When one has long fantasized about something and then has the opportunity to see those fantasies come to life, it should be a dream come true. All of those longed-for things finally happening! Magic in the making. Living our best life. It can be a bitter pill indeed to find out that magic sometimes has a price and not all fantasies are exactly what we had hoped.
Today’s column comes courtesy of a reader who is struggling with some unwanted aftereffects of their realized desires. Is the price they are currently paying worth it? Or should they put their dreams back onto the shelf and walk away? The Dirty Talk advice column has some science and answers! We are big fans of both.
“After many years of wanting to explore BDSM, I finally decided to get off the fence and go for it. I am having the time of my life, except for one weird thing that keeps happening…after playing, I find myself getting really REALLY sad. A few times, I’ve even had to call in sick to work because I couldn’t get out of bed. Is this normal? Do I need to stop exploring the lifestyle? Why am I getting so sad after doing what I have always dreamed of?”–Sad And Down
There is a scientific reason for what you are experiencing SAD, and it also isn’t all that usual. The reason that BDSM feels so rewarding and thrilling is that it can be a huge brain dump of happy chemicals. Much magic. If one doesn’t have any experience with the lifestyle, they can be forgiven for thinking it is all pain and suffering and misery. Isn’t BDSM a bunch of stern-faced types in leather pants beating whimpering slaves in dungeons? Surely the people into such things possess questionable taste and even more questionable wiring! Where is the joy in bruises?
BDSM Can Make You Feel High
The joy in bruises is that, for some folks, there is a brain payoff in the form of altered states of consciousness. While there is a shortage of scientific studies, we do know that cortisol levels are affected and people can literally feel high, similar to what is known as a “runner’s high”. For some lifestyle participants, the happy brain space is achieved and then they go on their merry way until the next time they partake.
For others, such as yourself, there is a price to be paid for play. This price is known as “sub drop”, and it is what happens once the higher levels of joy juice in the brain dissipate. Sub drop can manifest as anxiety, fatigue, irritability, depression, etc, and it is never pleasant. Sometimes the drop is minor and inconvenient, other times it absolutely levels. You are describing feeling so flattened that you’ve missed multiple days of work, which puts you on the more extreme side of sub drop.
There Are Different Opinions On Sub Drop
If it helps any, what you are experiencing is common enough that there is a name for it, and many others have gone through it. While different educators have different opinions on sub drop and how to deal with it, my opinion is not the universal one, you did write to me, so I will give you mine: I don’t think that kinky play is so important it is worth the price you currently seem to be paying for it.
I am not saying that you have to give up on play if you can’t get on top of the drop you are experiencing. Temporarily shelving it while you learn more about the lifestyle is an option. I’ve certainly known people who have dealt with heavy drop and then found it to be less of a factor as they became more experienced. The advice I give everyone entering the lifestyle is to go slow, learn as much as you can, and be patient.
Some people think that sub drop is a case of “buy the ticket, take the ride” and play despite knowing the price they have to pay on the other side. Some think that if you keep on playing, eventually the drop will lessen. Some want kink in their life badly enough that they can’t imagine giving it up, no matter what. I don’t personally believe sub drop that is leaving you sad, depressed, and taking sick days to recover is a reasonable thing to power through.
There Are Some Things That Lessen Sub Drop
I know that after years of desiring to experience kink and finally having the courage to act on it, this isn’t what you want to hear. What I can suggest are some techniques that can hopefully lessen the drop you are currently experiencing. Aftercare is one of the best ways to do this, and while your letter doesn’t specify, it seems as if you are playing with multiple people as opposed to just one? As a relative newbie, you are still figuring things out. How well do you know the people you are playing with? Do they follow up with you after the fact? Do they know you are crashing so hard you are missing work?
By communicating what you are currently experiencing during any future negotiations, prospective play partners have a better idea of what is happening, and the two of you can take some time to set up aftercare that works for you personally. Exactly what aftercare looks like varies from person to person, and only you will truly know what is going to be best for you. The better our communication is, the better our end results are going to be. Communication is a skill set, and much like a muscle, it gets stronger the more you use it.
Another option is to play lighter and less frequently than you currently are, pacing yourself and planning out the recovery days to have the least amount of impact on your life. If you work Monday through Friday, making a point of only playing Friday night so you have the weekend to recover could be a useful technique for you.
You won’t know if these techniques will work for you until you try them, and they are also not guaranteed to work. I know that the idea of discontinuing a newfound joy probably isn’t what you want to hear, but I can’t in good conscience counsel someone to keep paying such a heavy price for play. I don’t believe in letting our fun, the things we do to relax, have such a strong effect on us that it turns into sadness and that is where you currently seem to be.
Hopefully, the techniques that I’ve recommended give you some relief and there is much more play in your future SAD. We are always constantly growing and evolving and just because something isn’t currently working for us in the immediate moment doesn’t mean it won’t work better for us down the road. Best of luck!
Keep it Kinky My Friends,
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