How Not to Emotionally Manipulate Me

I won’t pretend I’m not guilty of some of the following actions but here are some tips/thoughts I have about manipulating people’s emotions in a relationship.

Note: the more I think about these items on the list the more I wonder if my perspective has been warped by a series of relationships that either lacked emotional security or were unsafe. Something for me to ponder.

Don’t:

– Say things you don’t mean (example: I really like you).

– Discuss and/or agree to future plans (example: Let’s go to ____ next month. Ok that sounds awesome! I should be free. We can make a weekend of it and I will meet your best friend in the whole entire world).

– Say “I love you” if you are going to take it back.

– Joke about having your baby, being your wife or living with you.

– Kiss their forehead (if you have ever been kissed on the forehead, you know the feelings this can provoke).

– Buy super considerate “gift” (example an ice pack for my neck when I spend the night).

– Offer to cook dinner (I’ve “dated” someone occasionally for over a year – he’s never cooked for me. Clear boundaries.)

– Stand under a giant umbrella wrapped around a person like your life depended on it and whisper all the things you want to do together (I swear that one was a cliché moment – and then he broke out into Singing in the Rain. Not. Kidding.)

– Initiate constant contact – first thing in the morning to last thing at night.

– Record little messages for me about how much you miss me and can’t wait to be together.

Do:

– Be honest. If you just want sex or casual dating or dating other people, you have to say it, out loud, so I can decide if that’s what I want too.

– Make a plan when we agree to go out – it doesn’t have to be weeks in advance, or days of your time – just make the space you are ready to give me.

– Be realistic about what you need from me.

– Be honest about what you can give me.

State of my Union

Before I jump into the heavy topics I want to give a little life update for you:

Almost three months at the new job and I am still loving every minute. It is an incredible place and I feel like I’ve been there forever. I’m a part of a team there. My opinion and experience count for something and are validated. It is where I need to be and the best career decision I’ve made since I quit grad school. (oh and playing with puppies as needed to relieve stress helps.)

I finally have a car again after almost 5 years without one. FREEDOM!

Healthwise…I continue to struggle a little but the decrease in work stress has minimized my pain levels and Rheum activity but it’s still difficult. I’ve only had 1.5 sick days since I started which is an incredible improvement.My annual bout of SAD is back. Using my UV light, trying to “exercise” a bit, and all the vitamin D can’t save me, so I’m adding another anti-depressant.

Dating is the usual.

I’m trying to be more social and getting out there which is helping.

All in all I can’t really complain, life is good

Dating is a Whirlwind

Sartre was wrong, helI is dating.

Finding someone you want to see more than once. Someone you don’t want to club with a mallet. Someone who does not offend you and your sensibilities. Someone you enjoy, in every way. It seems like a Sisiphyian task.

And yet I persist.

I’m often left wondering why one would (why I would) bother to try to date anymore. It’s because under my sarcastic, cynical exterior, I am a hopeless romantic. Please don’t tell anyone. If this gets out it will ruin my reputation.

The hopeless romantic in me thinks, no matter how much it hurts, after I lick my wounds, band-aid my heart, that I want to find someone to love and who loves me back. It also wouldn’t hurt to have intelligent conversation and hot sex but I try not to be greedy.

I think I was spoiled with boyfriends in my past. Romantic gestures abounded in my younger years: mix tapes (I would kill to have someone make me a “mixed tape” today), candles, personalised poems (written by an engineer no less), paper hearts floating over my dorm room bed, dancing on the island at Queen & University, etc…Most of the things I loved the most didn’t cost much but had meaning and thought behind them.

Today when you date, you probably met online. Scrutinized all the information the other person put out there and tried to evaluate if that person was worth getting dressed up for. I don’t date a lot, if you knew what was out there you’d understand so when you see someone who doesn’t immediately take themselves out of the running by having something revolting/bro-like/douchey in their profile, you seize the opportunity.

That’s what I did a few weeks ago when I messaged DJ. According to the OKCupid robot we were/are a 98% match. I’d never seen that with anyone so I felt compelled to say so. Messages were exchanged and not long after I gave him my phone number and jokingly said, “Don’t make me regret this” (ok so there was some truth in that statement too). The texting was fast a furious, then talking, and then wanting to meet. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that the day of I was sort of ambivalent about meeting – just pre-date blahs. I went and had an incredible time. It felt comfortable. We chatted, shared tapas, laughed, drank; it seemed so easy for once. I felt relief. During our post dinner stroll he reached out and grabbed my hand. I don’t remember the last time on a first date that someone held my hand but I went with it. We stopped on the corner to decide which of the pubs around we were going to next and he used my hand to pull me closer and he kissed me. Not unwelcome but certainly unexpected in the best way. So we spent a few more hours on a patio with an epic storm, literally, raging around that area of downtown – clouds and thunder and lightning – it was unbelievable.

