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There is a beautiful bird that I’ve admired ever since my first trip to Australia: the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise.
The bird – or King of Sexony, as I prefer – is known for putting on ethereal displays of paradisiacal ballet to attract and court a mate. How utterly delightful. I am lost in admiration for a fellow sentient who would lavish their partner with such a display.
It is, therefore, a wild shame that my own ballet of the bedroom is a touch more earthly than ethereal. Picture a muddy Saint Bernard shaking off, and that is I. That’s because I am a sufferer of a groovy little thing called Parkinson’s disease, which affects 145,000 people in the UK, is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world – and for which there is currently no cure.
There was a time that sex was a secretive and unspoken subject, even between couples. But nowadays it seems all but that – Ann Summers place as a high street staple is proof enough that sex has, for all intents and purposes, knocked down the door we were all keeping locked.
Finding your partner attractive is of course important. This is in many ways subjective, but to me it’s on show to the world – I married my one and only, the most beautiful woman alive, inside and out, and I can confidently say that she was reciprocal of these feelings. Simply put, we had lots of fun, and that fun was always fun.
“Sex, in its most basic form, has a beginning a middle and an end – but for me, it more often it has a beginning and the middle bit, but not the end.”
Fast forward to a few years post-marriage, and two adorable children later, the freight train of Parkinson’s very rudely and abruptly pulled up to our station. It was totally unexpected. I thought it was simply a trapped nerve in my arm, but now it turns out this train is parked up for good. And as with many other conditions, one of the train’s many rusty carriages spilling its cargo loose over our lives has been sex.
Having Parkinson’s comes hand in hand with taking lots of medication. I take 19 tablets a day and never go more than three hours without my alarm going off as a reminder of my diagnosis. A recent survey by Parkinson’s UK found that people with Parkinson’s lose an average of 2.5 hours a day to debilitating symptoms when their medication wears off. And along with the many bright and welcome positives that come from taking co-caroldopa, rasagaline and the like, such as getting my dexterity back which means I can play my guitar again, I’m able to walk normally again, and my tremors subside temporarily, giving me my freedom back, until they wear off again, there are sadly often dark and unwelcome side effects.
Stamina, or lack thereof, is one. Sex, in its most basic form, has a beginning a middle and an end – but for me, it more often it has a beginning and the middle bit, but not the end. Believe me it takes its toll. It is so incredibly important to have an understanding partner, of which I have, but surely every incredible wife, husband or life partner has their breaking points? And that’s when paranoia creeps in.
The one issue I have struggled with the most is my appearance leading up to and during sex. Imagine stepping over a hill to witness your army brandishing their armour and swords up high. You would be aghast with pride and confidence in your men getting the job done, wouldn’t you? Now replace those men with shaking jelly babies brandishing half inflated blow up toy swords instead, and you can imagine how your confidence in getting the job done diminishes a little.
That’s how I feel now about sex.
“Sometimes I wonder if her head is going to be turned by a young Mr Darcy type walking past, now that I’m more akin to Mr Bean in bed.”
I was once a confident 6’1” slim man in my 30s, in my prime with everything to offer my wife in response to her wants and needs. Now? I’m a shaking, tired, depressed tubby halfwit. Oddly my wants and needs seem to be higher, but my effort level being near zero means it doesn’t play out for my wife’s needs.
This paranoia can be dangerous. Sometimes I wonder if her head is going to be turned by a young Mr Darcy type walking past, now that I’m more akin to Mr Bean in bed. But this, of course, does a disservice to my incredibly devoted wife. Her head hasn’t been turned by every good-looking man who looks at her – she said her vows and I believe her. It’s just that sometimes I need to remind myself.
Sex isn’t the same as it once was, but sex still exists. And the beauty of sex in a loving relationship is it’s natural and 100% pliable to our situation. Although I feel somewhat ‘less’ of a man, unable to offer what I once could, I strongly believe that my natural dance, the tremor, is what my wife now sees as my ballet. And that make me the King of Sexony in my very own kingdom.
Mark Geoffries is a writer living with Parkinson’s Disease, writing under a pseudonym. To see how you can get involved and support people with Parkinson’s, visit parkinsons.org.uk/worldparkinsonsday
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