How do I approach people online for fetish play?

Today’s post is quite exciting for me, because it represents something I’ve been itching to do for a while.  I love helping people and providing sex education, and one way to do that is to answer questions that people ask about sex and sexuality.  I recently had a reader write to me with a question, and although I replied privately, I also wanted to take this opportunity to address the subject on my blog so that all of you can read about it.

 

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The reader who wrote to me is a heterosexual man who has a foot fetish.  He is interested in finding female partners online who are interested in indulging his fetish by chatting and sending pictures.  He wanted to know how he could go about finding receptive partners in a respectful way.  I had a number of suggestions for him that I wanted to share with you.  These don’t necessarily apply only to foot fetishists, but anyone who is online seeking partners for sexual or fetish play.

 

The mere thought of looking for partners for fetish play can be nerve-wracking.  For starters, most fetishes are still looked upon with a degree of fear and many are misunderstood.  A lot of people who have kinks also hold a lot of shame around those desires.  Add to that the nerve-jangling fear of rejection and social anxiety and you get a kinkster who would prefer to cower in the corner than put themselves in the vulnerable position of looking for a play partner. Luckily, the internet has provided a multitude of options when it comes to looking for someone to explore with.  But there are a few things to consider before you throw yourself in headfirst….

 

Choose your platform carefully

One of the biggest mistakes people make when searching for partners online is not looking in the right places.  There are so many different social media platforms that allow us to connect with other people, but not all of these are ideal for finding partners to engage with sexually.  Instagram and Facebook are fantastic for sharing pictures with your friends, but they’re not the place to trawl for people to play with.  If you imagine the internet as a city, then Instagram and Facebook are like the public park.  Just like people don’t go to the park looking for a hookup, most people aren’t using these sites to find sexual partners.  Therefore, approaching strangers on Facebook or Instagram with requests for fetish play is likely to cause distress.  You wouldn’t walk up to a strange woman at the park and demand that she shows you her genitals, so you shouldn’t message a stranger on Facebook asking the same.

 

On the other hand, there are a number of sites and apps that are filled with people who are actively looking for people to explore with.  These are like the kink clubs, the singles bars and the hotspots in a real life city.  If you look on these sites, you’re automatically off to a better start because you’re working with a pool of people who are open to meeting people to talk about kinks, who are interested in hooking up or online play.  Fetlife is a great place to find like-minded individuals who share your fetishes.  You can join groups devoted to particular kinks, find events nearby and make friends.  Tinder is good if you’re looking for dates or hookups and dating sites are a good place to meet people who are interested in meeting potential partners. For fetish play though, I’d start with Fetlife to meet people who are interested in your specific kinks.

 

Treat people as whole, not just a collection of body parts.

When you send a message to a new friend or potential play partner online, it’s really important that you treat them like a whole person, not just as the life support system for the particular part you want to engage with.  That’s objectification and it’s not cool.  Rather than leading with a message that says “I want to see your feet, send me a picture” open with something a little more casual.  Introduce yourself, ask what they’d like to be called and see if they’d be interested in chatting.  Ask questions about them and answer their questions honestly.  This helps your new friend to feel more comfortable and makes them much more receptive to a request for play when you offer one.

 

Respond to rejection gracefully

It’s likely that you’ll experience some rejection when you begin chatting with potential play partners.  There are going to be people who are not interested in your particular kink, or who are not looking for someone to play with. Whatever their reason, if they do turn you down, accept it gracefully.  Resist the urge to demand an explanation, call them names or plead with them to change their mind.  Treat their “No” with respect and thank them for chatting with you.

 

Bring in a professional

If you’re not looking for an ongoing relationship, it might be worth bringing in a professional play partner to fulfil your fantasies.  Many escorts, adult performers, pro-dommes and cam models specialise in fetish work.  A bit of research online is likely to turn up a few professionals who will be able to indulge your kink and give you the play that you’re craving. This is especially true if the play you’re dreaming of is very specialised, unusual or requires particular equipment or training.  In the case of a foot fetish, there are loads of camgirls and porn performers who will sell pictures of their feet to you, and many even sell their socks and stockings to their customers.  If you’re shy about meeting people online, paying a professional can be a great option.

 

Finding play partners for fetishists can be a minefield.  But the internet has given us so many avenues to search for likeminded people who may be interested in exploring with us.  As long as you’re looking in the right places and treating people with respect and courtesy, you’ll be off to a great start and hopefully you’ll find that special someone who will share your erotic kinks.

 

Do you have any suggestions for meeting potential play partners online?  If so, please feel encouraged to leave a comment.

