Diary of a Ghosted Girl

Sunday night. I am depressed. I have been depressed for a solid week, with no hypomanic reprieve. Shit is dire.

I have guzzled more wine than I ought to’ve, and smoked more weed than is probably reasonable. There are one or two crusted tears on my cheeks, but mostly I’m numb. Aching to feel something; aching to ache.

A new OkCupid message lands in my inbox, and I open it with the characteristic slowness of a person weighed down by depression. “Fuck. This profile was an intensely enjoyable read that had me grinning like a total idiot,” it reads. “I don’t even know where to start except HEY (for now).” Then he asks me something about toxic jelly dildos, which I mention in my profile. My ears perk up, and so do I, a little.

I flick through his profile – pictures, paragraphs, compatibility question responses – and it achieves the rare thing of making him seem more interesting rather than less. (Most men are atrocious at writing online-dating profiles.) I message him back.

Our conversation kicks into high gear almost immediately. Jokes. Stories. Questions. All-caps shouts of “ME TOO!” and sparks of recognition. He likes my puns. I care if he likes my puns. I talk about my work and he doesn’t take it as an invitation to ask invasive questions about my sex life, as so many OkSuitors before him have. I am absurdly, miraculously, hastily hooked.

He tells me his full name – “incase you’d like to move this over to Facebook/creep me for mutual friends/affirm I am in fact a real person and not an elaborate cat-fishing account” – and, to my shock, it’s almost exactly the name of a person I used to be in love with. Their first names are as close as Lee and Leo, and they have the same surname. Intellectually, I understand that this doesn’t mean anything. Emotionally, it seems to mean quite a lot. It feels like the universe is shining a spotlight on this boy and shouting in my ear: Notice this person. Pay attention. He could be important.

We move things over to text. We talk about sex in a way that is flirty but not explicit – my favorite, when I don’t know someone well yet. He’s such a good flirt that I’m screaming and cackling at my phone – indeed so good that a friend christens him “Mr. Goodflirtz” when I relay the key points of our conversation later.

I send him a picture of me. Not a nude – just a cute selfie, where I’m pleased with how I look, and I look like the kind of girl that a man like him might be interested in. “Fuck,” he writes back. “…Fuuuuck. I mean you are just so fucking good-looking.” More cackling at my phone. More blushing, sweating, and covering my eyes. My heart is thudding.

But it’s late, and I have to get some sleep – which I laughingly tell him even as he’s still blowing up my phone with compliments in little green text bubbles. “Yes yes sorry,” he writes. “Good night.”

I do a thing I have done too many times, and have promised myself not to do again: I get over-invested. I turn his name and face over in my mind. I lie awake thinking about the dress I’ll wear on our first date, and what we’ll do after he tugs it off of me. Eventually, somehow, I fall asleep – and dream about his pretty mouth all night.

On Monday morning I am pinged awake by my phone’s text tone. “That picture was the first thing I saw this morning as it was still open on my phone,” I blink sleep out of my eyes to read. This is followed by some gratuitous information about how his dick is reacting to said photo and what he is doing about it – information I find charming, not alarming, because at this point I feel like I know him. He is a wizard with words. His words alone have made me want to kiss his face, suck his dick, build some kind of future. It’s ridiculous.

“I’d gladly take any other pictures you’d like to share,” he adds – politely, I think. But I have a boundary around this, which I explain to him: I don’t like to sext with people before I meet them in person. It often makes me lose interest in them, or feel weird, so I tend to avoid it, especially if I suspect I might actually like the person. “Fair enough,” he writes back. “Let’s hang soon, then.”

“I am free tonight or Thursday,” I tell him, and he replies, “Thursday is probably best, but mayyybe tonight.” We talk logistics – locations, times – and lapse once again into giggly half-sexts laced with wordplay. I’m still barely awake; I tell him I’m going back to sleep, and I’ll be in touch later.

That afternoon, I send him a selfie of me looking put-upon and adorable. “This is my ‘You should have drinks with me tonight’ face,” I caption it.

No answer. I try to keep myself occupied with other diversions. Four hours pass. I complain to my best friend, stare at my phone for far too long, then decide to take a nap, hoping I’ll wake up to a text notification.

I wake up a few hours later. “I’m dying of anxiety,” I tell Bex. “Why hasn’t he texted me back?!” Bex, the greatest friend anyone could hope for, replies: “You don’t know much about him. Maybe work got out of hand, maybe he has food poisoning, maybe something came up with his family, maybe a friend just went through a breakup, maybe he was up all night last night and fell asleep, maybe he got hit by a bus, maybe he’s secretly a superhero and is fighting his arch nemesis, maybe he burned all of his fingers making tacos and can’t use a phone, maybe his phone broke and he’s at the store trying to get it fixed, maybe Pennywise lured him into the sewers with the promise of all the pussy he could eat, maybe he is volunteering at an animal shelter and got distracted by all the puppies, maybe he got lost in that weird circus store y’all have and has no phone service and is wondering if he’s going to starve and should start eating his own arm… I could keep going.” I laugh, but I’m still sick with anxiety.

