D/s and depression

Domina Jen

I’d first like to introduce myself, my name is (*edit, we’ll call him Jake from State Farm, because that’s what’s been stuck in my head all day, and he asked to keep his real name anonymous), and I’d like to let you know up front that I’m a male Dominant, relatively new to the scene, I’ve only been really active for a couple of years or so.

I know I’m far from your target audience but your blog is wonderful and I’ve learned a lot from reading it.  It’s quite a bit more honest and open than places like Fetlife.  If you don’t mind, I’d like your advice on a minor situation.

I’m in a relatively new full-time D/s relationship with a wonderful girl who is also a bit newer to the lifestyle.  We’re both sort of learning as we go.

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety off and on throughout my life, was diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder about ten years ago, and have more or less managed it on my own with little or no help from a professional or medication.  I like to think I’m very self aware and I know my patterns, and the last couple of weeks or so, it has been much harder than usual to manage, and I’m worried that it’s starting to affect my relationship.

I’ve gone all this time without needing to see a doctor or take medication and I really don’t want to break that streak, but I think I might have to.

As of now, my girl doesn’t know.  We’ve only been together about four months, and I’m worried about how this will impact our relationship.  I know I need to tell her, do you have any suggestions for how that conversation should start?  And I know you’ve talked about Dominants being held to high standards, how does mental health figure into that, and should I take a break from the relationship for now?  I really care about her and don’t want to end the relationship, but I’m very worried about hurting her unintentionally.  She deserves the best of me, and I feel awful that I’m failing at giving her that.  If you’re willing, and have time, I’d be extremely grateful for any advice you might give.

Thank you in advance,


Oh hell…

Well Jake, you’ve stumbled into one of the hardest, most complicated, most convoluted, and ultimately unfair aspects of D/s relationships.

Yes, Dominants should be held to a very high standard.  It’s not supposed to be easy all the time.  It’s supposed to be a challenge, it’s supposed to challenge us to be the best versions of ourselves.  Our subs give us the most precious gift one human being can give another, and they deserve our best selves.  We can’t fail them.

But we’re still human.  We, like all humans, have moments of weakness.  We have moments of doubt.  We have moments where we stumble and fall.  When that happens, it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t take our subs down with us.

It’s a delicate balance, though.  Because we can’t (and shouldn’t) shut our subs out, and we need to be as trusting of them, and allow ourselves to be as open and vulnerable with them, as we expect them to be with us (much, much easier said than done).

And yes, you do need to tell your sub.  It’s important for subs to understand that we are human, we are going to fuck up once in awhile, and we should not be placed on any sort of pedestal.

This is something I actually learned the hard way, with one of my very first adult relationships.  My primary sub at the time was a very sweet girl a year younger than I was.  She was strong, but a bit fragile and sensitive, and I was 18 or 19, and stupid, and reckless, and dumb, and about as emotionally mature and wise as you’d expect someone that age to be.  I didn’t realize that she’d started to idolize me, and put me up on this pedestal in her head (she was 17 or 18, and about as emotionally mature and wise as you’d expect someone that age to be).

Or maybe I did, but just liked the ego boost, and didn’t realize why it was a bad idea.  It was a long time ago.  I don’t remember.

And, as was inevitable, I fucked up.  I made a mistake (I was so dumb back then), I made a bad judgement call that caused her to feel like I’d let her down.

She was upset because her parents were super pissed off when they found out she was dating me (she’d only recently come out to them).  I consoled her, I supported her, and then I assumed it was over.  She turned to me for support, and I gave it, and then (I thought) we moved on.

Again, I was an idiot, in a whole lot of ways.  But I went out the next night with a bunch of friends, while she stayed home.  The next day, she was inconsolable.

It was insensitive, and cold, and self-centered, and just basically stupid and mean.  I don’t try to defend it.  Yeah, I could say I was a dumb teenager, but that’s just a cop-out.  I was an asshole.  I wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt her, but my intentions didn’t matter.  I’d let her down.

A vanilla relationship might’ve survived something like that.

She was crushed.  Completely devastated.  Her image of me was shattered.  And I was young and dumb, I didn’t know how to fix my mistake.  Our relationship ended because I’d let her build me up in her head, and I didn’t see it, didn’t think to adjust it, and didn’t know how to fix it.

