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.

How to Have Sex in a Body You Hate

Me, lying on my back, cupping my boobs a little so they look extra perky. I have a couple of wristbands on as well as a collar, and I'm white, slim-ish and, dare I say it, exceedingly cute.

In an ideal world, I would love my body.

We don’t live in an ideal world, though. Specifically, I live in a body which hurts a lot, and which is the site of both my trauma and my eating disorder. Very few people I know actually love their bodies, and quite a few actively dislike theirs – and I’m no exception. Instead of telling you to love your body (because I’m sure you’ve never considered that before /sarcasm), I thought I could give some tips as to how you can have sex even during those times you hate the body you live in.

1. Try to forgive yourself for not loving your body.

I know this is hard. When I catch myself feeling shitty about my body, my knee-jerk response is to say to myself, “Fucking stop it! You’re supposed to be body-positive! This simply will not do!”

In reality, this kind of thinking isn’t just unhelpful in your journey towards self-love – it directly undermines it. It’ll take a lot of work, but making the switch from the “Fucking stop it!” mentality to a more gentle pattern of thinking (along the lines of, “It’s okay that I feel like this, even if it doesn’t line up with my body-positive ideals. Everybody resents their body sometimes, especially in this awful diet culture we live in, and I’m not a bad person for falling prey to that,”) will cut short the cycle of self-criticism and free up your emotional energy for the task at hand: sex.

2. Spend more time being naked in non-sexual settings.

You’ve probably heard this one, but it bears repeating. Be naked, or half-naked, while you watch TV, while you cook, while you write blog posts – whenever you can manage it. Get used to the way your body really looks, rather than the way that it looks when you’re taking nudes, stretched or contorted or sucked in or freshly voided of pee. Spend more time around mirrors, while you’re at it, and get used to the way your face looks from unexpected angles. It’s going to be hard to feel great about everything you notice at first, so try making neutral statements, out loud or in your head, instead. “My face looks rounder from this angle,” “My tummy folds when I sit down,” and “My knees are kinda wonky,” are all entirely neutral observations to make. Try, if you can, thinking them in a gentle, neutral voice, and you’ll start to understand that your sexual partners view your body in a way that’s separated from value judgements. (Unless they’re judgemental bastards, in which case, tip 2b is, “Only fuck people who aren’t dickheads.”)

3. Wear things that make you feel cute!

I know that I literally just told you to spend more time being naked, but if sexytime is on the horizon and you haven’t magically repaired your relationship with your own nude form yet, I think it’s an okay short-term solution to wear something that boosts your confidence a little. The primary aim of this exercise isn’t necessarily to cover up (although, honestly, your comfort is more important than some externally-imposed ideals regarding body confidence), but to embolden you by making you feel like you’re putting your best foot forwards. Maybe for you, this means nothing but cat ears and a tail, or maybe it means a long, flowing, opaque nightgown. Whatever it is, the key thing is that you love it! Customising your body with clothing or jewelry can help you feel more in control of it and will draw your own attention to the cute things you’ve deliberately added to yourself, rather than the physical traits you perceive as “flaws”.

4. Voice your boundaries and your needs.

Sometimes, I will ask my partners not to touch my tummy. This is usually when I’ve had a fair bit to eat, or have eaten something that my body firmly disagrees with, and I’m a little bit bloated. Whilst I’d love to be able to embrace my body in every one of its states, I’m just not there yet – and that’s okay! (See tip #1.) Working through my trauma has taught me that there’s no point in knowingly setting off triggers when you’re not equipped to handle them – it only reinforces the stress response you experience, which will reinforce your negative feelings about your body. If you’re having a really bold, self-loving day, you could touch, examine, or ask your partner(s) to interact with an area that you’re usually self-conscious about, but you’re also well within your rights to say, “Actually, I feel a little negative/dysphoric/delicate/etc. about [body part] at the moment, so could you avoid touching it?”

Additionally, you can ask your partners to reassure you about your body. Try to steer clear from things like, “Tell me I’m not fat!” because those will reinforce to you the (entirely incorrect) idea that being fat is bad. Instead, say things like, “Can you tell me that you find my body attractive?” or, “I’d like some reassurance that my body looks nice today.” If you don’t have a partner on hand, you could ask a friend for a boost, or even try to give yourself one by listing all the parts of your body that you do like. You might find it reassuring to look at pictures of other people with bodies similar to yours – chances are, you’ll be able to see their beauty, and that might help you absorb the notion that you’re not so unattractive yourself.

Oh, and posting pictures of your body on the internet, especially if you’re not posing in such a way as to maximise your conformity to Westernized standards of beauty in said photos, can help boost your confidence as well. Like these photos of me, which feel even more vulnerable than that one photo of my entire cunt.

