Someone for Everyone? by Ashley Formby

Find yourself at the age of 33 facing constant romantic setbacks? Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Autistic and have enduring anxiety and depression.

Chris Bird
Image by Chris Bird

Let’s go through a list of my vitals:

Fixer-upper, priced to sell

Faulty social perception

Haphazard eye contact

4 previous in-patient stays in mental hospitals

Had three “girlfriends”, as in “two lonely people being together though they didn’t love one another, through lack of better choices”

So, here’s where it gets interesting. I’ve fallen in love at least 30 times. It’s just never reciprocated by people I could have a healthy relationship with. The thing is, it’s not actually that easy meeting women when you’re not able to work and struggle to make friends. Even while volunteering I tend to just sort of, well, get in the way. “You said you wanted me to dig up the ground there? Oh, sorry! I thought you said there!” I was daydreaming about a woman while feeling depressed about our hackneyed, dull conversation.

So where do I meet women? Professionally. I’ve fallen in love with several GPs, counsellors, a support worker and various other NHS employees. Now, the rules are clear. If you’re a professional, you shall not have romantic relations with a client or patient. But my attempts to find love outside professional settings have been DISASTROUS. I met one woman who seemed nice, but she turned out to be in contact with all kinds of drug pushers, and I felt unsafe being with her. I joined social groups, attended college courses and tried volunteering but with no luck. I asked women for dates but couldn’t get anywhere. It’s not that I’ve had no female admirers, I have. But not many, and they didn’t share my interests or excite me.

At times I’ve made suicide attempts after romantic rejections by professionals, but not really because of the rejection itself. Rather it was because of the final nature of it, and the implication that there can be no further contact, written in bold letters. At times I’ve been warned by the police, even had legal action taken against me. It feels dehumanising. Am I doomed to be forever lonely, just because it so happens the only women who ever seem to understand me are professionals?

Consider that some mentally ill and Autistic people are so far removed from a normal life that we cannot do any of the usual activities people do to find partners. Besides, it may well be, except perhaps family members, no one else understands where we’re coming from because they haven’t the time or desire to learn about mental health or Autism.

I’ve called the Samaritans thousands of times over the past few years and used NHS services time after time too. Some taxpayers would complain that this costs them a lot of money, but society has a duty to protect its vulnerable. I would require these services less if I had love. No drug can compare. No support service either. I’ve run away to foreign countries several times, neared bankruptcy, drank heavily and endangered myself and others. On a more basic level I just annoy people in my neighbourhood by being unhappy when I walk past them. Mostly just because I’m scared and lonely. Will anyone ever care? Well, Shakespeare did write the course of true love never did run smooth.

Recently I had to stop therapy sessions with my counsellor because our 6 sessions came to an end. I told her during the 5th session that I was in love with her and said I felt she’s the only person who truly understands me. I’m now heartbroken, lacking drive and more depressed. I get like this every time it happens. It takes its toll on my physical and mental health.

There’s no guarantee when I love someone they will love me back anyway. There’s no automatic right to have someone love you back – of course not. But what hurts the most is not knowing if this woman might really love me. She wouldn’t have the freedom to say, even if she does. This climate of fear feels oppressive and weighs heavily.

I’m aware there are patients or clients who’ve been abused by professionals, and I fully understand the need to protect against that. When I was in an NHS hospital after taking an overdose a few years ago I was touched in a sexually inappropriate way by a nurse who I had shown no interest in. It was a sexual assault, a mild one, but an assault, nonetheless. So I know there are people who abuse professional positions.

However, acting in someone’s interests also requires taking into account their own desires. Acting fully on behalf of someone – while ignoring their own needs – is paternalism or maternalism: “Father or mother knows best”.  If you have a partner, it’s worth asking yourself, how you’d feel if you had met them when they were your doctor or support worker? How would it feel now, knowing you couldn’t be with them just because of the place you met them? And what if you met barely any potential partners anyway, because of your awkward social skills and severe anxiety and depression. Then you might understand the position I’m in.

In school I studied Romeo & Juliet and was obsessed with love even at the age of 13. While most my classmates wanted to chat about cars, football and video games I only wanted to talk about whichever girl I was head over heels for. I was bullied it for then, and the stress caused me to drop out of school. I was one of the brightest students too, in the top sets. When I did GCSEs as a mature student, my English teacher said I was the best student she’d ever had.

I believe many disabled male adults rely on the services of prostitutes. This is worrying because it points to romantic difficulties being widespread for men who are outside the mainstream of society. And while, in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with the selling and buying of sex between consenting adults, it’s not enough to fulfil someone’s heart. We all want to feel loved and that we matter.

As Mark Twain wrote:

“True love is the only heart disease that is best left to “run on” – the only affection of the heart for which there is no help, and none desired.”

This is a sample article from the Autumn 2020 issue of Asylum magazine

(Volume 27, Number 3)

To read more . . . subscribe to Asylum magazine.