In dating, I tend to follow the lead of the person I’m with when it comes to displaying affection and voicing interest – in part because I’ve been burned and in part because it’s a good indication of where the other person’s head is at. Don’t confuse that with me withholding from the other person, I am very heart on my sleeve much to my detriment. DJ seemed to be interested, into me, affectionate, snuggly, etc. so I responded in kind. For me, I think it’s easier for me to open up if the person I’m with is open to me. It seems like a safe bet, right?

You know when you first start seeing someone you like and you want to talk to them constantly, and see them, and be close to them, and smoosh yourself into them? Yeah, it was all of that quite quickly. We made lists of things we wanted to do together, places we wanted to go. We talked about our past relationships, hurts, our present, and tentatively, the foreseeable future (a week at a time – not forever).

It was fun. It was light. I didn’t think we were being overly serious. No, I wasn’t seeing anyone else, neither was he but I also wasn’t demanding a life time commitment after a month.

Then bam!

Tuesday night “I need to talk to you”. I felt the knot in my stomach instantly and I knew it was over. He went on to explain how there was “no spark” he kept thinking someone better was out there, etc… (Who words it that way? When I followed up the next day I told him that was a shitty way to end things – lie a little, word it different, I don’t know what).

I am not heartbroken. A little disappointed. A little hurt but I wasn’t in love, I was smitten. The hopeless romantic in me was taken by the simple gestures of affection and caring he’d shown me. So now I wonder if these gestures had real meaning or was he going through the motions to get what he wanted? (Post break-up analysis is horrible).

So I want to lay out some tips I have for not manipulating people’s (my) emotions in dating. Stay tuned.

In Four Dates Or Less

One of these days I’ll figure out this dating thing but that time was not over the last three weeks – sadly.

I met someone online like one does these days. Not expecting anything but being pleasantly surprised after our first afternoon of sausages, dirty duck fat fries and a movie. He was funny in an off beat way; polite; gentlemanly; and all the things a girl can hope for the first time she meets a guy. Later that evening both of us revealed we’d wanted to extend that first date but didn’t really know how. Good start.

Daily texts and an invite later I found myself at a church (if you know me, that says something. No it was not a service let’s not get crazy!) but I got to see a side of him that I’d heard about but has to be seen to truly understand the passion he has for it. Drinks with some of his friends afterwards then the fateful goodnight. Screwed that up. No kiss. I wanted to be kissed and he wanted to kiss me but apparently once again we couldn’t make that happen. Mixed signals.

On our do over the next night we had a kinda forced kiss right outside my apartment. I never told him but he looks pretty damn sexy in his motorcycle jacket and glasses. It got better as the night went on. Private jokes were made. Silly conversations were had and really good sex.

Then last Friday we had our best and last date. Full of lust, and dinner, and a nice walk by the river. Dare I say it might even been a tad bit romantic even if we were having some absurd conversations and threatening to throw to throw each other in the water (ok I threatened him). The night ended and I went to sleep with a thoroughly satisfied look on my face. Woke up the same way.

A few quick texts in the morning and on with our respective days.

I spent the day with The Film Guy having brunch, discussing the mess that is his life and watching the worst Brendan Fraser movie ever made. Truly. As I was leaving I checked my phone and there were a few texts about the previous night and then he asked if he it was alright if he went on a date with someone else.

Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? I have so I can attest that’s pretty much like what reading that text felt like.

Backing up to when we’d started dating we’d talked about dating other people. I’d agreed it was fine. I’d actually been thinking all day how I wanted to talk to him about maybe taking other people off the table but I never brought it up and now here was that text. Slapping me in the face.

What happened next is what not to do when two stubborn people with different emotional baggage (me with abandonment and trust issues and him with emotional commitment issues) run into a problem. Passive-aggressiveness is never the way to go and yet the two of us were backed into our corners taking swings.

