Animal Crossing and My Mental Health

A poorly-taken photo of my new limited edition Animal Crossing Nintendo Switch!

Content note: this post is about my mental health (or lack thereof), and mentions suicidal ideation, depression, the coronavirus and the fact that the entire world is a fucking mess. (It also mentions the upsetting experience of being stung by wasps in Animal Crossing.) If any of that is going to be challenging for you, go ahead and give this post a miss – your wellbeing always comes first 💙


My mum used to say to me, seemingly all the time, that “lovability and efficacy are the cornerstones of self-esteem”. 

I would always roll my eyes at that, in part because she was saying it in an attempt to nudge me towards doing my part in our three-person household. I absolutely did not believe that doing a bit of washing up or moving my dirty laundry from the bathroom to the washing machine would do anything for my self-esteem, and I told her as much. 

Except, actually, the time has come for me to admit that she was – and is – right.

I have been in the depths of mental illness lately. If “deep self-hatred and misery” is equivalent to treading water, I have been so much further out to sea and under the waves that I’m amazed the pressure hasn’t crushed my skull yet. I have effectively been on suicide watch for at least a week. The only reason I’ve showered in recent memory is because I had an appointment at the blood donor centre and knew that some kind phlebotomist would be getting all up in my armpits with a pressure cuff. The closest I have come to “efficacy” was when I started my Pusheen crochet project, and even that has been a challenge. You know, regular mentally ill person stuff.

This is where Animal Crossing comes in.

My Daddy and my boyfriend schemed for weeks behind my back and pooled their resources to get me the limited edition Animal Crossing Nintendo Switch, complete with the newest Animal Crossing game. They’ve called it a birthday present, even though it’s currently March and my birthday is in late July, for presumably two reasons: 1. They needed a reason to buy it for me upon its release, and couldn’t have sat on the surprise until July, and 2. I am parodically Leo in every way, boasting a deep need to be the centre of attention and to be spoiled rotten, so my birthday celebrations usually start in late spring and don’t end until the beginning of the academic year. Naturally, this means that two people I love conspiring in secret to surprise me with a very early and very fancy birthday present was already unspeakably lovely. 

They didn’t know when they first started planning this endeavour that I was going to be extremely mentally unwell when my Switch arrived. (Please save all your D/s-themed Switch jokes until the end of this blog post.) They also didn’t know that Animal Crossing would be the thing that dragged me back to “treading water” levels of sanity – and nor did I.

Animal Crossing’s gameplay revolves around completing small, achievable tasks and being rewarded for it. You can’t fail at Animal Crossing – the worst thing that can ever happen is that you get stung by wasps and need to find medicine, or maybe that a villager you love moves out of town. The stakes are low, and the music is soothing.

Getting my little island set up in Animal Crossing felt good in a way that no other activity has felt good for a while. Having fictional raccoons compliment me on my work ethic felt good. Helping a fictional cat choose a spot for her tent felt good. Editing my fictional passport to say, “Be gay, do crimes <3” on it felt good. 

Accomplishing things, however small and however fictional, felt so good that I found it within me to start writing a blog post. Because efficacy really is critical in maintaining one’s mental health. Feeling like you can do things, and do them well, makes a huge difference to your self-perception. Or at least, it did to mine. And feeling in control of things, even tiny things like what you have for dinner, or your fictional Animal Crossing home, is extremely healing and empowering at any time – but it’s especially healing and empowering for me, right now, because there are so many things that are beyond my control. I’m writing this in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, so you can probably imagine all the things that have spiralled out of my – or anyone’s – control recently, but I feel like this post is evergreen: there will always be times when your life seems beyond your own control. But there will also always be things that you can influence, that you can achieve, that you can feel good doing – even if it takes a good long while to find them.

The world is a shitshow at the moment. But the deserted island my Animal Crossing character inhabits is not. It’s breathtakingly pretty and rich in resources. Starlight glitters on the river as I shake trees to find branches. Dicking around on my Nintendo Switch reminded me that there are parts of the world that are beautiful, and they aren’t beyond my reach.


The pandemic and subsequent semi-lockdown that’s going on right now means that I’ve lost a lot of work opportunities (because every other fucker at my agency is snagging jobs before I can). If you also want to give me a birthday present four months early, consider buying me a coffee or commissioning transcripts or captions from me!

