard you’re battling. I am in awe of you and I love you. Give yourself a hug from me.

Thank you for finding it within yourself to read my letter. Thank you for keeping us as safe as you can. Thank you for working so, so hard to examine and recognise the things that you’re feeling and thank you for never, ever giving up.

All my love,

Lucid Morgan 💖