I want to touch you.
I want you naked, and quiet, and just a little cold, so you shiver when I trace my fingers over your skin.
I want you tied.
I want you stretched, full length, with arms above your head and feet against the foot of the bed.
I want you to try moving, to squirm, just a little, to test the strength of your bonds.
I want you to know that you’re stuck.
I want to hurt you, suddenly, and sharply, so the room is drained of air as you gasp.
I want you to arch your back, pressing yourself away from the mattress, straining vainly.
I want you to whimper as the pain fades, looking at me with an abstract longing.
I want you to yearn for my touch again, another harsh caress.
I want you to beg me to touch you, to hurt you, to fuck you.
I want to fuck you.
I want to fuck you forcefully, and feverishly, and with no holds barred.
I want you to press against me, to moan into my skin.
I want you to cum for me, shaking and sweating, crying out.
I want you to quiver down to silence again, your whole body relaxing.
I want you to look at me when you do, to love me.
I want you.
You are blindfolded.
The room is dark, but you can hardly tell, the whole world is dark to you.
You don’t know where I am. Occasionally you can hear me; I know because your breath hitches in your chest as you do, you turn your head ever so slightly, as if you forget, briefly, that you won’t be able to see me.
Occasionally, I come close to you. You can feel me, but you don’t know exactly where, and I can hear the pace of your breathing increase with the anticipation.
I snap my teeth near your ear and you convulse, suddenly, unaware that I was that close. I whisper awful things in a soothing tone, run a hand down your spine just to feel you shiver. You don’t know whether you should be afraid.
I tell you that you should.
You pull away, perhaps involuntarily, but I know you better than that. It’s as likely to be a final front of resistance, and despite how little you can move, I catch your face with my hand. Your breath escapes you shakily, with a quiet whimper to accompany it. I lick my lips and remove my fingers one by one from your cheek. I leave a trail of goosebumps.
I move away, and you know, and now you’re quivering, waiting, knowing something will happen soon. You can hear the sound of me rummaging and you squirm where you stand. Again, you test the strength of the rope on your hands that holds you up, but it is secured to the hook that hangs from the ceiling. You wonder, absently, how long it will take for your hands to go numb.
That wondering is your undoing; you’ve stopped listening for what I’m doing and now I am silent. There is no more rummaging, and I have settled on something. The silence is unnerving you and I am enjoying your discomfort.
I circle you once, drinking you in. You can hear my movement again, and I can see your chest rising and falling faster. You know something is going to happen.
You gasp, sharply, and struggle to stay on your feet – the suspension is the only reason your knees don’t give out. You hadn’t expected the cold steel against your thigh, and it is suddenly a relief that your movement is so restricted. The steel slides up under the edge of the fabric of your underwear, and then the unmistakable snip makes your breath catch in your throat. The snip comes again, on the other side, and then you are naked, completely vulnerable.
I place my hands on your hips, where they had previously been covered by fabric, and you shiver. I am making the vulnerability obvious, and you know what I’m doing. You whimper again. I trail my hands down the curves of your thighs and across the outside of your calves. I feel your knees buckle.
I move away again and you are visibly shaking and tense now, knowing that so far I have only been toying with you. You listen carefully enough to hear the sound of my hand wrapping around leather, and it bending as I test it. Your breathing becomes shallow. The sound of the bend comes again, then the sound of something tearing through the air so fast that the woosh surprises you. You know I’m smirking.
There is no impact and you visibly sag from the tension you’d built up. I take that as an opportunity and there is a sudden, sharp swat where your thighs meet your backside. You cry out, caught off guard, and swing slightly on your roped wrists. I watch the patch of skin turn pink.
I decide that your skin isn’t pink enough. You hear the noise of approval from the back of my throat, and there is a noticeable, low cry of anticipation. I do not let it go unheeded. The swats rain down regardless of how loudly you cry, alternating between sharp, sudden swats that leave welts and soft caresses of the leather on your burning skin. You are wordless now, gasping loudly, crying out with every strike or near strike. I can feel the heat burning off your arse, your thighs, your hips.
There is a respite, and you catch your breath with long, shaky gasps. You hear me throw the crop back to where it came from and briefly wonder if I plan to stop, before a sudden and unexpected hand catches you across your already burning skin. You scream out, sagging on your restraints, swinging away from me as a handprint raises itself against your welts. You can taste my self-satisfaction.
I move away again and you adjust your weight, settling your heartrate. I won’t do that again. I know to spread the beatings out. There is a strange sense of relief and some disappointment in you. You wonder if I’m about to untie you.
