I had a crappy winter that didn’t really turn a corner for me until late Spring. I felt realigned by the time May ended, taking Ramadan with it, but then my bike accident knocked me off kilter and I spent my last few months on an uphill journey to find balance again. But even as I followed my usual regimen of self-care, I still managed to slip into free-fall emotionally as I dealt with the aftermath of managing the physical and legal side of the ordeal. All of a sudden, everything felt piled on top of my head. My creative projects and social obligations started to feel like hostage situations with my sanity as the ransom. Worse, seasonal depression lurked on the outskirts of my thoughts, waiting like a sadistic yet patient lover to welcome me back into its embrace. A release was what I needed, so that’s precisely what I set out to get. And so I turned to the solace I often find in wild summer nights. Only this time, the nights weren’t filled with exhilarating, self-destructive behavior. Instead, for the first time in a long time, I embarked on a journey for pleasure that involved considerably more self-control.
But before I get into how I’ve been managing my sexual urges instead of being managed by them (spoiler’s in the title on that one anyway, so chill for a bit), I had another dragon to slay. It’s one that I’ve actually struggled with throughout my life, but it’s really given me headaches these last few years. But before I tell you what it is, I’d like to tell everyone reading this that it’s okay to stop and check in with yourself about a behavior or health thing you feel is getting out of control. Ask yourself, “Wow…I seem to be doing this a lot lately, but is it normal?”
But…sleep is always normal, right? Sure it is, until it isn’t.
My mother loves to joke that I was the only child she’d ever encountered who didn’t protest going to bed when I was little. While my siblings would beg for ten more minutes of sitting cross legged on the floor in their footie pajamas watching something horribly inappropriate like Married With Children, I was always the one to break rank and saunter off sleepily, yawning as I went.
I fall asleep in cars. I fall asleep in meetings; I once awoke to my congresswoman boss asking me if I’d “enjoyed my nap” because I’d been dead to the world for five whole minutes in a morning staff meeting.
When I fancied myself a rap star, I once fell asleep in this onstage seating area behind the mic setup–while someone else was performing. It was caught on tape–err–DVD? Meh. It was a long time ago, dammit. Just know that it was recorded. And it was humiliating.
Once–and this I remember quite clearly–I fell asleep sitting on top of this huge speaker at a club called DC Live. That place is gone now, but the horrid memory of that night isn’t. I’ll never forget waking up to people laughing. Actually, by definition of circumstance, falling asleep in a place other than my own home or other familiar accommodations usually ends with me waking up in an unpleasant situation…and that’s an understatement.
I’ve always attributed my sleep disorder to my lifestyle. When I was in high school, sneaking out with my boyfriend was the culprit. When that ended, it was late night moves with my stoner friends. In college, it was studying. While doing music, it was late night studio sessions.
Only after falling asleep got me into serious trouble on the road did I consider it a real, and worsening, problem.
Soon after, I discovered that I’ve always had excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), but just never knew it. It’s a cousin of narcolepsy, but without the catalepsy that makes narcolepsy more difficult to manage. When I took the test and found out, I was bummed. When I realized that without some adjustments it would likely wreck my work and social life, I was even more bummed. But as bummed as I was, it didn’t reach depression level until this past winter. I’d been at my job for several months but hadn’t bought a car yet, so the commute ate up so much of my day that when I got home it became really hard to write. I’d drink coffee, pull up at a draft, and just fall asleep right on my laptop as I tried, desperately, to do the one thing that I love unconditionally–write.
It was a huge blow, and it left me feeling like I was crashing and burning in the worst way.
Deadline after deadline passed. All of my determination to finish was still intact, but my body just wouldn’t cooperate. I began to feel like I existed solely to drag myself to work and back and it became so disheartening that I started eating uncontrollably again. In fact, by the time I got a car and cut my commute time down in the morning, I’d ballooned to nearly the exact weight I’d been right after I had my son. I felt undesirable, alone, and like I’d fallen into a seasonal slump and couldn’t claw myself out because walls were too damn slippery, and my legs and resolve had become too weak. And that’s still not the worst part.
The worse part was that no one was treating me any differently; I was subjecting myself to degradation and doubt. And how could anyone have treated my differently, anyway? I didn’t divulge to anyone that I had been feeling that way. I hid it like I usually do.
Another pitfall to the situation was how I let romantic prospects treat me during that time. I demanded so little from them because at the time, even though I didn’t realize it in that moment, I demanded very little of myself. Only three outside factors fixed it a teeny bit:
- I traveled alone and it was reaffirming and glorious for me.
- I made love with a woman I missed and she reminded me that my body is beautiful, and that I am beautiful too.
- My friend Tiara introduced me to a lifestyle change she thought I might like, based on what I’d struggled with in my previous diets.
- I began writing in my journal again.
But June? June was an interesting month. Something shifted in me, undoubtedly in sync with the lengthening of days. Or maybe it also had to do with my changing body. After Ramadan, I was down 15 lbs (I’m now down 35), and I’d started reconnecting with my nudity. Dancing in the buff to Jupiter and Quess, I was pleased that the best parts of me jiggled, and relieved that the other parts did not…or at least they jiggled a bit less. I propped my mirror opposite my bed and adorned it with little lights that would inevitably catch none of my flaws and all of my shadowy curves during my nightly bouts of self-exploration. On fire. Every part of me was on fire and the love I rediscovered for my body was almost overwhelming. I felt good, and still do.
