I don’t date very much.
I blame it on having an autoimmune chronic illness for the past almost 21 years. Dating can be complex in general, but sharing that I’m sick can be stressful because I don’t want to be judged because of an illness. I get torn between wanting to protect myself, and wanting to take a chance on romance. Do I tell someone I’m dating that I’m sick soon, or do I wait to see how things go?
I believe in transparency so I tell them soon. I tell them soon because dating me will be like no other relationship they’ve had, and understand why. Dating me can mean the emergency room in the middle of the night because of unexplainable pain or the inability to breathe. It means instability, and bailing on plans…a lot. It means that while I can’t rage all night, I’ll probably keep you up all night because I can’t sleep. It means migraines that last for days, sporadic sadness, and fatigue to the point that I need to lay down all day or binge watch Harry Potter…again.
Dating me means all of these things and more, because life with someone with a chronic illness is scattered and random, even though as a woman, I am anything but those things. I am passionate and grounded. You should know that when I finally let down my guard, I will wholeheartedly let you in. You’ll always know where you stand and I’ll be honest and open. I won’t play games or toy with your emotions. I’ll never be spiteful or deliberately hurt you. I’ll give myself to you and love you deeply, and I’ll expect the same in return.
Dating someone with a chronic illness will teach you empathy and patience. You’ll learn that situations cannot be controlled, sometimes you have to let things be as they are. You’ll learn to be present and supportive when your partner needs to cry, wants to be alone, or is discouraged because their body isn’t responding well. You’ll gain strength from being present in their pain. But dating them will also be challenging at times.
You’ll get frustrated because you’ll see your partner suffering and you won’t be able to take away that hurt. They’ll go through highs and lows and you’ll be along for the ride. The bad days will be rough, but the good days will be great, and they’ll want to capitalize on each day they’re feeling good by doing anything to feel healthy and alive. Their suffering has taught them to appreciate life’s good and bad moments.
In relationships you compromise, taking good with bad. But an illness is not a flaw or something that can be changed. It just is. Don’t assume that someone chronically ill is broken, because they’re not. An illness is just something they have, it’s not who they are.
I’m not saying dating someone like me is easy, but it shouldn’t scare you. People with chronic illnesses want normal lives and relationships like everyone else, but “normal” can’t really exist. They have different challenges but want you to take a chance on them the way they take a chance on you.
And I promise you this: dating someone with a chronic illness has potential for immeasurable depth because of what you experience together. But most importantly, it has potential for a love that overcomes tough times and is anything but ordinary… a love that is completely worth it.