 

 

 

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How to avoid topping from the bottom

“Topping from the Bottom” refers to an instance in a BDsM scene where the submissive partner, or bottom, seeks to control the scene.  It’s a frowned-upon practice in the BDsM community and a somewhat controversial topic.  Today I wanted to unpack the idea of “Topping from the Bottom” and discuss some of the things I’ve found help to avoid it.

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What does “Topping from the bottom” actually entail?

One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to discuss topping from the bottom is that there isn’t a universally agreed-upon definition of the kind of behaviour that it involves.  What some dominants consider acceptable, others will be angered by.  For example, some submissives indulge in “bratting” during a scene, where they refuse to do what their dominant orders until they are made to comply.  For some people, bratting is part of their dynamic, and having the dominant “make” them submit is an important aspect of play.  For other players, this type of behaviour is deeply disrespectful to the dominant.

 

So it’s difficult to say “X behaviour is topping from the bottom, while Y is not” because what is acceptable varies from person to person and scene to scene.  There are a range of practices that might be considered topping from the bottom depending on the circumstances.  But generally speaking, any instance where the submissive partner tries to manipulate play in a way that has not previously been agreed upon would constitute topping from the bottom.

 

Why does it matter so much?

Topping from the bottom is so frowned upon because it violates the power exchange that is the core of most BDsM scenes.  Usually, when a scene takes place, the submissive party gives up some of their power and control to the dominant, who promises to look after them and drive the scene.  For many dominants, when their submissive tops from the bottom, it can be seen as a declaration that they do not trust them.  It can also be extremely frustrating for a dominant who has carefully planned a scene to have it disrupted by a submissive saying “No, use the red flogger, not the black one”.  Planning and executing BDsM scenes is mentally and physically draining for a dominant, and it can feel like the submissive doesn’t appreciate that hard work and effort if they interrupt or manipulate the scene.   At it’s core though, topping from the bottom is seen to matter because it means that the submissive has failed to carry out their role in the scene.

 

So, how can we avoid topping from the bottom?

Clear and comprehensive negotiation is the best way to avoid topping from the bottom.  Negotiation is an important part of BDsM scenes, and there are a few things that should definitely be touched on to diffuse a situation that could give rise to topping from the bottom:

  • A lot of the time, when a submissive won’t submit or tries to manipulate a scene, it’s because they’re afraid.  They’re worried that they might get hurt or that their dominant will harm them in some way.  Discussing fears, phobias, triggers and limits is a vital part of negotiation and if the submissive party feels that they’ve been heard in this realm, they’re a lot more likely to be able to hand over the reigns to a Dom.
  • Sometimes, people have a very clear picture in their minds of how they want a scene to play out.  Perhaps they have a particular fantasy that they’re trying to recreate, which means that certain details have to be just so.  If you’re trying to do a fantasy role play scene, discussing these details and planning out how to achieve them beforehand can help.
  • Set out rules and limits that all parties agree upon as to what is acceptable during play.  For example, if you know that you like to be a bit of a brat during a scene, speak up and decide if this is ok.   Whatever works for you, just make sure that you’ve set out the rules for the scene clearly before you begin.
  • Finally, agree on a safeword or signal and decide what will happen if the safeword is called.  Many submissives will have one safeword that means “Slow down and check in” and another that means “Stop right this second”.  Both parties should commit to following the rules you set out for safewords.

– Trust is another important factor in BDsM in general, but it is a huge component in avoiding topping from the bottom. When a submissive feels secure in their relationship with the dominant, and they are confident of their top’s abilities, it’s so much easier to put themselves in that person’s hands:

  • Build up scenes slowly over time.  Don’t leap right into a suspension rope scene or heavy impact play with a new partner.  Start with something simple, a light spanking scene or some scarf bondage and build up to the heavy stuff.  Each time you navigate a new scene or type of play with your partner, your trust in them will grow.  Start out with play that involves a small exchange of power, and work towards the big, complicated power dynamics as your trust grows.
  • Talk about your individual skills and abilities, and don’t commit to doing scenes that are beyond your comfort or skill level.
  • Debrief after the scene is over.  Once everyone is feeling calm and you’ve done your aftercare, have a conversation about how things went, what was good and what could be better next time.