“Or maybe he’s a dick who decided to ghost after 12 hours,” Bex continues, “in which case, you dodged a bullet, because you don’t want to hang out with him, because he’s a dick.”

do want to hang out with him, is the thing.

My anxiety disorder has decided this is the most important thing in the world. I barely sleep, barely eat. I feel nauseous over the idea that not only does “Mr. Goodflirtz” not want me, but no one wants me, no one has ever wanted me, no one will want me ever again. I wonder if he was only ever looking for a sexting partner. I wonder if he Googled me and got scared off. I wonder if he was using fake pictures and fake information to solicit nudes from me. I wonder if he was an undercover creep from 4Chan or the Red Pill. I can’t stop wondering. My sleepless night is a whirlpool of uncontrollable wondering.

On Tuesday morning, I resolve that I will not text him.

On Tuesday afternoon, I text him. “Hey, would Thursday still be a good night to get drinks?” I hate myself immediately after pressing “send.”

By Tuesday night, he still hasn’t answered. I log onto OkCupid to stare longingly at our messages – and I see that he’s online. After fighting the urge to anxiety-puke, I fight the not-altogether-different urge to message him some variation of “Yo, what the fuck, bro?!” I have to physically close my computer and walk away from it to keep myself from doing this. It feels like the most difficult thing I’ve done in a very long time.

On Wednesday I go to a therapy appointment. I sniffle and sob while telling my endlessly compassionate therapist about this dumb boy and all the dumb feelings I’m feeling about him. It’s a double-whammy: I’m hurting because he disappeared, and because I’m embarrassed by how much this has hurt me. He didn’t owe me anything. I know that. And yet I can’t help feeling wronged. Dropped. Ghosted.

“You just lost your job, you’re still dealing with the fallout of unrequited love, and then this happened,” my therapist points out, reasonably. “You’ve been rejected a lot lately. Rejection hurts. But it’s not a reflection on you. It doesn’t mean you’re unloveable.”

Tears stream down my face. I know she’s right. But I don’t believe she’s right. They are two different things.

My phone’s been on Do Not Disturb mode for the duration of our appointment, like it always is – and as I walk out my therapist’s office door, I press the home button, blindly hoping. But nope. Still nothing. The ghost is still dead, and so, it seems, is my heart.

A fuckbuddy I was supposed to see on Wednesday night texts to say that he’s sick, and to ask if we can reschedule for next week. I know him well enough to know he isn’t lying, but my anxiety suspects he might be – because I distrust all men right now. If someone could be so enthusiastic about me and then disappear off the goddamn face of the earth, then everyone could be lying about everything. I ignore the anxious voices in my head and choose to accept that a request to reschedule is indeed a request to reschedule – not another rejection, perched upon my already precarious heap of recent rejections.

On Wednesday night, I spend hours in bed just numbly staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out what I did wrong, what I can do differently going forward. I grab my phone and open Tinder. I know it’s bad. I know. It’s like an alcoholic trying to nix their “one last” hangover with “one last” hair of the dog.

But it makes me feel a bit better. I flirt with a few boys, until I find one I actually connect with on some level. We talk, and joke, and learn about each other, in the formulaic dance that early online-dating interactions all tend to follow. It’s not fiery with white-hot excitement like it was with Mr. Goodflirtz, but it’s something.

We schedule a date, and I go to sleep, dreaming of someone new.

I don’t think about my ghost much on Thursday. But late that evening, my phone’s text tone beeps, and my heart leaps into my throat. I claw the thing out of my purse at lightning speed.

“How are you feeling today?” a friend has texted to ask – and I’m so goddamn angry at myself for being disappointed.

5 Bruises I Loved and Lost

Heads up, babes: this post deals with bruising and other visible signs of (consensual) injury, as well as self-harm. If that’s tough subject matter for you, please feel free to skip this post!

 

“I’ve never spanked anyone before,” Dane mentions offhandedly as we’re hanging out before our porn shoot.

“Oh,” I say, and my stomach drops. “Um, that’s fine, it’s not too hard to learn. I trust you.” I take my Tantus Pelt paddle out of my bag and show her how it works: the momentum, the swing, the snap. It’s been a few weeks since a partner’s used this mean little thing on me and I’m excited to bend over for my hot new friend in front of a rolling video camera.

