This post is my submission for March’s Blog Carnival of Mental Health, regarding the unique connection between my mental health, sexuality and its impact on my relationship.
NOTE: This post is about the use of age play to recover and reclaim sexual assault. For victims and survivors of childhood sexual assault, age play is a form of edge play – and rightfully so. If age play is triggering for you, DO NOT READ THIS POST. As the title suggests, this is a very fine line and what works for me is not something I encourage for those it harms. I do not endorse the use of edge play as reclamation of assault for others, that is an independent decision based on one’s judgment of their own mental health and what they can handle.
I will also be ruling comments on this post with an iron fist. If you seek to deride me or others for the consensual decisions we make for ourselves, there will be no mercy. This is my safety zone. Do not take advantage of that.
Like so many folks with DID, I experienced abuse and assault throughout my childhood and adolescent years. That’s what resulted in its development – and likely the development of my Schizotypal as well. For years my immediate response was to avoid anything and everything that reminded me of what happened, even if the reminder wasn’t anywhere close to the actual events. And yet, despite all of my efforts to forget and avoid, things weren’t improving. I would get flashbacks, I was paranoid and distrustful of family and friends alike, and could not enjoy sex despite all of my efforts to. Detached from my body and surroundings, the world was in a fog, and I constantly felt isolated, alone with my internal demons that few knew even existed, let alone cared about.
Eventually, as I perused through the internet I came across two things that changed everything for me: BDSM and the Adult Baby/Diaper Lovers (AB/DL) community. Further exploration of these brought me to learn more about the effects past abuse had on my mental health and sexuality, coming to terms with that and reclaiming it for myself.
While people may be more or less familiar with BDSM (although the misconceptions and stereotyping pursue), AB/DL is something that is generally unheard of. In essence, it is a response to a natural habit that some people have to regress to a younger form of themselves. It is an outlet for people who derive comfort and child-like enjoyment from things that make them feel safe, like soft blankets, stuffed animals, and movies or shows from their childhood. A part of themselves identifies as a much younger age than the world around them considers them to be based on chronological age of the body, or what’s considered to be ‘adult’ responsibilities like working and paying bills. Not only is that assumption rather ageist and ties in with the social division of adulthood, adolescence and childhood, but it throws a lot of people into a social assignment that they’re just not comfortable with.
Now, this can be for any number of reasons. I will clarify, and adamantly back, that age regression is not a sign of an abusive history. While they may be related for a specific individual based on their experiences and journey in life, such as myself, for many regression reveals itself without any form of abuse in the person’s life. I would liken it to a form of dissociation, which is a natural coping method for many people even without the presence of dissociative disorders. Likewise, interest and identification with the BDSM community is not a sign of an abusive history. And a point that people are frequently confused on: BDSM and AB/DL are not related, nor is AB/DL sexual (I’ll expand on this more later).
However, on the flip side of all of this, there definitely are people who turn to things like BDSM as a form of reclamation, in order to turn the nastiness and harm that was directed at them in life into something positive, enjoyable, something that will help them heal and move on. This is an important distinction – while some may utilize BDSM and age regression as a form of reclamation for themselves, not everyone is a part of them or utilize them because of this. Everyone has their own reasoning and their own journeys.
In my particular journey, I explored age regression and AB/DL in-depth because I could feel its connection to me at my core, though I didn’t know why. It gave me a reason to grow comfortable with this aspect of myself that I had been ignoring for so long, not even aware that it existed although it appeared for others that made me aware later.
It was a few years later that I learned the reason behind my age regression. Dissociation, or in my case, Dissociative Identity Disorder. My past experiences pushed me through and past childhood at a much faster rate than what was healthy for me. The progression of my dissociation in response to these experiences ‘hid’ that abandoned childhood within me, where it could be experienced later in ways it wasn’t able to be before. For a while, it was unintentional – I couldn’t control my regression and it resulted in the development of another alter, one with the identity of a young toddler. Once I learned of his existence, the lot of us started to work together to arrange for safe environments where he could express himself, even when we didn’t fully understand the extent of us being a ‘we’. For one reason or another, a part of us knew that it was within our best interest to keep him feeling safe, comfortable and fulfilled. We also knew, from our experiences with the AB/DL community, that the denial of his existence and comfort (as it seemed so many psychology journals suggested we do) was not healthy for us. Our system was not ready for the abandonment of our prematurely halted childhood.
There is a large part of me that isn’t fully acknowledged by AB/DL, though. As much of my abuse was sexual, be it assault or harassment, these experiences have warped many of my responses to regression into something sexual. As AB/DL emphasizes that their concept, identity and thus community are not sexual in nature, it left this part of me unaddressed. This is dangerous, as that left us open to future sexual abuse should someone uncaring figure things out. So how do we prevent this?
By acknowledging the source of these responses, accepting them as a part of us as a whole, and turning them into something we had control over experiencing. Enter age play, utilization of age regression and props through BDSM. In BDSM age play can be used to emphasize the dynamics of dominance and submission within a relationship or particular scene. This is important to me, as I’ve placed myself into a position of submission full time through accepting Him as my Dom and His power over me. Learning to utilize age play means that I can combine these responses with a lifestyle and environment that I am comfortable with and feel safe in, under the watchful eye and guiding hand of someone I trust to protect me if things go wrong.
And they can go wrong, very quickly. That’s why this line I walk, between the experiences of my assault and reclamation of it, is so dangerous – because at any given moment, that connection of safety and submission can disappear, leaving me reliving my experiences while regressed. While we do have internalized defenses that can respond to this, the fact that it must first respond still remains, meaning that during the time between then any form of endless damage can still be done. Which is why it’s so important to me to only allow sexuality and regression to intermingle while in an environment where this will not be taken advantage of. Due to the combination of my experiences and my mind’s response to it, the possibilities are vast. But possibilities are just that, only possibilities. The more I learn about myself, the more control I develop over my environment and the more I learn to advocate for myself and my health, the less likely these possibilities are to become reality. Finding myself triggered from a given situation can be recovered from, if properly addressed. Finding myself in a situation where this part of me is taken advantage of for someone else’s gain – that’s not so simple. I’d like to avoid that.