A little while after I started exploring kink, I realised I would have a sort of “come down” after sessions. I didn’t usually notice it straight away, because I was often hazy and peaceful and wrapped up in the afterglow, but a few days later it would hit. I’d start to feel sad and tearful. Sometimes I’d feel shameful about the things I’d enjoyed. I’d be tired, for no real reason, and struggle to concentrate on work. And I would often “act out” in my dynamic.
It took me a long time to realise that this was likely a form of “drop”, and that it was quite a normal thing that happened. Drop — most commonly associated with submissives/ bottoms, but (like kink frenzy) more indiscriminate in reality — actually happens to us in a lot of different situations. It’s basically the fall from a high, so think of anything that gives you a high and there is a possibility to “drop”. It’s a phenomena that’s been officially observed in actors, directors and Olympic athletes, but is definitely not theirs to claim.
So let’s delve into drop, so you can focus on your drop lifts.
Why do we drop?
We drop, in essence, because of that experience of a high and the subsequent return to reality. Who wouldn’t find that hard to manage? (Rhetorical question: I don’t want to think about work when I’m reliving sensations from the scene I had two nights ago.)
But there are actually two waves of drop: the feelings that come within minutes after a scene and those that come in the hours/ days/ weeks that follow.
The first wave is likely chemical and/ or hormonal. When we have an intense scene, it is thought that our bodies react accordingly by producing hormones and chemicals, like adrenaline and endorphins, which help us physically manage (and often even enjoy) the experience. However, once the scene ends, our parasympathtic nervous systems kick in, in order to counteract the cocktail of chemicals that have flooded our system This can result in deep exhaustion, incoherence, and extreme changes in body temperature to name but a few possible symptoms. [asibdsm, 2013].
This is likely to last minutes, though, not days. So what happens after this?
Sprott and Randall have an hypothesis. They posit that the lingering effects of drop may be the psychological effects of loss. But what have we lost?
Well, sex in general is thought to be an example of a “peak experience”: an experience that takes us to new, previously inexperienced heights. The nature of BDSM and kink mean that they are likely to intensify our encounters, whether sexual or not, making them more likely to fit into the “peak experience” box in our memory banks. And this certainly resonates with me. It’s part of the reason so many budding kinksters experience frenzy: the desire to feel those same “peak” feelings that once felt are forever chased.
So, what we lose is the feeling that these peak experiences give us.
In the days after, we might grieve the high: the feelings; the escapism; the connection; the fact that we have to clear our email inbox when what we actually want is to be back in it. We might feel guilt and regret, we might immediately start planning our next scene, we might be extra irritable. And these are all very similar to the non-linear stages of grief we associate with loss.
The other thing we may grieve is the person we were before, or during, the scene. For many of us, BDSM is a formative experience: it changes our very sense of self.
Ultimately we don’t really know what drop is, but I like to think of it in these terms, as a process of grieving the experience, or the reaction to a change in identity. And I like what Sprott and Randall say in their conclusion: “Perhaps the later drop is a sign of growth, but a growth process that involves negative emotional experiences as part of the change. Drop becomes the felt aspect of the challenge of incorporating the peak experience into one’s life. [It] may be a healthy process and not be a sign of something going wrong.”
How to spot drop
Drop looks different for everyone and these lists are absolutely not exhaustive.
In the minutes after a scene you may:
- Be hungry or thirsty
- Become hot or cold
- Be incoherent
- Feel deeply exhausted
- Be tearful, or laugh uncontrollably
In the days after, you might experience any of the following:
- Feelings of loss, disconnection and insecurity
- Guilt, shame, or embarrassment
- Melancholy, or tearfulness
- Lack of motivation
- Preoccupation with thinking about the scene
How to manage drop
For me, having a rational explanation for drop helps me to manage it in and of itself. This isn’t the same for everyone, yet no one is exempt from the drop monster knocking at your door, even if you’re an experienced kinkster who’s never felt it before.
From experience, drop can be more likely to happen:
- After particularly intense scenes
- After scenes that involve physical exertion
- In committed, emotional relationships or if there was no emotional connection
- If something went wrong (even if it was managed well, but especially if it wasn’t)
So here are some tips. But remember that everyone is different, and only you know how drop is likely to affect you.
Notice the feelings
If drop arrives, in whatever form it might take, try and key into the feelings. Give them space to breathe. Notice if they’re the same as, or different to, feelings you’ve had in the past. While the feelings may not be positive ones in the moment, noticing them is the first step to processing them, and can help us understand our aftercare needs better going forward.
Acknowledge and accept the feelings
Once you’ve noticed them, acknowledge and try to accept them. Oftentimes, if we don’t do this, we spend unconscious energy rejecting them and end up making ourselves feel worse in the long run. Accepting our feelings actually removes the power they can hold over us and allow us to move through them more easily.
Practise good aftercare
Aftercare is an important part of kink and BDSM and while practising it doesn’t mean drop won’t happen, it does give you support. Aftercare is for everyone too: while the sub/ bottom is often the one immediately in need of attention, Dom(me)s/ tops will also often experience drop. Communicate with each other in the hours and days after your scene. Those feelings you noticed and acknowledged? Share them with one another.
Talk to friends
If you have friends who are also kinksters, reach out to them too. The likelihood is they will all have experienced drop at some point and will be able to hold space for you in yours. And, if they haven’t, perhaps they will be more equipped to recognise and manage it for themselves if the time comes. Sometimes, just being heard and knowing we’re not alone in our feelings can help us to feel better.
Self-care the shit out of you
Aftercare is important, but we also have to take care of ourselves. Only you know how best to take care of yourself: whether it’s planning activities to distract yourself; stocking up on your favourite snacks; working from bed; watching that movie, the one that never fails to makes you laugh (or cry); or getting on the treadmill. Do whatever you need to do to manage your feelings.
Prepare to drop (and rejoice if you don’t)
Pretending, or assuming, it isn’t going to happen, doesn’t really help. While it’s not helpful to fixate on drop it is a good idea to prepare for the droppiest drop of all time. That way you can celebrate if it doesn’t happen, or if it’s even a little bit less droppy than you prepped for. Brace yourself for those feels, get ready to share them with friends/ partners, and ride the wave.