Since then, I’ve been more careful.  Her age had a lot to do with her putting me up on a pedestal, but she’s hardly the only one, and there have been people much older than her throughout the years who have tried.  And I’m not (usually) an idiot anymore.  I know better than to ignore it, or to not do anything about it.

I’m telling you this because you’re new-ish, and your sub is new-ish, and particularly in your situation, it’s very, very important that she keep her feet on the ground and that she not put you up on a pedestal.  She needs to be very, very aware of the fact that you’re not perfect, and you’re going to make mistakes.

It’s up to you to make sure she understands that.  You’re the one responsible for setting the tone of the relationship.  It’s crucial.  Make sure she understands it, not just logically, but emotionally as well.  Because if you don’t, and her picture of you is shattered to the point that she can’t recover, that’s going to be on your shoulders.  Just as my relationship ending was on mine.

Okay, so the subject of a Dominant with a mental health issue is a slightly loaded one, at least for me, anyway.  I’m sure a lot of people won’t agree with me, but I’ve discovered that a lot of people are really, really, remarkably stupid (that’s not just one link, by the way.  Each word is a separate link to people being really, really, remarkably stupid.  Just in the past year or so).

Right, so I recognize that everyone’s brand of D/s is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anything, and a lot of this is my personal, strongly-held, based-in-facts-and-common-sense opinion.

Still opinion, though.

I don’t know you, and I have no idea what kind of relationship you have, so I’m going to do a lot of speculation, and project a lot of my own type of D/s onto your situation.  Take what you will of it, discard the rest.

Depression and anxiety are a couple of real sons of bitches, man.  They can fuck shit up pretty good on their own, and combined, they’re just fucking nasty.  And they don’t discriminate, no one is immune, it can affect anyone.

Dominants included.  Hell, even myself included.  The brain is the most complex organ in our body, and disorders of this particular organ are common across race, creed, social status, economic class, etc.  If you have a brain, you’re susceptible to disorders of the brain.  It happens.

The first step is accepting that it happens, that there’s nothing you can do at the moment to change it (well you can, but that’s not exactly what I mean, and I’ll get to that.  What I mean is you can’t just snap your fingers and not be depressed anymore), and that it doesn’t mean you’re weak, or in any way less.  Would you consider someone who has asthma, a disorder of the lungs, weak?  Fuck no, you wouldn’t.  So don’t think of yourself that way, because you have a disorder of the brain.

Does it suck?  Yeah.  Can you snap your fingers and make it go away?  No.

You really do need to accept it, accept this part of you.  You’re carrying a lot of self blame, thinking that you’re letting your sub down because you have these disorders, and that needs to stop.  Again, you set the tone for the relationship.  You’ve got to let go of that blame.

There’s just no option, you’ve got to do it.

Of course, I know that’s easier said than done, especially with depressive and anxiety disorders, but truly, there is no alternative if you want to be a Dominant in a D/s relationship.  Buckle down, grit your teeth, and get it done.  It’s not going to be easy, and you’ll backslide a bit, and it’s going to suck, but you can do it.

Now, there is a bit of a controversial edge to this subject.  Because BDSM relationships are known for being really, really intense.  Your sub is so vulnerable to you, so open to you, so yielding and accepting of everything you say and do.  With that kind of openness, that kind of vulnerability, you’ve got to be so careful.

A sub sacrifices control for freedom, and a Dom sacrifices freedom for control.  You don’t have the freedom to lose your cool.  Your influence over her is too great, the potential to hurt her is just too much.

A Dominant must, mustmust be in control of himself before taking control of someone else.  With mental health problems, that gets difficult.

Does that mean someone with mental health disorders can’t or shouldn’t be a Dominant?  Eh, that really depends on the individual, but yes, I do believe there are instances where someone is simply not mentally sound enough to take control of another human being.

I don’t think that’s the case with you, but you’re a better judge of that than I am.

The first step is figuring out how to manage it.

Again, you can’t snap your fingers and make it go away.  But you can take steps to manage and treat it to the point that it doesn’t necessarily have to impact your relationship.

*Note*  I am not a doctor, take any advice I give with a grain of salt, and talk to an actual doctor.

I know antidepressants are no joke, man.  SSRI’s are some serious shit, and come with a pretty nasty set of side effects.

