My Recovery Collar: Using BDSM Tools to Heal

Hello, My Beauties, 

This week @AmericanRuin joined us on #fetchat to talk about the tools we use in BDSM scenes. @AmericanRuin is an artisan and kinkster who sells beautiful leather goods from BDSM discipline straps to gorgeous wall-hangings on Etsy. We covered a lot of ground, from what works for different types of play, how to know you’re getting a quality product, and how to use tools safely.  

CONTENT WARNING: Rape recovery and self-harm. 

#Fetchat is a weekly Twitter Chat I co-host with Nikki (she/her)from loveisafetish.com (@loveisafetish on Twitter). Explore the kink/fetish landscape with us and learn about folks making a difference in the BDSM community. Join us every Wednesday at 5 pm, EST by either searching “fetchat” on Twitter or hanging out on the @Fet_Chat feed. 

Sex Toys

The tools you use for a scene should reflect your needs and the type of play you enjoy. And how you use them, providing you’re keeping things SSC or RACK (Risk Accepted Consensual Kink) is up to you. Your creativity is the only thing limiting you.

I’m low-key and my honey, Mr. Crispy, is extra vanilla.

The kink that makes it into our sex-play is lighter fare, from watching me masturbate with (or without) toys to some sensation play (think feather wands and gentle touches). 

Hence, my treasure chest is simple. I have three collars, several hanks of thick cotton rope, a leather mask, an array of vibrators and vibrating plugs, a leather crop, and some feather wands.

My favorite piece is a leather collar stamped with Hello Kitty and sporting a thick steel O-ring. I lost my mind when I saw it in the basement of The Garden about a year ago.

I lusted after this collar. 

Every trip to the store, I made sure to spend a few minutes stroking the leather and fiending over those little cartoon kittens. It’s sweet and girlish, a brilliant combination of kinky and innocent. My avatar is a unicorn. Of course, I’m gaga over Hello, Kitty.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of sex. I love to pleasure myself and spoil Mr. Crispy with pleasure. But it’s a misperception to think BDSM is only about sexual gratification. My honey and I use power exchange in a way that has nothing to do with sex. 

Not everything in a BDSM scene/relationship is about getting off.

The beautiful strip of leather and steel finally came home with me about two months ago as a way to help me deal with the fallout from panic attacks.

I’m a rape and incest survivor and I struggle with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. I can’t remember a time when those challenges weren’t a part of my day-to-day life. Those experiences and the recovery efforts I’ve engaged in are a huge part of who I am.  

Curious? Check out my post “Anger gets a Bad Wrap” or surf over to this creative non-fiction piece “To Mourn the Living” published in the Fall 2017 issue of Burnt Pine Magazine.

Unfortunately, some unhealthy coping mechanisms became ingrained at an early age. For 23 years, my go-to way of dealing was destructive. The first time I poked myself in the ankle with a hatpin, I was 11 and attempting to find a way to relieve agonizing fear and sadness. I was 12 the first time I cut myself with a dull pair of scissors, and 13 the first time I punched myself in the face until my nose bled. 

Thirty-four years later, I still struggle with the impulse to self-harm. Not every day. Ten years of intensive therapy, a supportive partner, family, and chosen family, and a lot of introspection have helped. Though there are still times when feelings of shame, anger, or sadness overwhelm me. 

It’s a side-effect of being alive. 

Having better, less harmful ways of dealing with my feelings doesn’t mean I don’t experience the urge to take the path I know will work. Self-harm works because it helps short-circuit the survival instincts, I call the Fantastic Five F’s

Self-harm engages the body in a way that communicates there is no immediate danger to respond to, even though it is dangerous in-and-of-itself. 

Our minds and bodies are fascinating, huh?

The Fantastic Five F’s: When our lizard brains recognize danger, our brains send out signals to get us ready to do what’s necessary to survive. We prepare for Fight, Flee, Freeze, Flop, or Friend. Blood rushes from our brains to our major muscle groups and organs. Rational thought and reasoning take a back seat to deal as quickly as possible with whatever we think is going to destroy us. 

Anne in a Leather Mask

Enter the fantastic Mr. Crispy and my brand-spanking-new Hello, Kitty collar.

Fear swallows my ability to reason when I experience panic, a flashback, or severe depression.  In those moments, saying “I need help because I want to punch myself in the face” feels as impossible as climbing Everest in flip-flops.

 Mr. Crispy and I decided to use a collar and power exchange as a way to help ground me in the present. 

Hey, slips happen. Recovery is a journey, not a destination.

Now, when my brain begins racing around like a toddler hopped up on confetti cake and lemonade, I pull out the Hello, Kitty collar. I bring it to my honey, and he puts it around my neck. 

He’s in charge for the time it takes to bring me back to earth.

He may be vanilla when it comes to sex, but he’s an incredible emotional Dom. Sex is the farthest thing from either of our minds when he takes the reins. A supportive and intelligent human being, he assists me in taking care of the basics. 

  • Eating
  • Addressing physical pain & fevers.
  • Showering.
  • Staying warm.

Remember, I also have a chronic illness that plays merry hob with my joints and my body temperature when it’s active. Fun stuff.  When I’m grounded enough to express more than tears or screeching anger, he acts as a guide as we search for the source of the emotions turning my brain to pudding. 

Like any other BDSM practice, there are communications cues, consequences, and safe words.

We keep the collar on, and he stays in charge until we both know I’m safe to be alone without resorting to self-harm. There’s nothing sexy about this power exchange, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less a D/s dynamic. 

Remember: you determine when and how BDSM fits into your life. The tools, the actions, all of it, is your choice. BDSM is a journey you take with yourself and with your partner(s). 

Go forth and play safe.

Be well, be wonderful, and above all, be you.

Anne


Image Credit: @AmericanRuin’s leather goods (straps, meter sticks, wall hangings) retrieved from @AmericanRuin at AmericanRuin.etsy.com.

All other images photographed by Anne Stagg.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you for your bravery in publishing something so personal! I think people assume that anything that has to do with BDSM is automatically sexual, so it’s enlightening to hear about how it can be so much more than that.

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