This week, I have a nice Q&A session for you. Three really great questions that cover a variety of topics. Some of the content in here is sexually related and there is also plenty of talk about trauma. Be advised.
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What can you do when you feel yourself slipping back into depression?
Good question! This is actually something that has came up a few times recent in the various groups and live streams that I do. Depression can absolutely be cyclical. Even if you aren’t bipolar, it’s normal to have periods of feeling more stable in your mood and then more significant periods of depression. If you’ve been going through it for a while, you may start to become familiar with the trends and changes that happen when you start to get back into that mode. I have a few tips that can be helpful.
First off, I preach the gospel of journaling all the time, but it definitely applies here. Not necessarily keeping a strict journal with a specific format, but it’s important for you to log your experiences somewhere. This can be a physical journal that you write in, a document on your phone, a program like Evernote. Anything really. The idea is that you write about your experiences. How you are feeling, thoughts that you have, and especially any realizations that you make after difficult periods. Inevitably, as the fog clears, you will see past situations a little more clearly. When you have this clarity, it can be really helpful to write some notes about it. That way when you feel yourself sliding back into that darker place, things becoming less clear, and you feeling unsure about what to do with yourself, you can go back and reference these notes. See what things were like for you last time and sort of play back the tape to get back in the frame of mind that you need to be. It’s not necessarily going to pull you out of your depression by itself, but at the very least, it will remind you that you got through this before and maybe give you some insights that you need to remember when you aren’t quite thinking so clearly. On a similar note, one thing that you might do is take a little time to brainstorm what seemed to help you last time you had a depressive period and what did not. The same exact strategies may or may not work, but it’s a helpful baseline to have.
Another tip is to make sure you let somebody know that you are starting to slip. Depression is usually worse when it happens in isolation. When you’re on your own, you will be more likely to gravitate toward further isolation, sad music, you won’t get out and enjoy things, and you will be left to your own negative thinking patterns to just continue swirling around in your head. This can become like a self-perpetuating cycle. Instead, let someone know that you’re starting to struggle. It can be a friend, family member, or a professional. You may not know what you need from them, but simply making sure someone is in the know about it will help. They can check in on you, can encourage you, and can just make sure that you don’t slip too far. They could even help you out with that brainstorming process that I mentioned.
One of my personal mantras, which you may have heard from me before is “consistency crushes depression”. Just like all the other tips, this one may not be the cure-all, but it certainly helps. I actually talked a lot about this a couple episodes ago in episode 142 during the question about parenting with bipolar. Establishing consistency and routines can be really helpful to combat the destabilizing force of depression. Depression wants to zap your energy, your mental clarity, and make you waste time hating yourself. If you can establish some consistent routines in your day and week, it can help to give you a guide for your actions. Rather than trying to be inspired and figure out what you should be doing at a given time, you basically just follow the rules. Sleep and wake times, planned activities, exercise, etc. Put a few blocks of consistency into your schedule that you do not budge on. Sometimes it’s not so easy to do this when your depression is bad, but if you can establish these things before it fully takes hold, you could set yourself up for success. You don’t have to want to do these things, you just need to commit to doing them and try to follow through as best you can. For some people making commitments can help here. Maybe you would never go and exercise or see a concert when left to your own devices, but you will definitely show up if you make a commitment to a friend. Use that to your advantage.
As I mentioned before, depression will sometimes act like a black hole that sucks in a lot of negativity. Negative thoughts and negative content. You find yourself going down the rabbit hole of sad youtube videos, music that makes you feel painful feelings, and other things that drag your feelings down. I get it, it can be satisfying in a way to embrace that sadness, and you are allowed to sometimes. Just be aware of the overall effect. If you have a night where you are like, “Okay. I’m letting this sadness come and I’m going to embrace it.” That’s okay. But the next day, let’s get you back on track and instead of letting the black hole of depression suck in all this negativity, instead bomb your ears and eyes with positive content. Subscribe to a bunch of new helpful podcasts, watch inspiring youtube videos, read some books related to what you’re going through. You know your thoughts are going to default to self-defeating, so try to counteract that by drowning them in positivity.
So hopefully those are some helpful tips. Depression is a force of nature sometimes and it’s important to not beat yourself up if depression still takes hold. These tips should help you not go as deep or pull out of it more quickly.
My question is about the very thin line between unhealthy sex v.s. kink. This question comes from the desire to participate in submissive BDSM. Some people like to call their partners “master” and some “daddy”. I however like the term “mommy”… I’m also a lesbian and another concern I have, is that my ex girlfriend kind of looks a lot like my mom?!?
I was abused psychologically and physically by my stepfather, (and although she didn’t protect me), had an otherwise nurturing mother. I would also listen to my stepfather force himself sexually on my mother at night.
I’m taking good care of myself with medication and therapy- just genuinely curious if this is some twisted behavior.
So. Kink and BDSM. Let’s define them a little bit. BDSM stands for Bondage, Discipline/Domination, Submission, Sadism and Masochism. Kink basically refers to anything that’s out of the typical vanilla spectrum of sex, sexuality, etc. A lot of people might think that for someone like yourself that wishes to be submissive, it is a negative or abusive experience. That is often not the case. Kink and BDSM can be a healing experience for many.
