Asexuality and Me

For as long as I can remember I have felt different to others in many ways and that includes my sexuality. As a child of ten I was asked in the playground ‘are you a lesbian‘ to which I was uncertain what the meant and on asking my mum that night I was told ‘never mention that word in this house ever again’. It was only as I became a teenager I discovered its meaning and why her religious beliefs had led to the comment she had made, which all these years later have never changed.

In my teens amongst the many things the girls of my year chose to bully me over was my music choice as one they could not understand as I love all sorts of music and not just what was in the charts. I remember the day one asked me ‘which member of Take That do you fancy‘, like it was some great important thing to know, to which I answered ‘none of them‘. This was true I didn’t fancy any of them nor did I fancy any other male celebrity such as Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. They also asked if I was a virgin, which I was but the idea of sex was never something that I thought of and furthermore any signs of male genitalia had me running from biology classrooms to the thought of anything (even a tampon) made me frightened from memories my head did not want to remember. This led to me questioning my sexuality every time the subject was brought up.

By the time I reached university in Aberdeen and saw magazines aimed at teenagers with ‘position of the fortnight‘ in them I still had zero interest in it, if anything it made me want to retreat even more at what might be expected of me. I only ever had a fleeting interest in one guy as we spent so much time studying together and even then never thought of kissing him or more. By the time the year 2000 came round and just before my twenty second birthday arrived I finally kissed someone but he wanted more and tried to rape me twice and then stalked me for three months. The only other experience of note was a blind date a few months later, which when my friend text me just before it with ‘don’t kill me after you’ve met him‘ didn’t exactly fill me with confidence! The date itself was awful as he took me to a pub that he was uncertain even if had a woman’s toilet and had zero mutual interests to talk about!

Five years on and I was about to embark on my PhD in England when I invited a friend to visit for the day and he turned the visit into the start of a long distance relationship. On hindsight there were many warning signs: his visits being restricted to monthly (ironic given his initials were PMS), contact was on his terms through MSN (he destroyed his mobile phone sim card so I wouldn’t text him) to sexual things as forced me to have sex with him and perform oral sex, which I still had zero interest in but wanted to make him happy. This led to other issues of a physical kind in terms of pain due to vulvodynia and discovery of spasms from vaginismus as well as blacking out at times too. He was zero support when trying to explain this to a gynaecologist and when we finally split up nine months later I probably had only ever seen him five times. It was a welcome relief as spent every hour he visited in fear at what he wanted and even at night time I could not sleep for the two days he visited for. Although I was in therapy for other issues with my mental health he certainly added to the issues I had there too. The only other person to show any interest in me over the time I lived in England was a guy I knew online and lets just say I could spot his lies a mile off to the negative energy he gave off told me to run for the hills!

Since then I have returned to live where I grew up in Edinburgh, but it was only when going to Aberdeen to see a friend in concert and stay with a second friend that I had my first kiss with a woman, the friend I was staying with. She identified as bisexual and someone (her or a barman) spiked my drink so my memories of the time are hazy and cannot say that kiss was any better or worse than my previous experiences with men. It no more confirmed for me that I am straight, gay or bi as cannot tell from looking at someone if I find them attractive or not as genuinely is their personality that if I am ever to have any level of attraction it will be from. It was only after this experience I learnt of asexuality and realising that is probably what I identify as – a Grey-A.

Over the nine years since that kiss I have grown to accept, appreciate and love me for who I am. I am now 40 years old and beginning to wonder what the whole relationship thing is really about. I have zero interest in apps or online dating and would rather be introduced to someone through a friend. The kiss in Aberdeen showed me that I cannot classify the gender of a person I would be interested in. My experiences in England have shown me the kind of personality I do not want in a partner and those I do want if I did have one. I still have zero sexual attraction or interest in sex with the idea of looking for to having a partner scares the bejeezus out of me and beginning to wonder as I have often felt that it is something just not meant for me…and perhaps just need to accept that.

© Fi S. J. Brown

I am what I am (a.k.a Self Portrait 2018)

Five years ago I posted the photograph below with the words written upon it describing my journey recovering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), self-hate, and low self-esteem. Today things are very different and this entry describes how things are today. If I am honest I still did not think I could ever reach the point of body and self positivism as the negative hung around like a bad smell I could not get rid of. Looking at old photographs I can see and feel my pain with part of me wishing I had the keys to a time machine to reassure myself but know I probably would not believe myself or recognise the person as me. The ogre that once lived in my head has been truly vanquished, such are the incredible healing properties of self-acceptance and happiness. Actually, I thought I was not allowed to be happy as was meant for others and not for me. Now I realise happiness takes many forms, and I have the right to that as much as anyone else on this planet.