I said let’s end it and go on the date – after all you can’t hurt me if we aren’t together (though I was already hurt). Then as he said I kept trying to negotiate back from there. The last thing I really wanted to do was break up with him but I got scared and all defences went up and that’s how I reacted. I think we both thought we were trying to talk it out but I swear everything I said or didn’t say made it worse. I told some ugly truths about myself, which he construed as me trying to explain away all the issues he had with me and what I’d done. We tried that for two days and then he said he just couldn’t. We shouldn’t date he said and that was mostly that.

It came down to him believing that I would never trust him – he has a busy schedule, etc. – and that somehow I’d be crazy about this thinking he’s always with someone else. Now I won’t pretend I don’t get jealous – we all do – but I have never kept tabs on anyone that I’ve dated or slept with. I’ve never been that girl. Don’t want to be her and if someone made me feel like I had to LoJack them I probably need to break up with them. The other issue as he saw it was that he couldn’t trust what I was saying. After all I’d changed what I wanted from our relationship in the space of a week.

I couldn’t/can’t see his issues as things we couldn’t get past if we’d wanted to but the way we beat each other up for two days took a lot of the shiny niceness away from what I thought we had. And I guess ultimately when he said he was already looking elsewhere so what chance did we have…that was pretty much the nail in that coffin.

So I’ve learned that I can end a relationship in four dates or less.

Four dates is now the record I have to break with my next relationship.

Always err on the side of caution because you never know if you’re going to really like someone in a week. Better to seem kinda clingy and insecure from the get go than leave the possibility open because that ladies and gentlemen will come to bite you in the ass.

I realize there were a few mistakes I made, some that were thrown at me in our two day text war, but some that I just realized on my own and it made me wonder how do people ever get dating right? I mean really? Is it easier if it’s the right person? Is there some secret that no one has shared with me? At this point I’ll pay for dating lessons.

I’m far from perfect. I come with a European travel set full of baggage. I think I have a handle on most of it but there are some things, some actions and reactions that just bring out every single fear I have and send up all defences.

I ain’t even mad – I’m more disappointed. I don’t really like people all that often and things never should ended up the way they did. C’est la vie I guess.

All the Things

Flippant comments can some times unleash a whole pile of emotions the speaker could never intend. No fault of anyone really but when you’re the one piled under the emotions it’s hard to get perspective.

I would love to travel. Anywhere. Everywhere. It seems like everyone around me is going somewhere. Visiting friends. Visiting family. Sightseeing. You name it.

I admit to envy. A lot of envy.

I have my two weeks of vacation but I’m hesitant to actually use it in case I need time off to interview or if I’m lucky enough to actually quit this year it will be carved out of my last pay which at this point I can ill afford.

Travelling is a luxury some people take for granted. I’d love to book a trip to Paris but on top of the money I don’t have because my health expenses suck up a lot of my formerly disposable income, there’s my health. I worry about taking a trip or being away from my apartment too long. Everything I need in case of a flare is here: drugs, heating pads, ice packs, my bed. Sure most of those things exist anywhere I want to go but there’s more. What if I don’t have the energy to do the things I want to? Or see the places or people I want to see? What if I’m having a flare and people don’t understand? What if I get hurt while I’m away? All of these questions keep me close to home.

Last year The Gay BF and I went to Boston for 4 days and that’s as far as I’ve been since I’ve been diagnosed and I almost didn’t want to go. I was scared to be away from my comfort zone. I was scared I’d just be a drag. (And even though he’ll never admit it I don’t think daily naps where *really* what he wanted to do every day).

So real travel plans are on hold for me right now. I just can’t bring myself to go.

***

I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I interviewed and was offered another job. I had practically moved back home and reinvented my life when I got the call – the company had changed their mind about what they were looking for. Completely unrelated to me or my references.

I actually wailed on my floor that night. Just lost it. I thought I had a way out of my horrible job situation and then pouf! Gone. Back to the shit at my job.

Thankfully, I know now that my interview skills are spot on and that I’m worth at least another 8k than what I’m making now. Tangible proof to all the ranting I’ve been doing about being undervalued isn’t just hot air.

***

I switched to Cimzia almost five weeks ago now. I’ve had the first two loading doses as well as continuting with my 1CC of methotrexate. Except for loss of appetite I’ve had no negative side effects. More importantly, I have energy. Lots of energy. I’ve been social and I’ve been cleaning (scary stuff). Yes, I’ve overdone it a few time and paid for it a little but all in all this is a huge improvement. Pain levels are mild to moderate – made worse by either over doing it or the wacky Southern Ontario weather. Otherwise I have almost pain free days.