Being Alone With Arousal

Note: this post talks about my eating disorder, including mentions of purging through vomiting, and my experiences of being sexually abused, including subsequent dissociation and general difficulty being alone with arousal. If any of those are tough for you, give this one a miss – I’ll be back on Saturday with a post about why you might find more autistic people than you’d expect in your local kink scene!


My fear of wanking came up in eating disorder therapy.

This is not wholly a surprise. Lots of things come up in eating disorder therapy, because eating disorders are deeply rooted, born of decades of cultural conditioning, dysfunctional coping mechanisms and adverse childhood experiences. But the more I’ve reflected on it, the more I’ve come to realise that my fear of wanking and my fear of food are two heads on the same beast.

One common starting point for eating disorder therapy is to consider what we’re actually afraid of. In my first round of it, two years ago, we unpacked a lot of my internalised fatphobia and my fear of taking eating to its extremes, which is an offshoot of my anxiety: it’s pretty common to consider the logical, if unlikely, extremes in any scenario. But I only got six sessions, and we didn’t have time to dive any deeper.

This time, I get a whole eight.

The thing that scares me about food is that I enjoy it. Enjoying things, I have learned, is scary and dangerous and often has real and terrible consequences. Having lived with abusers during a few critical formative periods, I learned and internalised that nothing good is without cost and that the more pleasant the calm is before the storm, the more devastating the storm will be. Best not to let my guard down, enjoy anything too much, or trust my senses to tell me when something is safe or nice.

Then there’s the complicating factor of having learned to wank through being groomed. As well as reinforcing my existing belief that my own sensory pleasures must always come at a cost, it created some really specific associations between the physical act of masturbation and a strong sense of danger. Specifically, fucking myself with an object when nobody is watching feels so wrong that it’s akin to practising a secret handshake on your own,  and fucking myself with fingers is very much the same. If there’s no webcam between my legs, nobody watching my face and nobody talking dirty to me – if there’s no audience to validate my pleasure and benefit from it – it not only feels asymmetrical and disconcerting, but dangerous.

Indulgence has always led to violence in my life.

I am now, of course, free of all the abusers who have made and reinforced that connection, but that doesn’t undo it. It’s wired into my brain like the connection between an object flying at one’s face and one’s inclination to duck. And because I’ve had so much else going on, and so many spectators available to me, I haven’t had time to rewire it.

Being horny alone feels like being in pain. It’s frightening and distracting and I don’t want it. If I do attempt to masturbate, I usually dissociate, failing to orgasm and also failing to feel my own face or entirely remember where I am. If I don’t, I have this constant nagging sensation somewhere in my physiology that feels like an alarm going off, reminding me that indulgence is possible, and therefore, so is danger.

I am fucking sick of it.

I wrote out a plan for a Masturbation Boot Camp (and yes, I titled it exactly that) which instructs me to spend day zero practising mindfulness, day seven touching my body and exploring sensation, and day fourteen actively attempting to come, with every day in between requiring an incremental step towards these goals. I showed it to my tipsy, dyslexic girlfriend, who saw straight through me and said, “And how much of this is procrastination so you don’t actually have to wank?”

It’s a great idea and it’s one I’m going to try, but she’s right. I live in fear of my body and the pleasure I can experience within it, and even the idea of self-massage or watching porn for fun fills me with sickening dread. I suck at most mindfulness activities because, between the chronic pain, the chronic trauma and the violations I’ve been subject to when I have indulged in pleasure, I don’t want to be in my body. I don’t want to ground myself in it. It’s a horrible place to be.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any other vessels to contain my soul (this is a Kingdom Hearts joke), so I’ve got to get used to this one.

I’m getting better at indulging in food, and even at indulging in food without punishing myself. Sometimes I devour cheap kebabs with gusto, and sometimes I go halvsies on a £27 Hotel Chocolat Easter egg with my partner and savour tiny mouthfuls of gourmet chocolate. I’ve managed to bully myself out of the bulimic practice of purging my meals – at first, this was because I was and am on oral hormonal birth control, and consider it a consent violation to jeopardise that without notifying anybody who might jizz in me, but over time, once I’d detached the act of eating from the act of puking, the mere hassle of purging became enough to deter me from it. Eating can still be a challenge, but it’s a rewarding one.

I’ll get back to y’all about my success with Masturbation Boot Camp. I’m hoping it’ll be a challenge, but a rewarding one, and I’ll learn to indulge in self-pleasure like I’m about to indulge in a sliver of salted caramel chocolate.