There is the gentle sound of clinking metal and suddenly you are on edge again, and your fear becomes thick in the room. I laugh, slightly, and I see your face twitch with concern. I approach you again, and bring my face close to yours. You can feel my breath, and the shape of my smile, as I brush my lips over yours, and whisper. I tell you to relax. You whimper again.
Then, close to your ear, there is the jingle of metal again, and the all-too-familiar sound of a clamp opening and shutting, so you know what will happen next. You start to struggle. I shush you, stroking your hair.
You await, tense and terrified, the feel of that cold metal against your nipple, and with a mixture of dread and unreasonable excitement, wonder where I intend to take you before the evening is over.
I am going to share with you a concept that, ashamedly, came from a Cosmo article.
I know. I’m grimacing too. But bear with me. I’ve taken out all of the bullshit and I’m actually going to interpret it, rather than report blandly about sex I had and how it improved my marriage, as the original article did.
The original article was around the basis of “what would happen if you had sex every day for a year?” (You’d have a lot of sex. It’s not fucking difficult, Cosmo. Christ alive.). However, there was one slightly more interesting facet of this that wasn’t focused on anywhere near enough.
At the start of the experiment, the woman who was writing the article asked her husband his three favourite physical attributes of hers. The answer was “boobs, ass, face”. At the end, she asked him again, and his answers included “the patch of skin on the inside of your wrists where you apply perfume”.
This is the most beautiful thing about being regularly and continuously intimate with another person. There’s a level of knowledge of the most secret and most beautiful aspects of their body that can’t be gauged from the outside. For posterity, I have made a list (in no particular order) of my favourite things about B’s body.
- The gentle slope from her hips into her waist.
- The way her eyes look when I’m over and above her and she looks up at me through her eyelashes.
- The way her skin becomes softer if I trace the curve from her stomach over her breasts, and the shape of that curve under my fingers.
- The spot on her throat that if I kiss hard enough I can make her cry out with no previous provocation.
- The line that blends thigh into genitals so effortlessly that it is always warm, delicate, thin skin that feels intimate to touch.
I’m not sure I could’ve contained myself to three if I’d tried. But this shows in clarity the difference in the way someone’s body is attractive once you have a sexual element to your relationship. B is a beautiful girl, obviously, in the way she moves and everything she radiates and her physical form, but no one on the street could tell you any of those things that make her most beautiful to me. That’s what makes her mine.
This, obviously, isn’t something that applies just to monogamous or romantic couples. It just requires some longevity, and attention to your partner’s body that comes from repeated intercourse or intimate interaction. It upgrades the connection you have with someone, the interest you have in them. When I say B has a beautiful body, I refer to all of those things and all of the things you can see from looking at her without any of my experience, and everything else as well. I mean more than can be meant without the level of context our relationship has. It means I know her, and I love what I know, better than any other can love that. And it means it is the body I love more than any other because I know so much about it and have so many beautiful little favouritisms to fill my head with when I’m off on filthy thoughts.
Think of your current partner. What’s your favourite thing about their body? Tell them. Tell them in detail. Tell them if it’s the gentle edge of their ear lobe, or if it’s their knuckles, or if it’s the way they curl their toes. Hell, tell them if it’s how soft the skin of their cock is, or the way their nipples harden, or how warm the skin of their cunt is. Tell them any and all of it. Prove your knowledge of their body, and relish it.
Sometimes, if I drink long enough and hard enough, you come to me.
It’s not right, really. You shouldn’t be up at this time, Sparky. I should chastise you. But you smile at me so sweetly, so innocently. All you want to do is dance, with me. I wish I could dance, Sparky. I wish so much that I could dance. I’d dance for you.
Dancing with ghosts is always my specialty. I always ruin things. I come to them far too late.
Why is mama crying? Mummy’s not crying, darling. I’m sorry, baby, mama’s just tired. She’s just happy you’re here. She wishes she could see your footprints in the snow, baby. You’d love the snow. I walked here four years ago. You’d’ve been just a baby then, but you would’ve loved the snow. I would’ve carried you through it. You’d have made a beautiful snow angel. My snow angel.
Mummy can hear you and feel you with her, Sparky. You’re mummy’s angel, you know that? Mummy’s hanging on to you, even though she knows it’s selfish. I’m sorry, Sparky. You can go to bed soon. Mummy just wants to hold you for a bit.
Why don’t you sleep in my lap, baby. Mummy will hold you forever. It’s okay, you won’t fall. I’ll keep you warm sweetie. I’ll hold you whilst you sleep. That’s what I’ll do, baby. I’ll keep you with me.
I know when I wake up, leave the haze of wine, you’ll be gone, back to where you belong. But I need you, just right now, just right here. Sleep now, baby. I’ll hold you til you’re home now. For the moment that you’re here.