What I don’t say, and later wish I had: Start slow, and work your way up. Warm up the area with gentle smacks til it’s red and glowing, before you progress to harder wallops. Spread out the impacts, instead of focusing on one spot. Rhythm and consistency are good, but give me time to breathe. I think these things but don’t communicate them. I said I trust her, and I do.

The scene goes better than I ever hoped or expected, given how nervous I was when we began. She teases and spanks and fucks me over a wooden coffee table in the airy afternoon light. But that paddle. Oh, that paddle.

There is a point, somewhere during most spankings, when I cross the threshold between safe, tolerable pain and pain so intense it scares me a little. This threshold is the reason I can’t spank myself effectively: I’ll never leap across that line myself. I need someone to push me.

Dane is bossy and authoritative and mean, and gets me crying within minutes. The silicone paddle rains down relentlessly on my reddening ass. And then she picks a spot on my right cheek and just wails on it. One hit after another, til the pain is a white-hot emergency alert in my brain. I think, I can’t take much more of this. Then I think, No, really, this has to stop. And then a deeper, stronger voice in my head says: No. You can take it. You can take just a little more.

I do. And eventually it ends. I’m left with the best bruise I’ve ever had, a crimson emblem of what I faithfully endured. A blotchy splotch that proudly announces what a very, very good girl I am.

Dane cuddles me on the couch. Caitlin brings me a cupcake. I’m grinning, glowing, good.


Depression comes in waves, arcing over the shoreline of my mind so ominously that I usually see it coming from yards away. I can arrange my schedule so the worst of it will hit when I’m alone, sobbing in bed, shoulders shaking, self-worth crumbling in polite privacy. I mask these desperate spells from my friends whenever I can. But sometimes I can’t.

One night in July, I’m at a party with Bex, Georgia, and a few other friends. But it’s the saddest party I’ve ever been to – even sadder than the surprisingly jovial secular shiva we held when my grandmother died – because I can’t stop crying.

Depression tells you lots of lies, the most pervasive one being that you are unendingly sad, have always been, and will always be. It tells you the tears you cry are justified, because everything is terrible and life is pain. It tells you the glimmers of happiness you once knew have been extinguished and were illusory anyway. It wrings the light from your spirit. It takes everything from you, most crucially, your hope.

So as I cry in front of my friends and they attempt to comfort me, none of it really works. “We love you,” they say, and my depression-brain says, Yeah, but the people you WISH loved you still don’t love you. “You’re a good person,” they say, and depression whispers, Bullshit, you’re garbage, they’re just humoring you. “You’ll feel better in the morning,” they predict, and depression insists, You will never feel good again.

What I need, when I’m like this, is to cry very hard for a while and then to be jolted out of my sad, salty rut. I need a distraction, a shake-up, a gear-change. So when Georgia says, “Do you want me to hit you?” some part of me perks up because I know that has worked in the past and it might work again.

I bend over the end of the sofa like a good girl, and Georgia – armed with my KinkMachineWorks Lexan paddle – begins to knock the sadness out of me via my ass.

When I’m sad and I don’t want to be sad anymore, sometimes I think of the saddest thoughts I can possibly imagine, in an effort to push the sadness through my veins faster so I’ll be rid of it sooner. If I’m crying over a boy, for example, I might force myself to think, “He doesn’t love me, he’ll never love me, he doesn’t want me the way I want him and he never will, I’m not good enough for him, I’ll be alone forever, and it’s only going to get worse from here.” Crying harder speeds up the process so I can get on with my life sooner – and spanking can serve a similar function for me. The pain gives me a tangible reason to cry, so I cry harder, feel my feelings deeper, and move through them quicker.

“I love you, babe,” Bex says to me while Georgia spanks me. “You’re being such a good girl,” Georgia says between hits. One friend holds my hand; another strokes my hair. I keep my face planted in the sofa’s upholstery and I cry and cry and cry.

And when it’s all done, I feel a bit better. And I have some epic bruises to remind me that I helped myself by letting my friends help me.


One night by myself in my room, depression sneaks up on me. I didn’t see you come in, I tell it, and it hisses back, That’s because you’re a stupid, silly girl who doesn’t know anything. I can’t argue with that.

Sometimes my depression comes alongside a restlessness: I know I need to do something to alleviate the uncomfortable feelings in my body and brain, but it’s not immediately clear what. When I’m coping well, I get out my journal, cry in a hot bath, go see a friend, or curl up with snacks and an episode of Sherlock. When I’m coping less well, I think about hurting myself.

The jury is out – by which I mean, my therapist is unsure – whether my self-spanking counts as self-harm. I don’t really do it to punish myself, to feel more alive, or to enact suicidal ideations, all common reasons people self-harm. I think I do it because it distracts me from the “bad” thoughts and feelings in my head, and because I know spanking has historically alleviated my mental health symptoms. It’s a last-ditch effort to snap myself back to stability.

