I always felt off, slightly different, like I was missing this integral piece others had from around age 10..getting worse and worse each year as people changed around me and I was mocked for not understanding things ‘everyone knew’, so I tried to compensate by being what I thought I had to be. This lead to me being miserable and masking even at home when I was tired of doing it at school/college/uni/work…24/7, I never got a break.
When I first heard about asexuality, one of my closest friend mentioned it, that he was Asexual…. I was intrigued but after subtle hinting, it was shut down pretty fast, not by him, I’m sure he would have loved to hear me talk about it, would of helped me discover more and held my hand through all the pitfalls and stumbling blocks. He was utterly accepting of me from day 1 where he stayed and chatted with me for hours at University, even though I was a mature student, he was a regularly aged one and I talk 10 miles an hour when I feel able, I was very close to being myself around him. I miss him dearly and wish he’d still been alive for when I started looking into it more. But back then, I was to nervous to bring it up in relation to myself, I discussed it in abstract and it was definitely not seen as an option.
So I pushed it back. It was getting harder to mask as my physical disabilities were getting worse, my pain was increasing daily and the exhaustion from being on all day plus insomnia… I was strung out.
My ex then said he was leaving, and I was faced with being very disabled, alone, when some days I was trapped in bed unable to get a drink 3 inches from my hand, for over 12 hours, and that was with a partner and carer. Fare to say, I was terrified. Envisioning starving, alone, not sleeping.. Slowly loosing it. I tried to take my own life twice but apparently, I’m very resilient. It did however get me help for the not sleeping from doctors as they, rightly so, realised that my lack of sleep was compounding everything. Insomnia has plagued me intermittently for years, as well as ‘painsomnia’ (being unable to sleep because your just in so much pain. When I was sleeping better, I was still terrified of starving to death whilst no one noticed… But I felt confident enough to get a flat and try.
Living alone had one benefit. I didn’t have to be ‘on’. I allowed myself to Google things I’d been too scared to. Some days were bad, struggling to do basic things people take for granted, even walking to the bathroom. But my best friend from when I was 17 (I was 27 at this point), had come back into my life a few years prior after a few years of drifting, he made trips from Wales to England just to make sure I had food, drink, and was coping. So as well as tentatively discovering Asexuality, I was tentatively poking at Polyamory.
I was terrified of bringing up asexuality, this would be the complete opposite to my life long masking. An acknowledgement that there was something different, that had been drilled into my head to deny. Even though I’ve never fitted in fully, always slightly to the side, either with my traffic cone coloured hair or my propensity to switch between bright colours and gothic dressez at the drop of a hat and my strangely eclectic tastes in everything and anything. I guess it was just me trying to break through and I didn’t notice when I was tailoring my personality, mostly unknown to myself, to everyone in my life. No wonder I got drained within groups! After work I just wanted to hide in the dark, but I couldn’t. It built up and up. I’d first thought my occasionally drastic aversion to touch was from my sensory processing disorder, but I also think it was a constant build up of trying to be who I wasn’t. Like drips of water into a glass, but instead of overflowing, it shattered, I gave up working, changed cities, tried to be me, went to university at age 23, but I fell straight back into masking, just with different people.
When I started shedding all that, it was strange. At 27 trying to discover who you are… when doing basic things around the house are mammoth tasks, whilst looking into polyamory and asexuality, 2 things many people may say are polar opposites… But to me they were different turning out to be sides of the same coin of me. I was terrified to bring it up though, I felt like I had this tiny new budding flower and I wanted to protect it, hide it, care for it… Not put it through the fires of showing other people! But after one night of not sleeping and ruminating for 15 hours straight… I realised I didn’t want to go into another relationship hiding who I was. Even if I hadn’t been meaning to in my past, 2020 hindsight and all, I knew if I did it this time, it would be on purpose and I didn’t like the idea of that.