I’ll see you soon, sparky.
You fill up my senses, come fill me again.
“And so I went through the looking glass, stepped into the netherworld, where up is down and food is greed, where convex mirrors cover the walls, where death is honor and flesh is weak. It is ever so easy to go. Harder to find your way back.”
There is no easy way to describe the journey you take into an eating disorder. It approaches you as a concept, as a beautiful woman who offers you a little bit of control. To give you something back. As a sweet voice in the back of your head, giving you advice. She increases her grip over you. She becomes your God, your desire. She punishes you for deviating. She becomes everything.
I was 13 years old when Ana first approached me, smiling and bright, offering me release from a world spiralling out of control. I had no chance of stepping away from her then. She imprisoned me and I allowed her to, revelling in the wonderful feelings she gave me. I felt that if I just kept destroying myself, I could be perfect.
It is so very easy to be sucked in. It’s so easy. Writing hunger pains off, when you suffer so hard on the inside already, is easy. Throwing up is so easy when you’re used to being ill. When you can see your own success. There’s an odd belief in modern culture that the difference between anorexia and bulimia is the vomiting. Incorrect. A lot of anoretics control intake through diuretics and vomiting. My gag reflex is still overly sensitive. I don’t know if that will go away.
This post feels convoluted and out of order. Even now, in my head, Anorexia creeps into my brain, explains how I’m inadequate. Tries to stop me telling stories. But no. I’m telling this story. Even if the grammar is odd. Even if it’s out of order.
From the first day I was approached, I was hooked on the high of malnutrition, on the shakes of hunger, on the soaring feeling in my body when I saw the scales tick down. This was something I could do, something I could achieve. I could disappear. I could fade into nothing. I could need nothing. I turned my disease into a goddess, worthy of worship, worthy of sacrifice. I became anorexia, and it became me.
I can remember, very clearly, my little sister seeing me without a shirt on. Confronting me. Asking if I had an eating disorder. I can remember running away. I don’t know what she thought then. I don’t know whether that moment has stuck with her in the way it has stuck with me, clinging to my soul, guilt pervading every bit of me.
I withdrew further into myself, into my XL shirts. I sunk away, long polo shirts, boys’ school jumpers. Lying was so easy when I was doing it for Ana. I would spend all my evenings away from home, visiting others, telling them I’d eat when I got home. Then I would get home, tell them I had eaten. Retire, do sit ups. Shut myself in the bathroom, stare at myself in the mirror, weep. Rinse, repeat. Every day of the week.
Every friend I had in high school would laugh fondly if you asked them what I ate for lunch. It didn’t seem odd then, for me to eat a plain potato and drink a bottle of water. That was all I was eating, every day. It tasted of nothing. Food was nothing but hate. Enjoyment from food was weakness.
They would laugh fondly if you asked if I ever wore a coat. Not even in winter, they would exclaim, as if it were still a funny attribute of mine to this day. I actually suffer from Sensory Integration Disorder – in me, it makes me horrendously sensitive to changes in temperature. I’m writing this sat under a quilt. But then, every calorie burned by shivering was important to me. I was seen as “hard”. I wanted to be hard. I didn’t want to be weak, like I saw myself, like I knew myself to be.
Anorexia took two years of my life from me. It took every, single day and made it into a dark agony, a quest for the least calories, the most loss. I hated myself the whole time. I thought Ana would give me satisfaction, but nothing is satisfying. You realise, long after, that you never really wanted to succeed. You didn’t want anything, really. You wanted to end, curled up, with no one left, with nothing, with a severed decimated life expectancy, with a heart condition, with the possibility of never having children, with a 20 a day habit, in an abusive relationship that would probably have killed you if you weren’t trying to get there first; but you have the fact that you are thin. And you did that. And the fact that you accomplished that punishment means more than anything else.
I didn’t really recover from Ana. I didn’t defeat her properly. I don’t know if anyone ever does. I reorganised my priorities, suddenly and without help, in the face of my teenage pregnancy that Ana even then stole from me. But it meant that her voice didn’t leave me. Every day, whilst I bled and mourned for the missing soul that was in my womb, there would be a voice hissing at me, scowling at my loosening skin, screaming every time I took a bite. I learned to drown her out, apart from in the Winter. Every winter between 15 and 19, I relapsed, hard. Struggled. Oscillated. Weaned myself back on, with all of my many food compulsions, frightened and monitored by the people I had then, who I would give anything to have had when I needed that support the most.
