Welcome to How I Do It, the series in which we give you a seven-day sneak peek into the sex life of a stranger.
This week, we hear from Sadie*, a 31-year-old civil servant from South London, who was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
Before her health issues, Sadie, who is straight, says she was ‘open and adventurous.’
‘I was body confident and able to have sex without catching feelings,’ she explains. ‘I joke that I had delusions of grandeur, but I loved my curves and knew I was a catch.’
But, in October 2021, Sadie was diagnosed with Crohn’s. ‘It stopped me in my tracks,’ she says. ‘I stopped going out for fear of accidents or intense chronic pain, and I stopped being able to see my body as the sexy temple I once did.’
But after a weekend away with her sisters to Amsterdam, Sadie came home with a renewed mindset.
She says: ‘I realised I was letting my diagnosis hold me back. I decided I needed to get back out there, and stop being so scared to have sex!’
We found out how she got on…
After my diagnosis, I deleted all the dating apps off my phone. If I matched with someone and arranged a date, I’d get so stressed out. What if I had a flare up on the date or spent ages in the loo? The anxiety was so bad, that it made my symptoms even worse.
But I’ve not had sex in about five months, and with my sisters’ encouragement, I started my ‘let’s get laid’ mission by re-downloading the apps.
I decided I’d try and update all my profiles, but I’ve barely left the house since my diagnosis, so I have no photos from brunches or holidays to show off.
Looking at my old pictures, I started to feel like a bit of a catfish. I’ve lost so much weight recently, and I miss my curves. I don’t feel like me in this new body, and I wonder if anyone will find me attractive.
Today, I logged into Thursday – the app that’s only active on (you guessed it) Thursdays. You have just one day to chat to your matches, before everything gets deleted at midnight.
I had a busy day at work so didn’t have to message anyone, and then I went out for dinner with friends. One of them lives with her boyfriend, and the other is likely to get engaged soon. I felt single AF.
When I got on the train home, I checked Thursday and was pleasantly surprised to see some sexy guys. At 11.15pm, I quickly started messaging some of them.
‘We’ve only got 45 minutes, so let me tell you a bit about myself,’ wrote one guy, Sam*.
I was impressed by his up-front, open communication – and he was really funny too. I felt like I was laughing for the whole journey home, and it was nice to feel a bit of chemistry with someone. We swapped numbers and kept texting until I went to bed.
After the flirty conversation with Sam, I decided it was time to do an audit of my sex draw – just in case. Not only did Crohn’s put me off dating, but I haven’t masturbated since my diagnosis either.
Before all this, I was all for a bit of self-loving. If I had a headache, couldn’t sleep, or just needed to clear my head before a big work project, I’d get my vibrator, and have some fun.
But Chron’s put an end to all that. I often experience anal bleeding, and sometimes have to wear pads. I’ll also have days where I’m really bloated, or bouts of chronic diarrhoea. It doesn’t exactly help me feel sexy.
Going through the sex draw, I was surprised to see toys with full charge (previously unheard of!), and I had to get rid of some condoms and lube that were out of date.
It was sad to see the evidence of a past, confident version of myself – but I was determined things were going to change. I texted Sam, and arranged a date for the next day.
I have a standard outfit that I wear for a first date: a satin black skirt, and a tight, button down top. But when I tried it on, I felt awful. It didn’t look how it used to and I felt frumpy.
I planned to go to Pilates before meeting Sam for an early afternoon crazy golf date. But instead, I spent ages trying on outfits. I finally settled on some leather trousers that accentuated my bum – but with a big baggy jacket to hide any bloat.
The minute Sam saw me, he told me I looked great, and I felt myself relax. The conversation was easy and I won at crazy golf – bonus!
After the game, I had to use the loo, which was a stressful experience. Everywhere I go now, I take wet wipes and toilet spray. I can’t just ‘nip’ to the toilet anymore. I worried I’d been in there for too long, so as I rushed to get out, I washed my hands and splashed soap and water all over myself. Smooth.
Thankfully, Sam was really nice about it. We finished the date with a few mocktails (I’m not drinking at the moment), and we were both very tactile – holding hands and brushing each others arms.
We said our goodbyes and I headed to one of my friend’s houses for a takeaway and a debrief. The topic got onto sex, and I felt comfortable enough to share my self-love drought. We all agreed that women need to be taught more about their bodies and female pleasure. I wonder if I’d be feeling differently about myself now if we were.
I had a bad Chron’s day today, but it was helped by more texting with Sam. At first, it was pretty PG, but then he texted saying: ‘I wish I’d kissed you last night.’
As the day wore on things got steamier – which was ironic given I was writing what I wanted to do him, while lying on the floor in agony.
I started to wonder again if I was a bit of a catfish, this time in terms of what I could do sex-wise. He told me he wanted me to sit on his face, but I’d just spent the past few hours on the toilet!
I hope that my future sex life doesn’t only involve me giving blow jobs because I won’t let a guy get anyway near to taking my pants off.
I’ve only recently started back at work after having long-term sick leave, and every morning the alarm goes off, it’s still a shock.
Thankfully, I didn’t have any flare ups today so was able to have a productive day at work. All of my colleagues are coupled up, and even some innocent office flirting seems to be out of the window.
I spent the day looking forward to my second date with Sam tomorrow.
I decided that I’d use the date as an opportunity to have my first drink in five months. I used to love getting tipsy with my friends, but alcohol can trigger a flare up, so I have to be careful.
We went bowling, and after a few wines and lots of strategic bending over to bowl, we finally kissed – and it was awful. It was so dry and just… meh.
I instantly worried that I’d lost the ability to kiss, but decided he was worth a second try. Thankfully, it had just been a false start and this time, it was amazing.
I felt sexy and turned on and, full of Dutch courage, I asked Sam if he wanted to come back to mine. Only, he said no. He had to go into the office the next day, and I live too far away. It was a logical explanation, but I couldn’t help feeling shit. After all the sexting, had he seen me and had second thoughts?
I was still feeling rubbish in the cab home when Sam texted me, saying he wished he could have come back with me, and that he had a great evening.
For the rest of the journey, I reflected on how far I’d come in a week. I was back on the apps and even managed a first date – but I knew it was my own relationship with my body that I needed to mend first.
So back home, and still in the mood, I put on some RnB and dusted off my vibrator. I grabbed my phone to watch some porn, only to realise I’d left it in the Uber. Oops. But, undeterred, I used my imagination, and finally ended my masturbation dry spell.
When you haven’t orgasmed in five months, getting there really is amazing. I felt like I could suddenly answer all of life’s questions, quote any book or film, and solve all of the world’s problems! I can’t believe I’d been denying myself for so long.
Who knows what the future brings with Sam, but I’m glad I’m finally learning to live with Crohn’s – and more importantly, learning to love myself again.
Visit Crohn’s & Colitis UK for more information.
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