Let me repeat this:
ALMOST PAIN FREE DAYS!!!!

***

I’m also not going to kiss and tell but I am dating again. That feels good too 🙂

Rheum and the Single Girl – Dating

I’m the first to admit that my dating calendar has always been sparse. It’s not like having Rheum ground my full social calendar to a halt but it has definitely changed how I approach dating.

First, I have limited energy and good days. I do not want to waste them on someone who isn’t worth it.

Online dating is a minefield.

A horrible sad depressing minefield.

I’m 34 and as was mentioned to me on twitter the other day, to be my age and not previously married and childless is kind of unusual.

So my dating pool, ages 30-45, is full of recently divorced men, some with more than one kid. Or it’s the rare man who is finally looking to settle down and have kids with someone. I have problems with both groups but the ones who want kids…I don’t even bother.

I can’t anymore. Kids aren’t in my future. It’s so odd because last summer I talked to my doctor about having my tubes tied. I was sure then. I’m sure now but when I was told that a recent medication meant no kids for years it still felt like a loss…I digress…dating.

Having Rheum means I bring certain baggage to the table from the get go. Dating brings a lot of those big life issues to the fore. Is it fair to engage with someone who wants kids knowing that I can’t have them and that even adoption isn’t reasonable for me with my health issues? Do I bother with the guy who seems compatible but loves to go hiking every weekend?

This past summer I went on two dates with two different men back to back. The British Guy was more my “type” older, uninterested in kids, divorced, living and loving his job. The Awkward Boy, poor thing, a little younger, too obsessed with his suped up car, and so socially awkward that I bailed after 45 minutes. He couldn’t even talk about his job, in HR to me, common ground!

If I’m going to meet someone – I would like it to be a “real” date. I understand that in recent years (I’ve done this too) the dating world has been reduced to meeting for coffee or a drink or hanging out but if I’m going to take the energy to get dolled up I hope it’s not *just* for a drink. I have issues with the “hang out” attitude that younger guys I’ve engaged with seem hell-bent on clinging to.

(Call me old fashioned or a bad feminist but there are just certain things I appreciate when dating. I like when the man asks me out – picks a date and a time. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate I’m not a high maintence woman but first impressions count. I will always offer pay my share but I like when a man picks up the cheque the first time. I will certainly return that favour if we have a second date but again first impressions. I will just make an observation: all the men I’ve ever dated over 40 have, without hesitation, paid for first dates. I also make it a rule if said first date has tanked and there is no hope for number two to pay my own way.)

Texting me to say lets meet up to hang out in 20 minutes does not work. I may very well be sitting at home doing nothing but that doesn’t mean I have the energy to spring up to go be social. One guy, I’ll call him Lawyer Guy, got annoyed when I kept putting off his spontaneous hang-outs. I didn’t tell him I had Rheum, we hadn’t met yet. I even suggested that we make plans to meet on a certain day, to give me time to plan my energy around that…he wasn’t into it. He kept persisting and finally I said, “I can’t go out with you tonight I’m going to inject myself with chemo, take some pain meds and go to sleep.” He got the message but we didn’t speak after that.

So when do I disclose my illness when it sometimes impedes even the earliest interactions with someone?

I have a friends with benefits, The Film Guy. We starting chatting last summer and met for the first time in August. We actually talked on the phone for over a month before we met because he was on location shooting (yes, he legitimately works I’m film). He was the first sex I’d had in *months* and the first person I’d slept with who was new to me after I’d been raped (yes that adds a whole other layer of caution and skepticism around dating and sex for me). So all of this was discussed the rheum, the rape, everything before we were even face to face. He was understanding and sweet and weird and kinda twisted. It works for us. When he’s in town we go out on dates – he took me out for a special birthday dinner last month before we got down to dirtiness. Our relationship is limited because of his circumstance. He’s not in a place for a steady relationship and that’s ok because we’re clear on our boundaries.

So I have some dating in my life but I want to find something more permanent but who wants to take me and my baggage on? Some times I think it would be unfair to ask anyone to love me because of the depression and the rheum, life is hard enough as it is when people are healthy.
I want to believe someone will think I’m worth it and won’t mind sleeping in a bed with a heated mattress pad, the pill cases, the need to rest after walking around the mall, the expense, being childless…

I know that I have a lot to offer the right man but I feel like Rheum limits my appeal in the dating world. The average dater has a fair bit of self-consciousness to begin with but this feels like a whole other layer…so I date less. I put myself out there less. I feel like I deserve it less.