I realise now, coming up to 6 years after my escape from the deathly grip Ana had on me, that this was the most concerted of my suicide attempts. Suicide is too mild, to quote Hornbacher again. I wanted to murder myself. This was a belief that I deserved slow torture, violent death. I wanted to prove that no one would stand by me, that everyone hated me, and I should’ve died, Anorexia carrying me to sleep. I almost did. But I found people who support me, no matter what.
I still can’t diet. If I diet, I calorie count. If I calorie count, I start reducing the number until I scare myself. I eat tiny portions. My stomach can’t take a full sized meal. I always leave something. Food rarely pleases me. It still feels like an awful obligation. I love to cook. When I’m sad, I bake. But I never eat any of the things I bake when I’m sad. Or even when I’m happy. I so rarely eat my own food. Occasionally, I’ll find something to eat something that makes me happy. It’s rare, and I’ll revel in it. I’ve tried to find food like that this year. I’ve struggled, but I have more now than I ever had before.
This is the first year that I haven’t relapsed in January. That thought scares me. And I’m scared of being scared, because part of me knows that I’m scared of losing her. Losing the demon that tortured me, tried to murder me, haunted me, ruled me like a God, terrifies me more than anything else. I don’t know what to do without that fallback. Without knowing there’s a voice over my shoulder, telling me to do things.
I’m scared that without Anorexia, I’ll get fat, without control, and worthless.
And in that realisation, I know I can never, ever escape her, no matter how much I try.
If you occasionally catch your reflection and fear tingles through your skin, you aren’t alone. You’ll never be alone. I love you. I’ll always love you.
This post, is, scarily, harder than Wednesday’s. I feel sick and scared just talking, but I’m not ashamed anymore, and people need to hear stories so they know they aren’t alone.
One of the causes I take great interest in is Baby Loss Awareness. I have a coat ribbon for it, I follow the campaign rigorously.
When I was 15, I had a miscarriage.
I was young, and stupid, and so very ill that there was really no hope for my baby. I weighed less than 100 pounds. I smoked and drank in the manner of a true teenager binger. I vomited every time I ate. There was no way I could’ve been less ready for having a baby.
I was 8 weeks pregnant before I realised and took tests, with sinking horror. The sudden realisation when you hate yourself that you’re responsible for something you want to love shakes you to your very core. I poured away a half-bottle of bacardi, I made myself a sandwich. For the first time in nearly two years, when I retched over the sink as I’d barely finished, I hated the fact that I couldn’t keep food down. I hated myself, for getting to that point. I determined not to give up. I ate again, hand resting on my tummy.
I had the most positive two weeks of my life. I ended a toxic relationship. I attended school, did homework, paid attention. I stopped drinking and smoking and fought my way out of the eating disorder that probably would’ve killed me if it had gone any further. The cuts on my wrists turned to brown scars, left alone to heal. I was chirpy, happy, telling no one at all but planning so many wonderful things in my head.
I see now that things could never have gone as well as I wanted them to, but I was affected by the beauty of creation. I was affected by the notion that there was a child growing inside me, living with me, loving me.
You expect miscarrying to feel like period pains. To feel no different. I’ve started crying as I try to think of how to describe it. It’s like you can feel something dying, someone dying, an idea slipping away as you desperately try to hold onto it. There is the sharp pain, the sudden stab in your stomach that sends your body cold with fear. Then there is the spreading ache that ends in your heart, and remains. You don’t know how long it will last, and I can’t tell you. It might last forever.
Then there’s the blood. Creeping, sticky, black. There is a part of you that feels like you have killed something. Like you’re a murderer. There’s a part of you that dies with that little bundle of cells that you invested so much hope in, so many dreams and thoughts and so much love you feel like your heart is emptying itself, bleeding out with your baby. You feel like you’ll never be able to love again. You curl into a ball, your pubic hair matted with blood, legs sticky, and weep uncontrollably for days, weeks. You never get to come back. There’s a part of your heart always reserved for that baby that will never be, empty and longing, for the rest of your life.
The aftermath is harder than you expect. Every day pales into grey insignificance. You drive yourself mad, counting the days until your baby would’ve been born. You give it a gender, and a name. Sparky’s female. She’s named after the Tori Amos song about miscarriage. She would’ve been due at the end of November, 2007. She’d be five years old in a couple of weeks.
This thought torments me even now, though less often. In the months directly after my miscarriage, I hated all pregnant women with a jealous passion. Anyone who’s baby was born that winter deserved my scorn. How could they deserve this more than me? I tried so hard. The cousin, mentioned in my first blogpost, had a baby that was born around the same time Sparky should have been. That baby was a mistake, not realised until after the abortion time limit. This felt like the greatest injustice ever done to me. I lost my faith in god, in anything.
