AGAINST ALL ODDS... LOVE FOUND US

How love con­quers all

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Contents -

‘HIS MEN­TAL ILL­NESS NEVER FAZED ME’

What would you do if your new boyfriend told you he had se­vere OCD? For Paulette Jones, her love for Alex was never in doubt...

PAULETTE SAYS: I met Alex at a party 10 years ago. He seemed very down to earth and made me laugh. He was about to move to Portsmouth, where I lived, so on our first date I showed him around the city. Our con­nec­tion was im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore.

I started notic­ing Alex had ob­ses­sive ten­den­cies. When he locked the doors of the car, he’d of­ten go back to dou­ble-check. I didn’t think much of it, as­sum­ing he was care­ful. A few weeks later, he said he needed to tell me some­thing he’d never told any­one out­side his fam­ily. Then he re­vealed he suf­fered from se­vere Ob­ses­sive Com­pul­sive Dis­or­der (OCD). I pic­tured hand-wash­ing and or­gan­ised shelves, but Alex’s OCD man­i­fested it­self in in­tru­sive thoughts. He ex­plained that his mind would trick him into be­liev­ing he’d done some­thing hor­ri­ble – like at­tack­ing some­one – and he’d be un­able to see re­al­ity. As a re­sult, he’d be­come in­cred­i­bly dis­tressed, anx­ious and could of­ten sink into de­pres­sion.

This was a shock, but it didn’t put me off. I was sad­dened that this lovely, kind and charm­ing man was suf­fer­ing with such tor­ment ev­ery day. It made me love him even more, and when he pro­posed a month

later, I said yes with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

In 2009, just a few months af­ter our wed­ding, Alex was made re­dun­dant and his OCD wors­ened. His in­tru­sive thoughts be­came linked to the fear of los­ing me. We’d walk down the street hold­ing hands, and he’d think he’d flirted with a woman who walked past. I would re­as­sure him, say­ing, ‘No dar­ling, you haven’t said or done any­thing wrong.’ But he wouldn’t trust him­self, and would ask me the same ques­tion eight times, be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pan­icked. I’m pa­tient but it could be drain­ing. I felt help­less, and if he had a par­tic­u­larly bad bout, I’d be­come run-down with the stress of it all.

The OCD started im­prov­ing last year when we dis­cov­ered a new treat­ment called tran­scra­nial mag­netic stim­u­la­tion, which uses short bursts of mag­netic en­ergy to stim­u­late nerve cells in the brain. The first time Alex had the treat­ment, he didn’t ask me for re­as­sur­ance once on the train ride home. It was amaz­ing and free­ing for both of us.

There are still times when his OCD wors­ens, par­tic­u­larly if he’s stressed. But most of the time, our re­la­tion­ship is won­der­ful. He is ro­man­tic, un­der­stand­ing and thought­ful. The OCD can some­times feel like the third party in our mar­riage, but I have no re­grets. I would marry Alex again in a heart­beat.

‘SOME WOMEN WOULD HAVE RUN A MILE’ ALEX SAYS: I was di­ag­nosed with OCD at univer­sity. I would go for lunch in be­tween lec­tures and think I had pushed peo­ple into the road. Then I’d be sit­ting on a bench in tears, ter­ri­fied of going to prison. When I got my first job as an ar­chi­tect, I’d think I’d drawn all over a col­league’s sketches to sab­o­tage them. I’m un­able to dis­tin­guish re­al­ity from un­re­al­ity, and con­stantly catas­trophise about the worst-case sce­nario.

When I met Paulette – with her ra­di­ant smile and bub­bly, warm char­ac­ter – I knew quickly that she was the one. I was ter­ri­fied about telling her I had OCD, and was amazed by how un­der­stand­ing she was. I’m sure some women would have run a mile.

Some­times I worry about the amount of pres­sure I put on Paulette to re­as­sure me, so I do what I can to make up for it. My mind can be full of dark­ness, but Paulette brings bright­ness to my life.

‘I RISKED PRISON TO BE WITH HIM’

Mar­riage was for­bid­den un­der South Africa’s apartheid regime, but Geral­dine and Neville Wil­son fought back

GERAL­DINE SAYS: Grow­ing up in Cape Town dur­ing apartheid, I never imag­ined I’d marry a white man. I was for­bid­den from rid­ing the same buses, eat­ing in the same restau­rants and even going to the beach with white peo­ple. Most of all, in­ter­ra­cial re­la­tion­ships were il­le­gal. But I risked it all for Neville.

We met in 1983 when I joined Boswell Wilkie Cir­cus, one of the first com­pa­nies to al­low racially mixed au­di­ences and per­form­ers. I was a dancer and he was the as­sis­tant man­ager. He liked me but I wasn’t in­ter­ested at first – I didn’t like his huge beard. Then one day I dis­cov­ered he’d shaved it off, ap­par­ently to im­press me. It was a sweet ges­ture, and I no­ticed he had a lovely face, with kind eyes and a mis­chievous smile. We kissed and in­stantly be­came in­sep­a­ra­ble.

Al­though our re­la­tion­ship was il­le­gal, we felt safe in­side the cir­cus. The crew were a big fam­ily, and they sup­ported us. But in 1986, we were nearly ar­rested. While I was asleep in Neville’s car­a­van, a po­lice­man fol­lowed him in for a rou­tine search. It was just luck that he didn’t see me. We re­alised we had to leave if we wanted to be to­gether.