I’ve been single awhile – it can be awesome – but I want a relationship. I’ve been good company to myself for the better part of 10 years now (yes there were relationships in there just none of them lasting or necessarily good for me). That’s enough. I want an emotionally healthy, reciprocal relationship – that starts with dating, in the minefield.

Rheum and the Single Girl

I’ve lived on my own since 2007. Before that there were roommates, a common-law spouse, and of course family.

I’m an introvert. There is a part of me that likes to be alone. A part of me that needs to be alone to recharge, refocus, and to just be. Even when I live with others, there are times when I need to close my door, lie down and read or listen to music, etc, alone.

I’m a pretty tough cookie but trying to navigate my way through my diagnosis, treatment and day to day living, sometimes I don’t want to be alone anymore.

Sometimes I wish I could come home to someone who could be here to help support me. To help share some of this burden with me. To help me enjoy life. To help me remember when I’m stuck in my bed that there is more than just this body I’m trapped in. To help clean up around here. To hold me when I’m having a bad day.

That’s the chronically ill part of me – in some ways I think that part is selfish. How could I ask someone to share what’s been given to me? Who would volunteer knowing there will be many bad days ahead; knowing that my health is costly; that my body is limited; that there will never be kids or grandkids though I welcome a puppy…

The 34 year old woman in me wants a partner for all the reasons anyone wants one: love, happiness, mutual growth and understanding, respect, comfort, desire, sex…I want a relationship. I want someone to ask me out on a date – not simply as a preamble to sex – but as a way to get to know me. I want someone to hold my hand (but not to squeeze it too hard). I want forehead kisses and couch snuggles. I miss all of those things tremendously.

My depression and rheum-riddled body notwithstanding I think (some days when I catch myself in the right mood) that anyone would be lucky to have me. The me without the two things I can’t divorce myself from – my mind and my body. What a catch!

This is sort of my beginning post on relationships, dating, sex and rheum. I feel like so many bloggers and even resources for rheum patients talk about those things if you’re already in a relationship and how to handle the difficulties that arise but what if you’re still looking? How do you navigate things then?

I have no answers, only ramblings and my own feelings on the subject.

Wounded

There is something about this time of year (besides the darkness) that makes me quite sad.

Maybe it’s because everyone else seems to be so incredibly happy during the holidays and that’s just something I’ve never been able to relate to. Growing up Christmas was always a time of guilt, frustration and being pulled between my parents and their families.

Maybe it’s because as the end of the year draws closer I start reflecting on what I did and did not do over the last year. I look back and find regrets or mistakes and times I wish I’d said or done things differently.

Maybe it’s because I take stock of my relationships with family, with friends and with acquaintances. Somehow this is where all the wounds that may never heal are located.

I didn’t make it to Paris this year but all things considered…Paris will always be there and there’s always next year.

But my relationships…some of those have been irreparably damaged. In some cases I accept full responsibility for their demise. In other instances, I just, I couldn’t begin to tell you where things went wrong.

Somehow, every year, I keep adding to the list of people who mean something to me who just up and vanish into thin air. And the truth is, nothing in this world can make me feel more vulnerable and insecure and downright desperate than when someone who professed to care about me just abandons me. I feel gutted and worthless and completely undeserving of ever being loved. It’s the oldest wound I have, being abandoned. My mom left when I was 8, I don’t think you ever really get over that. So many people in my life rip that wound open over and over, including her. I don’t know how to repair it. I’ve tried. I’ve talked it through in therapy. I’ve written lists. I’ve tried to separate other people’s actions from my value as person deserving of love. When it comes right down to it and someone leaves or shuts me out and I can’t explain it, I start to bleed all over again.

There is still a part of me that wonders why the Ex-Boyfriend left. And why someone who professed to care about me this summer, who said they loved me, who desired me, who pursued me, now won’t even answer my texts. Why a friend, or someone I thought was my friend decided, after I had to cancel meeting a few times because of my RA that I wasn’t worth it. Those things create an aching that can’t be explained. There is a part of me that knows why I am loosing one of my best friends but I wish he’d chosen differently.