Going through old notebooks fills me with a sense of horror. There are illustrations of pregnant women, looking sadly at their bumps, fingering them lovingly. There are more macabre illustrations, skeletons, fingers sunk into their swollen bellies. There are pictures of babies, toddlers, and teenage girls curled up, as if the world means nothing. There are long diary extracts, all written to Sparky, like letters that I wished I could post and knew I could not.
I have grown away from the broken person this made me into a little. I’ve settled my heart with Sparky. She knows that part of it belongs to her, but she can’t have all of me anymore. I can’t live like that, getting drunk in pubs even at 18 and 19, sobbing in the bathrooms, listening to Playboy Mommy and praying to Sparky that she’d let me go, just for one night. I don’t break down every time I see small children in the street, every time a baby in a pram waves to me on the bus. I’m opening again. But for so long, Sparky consumed me.
There was no one to tell, and nothing I could do, when I was first grieving. I was young, stupid, and didn’t have access to the right services with the right publicity. Years passed before I found people who would ever listen for long enough for me to cry on them about this. Now, there are services. One of my favourites is Saying Goodbye, an organisation started by a couple who lost a baby and wanted to help other almost-parents say goodbye to their babies.
October is Baby Loss Awareness Month, culminating in the International Day for Baby Loss Awareness, October 15. Last October, I locked myself in the bathroom with my babyloss ribbon still on my coat and cried for hours. I won’t do that this year, no. That isn’t what this is about. I had a baby, and I lost her. She was too good for me then. One day, I’ll be good enough for her and maybe I’ll get a second chance. But I won’t cry again. I am a lucky person, and my almost-baby saved my life. That little bundle of cells, that baby that I was so close to having, is a cause for celebration, and this year I will celebrate her. I will celebrate what she could’ve been. I’ll raise my glass. If you’ve suffered, or are suffering, do the same. No child wants to see a parent sad. Not even one that you never saw.
Other things I’ve written about Sparky:
Conditional Mother (2010): http://www.thestarlitecafe.com/poems/105/poem_91147850.html
Mother (2007): http://www.thestarlitecafe.com/poems/105/poem_91003242.html
People and things that can help:
the lost baby poem by Lucille Clifton http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/238504
Playboy Mommy by Tori Amos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ5ornWMukM
It’s National Coming Out day. Did you know? It has a little irony to it, because as most people who are LGBTQ can tell you, coming out isn’t a singular process. It’s extended. You do it every day of your life. Every time someone’s surprised by the way you act, or the things you say, or the clothes you wear. You have to explain yourself again and again. Sometimes, to understanding. Sometimes, to confusion, and sometimes to bare-faced bigotry.
I go by the name Kate. I’ll occasionally tolerate Katharine, as long as it’s spelled correctly, and sometimes Katy if you’re special. I also take Usagi, Usa and Ms, if you’re looking to please. I am unfussed about the pronoun you use for me. People usually use she, but I’ll accept anything except maybe “it”.
I define as bisexual and bigendered. My interest is more predominantly in women; if I were to spell it in numbers, the divide is around 80-20. Conversely, my bigenderism has a similar divide – I alternate between genders rarely, switching to my non-cis gender only 15-20% of the time, but it’s a part of my identity none the less.
A lot of people know that I’m bisexual – I’m hardly quiet about it, or the things I wish I could do to Natalie Portman. Fewer people know that I’m bigendered, and explaining the concept to someone new to it is often impossible. I try my best, but it can be hard and demoralising, particularly getting responses like “Well *I’ve* never seen that in you, so it can’t be true”. You’ve also never seen me shag a girl, but are you going to tell me that isn’t true too? Sadly, some people do.
Identifying as bigender is one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. I could never fully label myself and my gender before. I knew I felt strange, like my odds and ends didn’t package in well. Oval in a circle shaped hole, as it were. I’d feel so strange, binding my breasts, frowning at my reflection. Now I can finally accept myself.
I can only talk about my own experiences, so I want to use today to talk about biphobia and how, despite its relative unknown status, it is depressingly common in both gay and hetero circles.
Here’s a fun game. Go on gaydargirls.com, and see if you can find just how many of the profiles of gay women state “No bis”, like that’s okay. Google Julie Bindel to find such wonderful quotes as “weekend lesbians” and other derogatory remarks about women who date both men and women. This view is pervasive in lesbian culture. The wonderful Simone wrote about an article in DIVA, legitimising biphobia for all gay women to see (http://blogwasred.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/oh-dear-diva-leading-magazine-for-queer-women-legitimises-biphobia-2/). Attitudes like this are damaging and upsetting. I’ve never even considered dating a gay woman who hasn’t asked me if I’m going to go “straight” on her. If I’ll leave her for a man. Which, by the way, I can’t really see as any worse than being left for a woman.