We had con­tacts in an English cir­cus, and it was easy for South Africans to get work­ing visas, so we came to the UK. Bri­tish peo­ple ac­cepted us, and we were free to hold hands in the street with­out be­ing afraid. When apartheid ended in 1994, we had our wed­ding in Cape Town. It felt like clo­sure be­ing able to cel­e­brate our love at home. A few years later, we had a son, Luke, now 21. He’s con­scious of his fam­ily his­tory and we re­turn to South Africa ev­ery year.

Neville is still the only per­son who truly un­der­stands me. I am so proud of how com­pas­sion­ate he is – he now runs Cir­cus Starr, a trav­el­ling show for dis­ad­van­taged and dis­abled chil­dren here in the UK.

Our re­la­tion­ship was an act of de­fi­ance, but we just did what we had to do. Neville is fun, thought­ful and bril­liant – noth­ing could stop me from lov­ing him.

‘I ADORED GERAL­DINE THEN, AND I ADORE HER NOW’ NEVILLE SAYS: The first time I saw Geral­dine she was walk­ing to re­hearsals wear­ing a blue leo­tard with yel­low tights. I thought, ‘One day, I will marry her.’ But as our re­la­tion­ship de­vel­oped, I wor­ried about the con­se­quences. At one stage, I told her we couldn’t be to­gether. She could’ve been locked up – and I wanted to pro­tect her. But our break-up only lasted two days.

At first my fam­ily didn’t sup­port our union, but I told my par­ents they could ei­ther come to our wed­ding and ac­cept Geral­dine, or lose me. They chose to be there. Geral­dine and my mother got on so well, and Mum said it was her deep­est re­gret that she wasted all those years. We are hap­pier than ever. I adored Geral­dine then, and I adore her now.

Our love was an act of de­fi­ance but we did what we had to do

‘I COULDN’T HIDE THE TRUTH ANY LONGER’

Too afraid to come out as gay, He­len Brear­ley (far right) mar­ried a man. Now, she and her wife Teresa Mill­ward can cel­e­brate the ob­sta­cles they’ve over­come

HE­LEN SAYS: Un­til I was 38, I spent my life hid­ing. Grow­ing up in a small vil­lage in York­shire, I thought I might be gay from a young age, but I was scared to come out to my fam­ily. My dad died sud­denly when I was 13, and I was ter­ri­fied of dis­ap­point­ing my mum.

I ended up mar­ry­ing when I was 30. Pete and I met through work and got on well. It was easy at first. But eight years later, I re­alised I couldn’t go on any longer. One night, we were watch­ing a rom­com and I couldn’t hold it in. I fi­nally told him I was gay. He was up­set, but he didn’t judge me and we re­mained friends.

A few months af­ter our split in 2003, I met Teresa at a women’s group. I was im­me­di­ately drawn to her. She had thick, dark hair and a lovely voice. She was liv­ing with her girl­friend of three years, so I as­sumed noth­ing would come of it. I at­tended the group more, and Teresa and I flirted be­tween meet­ings. When she re­vealed she was now sin­gle, I in­vited her for a drink and we shared our first kiss. She needed a place to stay af­ter her break-up, so we moved in to­gether. It was a whirl­wind, but we’ve never looked back.

Around this time, the peo­ple around me were just learn­ing I was gay. I dropped it ca­su­ally into con­ver­sa­tion with my mum over the phone and she ig­nored me for a cou­ple of weeks. I re­spected her need to come to terms with it.

When same-sex mar­riage was le­galised in 2014, we were one of the first cou­ples to tie the knot. We had a small cer­e­mony sur­rounded by our fam­ily and friends. It was per­fect. Af­ter years of deal­ing with ho­mo­pho­bia – we were called names in the street – it felt like we were fi­nally ac­cepted.

‘OUR LOVE IS AS STRONG AS IT GETS’ TERESA SAYS: I would have mar­ried He­len the day I met her if I could. But as a les­bian – I came out aged 16 – I never thought mar­riage would be pos­si­ble. He­len and I knew we would be to­gether for ever, but we didn’t want a civil part­ner­ship – we didn’t think our love was worth less than straight cou­ples’. Early on, He­len said we’d get mar­ried as soon as it was le­gal. I took this lit­er­ally, and called up the reg­is­ter of­fice the day the bill was an­nounced. We planned it in six weeks and it was one of the hap­pi­est days of my life.

We be­came guardians of my two nieces when they were young, but I dreamed of hav­ing a baby of my own. In 2014, we found a sperm donor and started the process of IVF. When I be­came preg­nant I was thrilled, but I mis­car­ried. I didn’t get out from un­der the duvet for a week. He­len was so sup­port­ive. When Hylton was born a year later, on the ex­act same day I mis­car­ried, we cried in each other’s arms.

Our av­er­age day re­volves around run­ning our gift shop, Pretty Pink Pearl, do­ing the school run and messy meal­times with Am­ber, 13, Keira, 11, and Hylton, three. Our strengths and weak­nesses com­ple­ment each other: I’m chatty and open, while she’s re­served. I’m emo­tional and she’s prac­ti­cal. She loves golf – I ab­so­lutely hate it. But our dif­fer­ences make us per­fect to­gether. We can be our­selves and help each other through the tough­est times. If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.

Our dif­fer­ences make us per­fect to­gether

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