These scenarios happen over and over again. Year after year. Person after person. Is it me? Is it them? I don’t know.

What I do know is that every time it happens I’m a little less whole. A little less able to connect with the next person.

 

Big Flare, Bigger Decisions

My most recent flare has unleashed never-ending questions and given rise to a level
of anxiety I haven’t felt in a long time.

– How much longer will I be able to live alone?
– How much longer will I be able to live in this apartment? (No elevator, just
stairs)
– How am I going to take care of my hair? Black hair is quite labour intensive
and requires different care at different times. This week, I’ve barely been able to
brush it
– Will we find medication that will help?
– Will I ever feel good again?
– Am I desperate enough to ask my Gay BF to help me clean this weekend (If you
could see my kitchen sink, you’d know I am)
– Am I desperate enough to ask him to seriously consider living together? (I’m
getting close)
– How many ice packs should I buy (two isn’t enough)
– Should I get another heating pad?
– Am I overreacting? (Then I yawn and feel the incredible pain in my jaw and
know I’m not)
– Am I being whiny?
– Should I even be dating now? Or trying to have sex with someone?  (The thought of someone touching me just seems so painful right now)

This past week was also the final nail in the coffin of whether I will ever be a
mommy. Until this week, there was a 5% chance I wanted to have kids of my own
and now that has been reduced to 0%. Between my depression, which has me
worried I’ll be that small percentage who suffers from postpartum psychosis
and now my arthritis which is making it difficult to care for myself, I can’t take
the chance. If I can’t care for myself properly, why would I bring a child into a
situation where I couldn’t be the best possible mommy I could be?

This decision has been a long time coming. And truth be told, I’m not really sad
about it. Actually, I feel relieved. I think I’ve been looking for a reason to justify
why I don’t want kids for a long time (I know I shouldn’t need a reason but
society isn’t quite there yet).

So Tuesday when I go in to talk to my GP about birth control, I’m going to talk
about a permanent option. I don’t know how she will respond to that thought but
she has been wonderfully supportive over the past year and a bit since she
became my doctor and I love her. Really. Especially lately when I usually end up
turning into a sobbing mess in her office. This appointment will probably be no
different. For now, I will probably go back on the pill until we can find a good
time to deal with surgery.

OkCupid Diaries: The British Guy

When I went back to therapy a few months ago now I heard myself saying words I didn’t know I had in me:

I want to get back my life. I want to get back my sexuality. I want to get back my ability to trust.

Even as I was saying it, I knew it was true. I’d given my rapist too many months of my life, living in fear of meeting new people, of venturing outside my apartment and beyond work.

I’d lost so much that night.

Deciding to date was a big step.

First up the British Guy. I remember wanting to throw up as I was getting ready. I was worried I was going to send myself into a panic attack because I was getting so wound up. After quite a few deep breaths (and reassuring and supportive tweets, texts and emails) I made my way to the cute little French bistro we’d agreed on.

I was early, as always, and as I sat waiting for him to show up, I thought about leaving. Just going home and calling the whole thing off. I didn’t. He showed up, looking quite attractive and I’ll admit I was wooed by his accent. *swoons*

I normally don’t drink on first dates for all the obvious reasons but this time, I shared a bottle of wine with BG. It was delicious and it helped to loosen me up. I was far more relaxed after the first glass…and then it was all good from there.

He was quite eager to talk about himself and I have the uncanny ability to listen and sometimes even talk without revealing anything about me. This was one of those nights. It wasn’t until dessert was ordered that he actually stopped talking and pointed out that he didn’t know anything about me. I asked what he wanted to know. He decided to start with the one thing I wasn’t really prepared to answer – why I hadn’t dated in months. I could have said anything at that point but since he had just launched into his, “I’m-never-getting-married-again-don’t-know-if-I-want-to-make-space-for-anyone-in-my-life” speech, I told the truth. I said I’d had a bad experience where someone I dated took advantage of me. For the next 10 minutes he kept saying, “oh dear”. That was awkward and I realised I’d said too much. It was an unfortunate way to end the evening but over all it was a win.

We left the restaurant. He gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek, which didn’t cause me to meltdown or freak out. It was actually lovely.

I went out, with a relative stranger, and it was ok. I was ok. I was safe and secure. It allowed me to gain more confidence and to try again. So while we haven’t seen or really spoken to each other since then BG has played a big part in my trying to be social again.