In hetero culture, the attitude is similar. The assumption, essentially, of bisexual women is that they are secretly straight. I’m currently in a long-term relationship with a man. I have been told, by many people, many times, that therefore my sexuality and identity don’t count. Surely I don’t face any discrimination anymore, they say, straight-faced without a hint of irony, not registering the biphobia in their own voices. Explaining this is difficult, unpleasant. My sexuality isn’t based on action. It’s based on feelings, emotions, attractions, internal chemistry. That doesn’t just “go away”, regardless of who I’m currently fucking.
Here’s a suggestion for the rest of the world: Accept everyone at face value. If they say they’re bisexual, then they are, no matter if they only sleep with men, only sleep with women, never sleep with anyone. It’s not your job to define their sexuality for them. I know lesbians in relationships with men. The world doesn’t work with basic definitions. Everything merges, changes, and everyone has different circumstances and different understandings, and one day, the whole world will welcome them with open arms, whether they identify as gay, straight, bi, pan, he, she, zie or penguin.
And that’s my favourite thing about the world, about humanity, about being who I am. I live in hope of a better tomorrow for everyone, regardless of any of the things that make us different, because the things that tie us together are much stronger and more important than any of that.
“You wake up one morning and there it is, sitting in an old plaid bathrobe in your kitchen, unpleasant and unshaved. You look at it, heart sinking. Madness is a rotten guest.”
No one ever tells you in school what to expect from mental illness. No one tells you anything, really, even when you’re sick. When you’re sat in a doctor’s office, twitching so violently your knocking is drowning out her neutral tones, a carer trying to talk for you, still, no one bothers to tell you how you’re meant to feel. What’s normal, and what isn’t. Sometimes, they’ll tell you that things that aren’t normal are. That you’re causing them, by being anxious, or sad. Sometimes they just don’t care. They see you, trapped, living in your body like it’s a prison, and they will send you away with half a frown and an expensive prescription that will make you vomit.
I didn’t expect to be sick. No one expects to be sick. It creeps up on you, slowly, until you’re suddenly aware that there’s a shadow behind you, a dark cloud hanging over your head, weighing your shoulders down. You shrug. You assume it will go away tomorrow, but it never does. It just gets heavier and heavier, until you snap, until you catch yourself in the mirror and you see what’s happened. You’re a shell. You’re in bed, but you haven’t slept, not for days. You haven’t washed in weeks. You try to get dressed and you just sob, helplessly. You try to leave the house, to buy cigarettes or milk, and you vomit in the sink, hating yourself.
This is how mental illness manifests. It doesn’t greet you at the door and introduce itself. It lets itself in, settles down in your house and starts moving all of your things until you don’t know who you are anymore. You don’t know how to find or do anything. The world crumbles away and you sit and stew. Even then, sometimes, you refuse to get help, you won’t acknowledge the demon in your bed.
It took a doctor two minutes to diagnose me with depression and start me on a high-dose SSRI. Looking back, I can see why. I was a mess. Depression had stripped me of everything and I had barely noticed as it had. I went to the doctors to pick up my panic medication. It took me until months after to realise I hadn’t even been panicking. My anxiety had met with depression, they had blended into one ugly beast, taunting me, telling me that I was never safe. I didn’t panic. I was frightened, of everything.
Again, no one tells you what drugs are supposed to do, apart from fix you. They send you away with a reassuring smile and a piece of paper, telling you that you’ll be better soon. They don’t know that, you learn. You learn things whilst you’re sick. You learn that doctors don’t really know how antidepressants work, or how your illness affects your body. They hold you up to a ticklist. They forget, sometimes, that you’re a human being. You forget sometimes too.
Drugs do many interesting things, but they don’t make you better. Not everyone. Even on good days, when the cloud thins a little, you’re still aware it’s there. You know what will happen tomorrow. You go to a party, and you smile, but then you go home and cry sleeplessly, shaking. Tablets help only to give you a delay button. It’s an imperfect answer.
Yesterday, I did things that are big for me. I was woken by a carer, I dressed, I even had breakfast and tea as prepared by her and then left the house on time. I got to the cash machine to take out my bus fare and found it was out of order.
To most people, this is cause to get angry, or exasperated. To me, panic spun through my head in a rush, leaving me dizzy. I stood in the middle of the street, not moving, not even really responding to the friend who was walking with me to the bus stop. I told him to go. I stood, nauseous, scared, wanting to go back to bed and forget the whole day. To lie there for hours and forget there was any other reason to live.