There is a lot of introspective work that goes into BDsM.  A huge amount of time goes into soul searching and self evaluation

  • Be very honest with yourself about your personal limits and desires.  And then be unwavering on your limits when negotiating a scene.  Don’t agree to participate in play that you aren’t comfortable with.  That way, you won’t be put in a situation where you’re afraid and anxious and trying to manipulate play to protect your ego.
  • Commit to your role in the scene. If you’re in the submissive role, your job is to submit.  Even if you’re a brat or you resist, your ultimate role is to submit and do as you’re told.  And if you don’t want to do that…then maybe BDsM play isn’t for you. Or maybe you’d be better off in the dominant role.
  • If you’re a submissive, it’s very normal to experience resistance to submission.  Even when I trust my partner and I’ve given my full consent, I still experience moments where Sir will tell me to do something and I hesitate.  In these moments I’ve learned to have a quiet word with myself, to remind myself that I trust my partner and that He has a plan for the scene.  I remember that He knows what He’s doing and that Sir would never harm me.  Reminding myself of those facts helps me to relax and give myself over when anxiety or fear creep in during a scene.
  • Manage your own expectations.  This is particularly important if you’re doing a fantasy role play, because fantasies rarely translate perfectly into reality.  When you let go of the need for the scene to go exactly the way you pictured in your head, it makes it easier to resist the urge to micromanage it.

Topping from the bottom is a very tricky topic to discuss, because it can mean many things to different people.  But ultimately it’s about a submissive who is either unwilling or unable to surrender and submit.  And I believe that honest communication and slow building of trust will go a long way to allowing that submissive to let go and hand control over to their dominant.  It’s not easy to submit, but once you’ve established that safety and trust, it’s so much easier to release your grip and just enjoy the ride.

 

Do you have any tips on how to avoid topping from the bottom?  Or any questions about BDsM scenes and negotiation? If you do, please leave a comment below.

 

 

Vegan transition tips

We are now into the third week of Veganuary and I thought that this would be a great time to share some of my tips for transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.  I’ve been a vegan for around eighteen months now and I can tell you that the first six weeks are the most difficult. But those weeks were difficult for reasons I hadn’t anticipated.

I had expected that I would have to deal with strong food cravings during my transition period.  In particular, I predicted that I would have the most trouble separating from cheese, because it was my favourite food in my pre-vegan days.  In actual fact, food cravings weren’t that much of an issue for me.  What I found the most difficult was just navigating the shops and restaurants as a new vegan.  Tasks that had previously been second-nature took on a whole new dimension and became time consuming and difficult.  I had to check labels, ask questions and the whole process was kind of overwhelming.  Additionally, modifying recipes to make them vegan was tricky in the beginning.  But as time passed and I gained more knowledge and experience, these things became much simpler and less stressful.  Let me share with you some of the things I wish I’d known when I first became a vegan, as well as my top transition tips.

  • Go at a pace that feels manageable for you.  There is no rule that says you have to be completely vegan from the get-go.  You might find it easier to cut out meat one month, then progress to dairy and eggs when you are ready.
  • Don’t rely on meat substitutes.  In the early days of adopting a vegan diet, you might be tempted to replace your usual meals with the “meat free” version.  Although this sounds like a good way to ease away from meat, I found this actually made it more difficult.  Meat substitutes are great, but most of them don’t have the flavour or texture of meat.  This means they’re less likely to satisfy cravings. Use meat substitutes sparingly and instead stock up on fresh veggies, legumes, grains, pasta and spices.
  • Try new things.  This is the perfect time to experiment with new recipes and ingredients.
  • Eating out can be a bit of a minefield when you’re a new vegan.  But there are loads of options available, even at restaurants that aren’t specifically vegan.  Mexican restaurants have a huge range of options, pizzas can be ordered without meat or cheese, salads are served at most restaurants and most burger places have at least one veggie burger.  Even my local pub has a veggie stir fry with smokey soy sauce that is accidentally vegan.
  • Plan ahead when you go shopping.  Make a list and spend a little time researching at home which brands offer vegan options.  You can find lists of accidentally vegan snacks at Veggieful which are super helpful.  This will save lots of time and stress when you actually hit the shops.
  • Embrace home cooking.  If you don’t know how to cook, this is the perfect time to learn.  Even though it might be difficult to find vegan versions of your favourite foods in stores, it’s pretty easy to make your own snacks, sweets and meals at home.  It’s also so much cheaper than buying pre-packaged meals or eating out.

