I’ve been really depressed lately.

It’s a combination of factors, huge (and hugely stressful) life changes, out-of-whack brain chemicals, and general malaise. I’m burned out, but this isn’t the sex worker burnout I’ve written about before, in fact, when it comes to garden-variety burnout, sex work is one of the best coping tools I have.

I’ve suffered, in varying degrees, from depression since I was about thirteen. It comes and goes, often with very little warning or reason, and I deal with it with varying degrees of skill. This time, I’m throwing myself into my work, and it seems to be pretty successful so far. I love sessioning, and there are very, very few things as great as getting paid for something you love.

People like to talk about how sex work is soul-crushing work that no-one in their right mind would ever enjoy, but either I’m crazy or they’re wrong. I’ve written ad nauseam about how sex work absolutely isn’t soul-crushing work, at least not for me, but I’ve never really gotten into what, beyond the high earning potential, makes it so rewarding. There are so many things, and so many of them are so hard to define, that it’s a hard topic to write about.

The main thing that drew me to sex work was initially the money. If succeed in the sex industry, you can stand to make a lot of money. Most of us never get rich, but we are able to attain a comfortable middle-class life at a much earlier age than most people. Sex work can open the doors of a modest American Dream and that’s a pretty cool thing.

But there’s a lot more to it than money.

In any aspect of the adult industry (except maybe porn), you, as a worker, are dealing with people’s feelings on a very, very intimate level. In fetish work, because of all the shame involved, the number of feelings and the level of intimacy is increased. When I’m in session, my job is not just to make my client get off (or get him close to getting off and then denying him release), my job is also to make him feel secure and safe, or to provide a manageable level of fear: not too much, but not too little.

If I allowed myself to fall into the trap of just being a mean lady with a whip, I wouldn’t be much of a mistress at all. Instead I have to create an environment of acceptance and even love. I have to be able to reassure men that they are normal and healthy, whether they like something relatively tame like an over-the-knee hand spanking , or have more extreme interests like brown showers or heavy CBT (Cock and Ball Torture).

My work is usually about one part sexual, two parts emotional. I give a lot to my clients, and I love them all for the hour I’m in the room with them. It’s beautiful to see them overcome their fears and all the things they’ve been told about what sex and sexuality should be and let go completely. I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they leave refreshed after a session, I feel like I’m making a genuine difference in the world.

Sex worker exclusionary feminists like to point out that sex work is not the oldest profession, that really, farming or healing are probably older professions than whoring, and that may or may not be, as the use of the term “oldest profession” is usually either euphemistic or hyperbolic. Whether or not they’re correct about what really is the oldest profession doesn’t really matter. The fact of the matter is that whores are, on some level, healers, and many cultures throughout time have recognized us in this capacity.

My position as a healer and a therapist becomes more apparent and also dearer to me when I’m most depressed. It’s cheesy, but doing these weird little good deeds for others really does make me feel better.

Of course, my motives aren’t entirely altruistic, I’d never do this for free, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m doing good things for people and it’s incredibly fulfilling. I’m not sure why it’s so very difficult for people to understand this. A lot of civilians tend to write off what I do as just sex, with a dismissive, “Wow, you must be a nymphomaniac or something” and then when I explain that I don’t sleep with my clients unless I’m doing it in the most literal sense, they become confused. “You aren’t actually into all that weird stuff, are you?” No, I’m not into all of it, but I’m definitely into helping people accept and explore the weird stuff they’re into.

Sex work may not be a substitute for therapy, but for me it is certainly very therapeutic. It confuses me when I’m told that my soul is being slowly crushed when I’m encouraging others to blossom, because as I nourish them by fulfilling fantasies that, in many cases, they’ve been taught to believe were wrong, bad, or disgusting, I’m nourishing myself. I see, in a very real way, that there is good in the world and that I’m capable of creating that good.

I’ve written about how I am not better than sex work, I write and write about how much I love this work, but I’ve never gone to in-depth as to why I love it so much. To be honest, I’m not sure I had even fully realized it until this particular depressive episode hit and I realized how calming sessions with even my less-beloved clients can be. Sex work has taught me so much about myself, it’s taught me about the world, and lately it’s been teaching me how beautiful the world can really be. Before you buy the myth of the damaged whore, think of the work she does for others, think of how rewarding it is to help people feel better about themselves, and consider that for her, as for me, sex work is not only a good job, but also a fulfilling job.