I’ve lost the ability to talk.
I haven’t, that’s a nonsense. I’m talking for England, my old home, my home no longer- I sit outside cafes in Prenzlauerberg and Mitte, drink muddy coffee and talk. I sit in church halls and talk, sit on the UBahn and think before meeting up with new friends to discuss what I was thinking about. Some of my new friends also have ADD, and a couple of them are kinky to boot, and so when I’m with them I talk so much for so long, with so much enthusiasm and with so little thought for my own boundaries, that afterwards I feel flattened, flayed, oversensitised.
I ring my friends who don’t have ADD and aren’t kinky and say, it’s too much, I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck; it’s so amazing to have people to talk to who know what it’s like, to be sober and kinky with a brain that craves constant stimulation, who know what it’s like to be me, with this brain, in this world, with these experiences, but it’s like looking into a very clean mirror after putting contact lenses in for the first time in a while. I can see all my pores and wrinkles and moles and sun damage. I don’t look great, and I can see the world through a full 180 degrees, rather than through glasses, with the blurry deadzones to left and right that your brain quickly learns to ignore. I don’t really like what I’m seeing in this new mirror. I look rough as fuck, metaphorically speaking.
My friends who don’t have ADD make listening noises down the phone, and suggest that I write about my feelings. So I do, a little bit, in a book from Lidl with cheap gridded paper and a cartoon unicorn on the cover. I don’t write much but I feel lighter when I’ve done so. Then I sit on the balcony and watch white clouds pulse against blue sky, listen to lawnmowers and birdsong, look at the windowboxes full of yellowed grass, which used to be wildflowers before I was put in charge of them. I can kill plants from a distance, and I feel guilty about it. How much effort does it take to keep a box of wildflowers alive? Really, could I not even manage that?
I talk a lot. I talk about recovery and alcoholism and mental illness and Brexit and ego and humility and spirituality. There’s a lot I’m not saying.
I’ve lost the ability to talk about sex.
I can talk to my kinky friends about sex. I talk about how I suspect- how I know- that for the last few years I have used relationships and sex to avoid feeling grief. I talk about how there’s a part of me that hates the idea of putting kink to one side in order to focus on my mental health, but that I know I have to. I tell one of them that I’m thinking about going to a no- cis- men rope jam in order to pursue platonic kink, clothes on, just for the love of bondage.
‘Platonic bondage?’ she laughs, sceptically. ‘Is that a thing?’
I protest about how rope is very definitely not an intrinsically erotic thing for lots of people, that it’s just about restriction and confinement and the joy of being tied, the relaxation of it. And then I think about how rope has always been an intrinsically erotic thing for me, about how the first time my first Dom tied my hands behind my back I toppled towards him with the force of it, almost immediately struck dumb and spacey with arousal, resting with my mouth open against his shoulder as he reached behind me and tightened the knots. Platonic bondage is probably not a thing for me, I acknowledge to myself, and make another plan for the day of the rope jam.
No, that’s not it. I talk about sex a lot, to the right people. We talk about how I feel like I wouldn’t have drunk after all those years if I hadn’t been acting such a giddy goat for such a long time; I was in a fuckdrunk sub- frenzy for a long time before my relapse, and I don’t know how to deal with the ramifications of this. I didn’t take care of myself, I didn’t play safely, I tried my best and said all the right things but I was flying blind a lot of the time, flying loopdeloops in a plane with a wonky wing and a sputtering engine. I think about all the times I went without aftercare. I think about how scanty many of my early negotiations were. I cringe at how many times I played hard with people I barely knew. I think about my limits, my poor, pressed limits.
What do I mean? What am I trying to say?
I don’t want to have sex. I can talk about it, but I don’t want to have it.
I’m on a lot of Prozac: I’ve been on 40mg a day for 4 months now, and as a consequence I have a libido for about 7 minutes every 3 days or so. If I don’t start masturbating by minute 3 of 7- and I mean commit to the process, really lean in- then I watch my fleeting horn pulse away like scudding clouds and we’re done for another 72 hours. In a good week I have a couple of orgasms and that’s fine. I have them because I can’t bear the idea of falling back into a state of frozen, celibate numbness, the idea makes me furious, so I wank in a pragmatic, businesslike manner, purely a means of keeping the cogs oiled. In a way I like having some distance from the drive to have sex, pursue sex, to achieve and maintain fuckability in the eyes of potential partners. My hair is unkempt (all of it, I’ve not tended to my bush for months and I look like I’ve got Chewbacca in a headlock), my nails unfiled, my skin blotchy and un- made- up. I do give a fuck what I look like- but only the one fuck, and that one fuck is many fewer fucks than I gave this time last year.
I’m fatter than I enjoy being. I have a little jowl happening. My eyes don’t shine like they used to. I’m not trying; I’m not bothered about being her, that woman, the one who shone latex and danced topless, the woman I learned how to switch on in fitting circumstances, who felt at home in sex clubs and dungeons, who laughed at the camera from behind Lolita sunglasses, tits pushed up by a borrowed corset and legs wrapped in fishnets as she straddled a large, rictus- grinning stuffed toy. I’m not going to be lascivious for a while, and the thought makes me feel sad and relieved in equal measure.
I have a sex blog, though, obviously. Who knows what’ll happen to it. It’s incredibly hard to keep a sex blog updated when you’ve disavowed lasciviousness and only have a libido for 14- 21 minutes a week. I don’t know what I want to say. I could write more about what I’ve learnt now I’ve come out of my three year long newbie fever but I can’t yet imagine looking back on those mistakes with the necessary self- forgiveness. I would try and finish some of my half- done smut, but none of it feels tangible now. We’ll have to see. Maybe it’ll stop being a sex blog for a while, and transform into a paean to the joys of mental health recovery and German baked goods. I want to keep writing, and maybe I’ll find a way to write about fucking again. Writing has felt hard until this evening, and I’m trying hard not to give a fuck whether it’s any good or not, just as long as I do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s any good- it’s not for you. It’s for me.
Two days after I drank I was in a car with a good friend who was also, shall we say, in a state of significant glumness. We sat with the engine off and listened to folk music and he gripped my hand tightly as I cried, staring out across a field in Gloucestershire. I don’t know what to do, I said. I don’t know how to come back from this. And I have to work out how to do things differently, I have to, because if I don’t I’m not going to make old bones.
He held my hand and then drove me home and for the next couple of weeks we talked most days. I decided to go to Berlin, and he decided to walk the Camino de Santiago. He walked and I talked, and I moved to Berlin and he kept walking, towards Finisterre. And now he’s done and I’m here and I’ve no idea what I’m doing. I’m trying to work out what I’m saying, how the fuck to say it, how to make old bones.