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  • Don’t stress out about protein.  A lot of people believe that meat, eggs and dairy are the only sources of protein.  This isn’t true at all.  If you’re eating a wide range of foods that includes nuts, legumes and grains, you’ll be fine.
  • Some folks love to be jerks to vegans.  It sucks, but it’s a fact.  Accept this, but realise that it’s not your job to respond or be an ambassador for the vegan lifestyle.  If you want to, that’s your choice, but you do not have to engage with someone who is harassing you over your diet.
  • Don’t be alarmed by portion sizes.  When I first went vegan, I got really worried because I had to eat a much larger meal in order to feel satiated.  This occurs simply because plant-based foods don’t have as many calories and therefore it takes a larger amount to make you feel full and satisfied. So if you’re eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, you might find that your serving sizes need to increase in order for you to feel full.
  • Make your own rules and choices.  You don’t have to be the “perfect vegan” and you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself.  You get to decide how to implement your lifestyle and make choices that suit you.  For example, some vegans get rid of all of their animal-based clothing and only buy animal free clothes.  I still own wool and leather from my pre-vegan days, and I will continue to use these things until they are worn out.  I won’t buy new items that are made from wool or leather but I will still purchase second-hand items made from animal products because I believe in recycling and getting the most out of clothing that is still wearable.  That’s my choice, and it feels right to me, even if it might not be the “perfect vegan” choice.
  • You are going to make mistakes.  You will buy things that have sneaky animal products in them.  You will accidentally order a meal that you didn’t realise had cheese or cream included.  It’s ok.  Mistakes happen and we learn from them.  Don’t beat yourself up or expect to be perfect.

It’s true that the first month or so of trying a vegan lifestyle can be difficult, but I promise you that it does get easier.  And the benefits definitely outweigh the initial struggles.

 

Do you have any transition tips that you’d like to add?  Or any questions about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle?  I’d be happy to answer them.

My favourite vegan resources

Happy Veganuary!  Veganuary is a campaign to encourage people to try a vegan diet for the month of January.  If you’re interested in veganism and want to give it a go, I recommend taking part in Veganuary.

 

To celebrate Veganuary, I’m publishing a series of posts about veganism during the month of January.  These posts will deal with some of the common questions faced by new vegans and assist and support you if you’re considering making the transition to a vegan diet.

 

One of the most important things to do at the beginning of your vegan journey is to do your research.  Veganism is a massive topic and there are so many things to be considered.  You need to think about the reasons why you want to go vegan, the health benefits and concerns associated with a vegan diet as well as recipes and meal inspiration.  The internet is filled with resources for new vegans, but it can be very overwhelming when you’re just getting started.  To help you out, I’ve put together a list of the resources that I found most helpful at the beginning of my transition to veganism, as well as the ones that I reference on a regular basis now.

 

Films

Forks over Knives: This compelling documentary discusses the health benefits of a plant based diet.  It considers whether eating a diet high in animal products can contribute to problems like heart disease and cancer and how moving away from animal products can have a healing effect on our bodies.

 

101 Reasons to Go Vegan: A presentation aimed at high school students to help you consider the ethical dilemmas involved in farming and eating animals and animal by-products.

 

Cowspiracy: A sobering look at the environmental impact of the farming industry.

 

Books

The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S Nixon: When you’re first learning to cook a plant-based diet, a comprehensive book like this one can be a lifesaver.  I read this book two months after I began eating a vegan diet, and it made life so much easier.  It is chock-full of recipes for meal inspiration, has pages of tips for negotiating eating out at restaurants and social gatherings, lots of interviews with vegans of all walks of life and great shopping lists in the back.  One important thing to note is that this book is focused on plant-based eating, which doesn’t include things like oil and so it’s a tad more limited than a traditional “vegan” diet.  But this book is still a great starting point and I highly recommend it.

 

Veganish: the Omnivore’s Guide to Plant-Based Cooking by Mielle Chenier and Cowan Rose: An excellent book to read if you’re concerned about the nutritional value of a vegan diet.  Although the book does have a lot of recipes, they are a tiny bit more advanced than most beginner-friendly books, owing to the fact that the author is a chef.  It’s still a great read and very informative.

 

Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans by Natalie Slater: Most vegan cookbooks are a plethora of salads, soups, curries and other angelic delights.  This punk-rock book is brimming with amazing vegan junk food options like pizzas, cakes, cookies, chips, sandwiches and nachos.  It’s colourful and creative and so much fun.

 

Websites

All Vegan, All Good: All Vegan, All Good is the shopping hub for cruelty-free clothing and products. If you are looking for good-quality vegan clothing, beauty products and lifestyle products, this website is a great place to start.  Browse through the list of shops or search for specific items.  This site has saved me so much time when looking for new shoes and beauty products.

 

Veggieful: This is my most-visited site for finding vegan groceries and takeaway options.  Although the site is packed with blog posts about vegan nutrition, recipes and so forth, the real kicker is the comprehensive lists of “accidentally vegan” items at major grocery stores and takeaway chains in Australia.  This website will save you so much time scouring ingredients lists and asking waitstaff what you can order.  It’s amazing and I love it.

