"Where there is creativity, there is hope." ~ Donna Karan

Single Girl Meets Chronic Illness

by - Saturday, February 19, 2011

Had my life gone exactly to plan and in the direction that I wanted it to, by now, I would most probably have finished my university degree and started my career in Early Childhood as a kindergarten teacher. Had things gone my way, I might probably be married and looking at starting a family, or be dating at the least. Instead, I find myself contending with multiple chronic illnesses and at times am completely overwhelmed to even dare contemplate dating. What should be the prime time of my life, the time to look at pursuing a serious relationship and relish in romantic dates is replaced with debilitating fatigue, medication side effects and more doctor dates than most people will see in a lifetime. But that's just it- life doesn't always go to plan. And sometimes it sucks. Big time. Life can sometimes be tough, cruel and unkind but that's just how it is and somehow I've learnt to roll with the punches and accept what life has dealt me. I've learnt to embrace it and amazingly come to celebrate it.

At 22 years of age I now find myself standing at a crossroad. I want to play the dating game, but how? Most days I'm pain drained and some days getting out of bed is a struggle. Simple tasks so often taken for granted like taking a shower or doing the dishes are difficult and exhausting. The pain, it sucks up my energy. In an E-Book by Lisa Copen- Chronic Illness Tips: 263 Ways to do More Than Just Get By, Sammy shares

"I'm 26 and have finally finished college. I wanted a career, but there are days I can't get out of bed. While my friends have their careers or are starting families, because of this stupid disease I am starting over again. And I'm wondering if anyone will ever marry me? Will I even be able to have kids? And, if I do, will I be able to take care of them? Everything is so out of my control."

I feel the same way- who wants to date someone who is constantly sporting jammies and slippers? Who wants to marry chronic pain? How would I cope raising a family when I struggle to haul my chronic pain ass out of bed? Will the combination of Endometriosis and disease modifying drugs effect fertility? Don't get me wrong, I desire to get married and start a family but I'm scared. Chronic pain seems to be my constant companion and I'm scared that I won't be able to cope with the demands of a relationship. I'm terrified of having to explain my health issues to someone I like. I'm scared that a guy that I'm interested in/visa verca will freak out at the mention of "chronic illness" and run for the hills.

I find myself wanting to swing the door open on a first date but due to chronic fatigue I struggle to socialise, meet new people and form friendships. I'll rock up to social nights here and there when I can but because I physically have limited ability to interact with others frequently, people often forget who I am or know little about me. I've seriously contemplated internet dating. "Hi, I'm Emily. I'm a professional pill popping pin cushion. Let's date!" Yeah, not sure how well that ones gonna fly. Besides the creeps that are lurking, I really don't feel comfortable sharing the intricate details of my life with someone that hasn't set foot within a half mile radius of me.

Chronic illness affects every area of your life and like it or not, it impacts on others. When the time finally comes for me to contemplate a first date there is a big hurdle I will somehow have to hobble over. A major dating struggle issue is that of disclosure. Society is extremely visually orientated- what you see is what you get, and with an invisible illness that is not the case. I try to keep up an energetic demeanor. I appear to be happy and healthy despite being in a great deal of profound pain. There are no obvious signs of fatigue and very little people know exactly how I'm feeling on the inside. I appear to be wonder woman (well really I am, just without the cape some days) with lashings of mascara and fatigue covering foundation. I am a well seasoned actress, without the compliment of an opulent Oscar and rave reviews. My life seems normal when it is anything but normal. How do I tell a guy that my immune system is screwed, that despite appearing to have the ability to work a full time job, some days the biggest achievement lies in the fact that I was able to get out of bed and get dressed?

What's normal about being in pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? What's normal about spending some days being too tired to even set foot outside the house? What's normal about taking a chemo drug weekly, fighting a pounding massive migraine whilst at times reaching for the barfing bucket. There have been numerous occasions that I have been woken during the night halfway through purging what seems like every inch of my intestines. So yes, I need an icecream container stored next to my bed to cater for the unexpected purging of god knows what food particles. Clearly every guy wants a woman who has an emergency container stored next to her bed on standby in case of spew spillage. Such a turn on. Although, I have acquired the skill of spew swallowing because clearly every guy is looking for this in a woman. What guy in their right mind would want to date a girl who holds a bachelor degree in day time tv? I wouldn't want to date someone who knew as much about the lives of characters in Days Of Our Lives either.

So when do you tell your date about a stupid chronic disease? Should I tell them on the first or the fifth date that I am struggling to swim up shit creek and that my reproductive system has rebelled? Or do I decide to keep quiet until I decide he's a real keeper? Should I tell them over a romantic dinner date that my left ovary is in love with my bladder and is attached by an adhesion? When do I worn them that at times I'm a hormonal pill popping basket case? How do I explain that along with illness comes boundaries, rules and limitations? The fact that I look healthy at times can be a real hindrance because I look so well, they assume that I am. People don't seem to be able to grasp the meaning of "chronic" no matter how you try to convey it. You see, I can pass for "normal", but spend a few days, a week, a month with me and you'll soon discover it's superficial. I can only fake energy for so long. You'll soon see a different side to me and you'll realise that I struggle with flare-ups and setbacks that prevent me from getting out and about. The reality of a chronic illness is enough to turn anyone off but surely there must be someone looking for a woman whose skills include swallowing seven large pills in the one swallow. Yep, I'm a pro. Guys totally dig sick chicks. Well at least I have something going for me I suppose- pretty hair a dolled up face, and nice clothes is all that matters, right?

Okay, so I'm growing a little tired of the awkwardness that arises from people assuming that I have a boyfriend. When will people learn that when they assume they make an ASS out of U and ME? Although, in caution of appearing desperate and dateless, I am happily single. Seriously. No, that wasn't meant to be sarcastic. Sure, I get envious when I see a loved up couple sitting in front of me on the train, but I've learnt to be content as a single woman. I don't need to be in a relationship to be happy.

Chronic illness ain't for sissies and not everyone can cope with the demands of being a partner to someone with chronic illness. I like to think that even with chronic illness I'm a pretty great catch. Illness has only strengthened the person that I am and I am so much more than just a "sick" chick. And I know that one day, some amazing man will notice me and not my disease.

(c) 2011 by Emily Ruth



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