On this particular night, crying numbly in my desk chair, I just start smacking my thigh with the back of my hand because it feels like the right thing to do. I do it so hard, and for so long, that I worry I might break my hand. I switch hands, and do it some more. I keep going until I’m sufficiently bruised, and the dark whispers in my head have calmed.

The bruise I’m left with is a chaotic mass of speckles, and I instantly hate it. It’s ugly, but I know I wouldn’t think that if a partner had given it to me. Each time I catch sight of it, I’m reminded of how I failed myself, how I let myself down by coping poorly with the feelings that rain down on me. I try to forgive myself, but in the meantime, I wear boxers around the house instead of my usual bikini briefs, so I never have to see the evidence of what depression wrought on my body.


When I was younger, I thought I’d hate one-night stands because sex felt too intimate to share with a near-stranger. As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned so much: sex doesn’t have to be intimate, and there are other valid reasons to hate one-night stands (which I kinda do). But it turns out that for me, kink feels too intimate to share with a near-stranger. It feels like an infringement, a mild violation, an incongruent aberration.

One cold night in December, I go out for drinks with a passably smart-‘n’-sweet Tinder boy. Our hours-long conversation brings out the details of my life that usually emerge on dates like these: I’m a sex writer, I review sex toys, I write about my kinks, and those kinks include spanking.

When I invite him over to my place after drinks, he makes a logical leap that any reasonable person could make: I like spanking, therefore, I want him to spank me. During our lukewarm hookup, he lands a few hard smacks on my ass, and I make noises of delight – because, physically, this feels like something I’ve enjoyed before. Emotionally, less so. He is nobody to me. I don’t care if he wants to punish me, or thinks I’ve been bad, or wants to make me feel good, or wants to give me what I want. I give zero shits what he thinks of me, and therefore, with him, kink feels irrelevant.

In the morning, we chat a bit via text, and he asks, “Is your butt even in the least bit sore?” It’s a vanilla-dude question, designed to determine whether his untrained hand even made a dent in my seasoned-kinkster ass. I look in the mirror and there is, faintly, the outline of a handprint. Red finger shapes against my creamy white skin. I text him a picture, though I doubt he even cares.

The bruise is mild, and only lasts a few days. So I spend those days thinking about how gross it feels to be bruised by someone I barely know. One-night stands are okay if I can hop in the shower afterward and wash away their sweat, their spit, their cum. But a bruise stays, and remains both mine and theirs until it fades. I love bruises when they make me feel “owned” by someone I want to own me – but a random-ass stranger from Tinder does not own me and should not bruise me. I glower furiously at the handprint for days, wishing it had come from someone else’s hand.


My fave fuckbuddy is extremely vanilla, but he’s also what Dan Savage calls “GGG“: good, giving, and game. He doesn’t “get” the whole spanking thing, but he’ll still do it if I ask – often quite enthusiastically – and I love that about him.

One night in a New York hotel room, we can’t figure out how to open the bottles of apple-ginger cider we brought with us – and we’re high, which makes this quandary even harder. “Let’s go to the front desk and ask if they have a bottle opener,” I suggest, reasonably, to which my FWB replies: “Okay, but you have to do the talking, because I am way too high to talk to a stranger right now.”

We make a giggly pilgrimage to the front desk; the attendant there doesn’t have a bottle opener either. So it’s back to the drawing board (after a meandering journey through the hotel lobby, mezzanine, and basement, laughing maniacally like the stoned delinquents we are). Once we find our hotel room again, we scour it for any and all objects that might function as a bottle opener: a pair of tweezers, the edge of a countertop, a thick bedsheet crumpled in a palm.

Eventually, grasping at straws, my gentleman-friend opens the wardrobe in the corner and pops out the silver metal bar holding up the clothes-hangers. “Oh no, you broke it!” I chirp, my high-brain momentarily unable to process that he did this on purpose. He grins at me in that roguish way he has, and jokes, “Those were load-bearing hangers.” I collapse into ganja giggles on the bed.

The metal bar works. He’s able to push the gaping end of it against the ridged edge of a bottlecap until the cap pops clean off. He hands me the bottle and gets to work on opening one for himself. I sit cheerfully, sipping my cider, one leg dangling off the bed and one draped over his thigh. We clink our drinks together and sip in the comfortable silence of two people who like each other – two people who just simply, uncomplicatedly, happily like each other.

And then I pick up the hanger bar and start whacking myself on the thigh with it, because of course I do.

He laughs darkly in his throat, because he knows me and he knows what’s coming. “Oh, you kinksters and your pervertables,” he says out loud, or maybe just in my memory because that’s the sentiment I sensed from him in my periphery. I take another swig of my cider and put the silver bar in his hand. “You should hit me with this,” I say.