 

Choose Cruelty Free: A comprehensive listing of all the companies that make cruelty free and vegan cosmetics in Australia.  This is immensely helpful as it can be very confusing trying to determine which products are cruelty free in the chemist or supermarket as not all of them are clearly labelled.  This website takes all the guesswork out of shopping for cosmetics.

 

The Cruelty Free Shop: The biggest vegan supermarket in Australia.  The brick-and-mortar store is located in Fitzroy.  However, if you’re not able to get to the actual shop, you can buy all your vegan goodies at their online store.  Featuring everything from groceries to snacks, makeup to lubricant, everything is 100% vegan.

 

Youtube channels

Keira Rose: Keira vlogs about a range of topics, including mental health and cosplay.  But my favourite part of her channel is her “what I ate” videos which are great fodder for meal planning and her reviews of vegan products.  She’s charming, funny and adorable and I’ve learned so much from her channel.

 

Jenny Mustard: I first discovered Jenny’s channel when I was looking for videos about minimalism and decluttering.  In addition to being a genius on these topics, Jenny is a total foodie and gives brilliant advice on simple, satisfying vegan cooking.  She’s a master of meal planning and has loads of snack ideas that will make your mouth water.

 

Plant Based News:  A great channel to help you access the newest vegan documentaries as well as interviews with scientists, doctors and health professionals.

 

Vegan Voyager: Laura’s down-to-earth tone and witty attitude make this channel a pleasure to watch.  Featuring great advice for vegan travel, avoiding products with hidden animal content and identifying accidentally vegan products.  Loads of delicious junk food and shopping tips.

 

If you know of any other resources that you think I should add to this list, please let me know.  I’m always on the lookout for new vegan books, films and online media to learn from and share.

 

As always, if you’ve got any questions I’d be happy to try to answer them for you.  Drop me an email or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to find the answer for you.

 

A guide to choosing sex toys as gifts.

I’ve been asked many times for advice on choosing a sex toy to give as a gift to a partner.  I had planned to write and publish this post in the lead-up to Christmas, but the last few weeks have been swamped with work commitments, family engagements and wild weather that left me without power or internet connection for long stretches.  Even though Christmas is over, I still wanted to address the topic of buying sex toys as presents, because it’s relevant year-round.

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Choosing a sex toy for another person can be fraught with difficulties.  The potential for embarrassment (both theirs and yours) is high.  You can accidentally insult someone if you buy something that is wildly contrary to their interests, or even potentially make them feel pressured to engage in sexual acts that they aren’t truly comfortable with.  It’s a bit of a minefield but I’m here with some top tips and tricks to help you choose a gift that your partner will find exciting and pleasurable.

 

Before you begin shopping, it’s really important to have a think about why you’re buying a sex toy for your partner.  Have they expressed an interest in trying toys?  Have they mentioned wanting to dip their toe into a particular area of sexual exploration, such as BDsM or anal play?  Do you live far apart and want them to be able to enjoy steamy masturbation sessions when you aren’t with them?  Or are you hoping that by buying them a toy you’ll be able to pressure them into letting you watch them use it?  You have to be really honest with yourself here.  If you are hoping to increase your partner’s pleasure or open the door to some fresh exploration, then that’s awesome.  If you’re using the toy to entice your partner into doing something they aren’t comfortable with, then you should back off.

 

Ok, so assuming you’re buying a toy for the right reasons, the next thing to consider is what your partner is into.  Think about the kinds of activities your partner enjoys in the bedroom, and look for toys that will enhance that experience.  For example, if you know that your partner enjoys being restrained during sex, maybe you could get them some gorgeous cuffs and a blindfold.  If your partner prefers clitoral stimulation, try an external vibrator.  Also, it pays to think about any areas of sexuality that your sweetheart has mentioned they are interested in trying.  If they’ve previously mentioned that they find pegging really hot, then a simple harness and small silicone dildo could be fun.  Or if they’re itching to try spanking, a paddle or a crop could be a cheeky addition to their toybox.  Pay attention to your partner’s preferences and desires and choose accordingly.

 

Another thing to consider is whether your partner already owns any toys.  If they have a budding collection, then it’s worth looking for any patterns in the toys they own.  Do they seem to prefer insertable toys?  Vibrators?  Is their bedside drawer filled with butt plugs of various sizes?  If there is a particular thing that they seem to love, try getting them something similar, with a twist. Dildos in luxurious materials like glass are a great start, as are vibrators with unique shapes or functions.

