This is a “do as I say, not as I do” post. I basically disappeared from the internet for a while, and hadn’t even realized how exhausted I was. Like, existentially exhausted. I was incapable of doing much else besides compulsively read romance novels on my couch. It turns out that flying across the country on the regular for a few months, working 3 jobs at any given time (especially when not all of them pay!), and trying to lead a semi-normal grown up life will take a toll on the body and mind. Who would have thought, huh? Burn out is especially important for sex workers to recognize and have strategies for. Our work is especially emotionally taxing, especially with the added pressures of social stigma and shame that we bear. Many of us have to deal with it from time to time. Here are some strategies I’ve learned from NOT utilizing them. It seems like common sense, but is amazingly hard when you’re in the thick of it.
1. Recognize – the sooner you see burn out (or sickness, depression, injury, or whatever you’re struggling with) for what it is, the sooner you can address it effectively. Not sure why you’re angry or unhappy? Check in with someone who knows you well. Jenny told me months ago that I was putting too much pressure on myself and working like a crazy person. I should have listened to her. (#ProTip: Jenny is always right, and the world would run more smoothly if people listened to her).
2. Break – If you can afford to, stop working for a while. This is much easier if you’ve managed to save some funds for just such an occasion, which I highly recommend. Doing sex work while you’re desperate or unhappy is especially miserable, and can even be dangerous. Or even just unfeasible as clients can sense insincerity and generally won’t spend as much money when you’re unhappy with your work. This is obviously not a viable option for everyone, but if you have the opportunity take it.
3. Cook – One of the biggest red flags that I’m not doing well is the loss of my appetite. Usually I can eat a prodigious amount at any given moment, but when I’m not healthy (physically or emotionally) I stop eating. Cooking, and taking the time to cook elaborate meals, is something I enjoy and forces me to take care of basic nutritional needs. I’ll be damned if I let a meal that’s taken a couple hours is going to go to waste, whether I feel like eating or not. Plus, routines can be immensely comforting, even if it’s as small as eating dinner every night.
4. Brag – Sometimes taking a shower, sending an email, or putting on pants can be a major victory in the day. And sharing those accomplishments can feel damn good. Miss Darling and I started texting each other occasionally with our achievements, and the results were pretty amazing. Knowing that someone is cheering you on can be immensely empowering. And validation of your work, no matter how small you may think it is, feels fucking great.
5. Cuddle – If you don’t have a pet, borrow someone else’s. My turtle, Walter, isn’t very cuddly, so I went to go visit the cat I lived with for several years (who now lives with my old roommate). There are scientific studies that indicate pets are good for therapy, and anecdotally I can say that it’s definitely true. Find a cuddly friend, get your snuggle pants on, and get down to some fluffy nuzzle business!
For those more visually oriented – or need a constant reminder above your desk – I recommend this adorable poster with good advice from Annie Sprinkle. It echoes a lot of what I had to say, because this is not a new problem, but has illustrations of naked ladies to back it up.