He does. The cool metal lands stripes of pain along my thigh, still hitched over his. His thwacks are more earnest than I’ve ever felt from him; I think he’s finally figured out that when I ask to be hit, I want to be hit. Stoned, tipsy, gettin’ beat, and sitting beside one of my favorite people, I can’t recall many moments as purely, perfectly happy as this one, right here.

a thigh bruise“I want you to give me a bruise,” I tell him, but he’s vanilla and probably needs a little more instruction, so I continue. “Pick a spot. Hit that one spot again and again, starting soft and building up til you’re wailing on it.” I wrap both my arms around the one of his that’s not holding our impromptu impact implement, and press my face into his shoulder. “I might scream, but it’s okay.”

He does exactly what I’ve asked him to do, just like he always does; it’s one of the reasons he’s my favorite FWB I’ve ever had. As the bar slices through the air and onto my thigh again and again, my man-friend mutters in my ear about the way jazz drummers hold their drumsticks. He’s playing me like an instrument. His tone of voice reminds me of a doctor who tells you a cheerful story about elephants or fairies to distract you while he sets your broken bone. I don’t want to be distracted from the pain being rhythmically administered to me, but I like the sound of his voice, the closeness of it, how completely and totally safe I feel with this man who is hurting me at my request.

There you go,” he says, and stops. “Look at that. Wow!”

I glance down at my thigh and see a thin streak of red, set in beautiful relief against the paleness of my skin. I’ve never seen my thigh look so gorgeous. In the days that follow, I keep hitching up my skirt to take a look, running my hand along the slightly raised mark, pressing the painful spot through my leggings on the subway to remind me that it’s there.

It makes me feel owned, and small, and safe, and happy. It fades, and I want it back. I want it to last forever, like a tattoo. But the nature of bruises is that they don’t last. Like the tumbling petals of a dying flower, they are perfect in their life and in their death. I am always sad to say goodbye to a bruise, and always happy to have had it at all.

The Bipolar Blogger: Productivity Tips From a Manic Mess

“I have cyclothymia,” a friend casually mentioned over dinner, halfway through an anecdote about his therapist. “It’s sort of like a milder form of bipolar disorder. I have mild manic phases and mild depressions but nothing too serious.”

It would be a cliché to say a lightbulb went off for me, or alarm bells sounded in my head, but both of those well-trod metaphors feel entirely true. I had a ping of recognition. A sudden, crystalline revelation: That is what I have. That is why I’m like this.

I didn’t quiz my friend for additional details, but in a therapist’s office a few months later, I dropped the word on the table between us like it was a treat I’d brought him. Cyclothymia. We examined it, talked about it. I explained how my storied life had been punctuated with depressive spells, yes, but also episodes of unpredictable juicy joy. When previous therapists witnessed my gleeful, giggly monologues, they’d often say, “Is it possible you’re having a manic episode right now?” and I’d always laugh it off. This isn’t a mental disorder, I’d think, about those hyper-productive, ecstatic interludes. This is just my personality. I’m a happy, positive person.

In the years since then, though – and in the wake of two recent therapists who can’t agree on whether I have cyclothymia or bipolar affective disorder, type 2 – I’ve come to accept that these ups and downs are part of my personality and are also a mental illness.They’re a part of me, and I try to honor them more than hate them. They make my life harder, my emotions wilder, and my art better.

Blogging and journalism, my main vocations, appeal to me in part because they’re compatible with my mental illnesses. As an independent freelancer, I can set my own schedule, and arrange my obligations according to where my head’s at. Of course, sometimes a deadline unavoidably lines up with a depressive spell, but I do my best to avoid snafus like this. Below are some productivity tricks I’ve picked up from nearly five years of blogging while bipolar… for better or for worse.

Drink up from the rain, as Nellie McKay would say (or “catch water while it’s raining,” like my friend Brent says). When I’m manic*, I often want to work for 10-12 hours at a time, writing blog posts/sending emails/pitching stories/cleaning my room/whatever – and while that’s a long stretch to put my body and mind through, usually manic-me can handle it without complaint. So as long as I’ve still got the energy and desire to continue, I usually do. Might as well.

*I’m using the words “manic/mania” interchangeably with “hypomanic/hypomania” in this article for brevity’s sake, even though technically my mental illnesses are mild enough that my hypomania never crosses into full-blown mania. More on this distinction here.

Queue stuff in advance. After a manic episode, I’ll typically have more content than I know what to do with: two or three days of hypomania can easily yield five or six blog posts for me. While mania can imbue you with an urgent need to get your work in front of readers’ eyes ASAP because it’s all so damn exciting, it’s smarter to rein yourself in and queue up some of that content for the days, weeks or months to come.

