I have had to step back from rope bottoming several times over the past few years. I have always been fairly open about talking to people about what is going wrong, especially with people I play with. The journey has been a physical and emotional roller coaster, and this post is going to be a little raw and personal.
I have something called thoracic outlet syndrome which for me, is brought on when I get any inflammation or tightness in my shoulders and back. I also have straightening of my cervical spine which is caused by muscle tightness. I have an old rotator cuff injury which means I have a bunch of scar tissue in my shoulder. In other words, my shoulders are all fucked up. Surprisingly, I don’t suffer from too much chronic pain. I have painful days, and when my symptoms are flared up and I have REALLY painful days, but most of the time I feel normal. I am strong, and I tend to be a sturdy rope bottom if my injuries are being considered. I’ve never quite had the rotation in my shoulders that some of the other aerial girls have, but then again I’m comparing myself to contortionists (Hint: Never compare yourself to contortionists, they have no spines and many secrets).
The Hard Stop
Spring 2015, I felt something was terribly wrong. I was in excruciating pain. Not after a fall, not after a hard rope scene. I had been training hard on pole for a performance, but the last few days hadn’t been particularly brutal. The pain felt like someone was taking a hatchet and burying it between my shoulder blades, all the way to my collar bone. I went to a physical therapist, who told me to rest (my least favorite thing to hear). No pole, no mountain biking, no yoga, try not to raise my arms over my head rest.
I was supposed to go to Bondage Expo Dallas in two weeks. I panicked. I rested, and I panicked. At my next appointment with the physical therapist, I brought up rope. She immediately googled rope bondage, porn came up and hilarity ensued. Once I convinced her it was for ‘performance’ and I didn’t do that kind of rope bondage (lolz I actually do) she started asking me good questions about how it moves your body and where the pressure of the rope goes. She told me I absolutely should not be in a TK or have any ropes coming over my shoulder. I had already bought my tickets to B.E.D. so I decided I would go anyways.
The Good, the Bad, and the Lonely
Bondage Expo Dallas was a hard convention for me. I was having some conflicts in my personal relationships, so there were some tense moments. Although one of my main partner was there for the weekend, I barely saw him. My housing fell through at the last minute, so I crammed into a room with some lovely people from my local scene. I spent the majority of the con alone and angry, stewing in my own juices. I watched rope bottoms do incredible things that I knew I could totally do. I watched a lot. I watched during classes, I took notes. I paid a lot more attention to the interactions between people and I spent a lot more time on my own tying.
I only played twice that weekend. Both times I was so incredibly grateful for the attention. Both people I tied with avoided my shoulders, and still showed me that I could have an excellent scene with just floorwork. I still felt lonely, and felt like I was less interesting and worthwhile to talk to because I couldn’t be suspended. Those feelings were entirely unfounded, and the foul look on my face and my sad body language was probably more of the reason I didn’t talk to many people.
The weekend was the beginning of me ‘Kink with Modification’ period. I wanted so badly to get better, and in the meantime I explored my other kinks. I am not just a rope bottom, although my life is rope centric.
What I learned
I learned to be patient. I learned that my value extends beyond my ability to be a study rope bottom. I became more in touch with the connection I wanted out of rope, and was able to come back to rope getting a suspension scene was an extra special treat. The time I spent watching meant that I learned more about what seemed to work with connection. I learned that suspension wasn’t the ultimate goal, just like in sex, orgasm shouldn’t be the only goal. I learned to be firm with tops about what ties they could put me in, and that the ones who really cared about what I had to say would find some amazing alternative to slapping on a TK and flipping me upside down (I still love hanging upside down though).
I learned that if you take one of the most comfortable tools away from an incredible rope top, they will find new ways that might even work better to do a suspension. Pushing yourself to be creative can be accomplished by taking something away that you rely on as a staple and try to create a similar effect. So in turn as a new rope top I learned that the basics are important, but my rope bottom is more important. So the moral of the story is that suspensions are awesome and fun, but having a healthy body is more fun. If you truly want rope and connection you can find it. And last but not least, just because your body is different you aren’t broken.