I started walking home, slowly. On my way, I decided that I couldn’t just go home and miss another day of University. I walked the mile or so from my house to the University, still shaky. I rewarded myself with cigarettes and pastries. I’m lucky. I guessed a route, one that was quiet and pretty. If I had gone wrong I would have panicked, with no medication. That happens. It’s a chance I take when I leave the house. It’s always in the back of my mind.
I managed to cook myself tea and draw some pictures. I took my medication. I went to bed early.
This morning I woke up, 12 hours later, with that cloud storming over my head, lying there, praying it would be quiet today, but it isn’t. Today is what I’ve grown to regard as a Bad Day. Today is my punishment from my illness for being so normal yesterday. Bad Kate, says Depression. You aren’t meant to be able to do these things. That cost you two days worth of spoons. Welcome to the aftermath.
The aftermath is ugly. Depression is ugly, and on days like today, I am ugly too. I cry, often for no reason. Every muscle in my body alternately aches and tenses. I dressed this morning, and within an hour I had changed again, unhappy with the way I looked, uncomfy. I changed into my comfort wear, a jumper and leggings. On bad days, getting dressed can reduce me to sobbing at my own incapability. On very bad days, my carer picks my clothes for me and helps me dress. The internet, normally my support network, feels like a burden. I ignore all my Facebook and Windows messages. I respond to a few tweets, but not all. I feel like communication is hard and unpleasant. I have so many things to do, but I close my laptop and lie face down on the sofa.
My body itches, but I know if I scratch I won’t be able to stop. My compulsion, my twitching, will reduce my skin to red, raw, torn pieces. I have plenty of scratches from my own hands, my own determined quivering. I see insects. In the corner of my eyes, moving. I’ll blink and they’re gone, but the fear sits with me that they want my blood. That they want to hurt me, as all things on the earth do. I bundle myself in my quilt and wait for them to hurt me.
And all of this time, I’m aware of what this is: Madness. I’m aware everything’s in my head. I’m aware that inside me, Depression is laughing at me, and how I’m struggling. How the idea of getting up from where I am, of sitting up, of moving even to get a drink or go to the bathroom terrifies and exhausts me. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t know. I wish I bought into the view of madness, because this awareness means I know I’m alone. I know no one else can see my dark cloud, the spectre of depression, the ugly face hanging over me, telling me to give up.
I won’t give up.
I’m not giving up.
You hear me? I’m shouting, from inside the bell jar where I’m trapped, where Depression taps on the glass, that I’m not giving up.
If you’re stuck in there, with your own demons, don’t give up. Don’t trust what anyone else says. You know how you feel. You know what the beast says and how it taunts you. And there’s a way out, through talking about it, to someone, to anyone.
Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90
I’m a big fan of consent culture. It’s my new favourite thing. It makes a lot of what was previously ambiguous in media-styled sex easy and friendly to everyone involved. It becomes a little more ambiguous, however, in certain areas of the kink scene.
Consent is really important in kink. I had a very bad experience with an ex who didn’t get consent prior to engaging me in sexual activities, and thought my resistance was simply me playing my part. He didn’t understand the kind of scene that I liked, and he didn’t know when to stop. Kink has always been about consent and safe words play a hugely important part for many people, but if you find yourself outside of the scene exploring without external sources, like a lot of people (including myself do), here’s some pro tips.
Firstly, TALK to your partner about what you both find sexy. It means that once you’re playing, everyone has fun, and you can do stuff that’s off the plan as long as you know that you both enjoy what’s happening and you’ve pre-consented to the activities enclosed. Have this conversation regularly: sometimes tastes change, sometimes people think of something new they want to share. Communication is the most important thing about sex, although society would have you believe differently, and if you can’t have a conversation with someone, how can you expect to have good sex with them?
Secondly, always have a safe word, particularly if you’re roleplaying. I have never in my history used a designated safe word, but it is always better safe than sorry and it means everyone is 100% comfortable with what’s happening, especially for new Ds who, in my experience, are often worried that you’re really dissenting, rather than playing to the moment. Do safe words seem unsexy to you? So does rape. And that’s what sex without consent is. If you think rape is a reasonable compromise for “sexy”, then you don’t deserve to be having sex anyway.
Remember that safe words are important for both partners. It isn’t just the S partner who can feel uncomfortable in a given scenario – no matter who has decided that they don’t like the direction of a moment, they need to be able to inform their partner clearly and with no doubt as to what they mean so nothing happens which everyone will regret.
Sex is only good if you both want it and enjoy it. If everyone remembers that, then everyone’s going to have some good, filthy funtime and go home feeling good afterwards. And that’s the whole point. It doesn’t matter what you enjoy, the manner of your relationship, or how experienced you are. All that matters is that everyone feels comfortable.