Me, a white, curvy, boob-owning person, twisting my body a little bit so that my back rolls are readily visibleMy curvy white butt, with little red lines across it from sitting still too longMe, a white and curvy boob-haver, sitting a little slouched so my tummy is squishy and foldy


 

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How To Eat Me Out

Labelled diagram of the vulva, showing the clitoris, outer and inner labia, urethra, vaginal opening, perineum and anus.

When I first start to see someone on a sexy and/or romantic basis, I usually find a way to drop into the conversation that I don’t like to be eaten out. It’s not a lie, as such; if you were to graph my enjoyment when receiving cunnilingus, you’d find that, statistically speaking, I don’t like to be eaten out, because most people don’t know quite how to eat me out.

But there are outliers in most data sets, and my cunnilingus experiences are no exception. I tell people I don’t like to be eaten out all that much because the amount of effort I expend on explaining my preferences doesn’t usually yield worthwhile results. In other words, some people are bad listeners in bed.

But the people who are good listeners do such a bang-up job, regardless of their experience (or lack thereof), that I feel like I should give them a chance. I wanted to write something about how I do like to be eaten out, so that I have a list of tips to hand when somebody is kind enough to ask, and to illustrate to my fellow vulva-havers that everybody has preferences and it’s okay to be bossy about them. You could use this article as a jumping-off point in considering your own tastes, or as a means to communicate with a partner about things they could try doing differently or aspects of cunnilingus the two (or more) of you haven’t yet considered.

So, step one: do not suck on my clit.

I know some people love this. And I might love it too, except that I haven’t allowed anyone to try it on me since one ill-fated hookup wherein my partner made me feel like I’d trapped my bits in a vacuum cleaner. So now, to avoid spooking me, if you must suck on my clit, do it so delicately I don’t notice – more suction-y kisses, and less trying to slurp jelly from a plate.

(We often tell people, especially those with penises, that the clitoris is biologically homologous (basically, very similar) to the penis. And that’s true, and I understand we’re trying to demystify the clit and remind people that we’re not all that dissimilar, regardless of the arrangement of our bits. But people with penises don’t always seem to take into account that the nerve endings on a clit are super densely packed in there and super duper sensitive, so sucking on it like you’re trying to extract snake venom is painful. You could, at the very least, ask, “Do you like having this sucked on?” in a sexy, breathy voice, or start gentle and see how your partner responds. Please, I implore you, do not suck it like you would a helium balloon for your excellent Alvin And The Chipmunks impressions.)

Step two: actually, calm down about my clit altogether.

Like, sure, acknowledge its presence. Say hello with your tongue. But spend the majority of your time, at least at first, kissing and licking my thighs, labia majora and mons pubis. (You can easily find diagrams of where these bits are by searching for “vulva diagram”.) Toothlessly (very toothlessly!) close your mouth around my clit with the clitoral hood still shielding it. It’s a good idea to ask before you move my clitoral hood, because I might not be ready for intense, direct clitoral stimulation just yet. Sometimes I’ll even put a hand on my own mons pubis and tug upwards, exposing my clitoris a little for you, when I’m feeling eager to have it licked. Pay attention.

Step three: please drool. And slobber. And salivate.

Dry tongues are not my favourite. They might be yours, and that’s cool, but certain kinds of friction give me such Bad Autism™ that I feel as though I might retch. (And retching is, in my world, reserved for a certain kind of blowjob, not for receiving cunnilingus.) Get your lips and tongue saturated with moisture any way you know how and keep it that way. I always have flavoured lube somewhere, so if you need some to maintain the layer of wetness that separates my genitals from sensory hell, feel free to ask. Also, if you make eye contact with me and lick your lips to indicate you’re enjoying having your face in my cunt, I will melt. Just so you know.

Step four: consider using toys.

You might feel that using toys constitutes “giving up” or indicates that you’re not doing a thorough enough job. However, I find that the opposite is true: using toys means you’re prepared to do a really thorough job, and you’re prepared to do it well. Sticking something steel and curved into my cunt will stimulate my A-spot, which allows you to focus almost entirely on eating me out. Slipping a well-lubed plug into my butt means you can gently lick, kiss and massage my vulvovaginal bits… and then surprise me by wiggling the plug. Or tapping its base. Or making it vibrate.

Eating with cutlery doesn’t mean you’ve given up on eating; it means you’ve found a more straightforward and enjoyable way to do it. Similarly, eating me out with toys in the mix doesn’t mean you’ve given up on eating me out. And I promise you, if you pay attention and do as your partner asks, no toys will fully distract from the human, wet, messy, delightful process of you eating them out. The toys might enhance it, but their thoughts won’t drift from the sensation of your mouth on their bits. I guarantee it.