Thursday 24th May 2018, President Donald Trump has just announced that he has decided to cancel a summit with North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un to discuss nuclear weapons and the world is thrown into a panicked frenzy. What now, what now for world peace? Will there be other talks? War on the peninsula? World War 3?
As an anxiety sufferer, my mind has the natural tendency to go for the least favourable, most extreme, all-out catastrophic option:
“How would I cope? Could I cope? What would death feel like? Should I build a bunker? What would that look like? Do the governments have to provide us with adequate shelter, anyway?”
I routinely checked BBC News throughout the day, any minute, I was ready for an announcement of missile strikes on North Korea. Over dinner, I thought back to the war preparations I had seen Sweden present to its civilians in the event of an invasion by Russia.
“Well.. at least I have plenty of tea light candles handy.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, five minutes with my brain.
For those who know me, most will know that I am something of two extremes. I’m either relatively hyper, energetic, borderline whackadoodle, cheeky, occasionally sarcastic, and generally fairly fun (except for fairground rides, I don’t do fairground rides! Or drugs!). On the other hand, I can be tense, neurotic, pessimistic, indecisive, tearful and moody. That’s also usually when I’m wracked with anxiety.
Over the years, I have tried many different things to cope with anxiety. To name but a few, I have tried Rescue Remedy, Kalms, other various natural remedies, propranolol, antidepressants (under various names), talk therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and more.
Part of the reason I write, and enjoy writing, is because my therapist suggested started a journal and it went from there, but I digress.
Two of the other things my therapist suggested I also try were meditation and yoga. Like any other person, I associated meditation with sitting all folded into a shape and reciting repeated incantations of “Ohm” in the vague hope of finding inner peace, and yoga with.. Well.. various fart-inducing awkward poses that a girl with mild scoliosis couldn’t possibly master. In short, I was doomed.
Enter therapeutic BDSM.
In a bizarre way, the BDSM lifestyle has always interested me. A lot of people have me down as being the more dominant type, but actually that’s not entirely true. I’m probably what they call a “Switch”, someone who likes to give and receive control, but also a “Sensualist”, someone who enjoys enticing the senses, rather than giving or receiving pain. That’s me, in all that I do and whatever that may be.
Today, I am taking the role of the “submissive”. I don’t really have rules to follow, other than make sure the home and myself are presentable, and don’t back chat. It’s about trusting in my husband to lead, guide and protect me, so talking back and generally being disrespectful is really toeing the line.
When the time comes, I wait for him in the bedroom. The music is soft and I can just make out the sound of Moonlight Sonata, one of my husband’s favourite pieces of music. The room is dimly tit with touch lamps and candles and I spray on a little perfume before i sit on the bed.
When he comes in, he asks me if I’m okay. I nod and he opens the drawer, taking out two black, faux-fur lined leather cuffs. He’s talking to himself about finding things and I smile to myself. If I didn’t know better, I might have got out of there and called the asylum instead!
Eventually, he finds the two wrist cuffs and he attaches them loosely around my wrists. I look at him and he looks at me, when I look down, i see it in his hand – a blindfold. Slowly and gently he slides it over my eyes and I am plunged into complete darkness.
“What do you say if you want me to stop?” He enquires.
“Red” I whisper. Red, it’s always red. Standard procedure.
“Good,” he says, “the safety word is ‘pineapple’.”
I pout and smile. No, it isn’t.
“Don’t look at me like that. Now, I’m not going to do these for you because I’ll probably poke your brains out, but I want you to put them in for me.” He says, placing two soft silicone earbuds in my hand.
I sigh deeply and push one into each ear, almost immediately I am in my own bubble, my own space. The only thing I can hear is my own breathing.
He taps my wrist softly and lays me back on the bed, face down. I feel him lift my wrists up to the headboard and attach them to the clips we have hidden there, now I’m his.
My mind slips to my journal and I begin thinking about all of the things I have to write down today. I’m always like that, ten steps ahead, never in the moment – I was even planning how much we could make back for bits from our wedding during our honeymoon!
Suddenly, and from nowhere, I feel a small, sharp pain in my shoulder, slowly tracing and circling across my back, in circles, in waves, in straight lines and swirly ones and my mind quickly scrambles to guess which toy it is. All of the tense muscles I had before let go in one involuntary move, focusing instead on being with the sensation instead of the thoughts in my head. My focus is no longer internal, it’s external and the cruel, dark wicked world falls away to my sensual bliss.
I cried a lot after our session, and that sometimes happens with BDSM. BDSM play can create both a safe place, where people feel they can let go about their innermost demons, and also it can bring about a sense of catharsis. By overwhelming the senses, we can sometimes break down the psychological barriers which are hiding painful feelings within.
Many people will argue that BDSM is unhealthy and even like it to a form of self-harm. Maybe it is, but science has demonstrated that BDSM play can actually be good for you, which might just be enough to silence the naysayers among. Personally, since realising that BDSM can actually be very healing and likened to yoga, I’ve had a lot less shame in the way in which I handle my chronic anxiety. Experienced meditation guides will tell you to imagine your favourite “happy place” while you clear your mind. If that so happens to be knelt in a candlelit room while your lover taunts and teases you about all of the wicked things that they have in mind for you then well.. There’s little shame in that, is there?