TW: This post contains some saucy German language, and descriptions of symptoms that some readers may find triggering. There is also reference to suicide.
Tomorrow I'm going on a first date with another internet guy... Victor the Venerable Vegan. (It's getting increasingly difficult to create pseudonyms). I don't normally like to do too much texting before meeting but due to his busy schedule we've been getting to know each other now for about two weeks and it's been lovely. There's a real chance this might develop into something more meaningful, so naturally, I'm shitting myself. With that in mind, I've decided this week not to tell you about this burgeoning connection, and instead to take you all on a playful skip down the ginnels of my past, and introduce you to another influential character in the making of this marvelous woman that I call 'me'.
Max is a mustachioed German politician-cum-scuba diver (pun fully intended) I dated for a couple of months two years ago now. And he changed my sex-life. During this time I was doing some pretty hard-core serial dating, hopping between guys and not keeping them around long enough to realize how unwell I was. It was reckless behavior, as I explain a little more here, but I forgive myself for it. Then I met Max. I swiped right for the mustache, but I stayed for the soul. Over our first dinner I quickly learned that he was the kindest, bravest man I had ever met. Hours later we had our first kiss on my balcony in West London underneath the artificial stars of the lights on the Empress State Building. We had sex all night in between cups of tea and dark chocolate, until I eventually slept with my hot little cheek stuck sweaty to his hairy chest.
Those two months together were wonderful. He made me feel safe enough to share my condition with him and he couldn't have been better about it. In the same day he would help me with my physio, then break my bed in wild fits of passion as I screamed "Ja! genau Da!", before changing the bedding whilst I sat cross-legged on the floor talking about how my diagnosis was affecting me emotionally. I suppose amongst other things... he helped me be a little less British. He helped me talk about what was happening to my body and my mind, and in the bedroom he encouraged me to be vocal about what I wanted and what I didn't want, instead of awkwardly dropping hints and hoping he picked up on them.
I think it was one of the first nights we spent together that he opened up to me about his mental health. He had suffered a serious breakdown a few years before whilst he was working back in Germany. He told me that he felt at times, completely dwarfed by the influence of suicidal impulses. Now, I know that statistically speaking, thoughts of that nature are not uncommon, but what is really bloody uncommon is actually talking about it. People go their whole lives not sharing things like that with their families, doctors or spouses, and I wasn't even his girlfriend!
He also told me that during this time he began to develop a sexual attraction to his sister, which was, understandably, terrifying for him. (Take a minute here to let that sentence sink in. It might make you feel scared just to read it, that's okay). He sought therapy and was able to understand the psychological catalysts for these scary thoughts and they subsided as quickly as they arrived - he got the help that he needed, and things got better. But can you imagine living with something like that? Can you imagine admitting something like that...to yourself...to anybody? I feel nervous even telling this story second hand, but he was brave enough not just to recognize it and to seek help, but to talk about it.
Everything changed for me then. I didn't think less of him, the world hadn't imploded, he was okay... I started to believe that honesty was not only possible, but it was what I deserved. When you're not being honest about yourself, what you're saying is that the real you isn't worthy of being loved. So, I started in that safe space with him to let him see me completely, piece by piece. Within a week he had wiped the drool from my mouth when my head lolled over, and he had held my hand still as it spasmed. When I was well we ran around London in the small hours of the morning, drinking too much and making friends with strangers, falling asleep in matinees and trying out sex positions we found on the internet.
Yeah, aside from the wholesome life lessons he taught me, he really did unlock some dormant animalism in my psyche, because the sex we shared together really was worth writing home about. When we weren't together we were texting 'bist du scharf?' and honestly I don't believe anybody has ever shouted "SCHNELLER!" at the volume that I did one night those years ago. When people have different mother-tongues it really drives home the importance of communication, and I left that glorious situation-ship with a new found respect for reassurance, constant consent checking and flirty-dirty talk. (Unless you tell them 'ich liebe deinen schwanz' then how will they know that you liebst their schwanz?)
When we got to the end of our chapter together there was no sadness, just love. I was starting a program at UCLH Neurology, and he had been offered a job back in Berlin. We parted kindly as friends for life and I look forward to holding each other to that. He thanked me for showing him London, and I wish I'd realized better at the time all the myriad things I had to thank him for. I am so grateful for that man.
Well, I think I've succeeded in keeping my mind from fretting too much about my date tomorrow - and my memories of Mustachioed Max have reminded me to be brave, put myself out there, and be honest in the name of love! Watch this space next week to see how it goes, and remind me to tell you about the awkward faux-pas I made with him over text message. (It's a bloody miracle he still wants to take me out!)