I publish new posts on this blog twice a week, and that steady schedule is super helpful to my bipolar brain. I use the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin to map out my future content. I’ll slot in two posts a week, and rearrange them so there’s enough variation in subject matter and format from week to week. A hypomanic episode can inspire enough content to last me for weeks, so that if a depressive spell comes on, I’ll be able to take a break from working without interrupting my regular blog schedule.

Batch-process tasks. This is a term and concept I learned from the Blogcademy. The idea is that you get more done if you group similar types of tasks together. So, instead of writing one blog post at a time, then shooting photos for it, then queuing tweets to promote it, I might write 2-3 blog posts at a time, or shoot photos for several posts in one session, or spend a whole afternoon queuing tweets for upcoming posts.

This principle is compatible with my bipolar brain. When I’m manic, it can be hard to pry my attention away from the task at hand – so if I’m writing rabidly, I might as well brew another cup of tea and write another post, and another, until I run out of steam. Batch-processing is easier when I’m depressed, too: it takes a lot of mental energy to switch from one task to another, so if I can muster enough strength to take out my camera and set up a photo, it won’t be too hard to set up another photo afterward. It’s a simple principle and it works!

Have start-of-day and end-of-day rituals. While my writerly rituals are pretty much always the same, they feel like uplifting self-care practices when I’m depressed and calming, grounding rituals when I’m manic. In the morning, I make a cup of tea and drink it while sitting in front of my SAD lamp and catching up on my emails and tweets. Once I’m feeling awake and ready to start my workday, I make a list of 3-6 things I need to get done that day, and start on the one that feels most pressing and/or most fun. This helps me ease into the day feeling nourished and purposeful.

My end-of-day rituals aren’t as solidified yet; maybe if they were, I’d spend fewer manic days hunched over my laptop for twelve hours. But when I’ve been working for way too long and need to force myself to take a break, I’ll often smoke some weed (the resulting blurry brain makes further work unlikely), take a hot bath, crawl into bed with an engrossing book, or settle in for a luxurious masturbation sesh. Admittedly, sometimes my manic workaholic ass ends up in front of my laptop again before the night’s out, but I mostly try to respect these arbitrary boundaries I set for myself. In a perfect world, I’d have evening plans with friends or beaux most weeknights, as those would make it compulsory for me to step away from my computer and back into the world.

Keep a filing system for unused ideas. When I’m manic, I have ideas galore – so many ideas that I couldn’t possibly make them all into fully-fledged blog posts right away, though I may want to. The important thing is to make a note of all those great ideas, and to do it in a way which maintains the juiciness those ideas held when you first thought of them. If a blog post comes to you in a flash, don’t just jot down the title and expect yourself to remember the rest; include details, examples, sample sentences, so your note will retain the fire extant in that white-hot idea.

My massive backlog of yet-unused post ideas helps me both when I’m up and when I’m down. Manic Kate might feel brilliant in an unfortunately unfocused way, unsure what to do with all that raw energy pulsing through her brain – in which case she can glance at a list of old ideas and instantly have specific new assignments to work on. Depressed Kate, meanwhile, might be on deadline for an article but lack the clarity and chutzpah to even think of a topic – in which case she can pull out her notebook of old concepts and choose whichever one feels doable.

I jot down ideas in notebooks, the Notes app on my phone, or scraps of paper on my desk. When Manic Kate gets excited about hyper-organization, I use that impulse to methodically transfer all my idea-notes to a central repository in Evernote.

Work on what feels doable and/or exciting. I find my hypomania is best harnessed if I write the thing I’m most excited to write, which is often different from what I’m “supposed to” be working on. The blog posts of mine that have gotten the best response from readers – like Blowjob-Friendly Lipsticks For Every Budget and You’re Vanilla, I’m Not, But I Love You – were brought into the world in obsessive flights of mania. The manic energy with which they are imbued is probably what made them so good.

For similar reasons, if I try to write something light and peppy while I’m depressed, either it’ll come out lacklustre or I just won’t be able to do it. So when I’m feeling that way, I try to view it as an opportunity to work on boring, mechanical tasks – answering emails, organizing my editorial calendar, putting affiliate links into post drafts, sending out interview requests, and so on. Or sometimes I’ll wade into my sadness and write something heavy and emotional, if I can muster the energy.

Know how chemical stimulants affect your body and brain. Sometimes when I’m manic, I’m tempted to drink tons of coffee, because it helps me ride the wave of mania and get even more done than I ordinarily would – or so I think. In reality, the combo of coffee + mania often sends me off the rails into unfocused zippiness that makes it hard to actually get anything done. Similarly, if I drink alcohol while depressed, it usually just depresses me further.