But if you’re getting to the point where you can’t manage it on your own, you need to, at the very least, talk to a psychiatrist.  Maybe you don’t need SSRI’s.  Maybe you can do okay with something like 5-HTP or SAM-e (seriously, talk to a freakin’ doctor though).  Or maybe you only need a low dose SSRI for a few weeks, and then you can wean yourself off and be fine managing it on your own again.  I mean, you never know until you talk to a doctor.

But you’ve got to manage it.  If you’re a victim of that toxic masculinity bullshit, with the mindset of “real men don’t need a shrink,” ditch that shit now.

Real men handle their shit.  Real men don’t lie to themselves about what they can and cannot (or should and should not) handle on their own.  Real men aren’t too much of a pussy to ask for help.

You’ve got shit that needs to be handled.  Recognize that managing it on your own is not currently working to an acceptable degree.  Get the help you need, not just from a stranger on the internet with a blog, but from a licensed professional capable of prescribing medication (if necessary).

Hard truth time: Not managing it and being a Dominant is not acceptable.  At-mother-fucking-all.

And sure, there will be people who will disagree with me.  There will be people who think I’m being unfair and discriminatory to Dominants with mental illnesses.

Honestly, those people can suck it.  You don’t have the right to be fair when you’re the one who made the decision to take control of another human being.  If your sub opens themselves up to you, lets you in past their defenses, past their walls, and you unintentionally hurt them because of an untreated mental illness that you knew about, you’re an asshole.

And you’re an abusive asshole.  You knew better.  You knew you needed treatment.  You didn’t get it.  And because of it, you caused another human being, who trusted you, serious harm.

No, that is not, and will never be acceptable.  Dominants are better than that.  You have to be better than that.

And no, it’s not fair.  Submissives don’t necessarily have the same problem when it comes to a mental illness.  They can lean on their Dominant in a way that their Dominant may not be able to lean on them.

But submissives don’t get off easy, either.  They have their own responsibilities to meet in the relationship.  The problem is that meeting those responsibilities makes them more vulnerable to be hurt by a Dominant who is not in complete control.

A submissive must put his (or her) Dominant first.  The Dominant’s needs come first.  Period.  That’s a hell of a lot harder and a hell of a lot more complicated than it sounds.  It’s not easy to do, and in doing it, they trust that their Dominant will take care of them, and make sure their needs are met.  The ability to do that may be negatively affected in a Dominant with a mental illness.

If a submissive isn’t focusing on her needs, and her Dominant isn’t focusing on her needs, that’s a problem.

A submissive is also expected to open up for his Dominant.  Vulnerability is the name of the game.  There is no part of himself, no piece of his mind that is off-limits to his Dominant.  This is an extremely, extremely difficult thing to do.  It takes a lot of trust, a lot of courage, and a lot of strength.

And it doesn’t take a lot to irreparably shatter that trust.

You cannot be in control of someone else if you’re not in complete control of yourself, and if you’re suffering from depression and anxiety, you’re not in complete control of yourself.  You’re at the whim of the chemical imbalances, faulty mood regulation, and seratonin deficiencies in your brain that are fucking up your perception, your motivation, your mentality.  You cannot control it.

You can’t be dealing with all of that, not manage it, and be in control of someone else.  It’s unethical and dangerous.  You can cause serious mental and emotional harm not only to your sub, but to yourself.  Don’t do it.

Does that mean you need to break things off with your sub?  Not necessarily, again it depends on your situation.  If you’re taking steps to manage it and she’s aware of the situation, and aware that there’s the possibility that you may say or do things you shouldn’t, or aren’t feeling “like yourself,” and you both agree to keep things going, then great.  Go for it, I mean it.  PDD is a very treatable condition, anxiety can be worked around, it’s a very doable situation for a lot of people.

There is hope, and you’re far from the first Dominant to face this sort of situation.

I’ll say that again.  There is hope, and you’re not alone.  This can be done.

So after you decide to manage this and deal with it, you’ve got to talk to your sub.  Which won’t be an easy conversation.  It needs to happen when you’re both calm and in neutral moods (don’t start this conversation if she’s had a bad day at work), and don’t have anything on the agenda for the evening.

Sit her down, in private (don’t do this in a restaurant or at a bar or whatever), and be direct and calm.  She can handle it.  You can start off by telling her the same way you told me.