As I grew more comfortable in my skin and the summer sun coaxed me out of my winter layers, I could feel my inhibition waning at record speed. I can only describe it as an insatiable, irrational need to scratch all itches. Perhaps dancing naked had drawn a succubus jinn. I googled “ruqyah for possession” but found nothing akin to what I was experiencing. Besides, the rational part of my brain chimed in softly with a reminder that what I was likely experiencing was an uptick in hypersexuality due to a manic phase of BD.
Well, I mused. That’s not sexy at all. I’ll just edit it a bit.
So I changed it. Simply changed the language of it in my mind to make it feel less like the mental health issue and more like what I wanted to be: a natural expression of my inner sensuality. Because I do like my hypersexuality coupled with taboo and superstition. I like it gypsy-Sufi style with heavy eyeliner, tantric breathing, and lovers who trace the dots tattooed along the base of my neck with their fingers while pressing themselves against me, surrounding me at all sides like whirlwind of flesh.
And so I changed it:
I have been moist and pulsating, day and night, because the full moon is pulling at my waters. This is a natural cycle, ancient and necessary.
Men and women offer themselves to me and my body is their altar. They lay themselves at my feet instead of oranges, incense, and jade. I should oblige them so that we can pour energy into each other during the witching hours.
But a tiny voice that’s been growing more powerful as the years (and therapy sessions) roll by, chimed in and overrode my rhetoric.
You mean instead of Seroquel, St. John’s Wort, and meditation? Because those are the things you need at your altar, love.
Aside from the Seroquel part (that crap will make you sleep your life away), Less Manic Voice was right. While, I’m clever enough to disguise a flurry of trysts as a cycle of sexual liberation–and even write it as so–would that serve me at this point?
No. Because I’ve evolved, and what I desire for myself is different now.
But BD moods simply aren’t born of sound rationale, anyway. They’re chemical. And without that realization, I’d be in dangerous waters when urges for compulsive spending and sexual trysts bubble up in my brain. With that piece said, as I sat in front of my laptop on some of those early summer evenings, I could feel my vibrator beckoning me from its place underneath my bed. It would have none of my prudish rebellion, so I let it save me from making reckless choices. So, I indeed struck a balance…a battery-powered one.
I masturbated everywhere. I can’t even list all the places here. I’m so good at it that I can do it by rocking forward and backward in my chair. In fact, I’m masterful at it.
The best part is, it truly kept me tame. The only conundrum was that climaxing several times a day helped quell the urge for penetration, but sometimes I just wanted to enjoy male energy, much in the way I sometimes want to enjoy female energy–entirely away from the presence of men. So, I simulated that too.
Long distance was the key.
There was someone I’d been vibing with for a bit and since spring, and after Ramadan, we doubled down on our texting and conversations until they got a bit on the steamy side. I loved it. It was nice to look forward to someone’s texts, and smile as I responded to them. Plus, with him so far away, we really took the time to learn more about each other than we probably would’ve learned if he was here. Crazy, right? Realistically, it’s always easiest to text and talk with someone far away because you can reveal as much or as little as you please. Still…it was nice. It is nice.
This is where I’ve been and this is what I’ve been doing. The things that seem so simple for others–managing their sexual urges responsibly, sleeping normally, and focusing on personal projects in their spare time–have been so difficult for me this whole year that they became another full time job for me. And last winter, the thought of that would’ve made me so sad.
But…there’s this weird thing about being a fully aware, bad ass, Messy Muslim Girl and it’s this: my mantra, at this point, is “bring it the fuck on.”
Because there are worse conditions than needing rest because my brain is always brimming with such great ideas that sometimes my body can’t keep up. There are more awful things than having to touch myself so that I can connect with what I’m feeling so that I can decide if it’s responsible to invite someone else to touch me too.
And there are answers. I’ve been to therapists for the last five years and they all agree that there’s no singular manual for self-management and care; you pick the battery of things that work for you and just make sure that a few of those things are managed by someone who truly knows what they’re doing. Balance.
Self-management is mainly about balance.
So what have my practices, coupled with love from my friends and family, and the help of professionals done for me so far this year? They have kept me afloat through all my little crashes, whether on my bike or with my eating and loneliness.
I’ve come to accept that my spaceship, Alkebulan Motherfucking 5 (“Motherfucking” is an actual part of the name and you gotta say it all like “A Tribe Called Quest), is just as sturdy as everyone else’s. Only, the brain of the AM5 is more raw and powerful than other ships. It’s wired differently and will thus, always be different. Some may consider that a handicap, but I don’t; it just means that the controls for how fast and far I fly at any given moment needs a bit more monitoring than other ships and require that I proceed with a more caution.
That’s fine with me. Like, for real. On qadr? I accept that.
I’ll just love myself through it as the sleepy, sexy, brilliant woman that I am. Then, I’ll share it all with you even if I regret it later. I’ll share it with you because that’s what I’m compelled to do.
Because I want everyone struggling to be able to move forward…after they survive their crash.