Even if the form that it takes is something that reflects or resembles trauma that you have been through – playing it out in the bedroom is powerful because it allows you to reclaim the experience. It’s much like exposure – rather than doing the typical process of avoiding anything that might be related to your trauma, you are instead inviting it in and exhibiting your power over it. Rather than being powerless, even when you are submissive, you are still powerful in a way. You get to rewrite the narrative and make it something that works for you.
Are there times when certain kinks can be harmful or be more negatively related to trauma that you’ve been through? Sure. But that’s if it’s causing you harm, discomfort, or is exploitative in a way that you don’t want it to be. When it comes to sex, with a few exceptions, if it’s consensual, it’s not a problem. You may be getting choked, punished, humiliated, ignored, or commanded, but if that is what you are asking for and your partner is comfortable with experience, there’s nothing wrong with that.
As for the mommy thing – super common. As you mentioned, Daddy is a common term, especially in people that do age play. This may just be your version of that. There is a whole spectrum of incest fantasy and it is extremely common. The majority of people do not literally want to have sex with a parent, but if you look at any common searches on porn sites, incestuous themes will be present. That’s not just right now, this is something that has been a common taboo that serves as a turn on for people across history.
You said that your partner looks like your mom. You also said that your mom never protected your from the abuse that you endured. What if this is your opportunity to have a corrective experience? To feel safe being completely exposed and vulnerable and know confidently that they will protect your and keep you can give you the experience that you never had. When you are able to get to your subspace, you completely let go of control. Your guard comes down and you flow into the other person knowing that they have you. I can see how that might be incredibly powerful, since you always had to have your guard up as a kid.
Finally, I will say is communicate, communicate, communicate, as with any BDSM relationship. Embrace what is working. If you find that it becomes problematic or scary for you, it may be something to dive into in therapy, but if it’s helpful an enjoyable then it’s healthy and it’s not a problem.
Today I am writing you to ask for some help. I am dating a wonderful guy who has endured an excessive amount of physical, mental, and emotional abuse throughout his childhood and into his teen years. He has lived in more places than I can remember (apartments and parks) and has more physical symptoms of anxiety and PTSD than anyone I have ever met. He is currently seeing a psychologist once a week and has an upcoming appointment with Psychiatry (not until March, because there are never enough healthcare providers for what our society needs).
My question for you is what advice do you have for being in a relationship with someone who has such crippling PTSD at times? From flashbacks throughout the day, mood swings, terrible sleeping problems because of the fear of sleep, etc. every day is different. I try to be as patient as possible, listen when needed, and be empathetic; however, sometimes it takes a toll on me. Sort of caregiver burden to some extent. I just want to be as educated as I possibly can to be able to help in any way possible and I know part of that comes from me knowing or at least being aware of what I might be able to do to help.
First off – I just want to say that you are already doing SO much right. I really appreciate that you are looking for whatever more you could possibly be doing, but I just want to make sure that we are starting from a place of giving you credit. I’m glad to hear that your partner is getting an appointment with psychiatry because his symptoms seem pretty severe. At that level, he is really suffering and it would be difficult to manage that day to day without some help from medication. This sort of trauma isn’t supposed to happen for us, so when it does, it’s completely normal to need some additional help in dealing with it. There’s a blogpost that I made a little while back that you might be interested in checking out – it’s called the 4 Cs of supporting someone with mental illness. Just a helpful mnemonic to remember Clarity, Consistency, Compassion, and Curiosity. Your messages to your partner, whether they are advice or just simply supportive will not always land. You may not always express yourself in the exact way that you’d like to. That’s where the tips come in. Being as clear as you can about what you mean is helpful because even if the point doesn’t land, the words were still said. Keep saying them and at some point, they will sink in.
One thing that could be really helpful is to sit down during times when he is not actively having terrible symptoms and talk about the last time he had a hard time. You can discuss what things helped him and which made him more agitated. You could even outline some basic language like whether he needs space or physical comfort – what words or actions could indicate the approach you should take. There is always more time to continue talking and considering these things.
You can also offer to practice coping skills together. Taking in more information about PTSD and treatment strategies yourself is a great idea and if there are some things that you encounter that you think would be helpful skills, you can offer to practice along with him. Things like breathing exercises, meditations, worksheets, etc.
Regarding the caregiver burnout you talked about, there is definitely a parallel here. It is common for partners or family of people with severe psychiatric difficulties to have some trouble themselves. Now that fact alone might cause the people with mental health issues to feel terrible, but it’s important to remember that it’s not their symptoms that are causing you the trouble, it’s your desire to help them and fix everything. You can’t do everything and you can’t cause change for this person. You can be there, you can communicate, you can lend support, but you can’t reach in there and pull out the part of their brain that is causing them anguish, even if you’d like to. Getting your own therapy can be helpful. You should also make sure that you are having time to spend with friends, family, and enjoying activities away from your partner. You are allowed to have boundaries as well. Make sure that he knows your boundaries are not personal or judgmental. There are simply things that you both can agree upon that are acceptable and unacceptable within the confines of your relationship.
Overall, don’t forget to put energy into the good stuff as well. Sometimes couples fall into the pattern of focusing SO much on the mental health issues that everything else fades to the background. Make sure you are putting effort and energy into reinforcement, into fun and mutual enjoyment. Pumping up the good stuff as well as addressing the negative.
Thanks for listening!
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