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety off and on throughout my life, was diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder about ten years ago, and have more or less managed it on my own with little or no help from a professional or medication.  I like to think I’m very self aware and I know my patterns, and the last couple of weeks or so, it has been much harder than usual to manage, and I’m worried that it’s starting to affect [our] relationship.

You can start with that.  Write it down and read it to her if you have to.  Or write it down and have her read it while you sit next to her.  Don’t feel dumb if you have to do it that way, I have literally done that before.  I can organize my thoughts better in writing, and when I’m struggling to say something that needs to be said, writing it and just letting them read it has worked when I’ve been unable to put it in words.

Let her know that you care about her and don’t want to lose her, and you want to be the Dominant she deserves.  Let her know that you’ve got an appointment with a doctor, and you’re going to get it under control.  Ask her to be patient with you while you get it figured out.  Ask her what steps you can take to assure her that you’re there for her.  Ask her what she needs from you.  And if there’s anything you need from her, now’s the time to ask her for it.

So in summation:

Step 1: Get it under control.  Call a psychiatrist today and set an appointment.  Do this and take a concrete step forward.  Trust me, you’ll struggle to find the motivation to do it, but it’ll feel good once you’ve done it.  It’s an accomplishment, and one that will set everything else in motion.  It’ll make you feel good.  Do it.

Step 2:  Talk to your sub.  Write down what you want to say beforehand so you don’t get flustered and forget.  Keep it short and simple.  Read it to her if you have to, or have her read it.  Do whatever it takes to let her know what’s going on, because you owe it to her as her Dominant.  Answer her questions honestly, let her see your vulnerability, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Step 3:  Go to your appointment.  Tell your sub when it is.  If you’re worried about finding the motivation to go, ask her to hold you to it.  Give her the ability to withhold something from you (something that you want) if you don’t go.  Hell, have her drive you.  Just get there.  Do whatever it takes.  Because you owe it to her as your Dominant.  Let her become your motivation.  Let caring for her and being the man she deserves keep you moving forward.

Step 4:  Be honest and frank in the appointment.  You’ve been diagnosed with PDD, so I’m guessing you’re familiar with psychiatrists.  Great.  Push yourself to be as honest as possible about what you’re feeling and what you want.  Make a realistic plan for the immediate future, whether that involves drugs or other kinds of therapy, or both.

Step 5:  Follow the plan.  It’ll take time before you start seeing significant improvement, and your motivation will falter.  You’ve dealt with this for years, you know it’s not going to be easy.

But you’ve dealt with this for years, you know that you can.

28 thoughts on “D/s and depression

  1. furcissy says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us, Miss Jen.

    I have experienced some of this first hand and it hits doubly hard as I suffer from depression and my Domme suffers from several depressive/emotional disorders.

    In regards to Jake, I believe if you have a caring and functional relationship that your sub will likely be accommodating and willing to work through this. However, if they don’t have that knowledge it can be severely destructive emotionally for the sub.

    If a dynamic is achieved where the sub regularly experiences a high level of emotional vulnerability they are often acutely aware of signs, moods, and changes in their Dom’s behavior. When blind-sided by a drastic shift it leads to severe confusion and a lot of pain. However, if communication stays open and they are aware of what is going on, a good sub that serves with love will want to accommodate you and work through the rough patches.

    That being said, I agree with Miss Jen on all of this. Having been far too often on the receiving end of an emotional outburst that left me on the floor in tears and wanting to vomit with my sense of worth torn to shreds… that outcome is far more dangerous than revealing that you have a manageable mental health concern.

    • Domina Jen says:

      You’re absolutely right. Communication, understanding, and patience is crucial to making the relationship work. Unfortunately there are so many people like you who have been put on the receiving end of a Dominant’s emotional outburst. Subs deserve better than that.

