I’m so lonely but that’s okay I shaved my head“Lithium” – Nirvana
And I’m not sad
And just maybe I’m to blame for all I’ve heard
But I’m not sure
I’m so excited, I can’t wait to meet you there
But I don’t care
I’m so horny but that’s okay
My will is good
Darkness, overwhelming darkness. I had not left the room in five days. At least that was my guess, days and nights have a tendency to blend together when most of your time is spent with your head resting on pillows and your eyes fixed on a white wall. That wall had been the canvas for my most twisted thoughts, and the destination for my restless walks through the small room. The curtains were drawn. They had come in earlier, trying to bring in some light, opening the window, washing my tense and tired body. Once they had left, the darkness returned.
I suppose I was lucky. Other women in my position would have been sent to one of those mental asylums in the countryside, the workhouses where the care was translated into free forced labour. That was probably still better than the medieval torture chambers were people like me had been chained to cold wet walls, whipped and flogged until the demons that had possessed them had supposedly fled their bodies. A warm bed and curtains to keep the bright light of the clueless world out, was preferable to that. Or was it?
People like me. Mother had called me neurotic, had sent me to doctors that had collections of Freud’s work on their bookshelves. I very much detested the idea of my love for my father to be of any reason for my current state. He had died in the war, yes. But the year was 1921 now. He had died over six years ago. However much I missed him, I had grieved and accepted. I did not know where the restlessness was coming from. Why my mind felt fatigued yet racing. Why I abhorred the thought of being alive, while wanting to do everything possible to meet my needs for pleasure.
Our butler, John, had pulled me out of the Thames. My hate for life, the world and myself had won that night. He had followed me on mother’s orders because she didn’t trust my erratic behaviour. She had been right, irritatingly right. Three months ago I had arrived in this room, dripping wet and motionless. They had carried me to bed. Since then I took a weekly walk in the sanatorium’s gardens, had to meet Dr. Strauss every Wednesday and spent the rest of my days in this bed, my head on these pillows, my eyes on that wall.
Yesterday I signed a paper, agreeing to a new kind of therapy to treat women with a condition like mine. Neurosis, mania, psychotic state. They didn’t know what to call it. But they had seen it before. None of the cocaine, none of the opium, none of the art therapy, had made a difference. My mind was broken and they hadn’t found the glue to fix it. I was delighted for that because I had seen the other residents, sitting in chairs, not knowing their birthplaces and the day of the week. Saliva dripping down half open mouths, eyes filled with sadness and helplessness. I still knew who I was, I still understood how dreadful this world was.
Physical stimulation therapy, that was what Dr. Strauss had called it. Touch would be involved, immobility and learning how to control impulses. I didn’t mind touch, I didn’t mind being stimulated. Mother very much would agree. She was convinced that my promiscuity was the sparking cause of my madness. I, on the other hand, always felt it did the exact opposite. Being with someone calmed my nerves and provided me with a freedom that I often missed during moments of lonely contemplation. Physical stimulation therapy might just very much be what I needed.
A knock on the door. “Miss Johanna, are you decent?”, I heard nurse Maria say. I had just changed from my nightdress into the strange hospital gown that had been left on my bed earlier. The binding was in the front instead of the back. A strange new fashion, I thought to myself. “Yes, nurse, come on in.” Maria entered the room. She was a bit older than me, maybe in her early 30s. Her eyes were brown, her hair blonde. She was always wearing a beautiful silver brooch in the shape of a butterfly on her white nurse’s uniform. Her shape was round and pleasing to the eye. I was fond of her as she often sat by my bed and read to me. I liked her company.
She entered the room together with Michael, a new nurse I had only met once so far. He looked rough but had a warm fire burning behind his green eyes. He was tall, and had a deep reassuring voice. “Miss Johanna,”, he said, “we are here to get you to therapy. Are you ready?” I nodded. They had brought a wheeled chair but I declined its use. The muscles in my body had weakened after weeks in bed and I didn’t want the diminishing of my physical strength to continue. We walked down the long corridor, took a turn to the left, and they opened the door to a large room in the shape of an amphitheatre. I saw dozens of men in fashionable clothing filling the seats and looking at us as we entered the stage.
I stopped for a second, confused about where we were. Dr. Strauss walked towards me and kissed my hand. “Miss Johanna!”. I nodded. “Let me present to you the members of the London medical society. What we are going to try today is quite new and exciting territory to walk on. There is a huge interest in this experiment to be tried on British soil for the first time.” He grinned proudly. I shrugged. I knew he wouldn’t try to operate on me so what was the worst that could happen? I followed the doctor.
In the center of the stage stood a table with instruments, and a peculiar chair. The back of it seemed adjustable. It was attached to a metal standing and at the bottom were two holders, seemingly for legs to be spread apart and secured. I started to feel a rush of panic rise up inside me. My hands were trembling, my vision became blurry. I knew I had agreed to this, and I wanted to improve my mental state. But all of what was happening seemed rather overwhelming and I had the strong urge to run. Maria sensed my anguish and took my hand. I looked at her soft face and her curious eyes and felt at ease. We took the last steps together.