 

Once you’ve got an idea of the kind of thing you’d like to buy for your honey, do some research.  Look at online stores for ideas, read reviews from sex bloggers, watch youtube videos and pay attention to what they have to say.  Take into account any criticisms and decide whether these are deal-breakers for your partner.  Also remember that bodies vary wildly and what feels pleasurable to one person can be irritating or even painful for another.

 

Is your head spinning yet?  I’m not surprised.  Shopping for sex toys can be an overwhelming experience.  There are so many to choose from and so many different factors to consider.  Which brings me to my most important piece of advice.

 

If you aren’t 100% sure what to get for your partner, get them a gift voucher.  Unless you know for a fact that your partner is drooling over a specific model of vibrator, the best thing you can do is give them a voucher for a reputable adult store.  This way, they can either go by themselves or you can make it an adventure for the both of you to go to the store and choose something that suits them perfectly.

 

My first ever vibrator was a gift from a partner.  They took me to an adult store for Valentines Day, gave me a budget and asked me to take my time choosing the toy that I most wanted.  I’d been interested in getting a vibrator for some time, but I had absolutely no idea what type of toys were available or even what would work best for my body.  So actually going to a real-life store was the best thing to do.  Not only was I able to touch the toys, press buttons and feel vibration quality and materials, but I got some amazing expert advice from the shop assistant.  She knew her toys so well and helped me to choose a vibrator that I absolutely loved.  I left the store with something that brought me years of joy, my partner was chuffed that he’d given me the gift of pleasure and I didn’t feel pressured or uncomfortable.  To this day, I still believe this is the best approach to giving a sex toy as a gift.

 

Giving a voucher or a toy-shopping expedition as a gift overcomes a lot of the pitfalls of shopping for a partner.  It takes away all the guesswork or trying to imagine what they might like.  It makes your partner feel empowered to choose something that they would find pleasurable, rather than being pressured into using the specific item you picked out.  Going shopping as a couple can be a really fun bonding experience and you won’t waste money on something that your partner won’t use.  Unless you’re really certain that your partner wants a specific toy, I think that going shopping together or giving them a voucher to spend at their leisure is the best way to gift a sex toy to your partner.

My IUD experience.

I’ve just gotten back from my appointment with my doctor to check up on my IUD.  Now that I’ve had it for three whole months I thought that it would be a good time to have a chat about my experience with the IUD.

What on earth is an IUD?

IUD stands for intra-uterine device. It is a contraceptive device.  The device is about an inch long and is inserted into the uterus by a doctor.  There are two different types of IUD: the copper IUD and the Mirena IUD.  The copper IUD works essentially as a spermicide, as copper is toxic to sperm.  The Mirena contains a low dose of the same hormones that are contained in the contraceptive pill, and works by thinning the uterine lining so that a fertilized egg cannot implant and grow into a fetus. Both types of IUD are extremely effective, and are the most effective type of long-term, reversible contraceptives.  The copper IUD lasts for three years while the Mirena lasts for five.

Why did you get an IUD?

I started looking into getting an IUD about six months ago.  The main reason was that I suffer from chronic migraines, which tend to get worse just after my period.  I had been on the contraceptive pill since I was seventeen, and for the seven days when I was taking the inactive sugar pills in the pack, I felt wretched.  This got worse as I got older and it was during this seven day window when my migraines occurred most frequently.  I hoped that by getting off the contraceptive pill, I’d ease the severity of my migraines.

 

I had originally wanted to get a copper IUD, because it has no hormones at all and I wanted to get away from hormonal birth control.  But after meeting with my gynaecologist and having a long discussion, she recommended that the Mirena would be a better fit.  The reason being that the copper IUD has a lot more side effects, such as increased period bleeding and cramping.  Also, she hoped that the Mirena, being a much lower dose of hormones than the pill, and also the fact that its’ a steady dose rather than the stop-start nature of the pill’s hormones, would still give me the benefit of easing my migraines.

 

What was the insertion like?  Did it hurt?

The insertion was pretty quick, but it did hurt a lot more than I expected.  Now, I know that some people get IUDs and experience very little pain or discomfort.  But every body is different.

The first part of the process was pretty much the same as a pap smear.  I took off all my clothing below the waist and lay on the examination table with my feet in stirrups.  My doctor inserted a speculum into my vagina and then did a manual examination, using a gloved finger to feel my ovaries and check the position of my cervix.  That bit was uncomfortable, but not at all painful.  Next, the doctor used a clamp to hold onto the lip of my uterus.  This is done to make sure that the uterus stays in place during the insertion (did you know that your uterus can move up and down?  I only learned that when I started using a menstrual cup, because your uterus and cervix are actually much lower at the end of your cycle).  This hurt quite a lot, and felt like a really sharp stinging pain low in my belly.  Luckily, my doctor worked very quickly from this point because she knew how badly that clamp hurts.