But sometimes, boozin’ while manic can slow me down just enough to enable good writing (I wrote Nude, Lewd, Screwed, & Tattooed while quaffing white wine at my kitchen table), while caffeine can sometimes counteract the physical heaviness of my depression so I can get work done. I also find weed helpful in both states – it can cheer me up when I’m sad and calm me down when I’m manic – but I don’t have much follow-through once I’m high, so it’s not a productivity booster for me (with the exception of CBD-heavy strains).

Take care of your physical health. When I’m manic, I’m at risk for eye strain and back pain, because I end up spending all day in front of my computer, pounding out blog posts. There are apps and tools which can remind you to take a break every so often, and I’d do well to use ’em! I’d also like to implement a system wherein I’ll keep a post-it note somewhere on my workspace that says “How are you feeling right now?” to remind me to notice my body. If I’m manic and get hungry, thirsty, achy, or burned out, I might not always notice until I take a moment to specifically assess how my body is feeling. And then I can make self-care decisions accordingly.

I also try to keep ingredients in the house that are easy for me to throw together into meals, because both depression and mania can sap me of my desire to cook and eat. And when I do take meal breaks, I try to make them actual breaks: I’m not allowed to work while I eat, and I’ll typically put on a funny video or podcast to give my brain a brief vacation.

Fellow folks who deal with bipolar disorder, depression, and/or (hypo)mania: what are your productivity tips ‘n’ tricks?

Meditation, Mindfulness, & My Slutty Mouth

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Two major things happened to me in February: I had one of the worst depressive and anxious spells of my life, and I became obsessed with giving blowjobs.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that these things happened at the same time. We’re drawn to what we most need at any given moment: when your body’s deficient in magnesium, for example, you might crave chocolate. And likewise, I see now that when I most needed to clear my mind and focus up, I craved the sexual act that gave me that experience most readily.

This connection didn’t really hit me until the owner of my favorite BJ dick skipped town and I found myself in a fellatio drought for a while. As my anxious and depressive episode worsened, I craved blowjobs the way I’ve craved other life-affirming touchstones: nutritious food, quality friend-time, creative expression, cat cuddles. It ran deeper than my typical carnal hankerings. It felt more like a core psychological need.

When you struggle with anxiety and depression, people constantly offer unsolicited advice. So I’ve heard it all. “Get more sunshine!” “Try yoga!” “Eat more greens!” One suggestion I’ve heard many times is mindfulness. This seems counterintuitive at first blush – if my issue is feeling sad and scared, won’t focusing on those feelings just make me sadder and scared-er? – but I actually find it works the opposite way. Acknowledging my negative self-talk, greeting it like an old friend instead of slamming the door in its face, diffuses some of its power. And then I refocus on my breath and my body instead of my buzzing brain, and those quotidian sensations are calming in their simplicity. It’s not a magic pill, but it’s something.

That’s what blowjobs can be for me: a venue for mindfulness. They force me into my body and don’t allow me to fall back into my anxiety-brain until the deed is done.

When I first started giving BJs at age 19, I didn’t find it hot at all. “My mouth just isn’t an erotic zone for me,” I remember telling a friend. I felt all those mouth sensations very vividly – the weight of a cock on my tongue, the texture of the skin sliding over my lips, the smells and tastes – and they captured my attention so completely that I couldn’t focus on other things, like my own arousal or pleasure. I hadn’t yet developed a concept of sexual enjoyment that didn’t centre on my own genitals, so I interpreted my BJ dalliances as, “My mouth just isn’t eroticized.” Wow, how wrong I was.

That sensory overwhelm is the main reason I enjoy BJs so much now. They are unique among sexual acts for me in this way. When someone’s fucking me, fingering me, or even going down on me, I can tune it out to some extent if I want to. My mind can wander into anxiety-land, and sometimes I need to remind myself, “Oh, right, I’m having sex right now!” I never, ever experience that with a blowjob. I can’t. My mouth is so front-and-center in my perception that I can’t think about much else when I’m slobbin’ on the knob. It’s just me and the dick, and nothing else matters.

Leo Babauta calls this concept “the universe of a single task” (albeit in a rather different context!). He writes that you should “make each task its own universe, its own specialness.” This is an approach I try (and often fail) to bring to my relationships, my creative work, my very existence as a human. But for some reason, when it comes to blowjobs, I succeed. A beej can be my entire world for its whole duration and I don’t feel deprived or distracted. It is my everything.

This is highly affirming at times when I feel like a fuck-up in every other arena. Maybe I’ve missed a work deadline, or I’m fighting with someone I love, or my financial situation is unsteady. It doesn’t matter. Faced with a dick to suck, all that other shit fades away. A blowjob is a task with crystal-clear parameters and expectations, unlike many other challenges we face. I know exactly what I am supposed to do and how to do it, especially if the person I’m blowing is someone whose body and preferences I’m familiar with. I’m not an Olympic-level cocksucker, but I feel fairly confident in my skillz. Giving a good beej makes me feel empowered and successful even when I don’t feel that way about my life as a whole.

