At some point in our explorations of BDSM, we all experience ups and downs. In addition to the normal rollercoaster that comes along with any intimate relationship, many folks find that intense BDSM play can produce deep, emotionally-charged after-effects that may linger for days or weeks. In this post, guest author @Skyfire defines “drop” and provides some strategies to prevent, manage and recover from it.
What is Drop?
Whether you are bottoming or topping, intense BDSM play can lead to an emotional hangover, often called "sub drop" or "top drop," depending on your role.
Drop is a micro-depression that can manifest after play, a lifestyle event, or any particularly intense interaction. You could think of it as a hangover without the drinking. Drop can rear its ugly head in many different ways. Melancholy, irritability, lack of interest in things you usually enjoy, lack of appetite, and comfort eating are all common symptoms of drop. If left unchecked, it can deepen into a longer-lasting depression.
The three biggest contributing factors are: physical and chemical changes due to trauma, intense emotional exploration, and social interactions.
- The physical (marks/bruises) and chemical (endorphins) changes are the most obvious. Just like any injury, our bodies need time and resources to heal. Not having enough of these resources can make us feel run down and sad.
- Intensely emotional scenes or even relationships can have a similar effect, but are far more insidious. We hear things like trigger warnings, and safe spaces out in public, but what happens when you want to push the envelope? Words can cut more deeply than any whip and we often do not get the aftercare we need. This can lead to feeling of emptiness and guilt.
- Social interactions are a surprising source of drop. Even the biggest social butterfly can experience what we call “con drop.” The reason I decided to write this now was because I had been asked by a lot of people for advice in dealing with drop. There are a bunch of summer events that let us escape the real world for a weekend or more and leaving that environment can make everything else seem dreary and colourless.
The goal of this writing is to offer some strategies that I have found to be successful in turning drop into a soft landing. This is not a panacea and I am always interested in how others deal with drop. We are all different and there is no right answer that applies to everyone.
The best defense is a good offense. The boy scout motto comes into play here: Be Prepared!
There are many things we can do to lessen the effects of drop before it even happens. Whether you are setting up a play date, going to a week long kink event, or just going to a class that takes you out of your comfort zone, planning ahead can often mitigate or completely prevent you from dropping at all.
A lot of this is just common sense, but I am going to cover it all.
One of the biggest mistakes people make before playing is not giving your body the fuel it needs before subjecting it to physical, emotional, and mental stress. Eating things that will armour your body and mind can go a long way. You can start as early as a week before your plans.
Fruits, vegetables, and lean protein are great staples for a healthy body and they are a good baseline. You can design your diet around the specific things you have planned. Foods rich in certain vitamins will help your body recover in different ways.
- Vitamin C will aid in in the healing process by building new protein for the skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels.
- Vitamin A will boost your white blood cell count, helping fight off any infections.
- Omega-3 fatty acids will reduce inflammation and will help the bruises fade faster.
- Zinc helps your body process fats.
- Antioxidants will reduce free radicals
- Any injury increases our body’s demand for protein, so making sure we get enough is key to recovery.
Most of us struggle to get enough water on a daily basis. Making sure we concentrate on drinking 96oz (3 litres) of water a day in the week leading up to play will not only keep you hydrated, but help your body flush out all the things it does not want or need. As an added bonus for those who play with blood: proper hydration means greater blood flow!
Exercise and Stretching
A daily routine of exercise and stretching will go a long way in preparing your mind and body for the things you are about to endure. Yoga is ideal for this. You will increase your flexibility, your focus, and put you in better touch with your body. Regular yoga will show you where your issues are, and you can concentrate on improving them. This is not just for the rope folks. Stretching regularly, but especially just before a scene will increase blood flow and make the overall experience better.
We all need more sleep, and we all know how bad we feel when we do not get enough. Being as well rested as possible before play is tremendously helpful in preventing drop.
Though these are not long-term solutions for drop, there are a few quick and easy things you can do to take the edge off.
Sometimes drop happens at inconvenient times and we need to slap a band aid on it until we can properly deal with it. There are several quick ways to slow your descent until you can give yourself the care you need.
Dark chocolate, fruit, or coffee will all give you a quick boost. They all have antioxidants and coffee actually stimulates your central nervous system in a way that speeds up healing. Do not add sugar and cream to the coffee, because the crash afterwards can actually make your drop even worse. I have a particular love for Taza Stone Ground Chocolate and strawberries. They are my favourite recovery foods, and if I am playing with someone I try to have those on hand for aftercare.
Talking to someone you love and who will be gentle with you is also a great salve for the intense emotions associated with drop. Just be honest with them and do not try to hide your emotional state from them. Our friends love to help us, let them!
Listening to music or reading a story can help you lose yourself for a bit. Getting out of our own heads is sometimes the best medicine.
Listen to your body, take time to reflect on which strategies work best for you, and develop a routine that is both effective and fits your lifestyle.