  2. little one says:

    A very thoughtful reply to a tough question, Jen. If i might add an element… A good psychiatrist might also suggest a therapist to talk to as a complement to any pharmaceuticals. Before entering into my own D/s relationship, i needed help to overcome situational depression, mostly due to an asshole abusive roommate who tried to grind me to shit. i knew D/s was a possibility, so i found a therapist who was not only sex positive, but cool with anything i wanted to share without being judgmental. Together we decided i didn’t need meds, but if i had, the combo of BOTH meds and communication was available. Especially if Jake needs to continue serious convos with his sub as time goes on, a therapist might prove invaluable. Just my humble two cents… 💜

    • Coyote from Orion says:

      Great point you make and well expressed in a paragraph. Sounds like you have a story that might be good for others to hear if they can listen. Good luck

    • Domina Jen says:

      Oh absolutely, a therapist can be invaluable. My only reason for suggesting a psychiatrist instead of a therapist is that a psychiatrist is a doctor, where a therapist isn’t. Some forms of depression, even chronic clinical depression, can be treated without drugs. Jake seems to have been managing it very well on his own But I’m not about to to suggest someone with a chronic mental illness attempt to treat it without talking to a medical doctor first.

      • little one says:

        i hope that Jake heeds your advice quickly, Jen. If Obamacare goes away and is replaced with something that doesn’t allow parity between mental and physical illness, millions of Americans will be at risk. Not that DT and his ilk give a flying fuck…💜

      • Domina Jen says:

        Yeah, that’s not great. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders, I’m pretty sure he’ll get the help he needs quickly, before the poster boy for the Jersey Shore orange tan can fuck it up for him.

  3. KlusenRud says:

    So Jen, is that it? You’re not interested in communicating further?

  4. This is a great post Domina Jen! Straight up and raw. I hope this man as well as other Dominants in this situation take your words seriously and do what they need to do to help themselves as well as prevent themselves from hurting those who submit to them. The only shame is in not facing issues head on.

    • Coyote from Orion says:

      Ain’t it. Also tackles the key points and well too. Well covered. Will definitely keep following. Good that people in this sort of lifestyle are talking about the real world issues too x

    • Domina Jen says:

      Thank you! I hope it helps people.

      • Coyote from Orion says:

        It seems you are generous in helping several people. Some of them seem to think that they’re owed for your sacrifices to help them when in actual fact the qualities and personality you have might be enjoyed elsewhere with people who appreciate you more. I work with alcoholics at times and their selfishness and obsession with self is probably more an addiction for them than the actual drug. If they don’t change their behavior then there is no learning. Us males too can be brought up by people who teach us to leach off others. The bigger the boy the more he never learns to stand up for anything or protect others. A guy at school called Joseph Alcock was gutless at footy… he got called Joseph All cock and no balls.

      • Domina Jen says:

        That’s very true.I don’t think that’s the case with this gentleman, though. He doesn’t strike me as someone who feels entitled to any help from me.

  5. Coyote from Orion says:

    Good on you Jen. Well worth the read for anyone who has experience with the issue or similar. Good to read all of this. Hope things go well for you. Thanks for some genuinely funny stuff too. You are cool as. Take care 😄😇

  6. Keith says:

    Excellent advice, Jen! I’ve been dealing wit chronic low-level anxiety myself just about as long as I’ve been alive. Played hell with all parts of my life. In the ’90’s I was seeing a shrink who was a psychiatrist. After four years of talk therapy he gave up and prescribed me small doses of a very basic med, which deals quite well with the anxiety with no side effects. It makes no sense taking responsibility for oneself, let alone anther person, who will be an emotional dependent, without getting such a problem thoroughly dealt with.

  7. Polthus says:

    Thorough and thoughtful response, Ma’am.

    I just wanted to piggyback of something you mentioned: “SRIs are some serious shit, and come with a pretty nasty set of side effects.” <–This! Only I'd say they are the devil. I've never taken them, but I have seen SSRIs cause rational/depressed human beings to become aggressive, irrational, and downright manic. (on the upswing times 10 manic) I'm waiting for them to connect the dots between SRIs and a number of mass shootings. No I'm not joking..but I do not want to hijack the thread with a tangent.

    As you said, getting help and talking to someone is key. Just IMHO – stay the fuck away from SSRIs.

    As an aside, I take issue with your claim: "I’m not (usually) an idiot anymore."

    That should read something like: "I'm wiser and more experienced now, and I take good care of my subs." Or something along those lines. To infer you are anything besides responsible and conscientious when it comes to your property, is contrary to the experience of those who've been lucky enough to wear your collar. –Just Saying.

  8. Great response Jen. You really are pretty fucking awesome! X

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