If it weren't for that bit of knowledge, it probably wouldn't have worked out after all.
I'd been throwing the idea of being a camgirl around in my head for a while when it suddenly became clear at the end of last year that I wasn't able to hold down a “normal” job. I was involved in the BDSM community, so I knew of a couple of people who made a living in the sex industry. But I had my steady, thankless customer service job, and as long as I could keep it, I didn't need to delve into other kinds of work.
My first steady psychiatrist had diagnosed me with PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Without effective treatment, I live my life between alternating episodes of listlessness and panic. For a long time I had assumed that I'd be able to keep on trucking somehow and I'd always managed to cope pretty well. It all caught up with me when I got fired from my job.
Another customer service job, at that point, was out of the question. Leaving the house felt impossible and talking to people made my heart race. I had to think outside the box for job options and camming was the obvious choice.
Camming had initially appealed to me for three reasons. I would definitely make decent money, I would have full control over when I worked, and I would be getting paid for being sexy. My experiences at local BDSM play parties had given me a taste of what it was like to be unashamedly, openly, and extravagantly sexual, and I loved it like crazy. Playing in front of people set off my anxiety every time, but I never regretted doing it. It was my little rebellion against my mental illness.
I've been tied onto a St. Andrew's Cross in front of dozens of strangers, being flogged and caned and screaming in pain and pleasure in front of friends and strangers alike. Knowing that I could do things that most people without mental illness would more than think twice before doing made me feel better when I couldn't do things like work or cook myself a meal. Webcamming, I reasoned, couldn't be too different from what I already did every now and again for fun.
My first foray into the world of camming was through a popular amateur porn site. I shot custom videos for people, making not as much as I could have in live shows, but building a little bit of confidence and learning the ropes. I'm not a film student and I couldn't afford to invest in good equipment, but the guys I was selling to weren't looking for pristine image and sound—they were looking for an amateur with perky tits and a passion for sexy roleplay. I was a sexy schoolgirl, a sexy babysitter, and a sexy stepdaughter giving “Daddy” a handjob with thick woolly socks on my hands. Not every video premise turned me on, but plenty of them did. I never faked an orgasm; I was having fun. I didn't have to talk to anyone in real time, so I didn't have to worry about messing up. I wasn't making enough money, but I was working and that was something.
I'd been told before that the guys that pay camgirls were often wealthy, corner-office types, and for the most part they acted like it. They were respectful, courteous, and complimentary. They paid women like me for a sexual fantasy they could relate to. They wanted to like me and not just my ass. They were paying for my attention as much as for my videos. This began to have an effect on my self-esteem. It's hard to feel bad about yourself when you're being paid to be someone's unattainable fantasy.
I wish I could say that the confidence boost helped me get over my anxiety enough to immediately start camming live, but mental illness tends not to work that way. My positive experiences didn't cancel out the depression and my newfound self-esteem didn't cancel out the anxiety. The way I'd always coped with this was by trying not to think too hard about all my decisions. Not overthinking it meant I couldn't set myself up to fail. Live camming was one such snap decision. One day I happened to feel healthy enough to try it.
“This is my first time here,” I told the faceless screen names in my room, “Sorry if I don't really know what I'm doing yet.”
You're doing great, one of them typed out.
You're so funny, another told me.
Wow! That ass!
Where are you from?
I can't pretend it wasn't overwhelming. I spent most of my free time actively avoiding this kind of attention. Being around people meant risking judgment, embarrassment, and inadequacy. Now I had dozens of people staring at me sitting awkwardly in front of a webcam, waiting for someone to throw me a tip or pay for a private show.
That was what made the difference, in the end. These weren't friends or acquaintances or colleagues; at the end of the day, these were customers. I owed them as much as I owed anyone I spoke to as a customer service rep at my previous jobs. Except this time, I could make them go away any time I wanted just by turning off my webcam.
I started having fun with it. The things I did live were more off-the-cuff and less scenario-driven. My live clients don't tend to engage in as much back-and-forth about what they're getting as my custom video clients do. I can't be Daddy's little girl away at college talking about all my dirty fantasies, but I can call my client “Daddy” while I play with my clit. Sometimes I can even be myself more, giggling and talking to clients in the awkward and casual way I might if they were actually in bed with me.
I'm still not making as much with camming as I'd like to. I have to do a lot of digital marketing for my camsites on top of keeping as regular a camshow schedule as possible. It's hard work by anyone's standards and any kind of work is hard with my mental health. But it's more manageable than anything else I've done and I love my work. I get to feel sexy. I get to feel powerful. Getting out of the house is nothing compared to riding a dildo on cam for the Internet. I still have the crying spells and the anxiety attacks, but I've managed to work around it and get by. I don't know how long I'll be camming for or whether things will change if I get my symptoms more under control. But for now I'm a camgirl and it's working.