In an age when judgement is made so much on our physical form it makes me still at question if I fit in. Judging on physical form deeply saddens me as know there is so much to us than our shell of many colours. To those that think looks are everything consider the following: when you see an iceberg you only ever see the top of it not what it actually looks like in physical form (this is like judging someone from the clothes you see them in and only desiring the slimmest of figures); equally consider a swan that as a child looks very ordinary but becomes a beautiful and majestic bird (this is akin to judging someone based on their past alone, not who they are in the present and what they may have overcome); and finally consider if the music remained only oral and never visual with those you judge their music based on their sex appeal you could never see (this is like basing your attraction on a walking puppet controlled by someone unseen where nothing is actually real).

I know I am not an ogre but I am equally not a Hollywood A-list celebrity, but then again I would rather be the ogre than the Hollywood star! Accepting me as me has been far harder than academic study; although on saying that my PhD was one of the greatest stresses of my life to date. I am me, not the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and the Hunchback of Notre Dame as I used to think. Which was replaced with Pablo Picasso’s ‘Woman in Hat and Fur Collar’ for a bit as I attempted to readjust the mental image in my head. This was followed by a patchwork doll made up of patches that represented all the different things that make me, me, and stitched together with love from those that are special in my life. However, now I see the same image others see in my photographs and smile like I never thought I could, it used to physically hurt my face for starters. If I was to have any other visual of me it is of a Matryoshka doll, because there is more to learn about me even when you think you know me well I will always surprise you with another layer to what makes me the uniquely beautiful human being I am.

© Fi S. J. Brown

5 years ago.jpg

It’s okay

It’s okay to be 22 or 42 and not know what you want be when you grow up. You can also change your mind, try new things, or take wrong turns, as discover what your true path or paths really are.

It’s okay to be single. Maybe you prefer being on your own, tired of other’s crap. Perhaps you have been hurt in the past so healing, or learning self love before you try again with someone new.

It’s okay if you cannot find your Prince Charming or Fair Maiden, love comes when you least expect it. Do not chase after it, but kissing a few frogs and toads along the way is to be expected.

It’s okay to be gay. Whether you like men, women, both, or do not care as long as they have a pulse, no book or other can define your version of what love is. We do not choose who we fall for.

It’s okay not to want kids. Being a parent is not for everyone, and is a valid choice. If you cannot have children it can be very hard; however, adoption or fostering are still your choices not others.

It’s okay to have that bit of chocolate, one piece won’t change you or the world. You do not have to excuse or explain yourself to anyone, people judge all the time, even themselves.

It’s okay to feel depressed. Remember you are not alone and depression loves to lie. Not everyone will listen, some may laugh or whisper behind your back, but do not ever give up. Someone will listen.

It’s okay to be different. There is no such thing as an average human being, we are human coloured/sized/shaped. You look as your genetic lottery decided, knives and syringes do not add, look inside.

It’s okay to be you. There is no one on this planet that’s the same, identical twins are not the same person. You can dance to another’s rhythm, but you have your own so embrace it and the colours it makes.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Tea Song

As it is ‘World Poetry Day’ and ‘World Water Day’, what else was a teaoholic writer to do but combine them!
tea

 

Each morning I now switch on the kettle,
And look for a cup for my wake up brew.
I try to forget that look you used to give,
As you slowly sipped on your Earl Grey.

 

With eyes matching my favourite drink,
And lips sweeter than any sugar cube.
You stole my heart and my teapot too,
And wore that red tea cosy on your head.

 

You were the saucer to my old China cup,
Catching my tears and I kept you warm.
Now I feel like an used bag left in the bin,
All squeezed out, bare and flavour gone.
© Fi S. J. Brown

A child’s question – mental health

Yesterday I was asked: how do you explain mental health to a child? The child in question being 4 years old. Although I will never have my own children, it is an important to realise with an increase in mental health that we consider it from a child’s point of view and not ignore their questions. So, I felt it was an important point to ponder. N.B. I am not a trained counsellor but considering a basic course in 2016 as many have said I should be one, but use my own experiences to offer support and advice to friends.

Immediately I remembered my step-mum after my breakdown and suicidal thoughts said I could not stay with her, my dad and step-sister as was not fair on my step-sister as she was too young (I was almost thirty where as she was twelve). My own parents split up when I was eleven, so thought when I was her age I had already gone through a major traumatic experience. Equally, she was of the age when lots of changes would be occurring and have questions about life. Was she really too young to understand why I felt the way I did or was this the stigma of mental health kicking me at my lowest ebb?

My step-mum also would never let me explain fully why I was depressed to her and events had become the way they are. I was having therapy at the time so I could understand my past and how I got to where I was today. So what I had learnt from therapy, I could never put into practise, for as soon as my mum’s name was mentioned, she’d go deaf; my mum had painted her (wrongly) as a scarlet woman thus could not hear a bad word about her. It was incidents like that every time I saw her that lead to my re-estrangement with my father, as she would corner me to ask me again and again, but not give her the answers she felt I should be saying. How could I explain when what needed said was not being heard?