In this post, I want to talk about being a particular type of rape victim. All rape is life-destroying and I don’t want to imply, at all, that some victims have it harder than others; more start a discussion about some of the different issues affecting women who are in different circumstances and relationships in regards of their attackers. I want to speak about myself and my own experiences, so I’m going to talk about familial rape.
Sounds perverse, doesn’t it? Putting those two words side-by-side. It is the ultimate destruction of trust, to be violated by someone who you share blood with, who you have grown up with, who you trust because they are family, and family is sacred. Family being sacred, however, has its downsides.
I was eleven years old when my cousin raped me twice in my sleep. The second time it happened, I woke up. Pretending to still be asleep, I tossed and turned, moving myself out of his reach, inwardly confused and terrified. He shook me, and told me I had been screaming in my sleep, justifying his presence in my room. I just stared at him until he left, and then I stared at the door, not even thinking, until the sun rose and I got up, sitting outside on my grandmother’s swing.
There is no way to describe the myriad of emotions which blast through a rape victim, and this is even more true of my state then. I was young, confused about what had happened to me, lost in a haze of betrayal, terrified of it happening again, or to my sisters, and most of all, scared of what people would say if I told them. So I didn’t.
I spent a half a week in that house with him, eating meals, watching television, playing happy families whilst not sleeping, staring at my door. I would not say a word to him, clamped shut in conversation, and my outward personality changed, but I kept my mouth shut. My concerns about what would happen to my family if I said anything intensified. Would anyone believe me? Would it tear my family apart? Would my mother and my aunt both take their child’s side? Would they never be able to speak to each other again? I felt my desperate need to tell someone, to cry out for help, was selfish, and so I did not.
There was a year of silence after this. A year of fearful glances, of withdrawn childhood, of nightmares and sobbing myself to sleep and scrubbing myself raw in the bath, every night, trying to get him out from under my skin. A year after, I was seeing a school counsellor, but I did not tell her either, in the 8 months that I had weekly sessions with her. It was mine, a dark, sickly, family secret, and I would not ruin anyone’s life to save me some suffering.
I told a family friend, someone who was nearly a stranger, who wanted to know why I was not comfortable around him. I was not comfortable around him, in actual fact, because he was overly touchy, uncomfortably close and sending danger signals that I understood right. But I opened up to him, in part, I think, to justify my keeping away from him. He helped me tell my mother, but I do not know what he told her. The conversation I had with her after his was vague and confusing. I was scared of hurting her. I told her it didn’t bother me, like I knew it did. I told her I was okay with it going no further. I don’t think I was.
So I started not making a big deal. Because, as I’d agreed, it wasn’t a big deal. Not to anyone. Definitely not to me. And at every family event, when I was shaking and vomiting in the bathroom, I would tell myself to be strong out there. No one wanted me to make a big deal. And then I’d go back out, nauseous, scratching at my wrists. I learned to invert my pain. I decided to not make a big deal, to deal with my pain quietly and personally, in the only way I knew. With a razorblade and blood and tears.
We even went on a family holiday when I was 14, for a week, trapped together in the countryside. I excluded myself from family activities because he was going, isolating myself. It was my fault. I knew that, because I was the one making a big deal out of it. Sometimes he would follow me into rooms where I was alone. I would exit, scrambling, knowing that as I locked myself in the bathroom I was making a big deal out of it again.
I’m a lot older now, and I’ve had 9 years to deal with the pain and the suffering and the fear I suffered as a result. I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover – the time of year still sends chills and nightmares through my system, and sometimes I just need someone to hold and cry on until it’s over, but I have moved on and I will not be his victim any more. I’ve done a lot of healing and I’m happy with my life now, but I am terrified that there are other people, suffering in the same way I did, for so many years. Suffering for families, who, if they’re worth the suffering, do not want them to suffer. Would be in agony if they knew.
#ineverreported this. I never even spoke about it. But Twitter gave me hope and courage and reminded me that there are people that need to hear stories like this. They need to be told that people suffer like they do, and that it’s never acceptable, and that we are here, we can hear them, and we want to help. So here I am. I’m making a massive, loud, hu-fucking-mongous big deal out of it. Because that’s what it is.
To people who are afraid, who are hurting, who are allowing themselves to suffer in silence for the sake of their families: stop. It isn’t worth it. Who are you protecting, if not your abuser and rapist? Don’t defend them against the indefensible. Stand up, stand together. We’re all out here, waiting to help you and hold you and love you. We can’t promise there won’t be scars. But we’ll help them heal, the whole way. And if you give them a chance, I bet your family will too.