Pain is a fickle thing, to put it lightly. Those of us who enjoy s/m play will titter when we talk about pain, but what do we say when chronic pain affects our play?
Often I hear from folks talking about the endorphin rushes and relief from pain in subspace but what about when the pain turns you off?
Going on four years I’ve been questioning myself about this and how it relates to my feelings about my body. I have had pain in my back, since childhood. When as a child I had complained for months that my low back was sore my doctor informed my mother I “may have a touch of scoliosis” and recommended working with me on my posture. My parents took helping me with my posture to mean telling me to stop slouching and nothing more. The curve of my spine, that I now know is called lumbar lordosis, due to a pelvic tilt I was likely born with, did plenty of favors for the look of my behind while pushing my stomach down and forward, which made me look like I have a potbelly. Having conflicting feelings over my belly became a regular part of my life, with athletic cousins talking about bikinis and crop tops they said I could never wear and girls in choir telling to stop sticking my butt out to photographers telling me to just suck it in and arch a little more when my back aches like it might crumble. When I was in my late teens I pulled my right SI joint out while lifting, which refers sharp pain down my leg and through my hips, sometimes for days on end. Now the best I can do is enroll in physical therapy when the pain ramps up since surgery on the joint isn’t necessary or an option I’m interested in. High heels obviously make the pain from this injury worse, but I wore them nearly every day from 2012 to 2016 for my own visual enjoyment and working in my dungeon. in late 2015 I became acquainted with the joys of runner’s knee and it became clear I had to stop and take stock of what was going on with my body and how I could be kinder to myself.
I felt betrayed by my body since I had recovered from my pregnancy and wanted to get back to my breakneck-paced lifestyle. I was also scared since I didn’t find out what was wrong with my knee until last month, so I spent a good part of this year wondering if my winter would be spent recovering from surgery. I had several weeks wasted waiting on physical therapy referrals alone and spent a couple months with my doctor’s thinking I had a torn meniscus before imaging came back with no tears, breaks or signs of trauma. So that left us with runner’s knee. A bit anticlimactic for a pain that woke me up most nights making me wish I just didn’t have a right leg, but I didn’t end up needing surgery and physical therapy has been helpful yet again. While I was in medical care “hurry up and wait” mode, going to the gym, actively playing with my toddler on a playground, even lifting my child, hiking and kicking ass for fun and profit all went on the back burner and my self-esteem tried its damnedest to follow. I watched muscle I had built over years of cycling fade away. I could barely get through 45 minutes of physical therapy exercises in the first weeks without wanting to safeword and feeling like a useless ball of inflammation for the rest of the day. Sometimes it feels like an eternity will pass before I will have rock hard calves again.
With the pain that piled up over time, I found in those years I wasn’t inclined to bottom for pain play. Feeling unstable with my joints, being spanked wasn’t as fun when I had to worry about how I was braced for impact and sometimes it would draw my attention back to the constant pain I didn’t want. Just the idea of giving someone control reminded me of my feelings that I didn’t really have control over my pain, it could come and go as it pleased. It made me want to control anything I could, to not feel so helpless against it. One of the few desires for bottoming I had left before I closed my dungeon to focus on myself was to experience bondage space. Not to be touched, not to be ordered, just left somewhere dim, safe and warm, bound inescapably. Now that I have spent nearly a year making changes to my daily life, giving up high heels and rebuilding strength and stability, I find myself thinking about why I enjoyed over the knee spanking, doing take downs with my partner and what was so enriching in powering through a heavy s/m scene for a fetish production company. I find I want to do more than just check out into subspace where piercing pain is dulled to distant radio static.