 

Next, the doctor does what is called a Uterine Sounding, which is basically using a little rod to measure the length of your uterus.  This is done to make sure that the IUD is put into the correct position.  I didn’t find this painful at all, it just felt like a light menstrual cramp.  Next, the doctor inserted the actual IUD, using the applicator.  The applicator itself looks terrifying because it’s so long, but it helps to remember that most of what you see is just the handle for the doctor to hold onto and guide the device into place.  The actual insertion was pretty painful for me.  Even though I tried to stay relaxed and focus on breathing slowly and deeply, it still hurt.  But it was over very quickly, and once the clamp was released I felt much better.  My doctor gave me a high five and I was allowed to get dressed and leave.

 

That afternoon I felt a bit sick and woozy for about twenty minutes after the procedure.  I had a bit of cramping, which just felt like menstrual cramps but they only lasted a few hours and were perfectly manageable with some Ibuprofen and a heat pack.  I also had a bit of bleeding that afternoon.  The following day I felt absolutely fine and went to work with no issues at all.

 

Did you have any side effects?

I’ve had very few side effects with the Mirena.  The main one is that my periods have been kind of irregular.  This is probably because my body is adjusting to not being on the pill.  It’s a bit of a pain not knowing when I’m going to get my period, particularly as my cycle was like clockwork when I was on the pill.  But my doctor has said that my cycle will settle into a rhythm after a few months.

I’ve also had a tiny bit more cramping on my period than what I’m used to.  But nothing too severe.

About three weeks after the insertion I had horrible sharp pains on one side of my lower stomach.  I realised that these were ovulation pains, which are caused when the ovary releases an egg.  When you are on the pill, you don’t ovulate, so this was my first ovulation in 13 years and I think it was a shock to my body, and that’s why it hurt so much.  In subsequent months I’ve had the tiniest twinge of ovulation pain, but nothing so bad as that first time.

Are you happy with it?

I’m very happy with the Mirena.  I haven’t had a migraine since I got it inserted, which is the longest I’ve gone without a migraine in five years.  I don’t expect my migraines to stop entirely, because i know that I have other triggers besides hormonal fluctuations but this has definitely helped to ease them.  I no longer have to remember to take a pill every morning or worry about picking up my prescription from the chemist.  It’s been really freeing, and so for that short burst of pain it’s been well worth it.

 

I’d definitely encourage people to think about the IUD as a long-term contraceptive option.  It’s a less popular option than the pill because it’s more expensive initially and it has to be inserted, but it’s extremely effective and lasts for years.  I’m really happy with mine and I’m open to answering any questions you might have based on my experience.

Full time work and mental illness

This month marks three years since I began working full time.  The news that i had attained my first full-time job was clouded with trepidation.  I had never thought that I’d be able to manage full time work because of my mental illness.  I was sure that my depression and anxiety disorder would make it impossible for me to bear a full time workload.  But here I am, three years on and still doing the full time thing.

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Although I manage pretty well, there are some pretty serious bumps in the road.  I often struggle to cope, and at times have thought about pumping the brakes and going back to part time work.  Today I wanted to share some of the challenges and benefits to working full time when you have a mental illness.

 

Finding time for self care

For me, managing my depression consists of a carefully-structured routine that centres around self care.  Years of trial and error have led me to a series of self-care steps that generally manage to keep my mental health on an even keel. I know that in order to feel my best, I need to eat properly and get enough sleep.  My yoga practice keeps me fit and helps calm my monkey mind.  Journalling several times a week gets those anxious thoughts out of my head. All these steps are choreographed into a daily dance that helps keep my head above water.

When I was working part time, it was much easier to find the balance between working and self care.  Now, when eight-and-a-half hours of each day are spent at the office, that leaves another eight for sleeping and then a further eight for eating, household responsibilities and self care.  That doesn’t leave a lot of spare time for socialising or family time.  And I’m often jammed between choosing to spend time with friends at the detriment of my self-care regime.  If I spend too much time with my family, or my boyfriend, or my mates, then my mental health begins to slide because I’m not able to keep up with those vital self care activities.  But it’s not always easy to leave a family dinner early because you need to do your yoga or because you just need to be alone for a while.  It’s difficult for people to understand why you’re piking out early, or declining invitations.  And after a while, they stop inviting you altogether if you bail too often.