Yes, I was trying to be more me, but I worried if I hid this new, fundamental truth of myself… Where would it end? I’d be complicit in loosing myself again. Would I be back to trading my personality again for what was expected of me?
To add to explain the masking more. I’m terrified of confrontation, shouting or yelling will make me freeze, occasionally flee or sometimes, it’s like I just shut down and the me part of me floats away, leaving me on the best autopilot to resolve the situation as fast as possible, doesn’t matter what I have to do as long as its fixed. As you can imagine, this isn’t healthy. Bringing this up seemed like the ultimate confrontation. But also… the defining statement that I was going to be me. Of course it wasn’t entirely that, that’s made up of thousands and thousands of little and big steps together, but at the time this felt huge, a crossroads maybe and a taciturn acknowledgement that I was making a decision to be me. It made up hundreds of little things as well as saying I was asexual, it was a moment of lots of things, even that I wouldn’t hide my disability from others at the detriment of my health. It was my floodgates are opening moment. I don’t know why it was? Maybe because I was more scared of it that all the other little steps on the way to finding me?
If X would hurt and injure me, I wouldn’t force myself to do it because it was expected. I wouldn’t force myself to uncomfortably participate and endure conversations that made me deeply uncomfortable. I wouldn’t force myself to do things that had me crying in scalding hot baths. I’d start looking out for my comfort over other people’s expectations. It was hard. So hard. Sometimes it felt easy, so easy to just fall back… And I think I would have if not for my partners.
They both didn’t understand asexuality when I brought it quietly to the table. Mostly to Anthony at this point as he was visiting me more to make sure I was dealing with things and not starving, saving money with 1 of them visiting more than both occasionally. So a lot of this got dumped on him and he handled it like a champ. When he started researching it too…. I felt amazing. I was almost hyper and giddy that he was not just good with it, but actively looking into it with me!
I was pretty close to sex repulsed back then, but occasionally I wasn’t. Sometimes it would switch half way, leaving me disorientated and terrified of disappointing… So one time I offered to carry on after I’d said I wanted to stop. This was, yet another, defining moment. (I hear you say, ‘are they really defining if you say you’re having so many!’ But this was all over the course of a year, a year when I chose paths that would change me for years to come. Then I knew they were important decisions, buts it’s when looking back that I can see the pathways spiraling out, the paths I took and the ones I didn’t, it’s easy to see them in hindsight.) Depending on what he said… I think I could of slipped back into the old patterns that were tearing me apart very easily. He told me that me just saying that made him feel like his blood turned to ice. He made me promise to never do that, that things were up to me from them on so I’d never feel pressured, or coerced, ever again. Whether it was 10 days or 10 months, he didn’t care. Me being happy and healthy and having a choice was more important.
This made me dizzy. I’d never considered anyone would say this, I thought I was failing at being a partner and it was my job alone to fix myself and be what was expected, not matter the physical or mental pain. Suddenly it wasn’t. Slowly I learned to just enjoy myself, I wasn’t repulsed, I didn’t force my body to go through agony, I was starting to find myself, more and more. Destructive habits like the scalding scrubbing baths fell away to twice a week… Once… Twice a month… Once… Till I realised at one point it had been 4 months. I grew into my discoveries, finding more about asexuality. Joining online communities, talking to other people that had experiences like mine when I’d felt so alone was a heady experience. My world went from this tiny space in my head to exploding into the stories over more and more people as time went on.
I’d love to say it was as easy as 1 decision, but it was a constant effort to be me, especially when I wasn’t sure who ‘me’ was in a vacuum without others expecting me to be a certain way. I worried at first moving in with my partners that I’d lose this tiny thread that I was slowly building up as me. I think that galvanised me even more to stick to it. I could of taken an easier road, fallen into old habits at the expense of my mental and physical health, I can’t say I never slipped. I slipped a lot. But I always got back on that horse. Until being there felt more natural than not. Memories were thrown into stark relief and I wondered why I put myself through these things, simply, I didn’t know another way. I’d needed that rock bottom to build up a version of me that was more… Well. Me.