Michael and Maria helped me onto the chair. I sat down and looked around. Dozens of pairs of eyes were observing me. I quite enjoyed the attention. If there was such a vast interest in this kind of therapy, it surely must seem promising. I leaned back and allowed my head to rest on the pillow provided for me. Maria was standing next to me, a reassuring hand on my arm. My panic was replaced with curiosity. I saw Michael stand at my feet. He lifted my legs up into the air and placed them in the holders, I felt straps being pulled over my ankles and wiggled my toes to make my sure that the bloodflow wasn’t interrupted. Maria attached similar straps around my wrists. I assumed the straps were to make sure I was secure and wouldn’t fall off the chair.
I turned my head and watched Dr. Strauss’ curious face observing me, I nodded. With a loud bellowing voice he said: “The subject is secured and anticipatory. Let’s begin the experiment! Michael, please pick up instrument number one: the feather. Maria, engage in sensory stimulation of the chest area.”. Both nurses moved closer to me. I watched Maria open my hospital gown and felt is slide open. I felt exposed yet not uncomfortable. I let out a short squeal when Maria started massaging my breasts, and circle my nipples with her fingers. I felt a wave arousal rise up inside me and closed my eyes when her fingertips gently pulled my erect buds. Surely physical stimulation therapy didn’t mean amorous stimulation? It could not?
“Michael, please engage step two: clitoral stimulation with the feather of a dove.”. I felt nurse Michael’s fingers open the lips to my wetlands. I tried to wiggle but the straps kept me in place. He held my lips firmly to keep them spread, the pinches making me both want to scream out in pleasure and pain. I felt the touch of the feather on my swollen button and moaned. I had not been able to feel relief in a long time, always worried that someone would catch me in my room. The soft yet sturdy feather both teased and tickled me. My mouth was open and I was gasping for air. This was quite relaxing. A goal of therapy, I assured myself.
“Maria, intensify motions!”, I heard Dr. Strauss say. Maria’s grip of my breasts became stronger, massaging, pulling, flicking. Meanwhile, the strokes of the feather on my button came in shorter intervalls. I felt the wave of relief building up, the much needed spasms preparing to roll through my body and mind. “Disengage!”, Dr. Strauss shouted. The motions and touch stopped. I opened my eyes in frustration and looked at the doctor. “As you could see, we allowed the subject to nearly reach climax, but then stopped the process. And as presented, the subject reacts with frustration. This was to be expected. We are trying to re-condition behaviour and control impulses. For that the subject needs to learn that instant pleasure isn’t always the most preferred form of pleasure.”
I sighed. This was good for me. I was learning. “Michael, instrument number two, the phallus. Maria, keep ready to engage again.”. Michael opened my lips again and pushed something inside me. He pulled it out and pushed it in again. I felt my wetness become rather a stream of juices. I tried to move my loins in the rhythm he was dictating but I was still unable to move. “Maria, engage””, Dr. Strauss said. I felt Maria’s hands and fingers back on me, running up and down my body. I opened my eyes and looked at her, her uniform brushing over my erect buds. I was lost in pleasure and needed the relief to come. “Engage clitoral stimulation, Michael!” I felt a rough finger massaging my button. My insides clenched, now I couldn’t hold back anymore. I prepared for what I wanted, what I needed. “Disengage!”. Everything stopped again.
“NO!”, I yelled in frustration. A gasp of shock went through the room. Dr. Strauss walked over to me and said in his loud voice: “Miss Johanna, I know this is frustrating but you are learning, you are a good girl. You are allowed to climax only when I have counted you down to one, starting from five. You need to give up the control over your own pleasure. Is that understood?” I nodded, exhausted, wanting, needing. “Engage, increasing intensity”: I was filled again, I was touched again. Motions were faster and stronger. I tried to hold back as much as I could. I started to squeal as the pressure became unbearable. “Please, please, Dr. Strauss, please!”. “Only a little bit longer, Miss Johanna, you can do this. A little bit longer.”. I screamed, tears were running down my face. All I could focus on were the sensations, my need.
“Five. Four. Three.”, Dr. Strauss started counting. My body tensed up even more, knowing it would soon get what it had been craving. “Two.”. A pause. “One. Climax, Miss Johanna. Climax!”. I felt the storm of relief run through me, my wetlands clenching and releasing streams of my juicy rivers. My whole body twitched and spasmed, seemingly not wanting to stop. But finally the movements subsided and I sighed. A wave of applause was coming from the seats, men cheering and clapping their hands. I felt fingers grasping my shoulder. I opened my eyes and looked at Dr. Strauss’ proud face. “Experiment concluded successfully, gentlemen!” The cheering got louder. “Miss Johanna, well done. You are a very good girl!”.
Maria and Michael helped me to sit up and climb down the peculiar chair, after having closed my gown again. My legs were shaky as my feet touched the floor. Maria fetched the wheeled chair and I sat down. I looked at the men shaking hands, embracing each other, still cheering. The experiment seemed to have succeeded. I certainly felt calmer than I had felt in months. I had trouble keeping my eyes open when the nurses wheeled me to my room, and fell into a deep slumber the moment my head touched the pillows on my bed.