Of course, I’m a kinkster, so my brain is forever swimming in kink, and that probably informs the psychologically restorative way I experience BJs. Being a good girl – in this case, by giving good head – is a way for me to feel valuable when I otherwise don’t. My boss, editor, dad, and best friend could all be fuming at me, but if I’m pleasing a dom partner, that’s all I’m thinking about at that moment – and I’ll feel great about it. Maybe that’s fucked up, but there’ve been times when the satisfaction I glean from pleasing a partner was the boost I needed after depression dug me into a hole in every area of life.

Giving head is also an activity that gives you moment-to-moment feedback on how you’re doing. That is precious and rare in this world of anxiety-provoking uncertainty. I can try out a new trick during a BJ and know in under five seconds whether it’s a flop or a worthy addition to my repertoire. Nifty!

This all makes it sound like I approach fellatio as a zen monk would approach his meditation cushion, and that’s not quite right. True, sometimes kneeling at a partner’s feet to take his dick into my mouth feels akin to prostrating myself before a statue of a revered deity. But there is, of course, a sexy element too. Beyond just having a straight-up BJ kink – which I absolutely do – I also think the psychological calm I get from sucking cock takes the pressure off my sexual brakes. The less anxiety and overwhelm I’m feeling, the easier it is for sexual arousal to flow into my body and mind. Abraham-Hicks says your mood is like a cork held underwater, and it rises fast as soon as you let go of it; I find it’s the same with my arousal. The less I cling to my anxiety, the quicker I turn into a hot puddle of arousal in the presence of things that turn me on. Hence, a meditative blowjob – or other anxiety-quashers like marijuana, booze, and sleepiness – makes me hornier by sheer virtue of eliminating my stressors.

Naturally, this process relies on having a partner I trust – someone who I feel safe relaxing around. But I’ve found this penile peace with more casual partners, too. It’s a nice moment for both of us – him luxuriating in pleasure, and me zoning out on his dick. It’s why, for example, my Tinder hookup in Minneapolis asked me mid-beej if I wanted to “do anything else with that cock,” and I looked up at him with confusion in my eyes and said, “…No.” It had been a couple months since I’d had a hard dick in my mouth, and dammit, I needed my fix.

 

Do you find certain sexual acts meditative or calming? Got any stories or suggestions?

Beating the Stigma: Whipsmart Thoughts on Kink and Mental Health

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It’s funny to me that many people think of kink as dark, dangerous, and edgy. It can be all of those things, of course. But for me, it’s not scary or mysterious. It’s a key part of how my brain works and how I relate to other people. It’s a sexual interest and also a non-sexual paradigm. And sometimes, it’s a boon for my mental health.

Earlier this year, I entered the last semester of my four-year journalism degree, and found myself unable to cope with the challenges it brought. Newsrooms are an anxiety-provoking place to begin with, and I was also experiencing one of the worst anxious and depressive episodes of my life – so, as much as I wanted to be up to the task, I just wasn’t. Two days in the newsroom were enough to convince me of that: the real work hadn’t even begun yet, and already my heart pounded, my mind shouted self-hating epithets at me, and I found myself thinking everything would just be easier if I walked out in front of a speeding truck.

I spoke to one of my instructors, and she – blessedly – was sympathetic to my cause. We discussed possible accommodations and arrived at the idea that I’d get my final credit by creating a journalistic audio series on a topic of my choice.

Over the preceding months, I’d found that my bad mental health days could sometimes be turned around by an intense spanking, a service-submission BJ, or various other acts of kink. Giving up control to a partner made me feel, ultimately, more in control of my life. So the intersection between kink and mental health was front-and-centre in my mind at that time, and I pitched that as a topic for my audio series. My prof loved it, and so I began.

I spent the next six weeks producing Beating the Stigma. Several local sweethearts volunteered for interviews, and generously lent me their time and energy to discuss this topic on tape. Our conversations ranged from intense to funny to mindblowing, and were often all three. I’m so so grateful to my interviewees for being candid and clever every step of the way.

You can listen to the whole series by clicking here, or you can skip to specific chapters below:

Chapter 1: Introductions

Chapter 2: Pain

Chapter 3: DD/lg

Chapter 4: Dominance

Chapter 5: Safe, Sane and Consensual

Chapter 6: Trauma and Recovery

Chapter 7: Sex 2.0

Chapter 8: Aftercare

I hope this series sparks some thoughts and feelings for you! The process of producing it certainly brought a lot to the surface for me.