My family never talk about things, so all sorts that hurt me from physically to emotionally and mentally can still trigger or impact upon me decades later as cannot always move on from them. Only the other week I had a panic attack at the dentist, partly through a fear I was choking as I nearly blacked out and my fear of people coming in my face after things my brother did to me thirty years ago, which my parents never punished. I once nearly punched an optician as he came close to my face when helping me try contact lenses and my head kept thinking he was going to strangle me like my brother kept trying to do. I would never knowingly hurt anyone, so both incidents left me crying and shaking at being a fool to let the past strangle my present and possible future. However, it also tells me that I also need further therapy to move on from them.

Going back to the original question I was asked. I feel honesty is the best policy, especially with children, but just how do you tell a small child about something many adults do not understand or accept? The friend told me the child already knew they cried, got angry and took medication, but as children often do, wanted to know more. It made me consider both my nieces, one almost 4 and the other almost 5, how would I explain how Auntie Fi’s health? The eldest already asked why on why I did not do certain things. I also felt that children need reassurance and that it is not them, but their parents still love them and always will.

I thought back to my own childhood, how I used the Care Bears to show how I felt. When I was seven, my tummy felt like Grumpy Bear with a cloud on it with the drops feeling like the tears I had in my tummy. He was the only Care Bear I was never allowed to own, as my mum found his image too depressing! Ironic given it was me trying to tell her I was depressed from events at home and the bullying at school.

I looked up an image of Grumpy Bear on the internet, and immediately hit upon an idea. The friend could colour in with and/or supporting their child the image of the bear, describing how sometimes they felt like the bear, the raindrops were like the tears he cried and medication the hearts that stopped the raindrops falling as much, which together with their loved made more hearts form. My friend felt this was a good idea, but reminded them they knew their child in terms of development and sensitivity required.

Discussing mental health is not easy, whether it is with a child, teenager or adult. However, it is by discussing what it means to us and impacts our lives with family, friends and colleagues that will end this terrible stigma, which I believe should have been left in the 20th century. In many ways discussing mental health is like discussing having cancer, diagnosis under either umbrella term can change lives forever but they do not have to mean the end. We all feel like Grumpy Bear some days, needing the love of others to be the hearts when sometimes we forget to love ourselves and know it is okay to cry like the raindrops, as the sunshine after the rain is almost worth dancing in the street!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Shiny Happy People

It is said that there are nine common traits of happy people but they do not talk about them. I have listed the nine below and considered each one, how I feel about each one from my own experiences and knowledge. Am I really one of the world’s shiny happy people, or am I still stuck with depression filling my head with it’s darkness and endless tunnels?

1. “Love themselves for who they are” – Whilst I would concur this is true I would say it is more a self respect and appreciation for who who we are rather than a love. Accepting what this shell of a body can and cannot do, not wanting to change who we are to fit among the “cool” gang, and knowing when we give our best, that is enough for me.

2. “See relationships as an extension to, rather than the basis of the human experience” – I have known others to be depressed when single or unable to do something as need someone to do it with them. For me, I spend much of my time alone and enjoy the new things friends can teach me about life as much as the things we both share.

3. “Embrace change” – For me change in this world is something that happens all the time, there is no point in worrying as it will go the way it’s meant to be every time, even when it hurts hard. Each day is like an empty page, some is filled in with routine but remember the spaces inbetween are for new adventures and experiences, good and bad.

4. “Celebrate rather than compare themselves to the accomplishments of others” – I see people doing their best every day, if I have achieved similar I can share the feelings they maybe feeling now, but even if I have not, I know that they will have given their best to achieve it. Know the little things we have achieved are most often the greatest.

5. “Never dwell in being a victim” – Somethings that have happened in my life hurt badly but I have learnt these are part of who I am, so do not dwell on the pain they cause (mental and physical) but see them as patches that the love of good friends stitch together and give me strength to carry on even if feel the darkness descend upon me. 

6. “They live in the present” – I know how tempting it is to replay past memories, good and bad, or look forward to a future that will never come. Instead I realise today is the only day that matters, to be the best I can be today as these actions and those around me will be the foundations of tomorrow and will soon also be memories of the past.

7. “Trust that everything happens for a reason” – Good or bad, it’s the experience, lessons from it and how we react to it that matters most. If I had not done what seemed frivolous at the time, I would not have the good friends I now have in my life. Sometimes it is hard to see others having success when we do not, but ours may come in another form.

8. “They don’t let money dictate their lives” – From my earliest years I could not understand the global fixation with money, how one country could have so much more when others had so little. I see it as a necessary evil, as allows us to do things we may not otherwise do and do not need a credit card to allow me to have a “good night out.”

9. “Look within for solutions” – I have learnt it is my instincts I must trust when making decisions, reading around a subject before choosing what makes sense for me today. What I choose may not suit another but that is why I will not push my ideas on others, merely suggest to them to trust themselves with their own life skills and knowledge.

After over 35 years I guess I truly am happy within, something I never thought I was allowed to be. I may never have the white wedding or 2.4 kids, but those have not been what my life has been for. Equally, the future is such an expanse into the unknown, I would rather dip my toes in the present not jump ahead. Free to be me, not adding to the darkness.

© Fi S. J. Brown