Time travel of the mind

I sometimes like to think of myself, in a moment of whimsy, as a time traveller. Not that I move physically through the years (everyone does that – going forward at least), but because my heart is always pressing against my memory, drawing me back to bygone days.

It’s often said that dwelling on ‘what was’ is futile and foolish, but I believe that it shouldn’t be ignored – it is, after all, how we have gotten to where we are in life; inevitably, it is something we should either cherish, or learn from. And isn’t every moment instantly past?

So, in quiet times that allow reflection, or sometimes in uncontrolled dreams, I drift backwards to what once was; I see people, feel vivid moments again, draw back to poignant points of youthful foolishness. It can be wonderful and it can also be heartbreaking. But it is something I would never wish to lose, this ability to travel backwards in time.

One day I may succumb to a disease that robs me of this magic – Alzheimer’s / dementia, perhaps simply old age. I cannot conceive anything more terrifying, as I use my personal history to define myself; I focus on past moments to ensure I grow and improve and learn; I feel connections with people I no longer know; I need to travel backwards sometimes, simply to feel emotions that I seem to have lost as I have aged.

It is wrong to dwell too much on what cannot be changed – but it is right to remember who we are and how we came to be; and sometimes this mental transportation encourages me to remake lost connections, find previous passions, take the alternative path and see where this time it leads… so allow me my apparent folly, as I spare a moment and shed a tear for something long ago – it could be in tribute of what made me who I am today, or the start of a new set of memories spurred on by regrets of old.

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Help without limits – the need for sex

“Have you seen this article? Is this a real story!” – BBC News has just published a piece entitled: “The ‘Hand Angels’ helping disabled people with sex”, about a charity in Taiwan where volunteers provide sexual assistance for a small number of disabled people. Reading the headline alone, I can understand why people are skeptical – it’s a funny idea, a charity providing sex… it sounds like some sort of volunteer prostitution service; and it’s kind of amusing to imagine someone needs help with sex.

Except, when you actually think about it, it’s really not.

Sexual desire is the same in disabled people and those with learning disabilities, as it is with any other person. Foundations and charities exist to help people live as independently as possible, finding work, getting them moving around on their own; but how about that most basic of human needs? It’s a very real, very physical requirement, and has proven links with emotional and psychological wellbeing. So what about those people who can’t manage sexual relations by themselves, due to either a physical disability, or an obstacle of some sort that makes it difficult (or impossible) to meet compatible partners?

Whilst working for an organisation that provided free signposting to health and social care services, our top anonymous queries were always related to sexual health… and this included people looking for assistance with this particular issue. And it is an issue, a very real one for those affected by it. Perhaps they are unable to meet compatible sexual partners due to a learning disability; or perhaps it is someone who has limited use of part/s of their body, so require a hoist to assist them in finding a suitable position for relations with their partner. Where does one turn to for help, when it comes to such an embarrassing subject, one which seems to still be something of a taboo topic even in our most modern society?

Dr Tuppy Owens is a campaigner for disabled people to be accepted as sexual partners; she is also the author of The Safer Sex Maniac’s Diary which provided the first visual instructions to the public on how to put on a condom securely.  Dr Owens founded Outsiders a social, peer support and dating club, run by and for socially and physically disabled people; and created the TLC website for disabled people to easily find safe sexual services; she is a keen advocate and campaigner for disabled people to be accepted as sexual partners.

Alongside this good work, other charities and organisations have set up in response to this need – and it is something that should be fully supported, as much as any other service available to assist those with disabilities. Awareness and open debate helps remove the perceived stigma and ‘humour’ from these services, as does open and frank discussion about something by which many of us are incredibly lucky not to be affected.

So the next time you see a headline about an organisation offering to help people have sex, I recommend reading the article / clicking the link and finding out a bit more about the struggles some of our brothers and sisters face, that we take so easily for granted.

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