I also discovered that there are quite a few polyamorous aces in the wild. That it isn’t such an oxymoronic things as I believed back when I was still tentatively researching. Now it just feels very natural. I’ve been told, nastily, several times that asexuality is a mental illness, but my mental health is better than its been in my life. I’ve been nastily told I’m only asexual because disabled people can’t have sex….. Wow those people are not only wrong but so completely fundamentally wrong it would be funny if it wasn’t sad. Disabled people can be very sexual people, just as able bodied people. Even as asexual disabled person can when my libido wakes up from hibernation and lumbers out of its cave! I’ve had a lot of vitriol. I’ve been called less than human. Emotionless. Heartless. Cruel. Evil. An anathema to life! Marriage Assassin. Everything that’s wrong with relationships around the world (didn’t know I had such an affect on reality!) I’ve received such vile, disgusting threats from strangers on the Internet, just for saying my sexual orientation is different to what they believe are the only ‘real’ orientations. Not these stupid ‘made up’ ones. This would be even longer if I went into someone the things I’ve had thrown at me. The weird was when I was called a failure to Christianity…. Which was odd. Because I’m Pagan….
That education isn’t ‘needed’ about it is something I hear, shouted, screamed and sometimes, just calmly stated as complete fact… That’s a common one. No one ‘needs’ to know they are asexual. No one ‘needs’ to be “Out & Ace”, because ‘No one wants to hear about your sex life.’ I’ve always wondered about this, because people discuss sexual orientations all the time, but even in some lgbt places, I see this aimed at asexual people. I don’t understand how talking about being asexual is any different from talking about any other orientation? Why is saying “I’m Ace” telling people about my sex life when, years back when I was struggling to define it, saying “I’m Bisexual”, wasn’t?
I don’t understand why people are so invested in keeping asexual people silent.
I do wonder, if when I was 14 – 16, when I was starting to ask questions to teachers and doctors, it took a lot of courage and that courage was not rewarded, I was met with irritation to out right anger i couldn’t comprend. I now know this was me trying to put a name to what I was ‘missing’… If they had gone “it sounds like you’re asexual, here’s a leaflet, have a read and come chat to me if you want!” instead of the reactions I got,which ranged wildly from – “Late bloomer”, “Don’t worry, it will fix in time”, “you’ll feel normal reactions soon”, “maybe just fake it and force it until you do?”, “Take cues from your boyfriend, he’ll fix you right up!” and so on until the replies were getting progressively annoyed at my failings and eventually I just stopped asking not long after 16th birthday, disillusioned. I was rewarded by being told “see, told you you’d turn out normal. You just needed a ‘fixing’ *chuckles* from your boyfriend.” That day branded itself into my brain, I remember it so clearly down the the smell of the office and how I was stabbing at my hands with my nails as I forced myself to make eye contact. How it sent ripples far and wide into my future.
That’s why education is important. I’d rather a teenager go through a phase and be accepted, even if it turns out they did change than face the reactions I got when I was younger and how they shaped my life from then on.
You’d think the amount of hate and attacks I get from being openly asexual would outweigh the good. That it would be easier to go back to the me before I was 27. Or at least not be open about it. Sometimes it’s tempting. But all I need to do is look at my life and realise how happy I am. Even though our bungalow literally exploded 4 months ago, our stuff is still in it and we’re in a temporary flat with cold concrete floors, no WiFi, no TV, no pc, no oven! On a bed that is slowly destroying my back, feeling like we’re in limbo cut off from the world whilst we wait and wait…. And yet. I’m happy. I’m me. I love. I’m loved for who I am, not who people want me to be. I’m shelling and eating raw peas in bed whilst we weave little tapestries on these pop up looms I found, all 3 of us, and simply, I’m happy.
And here’s a current picture of me 🙂