 

Working full time has made it a lot more challenging to fit in those ever-important self care rituals.  And sometimes I’m overwhelmed with frustration because it feels like all I do is go to work, come home and run through the motions of keeping myself sane.  It’s maddening when it feels like there isn’t time for anything else in the day, and when you feel like so much more is expected of you and you aren’t able to achieve it.

 

To tell, or not to tell?

I’ve grappled with the decision of whether or not to tell the people I work with that I have depression and anxiety.  I’ve had mixed responses in the past, and when I begin a new job I’m always a bit gun-shy about disclosing my illness.

There’s the risk that the people you work with will treat you differently when they find out you have a mental illness.  There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness, and it can be hard to work when you feel like people are walking on eggshells around you.  There’s also the unpleasant feeling of knowing that a workmate is internally rolling their eyes at you and wondering why you can’t just toughen up and manage your life like everyone else does.

On the other hand, many employers and workmates will be exceedingly supportive if they find out that you have a mental illness.  So it’s always a delicate balancing act of deciding whether you should mention it, and if so, when you should disclose your illness.

 

The perils of an invisible illness in the workplace

I went through a period last year where I was going through a really bad patch with my depression.  I was struggling to get out of bed each morning, and I just felt despondent all the time.  But I felt as though I had to force myself through the motions of everyday life anyway.  One morning about three weeks into this hellish patch I woke up with a fever and a sore throat.  I nearly cried with relief.  Why on earth was I so pleased that I was sick?  Well, because I felt like now that I had outward physical symptoms, I could take a sick day. Even though I’d been terribly unwell for weeks, it was only when my illness became physical that I felt like I was justified in staying home.

 

Invisible illnesses come with tricky pitfalls.  There’s always the worry that people will think you’re faking it.  That you’re making it up to get out of work or to avoid responsibility.  When you have no physical symptoms to “prove” that you’re unwell, it’s difficult to justify taking time off.  This is particularly true when you’re depressed or anxious and you simply don’t have the emotional fortitude to assert your needs or argue with workmates who don’t understand that mental illness can be as debilitating as physical illnesses.  For me, I’ve never been brave enough to call in sick when I’ve needed a ‘mental health day”.  Even though I think it would be justified, I still haven’t ever been able to bring myself to do it.

 

The mental load of engaging with others

I am a self-confessed introvert.  I much prefer my own company to the company of others.  I find being around other people (with the exception of a few of my nearest and dearest) mentally taxing.  And when those interactions take place in a professional environment, that makes it just a little more difficult for me.  On my good days, I can manage the daily office banter perfectly well.  I can smile at staff meetings, make small talk at the copier and pick up my intercom without breaking into a cold sweat.  But when my anxiety is kicking in or I’m on the verge of a crash, managing those polite, simple interactions becomes a monumental task.  Just answering a question from a colleague about the stationery order can leave me on the verge of tears.  Each time my intercom buzzes I feel a sharp pang in my chest and my breath comes in bursts.  For me, the mere task of being around other people is taxing and takes a huge mental load.  It’s extremely difficult to keep my professional mask in place and do my job like I’m supposed to.

 

Financial security and the money buffer

One really positive thing that my full time job has brought to my life is the feeling of financial security.  When I was working part time, I was making enough to pay my bills and not much extra.  I would often fall into a panic about what would happen if I had a sudden emergency and needed extra cash.  I wasn’t in a position to cover unforeseen costs, and the idea that I might suddenly require hospital care or need to pay for repairs on my flat was terrifying to me.

 

Now I feel much more secure about my financial position.  I know that my bills are covered and I have enough to put food on the table.  I can switch the heater on or take an extra shower without panicking about the spike in my bills.  And I now have enough that I can save towards some financial goals and stuff a bit of cash away for the future.  For all the stress that full time work brings, that financial security and knowing that I’m looking after myself is really reassuring.

 

A reason and a purpose

Although I’ve mentioned a lot of the struggles I have with my depression and work, taking on a full time job has helped my depression and anxiety as well.  I’ve gained confidence as I’ve learned new skills and managed challenges at work.  I’ve come to see that I’m quite capable of dealing with difficult problems and working with other people in my office as a team. Additionally, there are days when it’s difficult to get up, to shower and to drag myself through the day.  But I do it because I have to.  Because I know I have a job and I can’t afford to lose it.  Because I care about the work I do and I don’t want to let my workmates down. While that could be a lot of pressure for some folks, for me it works well as a motivator and helps me to move forward.

 

Do you have a mental illness and a full time job?  How do you manage it?  What are some of the challenges and benefits you’ve experienced?