There are many different remedies for drop, but you will find that each time you drop may feel different. Finding what works for you may take a little trial and error, but it is worth the effort. You may also find that you crave a certain type of recovery while you are dropping. Indulge to that craving! Your body usually knows what you want before you do. Much of what I recommended in the section about prevention will help with recovery as well. I will not repeat those points here, but do not forget to continue to fuel your body after the scene you prepared so well for.
One of my personal favourite recovery strategies is to refocus my energy on something that will make me proud or give me a sense of accomplishment. This can be as simple as completing a task that you had put off for a while. For example, I like to add a bit of distance and speed to my regular walks. I get the benefit of doing something healthy for my body, being forced to concentrate on what I am doing, and feeling proud of myself after I get home and crash. Another favourite of mine is to plant something. If you are feeling ambitious, plant a tree, but even a little flower in a pot will do. This is a bit trickier the further north you get, but most of us have a window with enough room for a small flower pot and seeds are inexpensive. There is something about getting your hands dirty and nurturing something that always does the trick for me.
This one can be tricky, as over-indulging can induce regret and make the drop worse. That said, indulgence can take many forms: comfort food, buying that new pair of shoes you have been eyeing, taking a day to be lazy, or any other treat you can think up. I often combine indulgence and accomplishment by cooking a meal for my partner or my best friend. I get to use a bit of mastery (cooking skill), a bit of indulgence (the delicious food), and validation (the moans of the people eating my food). If you go for food, the key is to keep the portions small. Go to your favourite restaurant, but only order appetizers, or share a meal. You will get the sense of spoiling yourself without the guilt of ruining your diet.
If you are going to go the lazy route, make sure you have a plan. Being lazy is harder than it seems today. Shut off your phone if you are able, pick a movie, a book, or some music to focus on, and just shut off your brain and lose yourself in your blissful free time.
I cheated in the last strategy and included this one. Validation is something we all crave, and it is even more meaningful when we feel that we have earned it. Tops and bottoms alike love to hear that you are still thinking of them the next day. If the scene was good, take the time to pass along a compliment to the person who shared that time with you. Check in and be sure they are okay. Tops get drop too, and a positive note from a grateful playmate can go a long way to fixing that.
Do not be afraid to fish for compliments, but be honest about it. “I am feeling a bit down today, could you tell me some of your favourite moments from our time together?” This question has a way of opening up even the most taciturn. Hearing the good things can tempt you in to asking about the less than stellar parts; save those questions until after you have recovered from your drop. Even minor criticisms can hurt when you are not feeling your best.
Sometimes our friends are the only remedy we need. They do not have to be kinky; they just have to love you. Make plans, get out of the house, and have some fun. Talk about everything and nothing, and just let your mind rest while you enjoy the company of the people who love you.
If you are an extrovert, take this to the next level. Get out to a club, an event, or anywhere you know there will be a bunch of people having fun. This is especially effective for con drop. Surrounding yourself with people, even the vanilla folks, will give you that social fix you crave.
If you have pets, take them out for a walk, play with them, and just bask in their affection. Nothing takes away stress like a warm kitty or puppy on your lap.
This one runs through all of the others. Shutting your brain off during drop is much easier said than done. When we are sad we tend to focus on the negative things that surround us, or happened to us. Mindfulness will help you break that cycle.
Slow down and appreciate everything that you are experiencing in each moment. How does your body feel? How does the air smell? What sounds can you identify? Take the time to appreciate the miracles that surround us every day. The sun, the rain, the plants, the animals, and the blessings of our life. Focus on the good and your mindset will change for the better. Force yourself to smile and focus on how that makes you feel. Chase that smile and you will not have to force it for long.
I require journaling of all of my regular partners. A journal is an excellent way to document your journey in kink and can provide a much needed outlet for feelings that you just cannot describe. There is something about writing that can bring out thoughts and memories that you did not even realize you had. It is also a great way to go back and look at the things you did along the way. I look a my writings from years ago and half of the time I do not even remember writing them, but I cannot stress how much I enjoy seeing my growth and change in my own words.
Going back to look at your bad days can also give you some insight into how to fight your drop. Hopefully you left yourself some hints as to how you overcame it back then, and if not, just the evidence that you moved on and got stronger is sometimes enough to make you feel a bit better.
A favourite former playmate would write what she would call PELs (“Post Event Logs”) every time we played. It not only helped her process her feelings, but also helped me be a better partner. I was able to refine our play in ways that made things flow more easily and make the results even more satisfying. She would share these PELs with me and we would discuss them if she wanted to go deeper than the words she put on paper.
If you do not like writing, a vlog can be a great outlet as well. Talk to your camera and save the files in a safe place. This is much more convenient as smart phone technology advances. Having a video record may be even more useful that a written one, but I am old and prefer things in black and white. Do whatever works best for you!