Disclaimer: Dearest family who may not want to know about my love life, please don’t read this blog (Granddad that means you!) I wanted to write this as I have been approached about a documentary about disability and sex and mixed with the recent series of The Undateables I wanted to post about how having a stroke has affected my dating/sex life as a 23 year old girl.
I may or may not have mentioned that I am single. Me and my friends are so single in fact that we joke about being forever alone, although i’m sure that not one of us will be (yes Rosie and Nicola, even you).
Before my stroke I had been in two ‘serious’ relationships, one from the age of 16-18 and another in my first year at university. Outside of this I never had any issues meeting boys, I was confident and constantly meeting new people, such is the life of a student. I had however been seeing my ‘first love’ on and off from when we broke up at 18 until mere weeks before I had my stroke at the age of 21. It was complicated but he was a huge part of my life. He was the last person I had slept with about 4 months before my stroke and it seems incredibly weird for me that we no longer speak, although i’m sure its for the best.
Following my stroke, whilst I felt like the same person, It was obvious to me and I’m sure to everyone around me that my confidence had been hugely knocked. I was horrendously self concious about the droop in my face with every smile being over dramatised in an attempt to force the left side of my face to mirror the right, on top of that I was trying to get used to being in a wheelchair with eyes glancing at me then looking away awkwardly or worse, I was using a walking frame, possibly the least sexy thing for a girl in her early 20s to experience. Friends and ex-flings started asking if I could have sex, something I was sure I could but had no real desire too, I didn’t feel sexy in my new body and I had my recovery to concentrate on but after a long 22 months of not experiencing it, I began feeling comfortable in my self again.
I’m sure my three weeks in Thailand are what triggered the return of my confidence, I guess it came kind of hand in hand with feeling relaxed, distancing myself from many stroke related things in my life and feeling comfortable drinking again…sad that alcohol was what helped me feel comfortable in myself but it gave me such an invincible feeling that on one of our first nights in Bangkok whilst Sarah was chatting up a boy, I approached a group of german boys in a bar, asked if they spoke English and if they would mind if I sat with them and that was it I made some new friends for the evening. This mind-set stuck with me for the rest of the holiday, happily chatting to boys, getting a few snogs and exchanging phone numbers. The stroke was no longer at the forefront of my mind and my ‘disabilities’ didn’t seem to bother anyone- if they even noticed them at all.
When I came back from Thailand I realised it was harder to meet people here than there and I made the decision to try online dating, I wrote about what had happened to me on my profile but I still got plenty of attention, it was weird and I wasn’t sure if it was how I wanted to meet someone but I liked the ego boost and after a few weeks I went on my first date. I was so nervous, an emotion that kicks my muscle spasticity into overdrive, making my arm and leg tense meaning its much harder to walk. The date was awkward but fun - just as I’d expected but a couple of hours into it I got a really bad headache which i’m still not sure if the guy really believed, we kept seeing each other and things moved quite quickly - at least until he told me he didnt want a relationship, that he couldn’t see us together and that he thought we would irritate each other. Although we stay in touch now I cut him out completely for a while, He was the first person I’d had a kind of relationship with since my stroke and if i’m honest I felt betrayed for putting my trust in him and was upset for a few days.
I soon snapped out of feeling sad and I went on a night out with some friends and met a friend of friends who I instantly clicked with and had a really fun night with. Although he knew i’d had a stroke it wasn’t until the next morning that he realised I was wearing a splint when I walked which I honestly thought was great as I genuinely thought it stuck out like a sore thumb. It was nice to know that it wasn’t on his radar. We have been meeting up since and I think have formed a good friendship but he’s another one who doesn’t want a relationship, although he said he liked me and I like him its bad timing I guess as we’re both at complicated stages of our lifes. I started to think that this lack of commitment was saying something about me but I now think i’m just at a strange age where people don’t necessarily want commitment and I’ve even started to realise it’s probably not the right thing for me at the moment either. My physio keeps telling me to have fun in my early twenties before I settle down as once I’ve met someone I won’t have the chance to do it again and I think she’s right.
There have been a couple of others I have met on nights out or online and every boy I have met since my stroke has helped me figure myself out again in one way or another, deciding what I do or don’t want and how I want to feel when in a relationship. For example I realised that online dating, whilst right for some people, wasn’t right for me and deleted my account after a couple of months and decided to do things I love and concentrate on making myself happy, not being made happy by somebody else. As Jessie J tweeted ”I know I can’t win. And I can’t make everyone happy but I will always be honest even if some don’t agree. Live your life in real life. Not online. Its not a fact its just my opinion. That’s all x.”
I was told my relationshipssex life would change after my stroke, I’m not sure thats the truth. Whilst of course there are physical limits, they are just as complicated and emotional as ever before. I think maybe its changed more with my age than to do with anything else. In regards to if I can have sex, if anything its pretty much the same - if not better! (sorry pre-stroke boys!) I’m not sure if that’s to do with the boys I’ve met or my new relationship with my body but either way I’m starting to feel more comfortable with myself than I ever had.
I think disability and sex/dating should be a much more open subject so please feel free to ask me anything…no filth please.