A little while ago I wrote about coming out to my parents. It went really well, but I still felt lost afterwards. That feeling lasted for weeks, and I even started to speculate that I needed some sort of anxiety in my life to drive me; that over the years I had somehow used anxiety to fill in for motivation.
Recently my wife suggested a different possibility: sub drop. If you aren’t familiar with the term (I needed to be reminded of the definition, although I was aware of the phenomenon) sub drop is an emotional drop that can overtake a submissive individual when they come out of the mental state (sub space) that gets them through a scene.
Symptomatically, it can look a lot like a bout of depression: enervation and an increased sense of vulnerability are common. Sub drop is one of the reasons, if not the reason, aftercare is so important. A person can easily let a mental state like that spiral down into real depression if they don’t receive the comfort and support they need.
Anyway, my wife confronted me with my recent behavior – which had been very similar to when I was depressed (a lot of escapist game playing, some self neglect and a failure to pursue my writing) and when I tried to explain that I wasn’t actually depressed (despite all evidence to the contrary) she took me at my word and asked if I thought I might be feeling sub drop, or something like that.
I think she was right. The thing is: Maybe it hadn’t been a dom with a flogger, but I’d been beating myself up with the thought that my family would reject me if they “knew what I freak I am” since puberty, at least. (My recollections of my childhood tend to be jumbled, disparate, and unordered. My understanding from the research I’ve done on stress and anxiety is that this is probably because my brain spent most of those years soaking in the sort of chemicals a stress/anxiety state generates, which also happen to screw with memory.) And now that it is done and I’m out, the mental state I was in – prepared for the worst, braced for anything; ready to accept whatever happened for whatever it was and move on – that mental state collapsed. And I spent the past however long it’s been hiding in video games and generally feeling insecure in myself, uncertain of my choices and future, and vulnerable.
My wife didn’t wait for me to give a definitive answer, which was just as well: I don’t know if I could have given her one. She has always been a lot more emotionally perceptive than I am. She even called me out on being trans while I was still as deep in denial as I could be. An unfortunate result of my years of social anxiety and being in the closet is that I’m not good at reading people, including myself. Instead, I’m good at suppressing my emotions (but thankfully getting worse at it every day, now) and assuming that whatever the worst possible thing I can think of for someone to think about me is what they’re thinking.
So my wife just went into care-taker mode. She listened to me talk about my feelings, and tucked me into bed early and offered emotional support. And I listened to her talk about her emotions, and reciprocated. I think it was cathartic for both of us – between her insomnia, my day job, and our ever present network of online friends it had been a while since we’d made time for a serious one-on-one heart-to-heart.
And it helped, a lot. The next afternoon we were both more active, and we spent some time working together on the things we’d both been letting slide.
I started writing again. That’s become my meter stick by which I determine if I’m really happy or just pretending. I never really expected to publish semi-erotic novels online (I always expected to always be too shy to share that sort of stuff) but now that I have, I can’t deny that writing them is just so damn fun. (Plus, a lot more explicit in book 2 chapter 33, which I’ve finally recovered the impetus to continue writing. 🙂 Yay!) But it remains something I can only do when I’m not beating myself up for one reason or another – when I’m healthy and happy.
Anyway, I thought I would share this experience and its resolution just in case it could help someone else. Maybe it’s not technically “sub drop” if it’s not related to a scene – but in retrospect, I’m starting to think that a lot of people probably experience something similar when they come out of any stressful situation, even if it’s stressful in a good way. Maybe it’s coming out to the family, or maybe it’s having a big interview, or turning in – or getting back – an important project at school or work. Maybe it’s something that wouldn’t even occur to me or you, but is totally important to the person it happened to.
Whatever the case may be, I just thought it was worth posting my experience as a (hopefully gentle) reminder that after care isn’t just about the scene; that sometimes it’s the appropriate response to more mundane things – and sometimes it’s needed in response even to good things.
I’ll go ahead and wrap up now, before I start homilizing (those last couple of paragraphs already have me feeling a bit too preachy) or just rambling incessantly. Thanks for reading, and take care.
Be safe, happy and well.