All Tied Up: How Does Ropespace Feel For Me?

Last Sunday, I was on the way home from a seven-hour shibari workshop with my Daddy (as in my nurturing, dominant romantic and sexual partner). I sat in the passenger seat of my Daddy’s car, my black ‘Masochist’ T-shirt covered in rope fibres, and attempted to compose a message to my mum (as in my actual biological parent) about how my day had been. I have a spectacularly open and chill relationship with my mum, so I finally gave up on forcing my brain to communicate with my thumbs and just told her I was in subspace and my brain was “pleasantly mushy”. The next day, when I was somewhat more coherent, she asked me what I actually meant by subspace.

The answer, of course, is that it depends.

This conversation with my mum, in combination with Kate Sloan’s latest piece on little space, prompted me to contemplate the differences between the different kink headspaces I experience, and how I might describe them. This post will hopefully be the first in a series of many exploring the different subcategories of subspace.

To begin with, I want to talk about “ropespace”. It’s a subspace like many others, but it specifically occurs when I’m being tied up in some capacity, and usually involves literal ropes, as opposed to other restraints (like handcuffs). The rope itself plays a part: I’ve grown to associate the appearance of rope, its texture and its warm earthy scent with being bound in some capacity, so just seeing, handling or sniffing the stuff can gently nudge me towards ropespace if I’m not there already.

The other sensory aspect of rope bondage that really contributes to the headspace it puts me in is the sensation of being wrapped up tight, squeezed or otherwise securely held by ropes, both whilst I’m being tied and for any period of time that I stay tied up. I often say that it “gives me good autism”, which is a very particular kind of sensory stimulation or comfort that satisfies me very, very deeply. (Other things that give me “good autism” include glitter, citrus-y scents, arranging things by colour or size, and those cookie decorating videos that are everywhere at the moment.) I am almost instantly blissed out by the feeling of being hugged by ropes, whether that hug is around my waist, chest, wrists or even feet, and the experience of being tied into those hugs by someone I’m into is so joyful it makes me giddy.

A big part of the reason that I’m so sensation-oriented when I’m in ropespace, and thus so focused on the scent and pressure of the rope, is that I feel a lot more mindful and embodied than I do usually. I have a bunch of trauma stuff I’m still in the midst of addressing, meaning that I dissociate on a pretty regular basis, and in my day-to-day life, I can still more or less function even when my brain has completely checked out. But, because of the risks involved in rope (like circulation loss, nerve damage and joint problems), dissociating just isn’t an option. My primary job as a rope bottom is to be attentive to my body’s responses so that I can communicate with my top and be tied safely (which also means that any hint of dissociation warrants a safeword and possibly the end of a scene). Rope scenes are some of the few times that I intentionally and continuously tune in to every single part of my body and the ways that they’re all feeling. This can be exhausting, of course, but it can also be calming and enjoyable and deeply, deeply healing.

Another major psychological component of ropespace is the sense of malleability it gives me – or, more specifically, the sense of malleability that being manhandled by my Daddy gives me. Combined with the security of being tied in the first place, the experience of being grabbed, moved around, turned and twisted as my top needs can sometimes put me into little space; other times, it simply puts me into a deeper subspace wherein I feel lovingly objectified – a useful and prized canvas upon which my top can create art with rope. The couple of times I’ve been suspended have amplified this enormously: being carefully dangled from the ceiling makes me feel small and willingly helpless, especially when coupled with the intense fear of falling and the pride my Daddy expressed when I overcame it.

There’s also an exhibitionist edge to some of the rope stuff I do, since my Daddy and I are currently obsessed with attending workshops to learn and practice new skills. This necessarily means getting tied in front of people, which adds again to the sense of loving objectification – my Daddy loves to tie me tightly, roughly or otherwise meanly, to get me to squeak and whimper, so all eyes are on me and I feel distinctly ‘shown off’. Not all of the rope that I do is in public, but I still feel like I’m ‘showing off’ when it’s just me and a top – like I’m showcasing how still I can be, or how obedient, or how resilient.

Ropespace is still somewhat new to me, but it feels different from masochist-space, service subspace, pup space and little space already. All of the aforementioned fall under the general umbrella of ‘subspace’, of course, but I hope I’ve managed to articulate exactly how ropespace feels for me, at this point in my kinky development, and I’m planning to explore other kink mindsets soon – so watch this space!